Friday, July 24, 2020

McQ's Best Of 2019 Vol 5 - All Things Soulful!

2019's top R&B and hip hop efforts land here.  Set 1 has a much heavier R&B/upbeat lean.  Set 2 gets into edgier stuff, though still contains a lighter number or two.  High impact social consciousness/political statements dominate the encore. 

Lots of good stuff in the genre this year, especially on the female R&B side.  Here's the Spotify link.  Enjoy. 

SET 1 (Fun, Lively, Smooth)

1. Rocket Fuel - DJ Shadow (feat. De La Soul): Just a super fun, super old school hip-hop number with an assist from some golden era greats to start things off from DJ Shadow's 2019 release Our Pathetic Age.

2. Cuz I Love You - Lizzo: One of the standout R&B releases of 2019, Detroit-born ultra-posi singer/rapper/actress Lizzo's breakout third album Cuz I Love You (Solid Recommend) is one thrilling, wild ride, full of inventive numbers that seem to fall fully within the accessible mainstream R&B & Hip-Hop bubbles while simultaneously pushing hard against their barriers, a dichotomy well on display in the album's title track here.

3. You Ain't The Problem - Michael Kiwanuka: We're tapping three more songs from the marvelous first half of Michael Kiwanuka's third full-length effort and second album in his and Dangermouse's distinctive spaghetti-soul vein KIWANUKA (Strong Recommend), starting with the critics favorite song off the album, the Richie Havens-ish opener You Ain't The Problem

4. Old Town Road - Lil Das X (feat. Billy Ray Cyrus):  Not much I can add to the conversation on Lil Nas X's mega-hit Old Town Road from his 2019 7 Ep other than agreeing it's a super fun song, and notable stylistically for being one of the first successful mainstream mergers of country and hip hop aesthetics. 

5. This World Is Drunk - Raphael Saadiq: From Jimmy Lee (Solid Recommend). More coming soon.

6. History Repeats - Brittany Howard: Alabama Shakes' frontwoman's Brittany Howard's solo debut was very well received by critics, but I think Alabama Shakes more classic rock and blues-leaning fans will struggle, as I did, to find a lot to like in the highly experimental, far more contemporary neo-soul-angled Jamie (Mild Recommend). Howard deserves major props for her willingness to charge full force into a number of fascinating, exploratory R&B ideas, but except on the fantastic History Repeats included here, and to a lesser degree on a few other tracks, she rarely sticks the landing.  Here's hoping the end result match the huge aspirations on Howard's next solo outing, because from a raw talent standpoint she remains a force of nature whom I still think could have an stone-cold classic in her down the line. 

7. Come Home - Anderson .Paak (feat. Andre 3000): While not quite as exciting as his 2016 debut Malibu, omnipresent hip-hop hyphenate and Dr. Dre protege Anderson .Paak's sophomore full-length Ventura (Solid Recommend) still provides a lot of the same pleasures as what came before from one of the best vocal talents presently active in the genre. Here on record opener Come Home he teams up with Outkast's Andre 3000 to get things started off in a wining way. 

8. Shea Butter Baby - Ari Lennox (feat. J. Cole): Title track from Lennox's major label debutMore coming soon.

9. Own It - Stormzy (feat. Ed Sheehan & Burma Boy): From Heavy Is The HeadMore coming soon.

10. MILES - Jamila Woods: Three-fourths of Jamila Woods tribute to inspirational artists and writers of color LEGACY! LEGACY! (Solid Recommend) is dedicated to females, but as said earlier, for some reason, the most musically exciting songs are those dedicated to men. On this mix, we touch on three more male artist tributes from the album, starting with the Miles Davis tribute Miles.

11. Super Zodiac - The Comet Is Coming: From Sons Of Kemmet's acid-jazz alter ego The Comet Is Coming's Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery (Solid Recommend). More coming soon.

12. Selfish - Little Simz (feat. Cleo Soul): While for me, most of the best moments on rising grime superstar Little Simz's GREY Area (Strong Recommend) focus on the multi-talented artist's impressive rapping skills over compelling minimalist beats, she is also a commanding presence in the contemporary R&B world, as best demonstrated on the album's biggest hit Selfish here.

13. Pearl Cadillac - Gary Clark Jr.: From the Austin bluesman's politically minded third album This Land (Mild Recommend). More coming soon.

14. Limitless - Sudan Archives:  One of the most likeable songs on this mix, from the LA-based violinist and beat-maker's 2019 full length debut AthenaMore coming soon.

15. Sea Gets Hotter - Durand Jones & The Indications: From the retro-soul outfits second full-length release American Love CallMore coming soon.

16. Let Me Go - SAULT: One of the most prolific and mysterious forces at the moment in contemporary R&B, anonymous UK electro-funk outfit SAULT's fifth release 5 presented one of the freshest production updates on the genre in 2019, as clearly exhibited by the album's best song Let Me Go here with its cavernous sonics. Watch out for this guys/gals/whoever they are in 2020!

17. Can't Believe The Way We Flow - James Blake: From the soulful electronic producer's more hip-hop leaning fourth release Assume FormMore coming soon.

