Seems as though Big Boi is tracking Andre’s features and intends to lace several of his recent guest spots with verses of his own, for remixes that will probably be as close as we’ll get to new Outkast material for the foreseeable future.
This is certainly one of 3 Stacks’ most memorable works in recent times, and as it turns out it’ll probably be one of Big Boi’s too. His contribution is very likeable, and he takes to this gloomy, atmospheric production excellently with a soft, gentle demeanour that doesn’t force him to abandon his rapid fire delivery, and instead enhances it by virtue of adding a different emotional angle to his style. It’s a verse packed with slickness, and certainly one that enhances the track by adding a flash of intensity to the slow, winding track, and hence makes for a timely refresh of a track threatening to finally depart my regular playlists. Good remix and definitely one worth adding to your library. Be sure to grab Big Boi’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors album now if you haven’t already.
Of all the R&B, pop and soul releases we’ve had this year, this is the project that trumps them all in terms of my pre-listening excitement, and that’s having heard 3 of the 7 tracks prior to this free release.
Fauntleroy, No I.D. and the other constituent members of this group (including Common, for one track at least) come together once more for a collection that thus far is excellently put together. Diverse styles of instrumentation, from the raw, acoustic styling of Lucid through to the smooth, more hip-hop driven beat of the Fly Ass Pisces, there’s a lot of diversity packed into here, with James Fauntleroy’s vocals being the consistent factor by virtue of their sheer command over melody. He’s one of the most sought-after songwriters in the R&B and pop world, and here he’s taken centre stage with his own performances and doesn’t disappoint, with good vocals and likeable writing supplementing the No I.D. beat work superbly. Worth a go for any music fan.
We’re a few days behind due to a rather distracting weekend, but we’re now ready to catch up on the music world. The announcement of this trio’s reunion was met with a mixture of nostalgic fondness and cynicism, their comeback being for Love Songs, a compilation album of hits alongside this solitary slice of new material.
If another artist had released this, it would invariably be met with a much more positive reaction than this has been. The chillout electronic style of the Pharrell production isn’t anything you’d associate with him or this trio, and hence some will be disappointed, but I’m a fan of this. It’s the type of production that’s endeared me to the likes of Cassie and Lloyd, with the fresh, lively and yet mellow backdrop blending a sharp, speedy percussion with airy synths for a slick crossover beat that sounds part-laidback part-energetic. The vocals are tailored well, with each member resisting the urge to deliver the emotional explosiveness they’re known for and instead scaling back to a much more easygoing style that fits this production. It’s not classic Destiny’s Child, but a song that works in today’s landscape, and is worth a listen.
Something with a slight Christmas theme from Jhene, but without sacrificing the supremely atmospheric vibe that makes her music ever-replayable. The Fauntleroy feature doesn’t hurt either.
The production throws airy synths, a slowed-down percussion, superb string work and a couple of festive touches for a beat with plenty of depth, and with enough going on to support the delicate vocals of Jhene. It’s much more positive than her more downcast recent work, with the warming lyricism being complemeneted excellently by the aforementioned vocals: her gentle approach is the perfect accompaniment to that beat style, whilst James’ own softened delivery works equally well with the backdrop. The end product is a lovely little R&B/pop jam that’s probably about as Christmassy as I’ll allow my iTunes sessions to ever get.
JoJo’s stock has slowly risen this year. Her remix of Drake’s Marvin’s Room brought her right back into the spotlight back in 2011, and her sporadic releases this year have capitalised on that buzz piece by piece.
She finally caps all of that off with this 13-track mixtape, which has received unanimous praise from all quarters since its release. If it’s anything like the slow and atmospheric work she’s been putting out, we can expect a thoroughly enjoyable R&B/pop project that may just finally propel her back into mainstream consciousness. You can either stream it here, or grab it for free out here.
The response to Cassie’s End of the Line video has been interesting to say the least. The actual video itself is a little unremarkable, but many seem to be impressed with her soft, chillout-driven style on the song and rightfully so. What’s odd is how the majority are seemingly surprised by that style from Cassie, despite her delivering in this sort of vein for the last couple of years (though admittedly, very sporadically).
Understandably however, not everyone can follow the scene quite as tightly as some of us do. So, a dedicated Cassie fan has rounded up the numerous loose tracks that have been released in various ways and places over the past few years, and packaged them into a trilogy of mixtapes. Not only is there some nice Weeknd-themed artwork to go with them, but each one is broken down into one of three styles: either dark and slower tracks, upbeat pop work, or somewhere in between the two. You can grab each one for absolutely free below, and I’d recommend doing so: Cassie’s been underrated in recent times, and I expect that to end soon.
Well, well, well. Looks who’s back. An R&B Fridays favourite during its first few years, Johnta has been near silent in more recent times, assumedly busy penning countless hits for other stars as he so often does. Releasing a full project seems to have been on his radar for quite some time though, and he’s finally come through with a 7-track offering that should satisfy his starved fanbase.
No features on this one, and it’s a good call given his extended absence. We’ll get plenty of new, uninterrupted Johnta and that’s something R&B heads should be excited about. Free grab below.
More new visuals from The-Dream, and with the 1977 re-release set to land next Tuesday, it’s nicely timed to keep that buzz high.
A recurring theme on the original release was the incredibly personal nature of the lyricism. It was the reason he chose to release it under his real name, Terius Nash, and moved away from the more generic (though still very likeable) lyricism of his LPs as The-Dream. This is a great example of the intimacy of the writing, with the raw and often critical lyrics coming across as a biography or character assasination of sorts, though I’m sure there are plenty of relatables in here for those who’ve dealt with a questionable partner. Dream’s delivery is excellently suited to the writing too, as he ditches his harmonies for a near-spoken word style that adds a bluntness to his work, whilst Casha’s inclusion on this new version contrasts with that nicely and gives balance to the lyrical perspective.
The video’s nothing special but offers both artists the chance to add further emotion to the track, with Dream’s fed-up mannerisms representing the song well, whilst Casha gets some mainstream screentime and delivers comfortably. Look out for 1977 next week.
Those Eve remixes just keep coming, and this time she’s tacked a verse onto Miguel’s popular (and excellent) single, Adorn.
Once again, the brief nature of her contribution leaves you wanting a little more, but there’s no doubt now she