18. Heaven Help Me - Lizzo: Another cut from Cuz I Love You (Solid Recommend). More coming soon.

SET 2 (Bangers, Art and Edge)

19. All Humans Too Late - Kate Temptest: From the Irish spoken-word artist's third full-length The Book Of Traps And Lessons (Solid Recommend). More coming soon.

20. Her Mighty Waters Run - Matana Roberts: From the avant-garde soul artist's highly experimental COIN COIN Chapter 4: MemphisMore coming soon.

21. Corn Maze - Malibu Ken: One of my favorite rap efforts of the year, experimental hip-hop duo Malibu Ken's self-titled debut (Solid Recommend) which combines the talents the hyper-literate Aesop Rock and inventive multi-instrumentalist Tobacco, features some of the most unusually cool beats of 2019.  We're including two cuts from this fairly unique album on this mix, starting with the album opener Corn Maze.

22. Ricky - Denzel Curry: From his collection of uptempo bangers ZUUMore coming soon.

23. Doorman - slowthai (feat. Mura Masa): Punkish hip hop from the grime artist's provocative and humorous Nothing Great About BritainMore coming soon.

24. Boss - Little Simz: Another swaggering cut GREY Area (Strong Recommend). More coming soon.

25. WHAT'S GOOD - Tyler, The Creator: From IGOR (Mild Recommend). More coming soon.

26. Suge - DaBaby: One of the biggest hip hop hits of the year from breakout artist DaBaby's Baby On BabyMore coming soon.

27. MUDDY - Jamila Woods: It should come as no surprise that on the artist by artist homage that is Jamila Woods LEGACY! LEGACY!, the song dedicated to Muddy Waters has the most forceful guitar-driven punch.  

28. Giannis - Freddie Gibbs & Madlib (feat. Anderson .Paak): And now one of our greatest contemporary hoopers gets his due on Freddie Gibbs & Madlibs second collaborative album Bandana (Solid Recommend). More coming soon.

29. Spongebob - Billy Woods & Kenny Segal:  From the album Hiding PlacesMore coming soon.

30. Cleo - Rapsody: One of Phil Collin's best tunes gets a glitchy reworking on this fine hip hop number from veteran North Carolina rapper Rapsody's latest full length EveMore coming soon.

31. Free Years Later - Kano: An interesting counterpoint to Dave's Pyschodrama, Grime pioneer Kano's sixth release, the Mercury Prize nominated Hoodies All Summer (Mild Recommend), found the charismatic rapper tackling similarly lyrical topics and sonic territory in the same thoughtful manner as the newcomer, but from the perspective of a grizzled veteran. As a representative track, we're going with the album's exceptional opener, Free Years Later.

32. Pop Out - Polo G (feat. Lil Tay): From Polo G's debut Die A LegendMore coming soon.

33. Final Form - Sampa the Great: From the multi-talented Botswanan's multi-faceted debut The ReturnMore coming soon.

34. Papi I Missed U - JPEGMAFIA: Edgy Digible Planets-like effort from former US soldier JPEGMAFIA's critically lauded but difficult latest All My Heroes Are CornballsMore coming soon.

35. Time (is) - Solange: My favorite cut from Solange's 2019 effort When I Get Home (Mild Recommend). More coming soon.

36. Dirty Laundry - Danny Brown: Another oddball number from hip hop's oddest gangsta rapper's 2019 effort uknowwhatimsayin?More coming soon.

37. Therapy - Little Simz: One last cool number from Little Simz' GREY Area (Strong Recommend). More coming soon.

38. The London - Young Thug (feat. J. Cole & Travis Scott): Closing track to Young Thug's 2019 full length So Much FunMore coming soon.

39. 1+1=13 - Malibu Ken: A logic perfectly suited to these Orwellian times, here's our second selection and my personal favorite number from Malibu Ken's self-titled debut

40. sad day - FKA twigs: Another highlight from FKA Twigs stunning MAGDALENE (Strong Recommend). More coming soon.


41 & 42. Rolling & I've Been Dazed: We lead off our encore with a joined pair of tracks, one funky, one deliciously chill, that perfectly communicates the intoxicating, seamless flow of the first half of KIWANUKA

43. Jerome - Lizzo: One last hit from Lizzo's Cuz I Love You, Jerome, which ironically, on an album so playful and adventurous, was the 2020 grammy winner for Best Traditional R&B Performance.

44. Crown - Stormzy: Another moving grime number from Stormzy's Heavy Is The HeadMore coming soon.

45. BALDWIN - Jamila Woods (feat. Nico Segal): Shifting her attention away from musicians and towards those armed with the pen, this tribute to the sixties writer and activist James Baldwin is the moving penultimate cut from LEGACY! LEGACY!.

46. Hold Your Own - Kate Tempest: One more for Tempest's impassioned The Book Of Traps And LessonsMore coming soon.

47. Environment - Dave: We've already heard the devastating Lesley on our Vol 2 - Best Albums Left. Now here's another empathetic number from Dave's excellent debut Psychodrama (Solid Recommend). More coming soon.

48 & 49. Rikers Island & Rikers Island Redux - Rapheal Saadiq: Raphael Saadiq closes out this mix with his Jimmy Lee meditation on an issue that couldn't be more topical today. More coming soon.

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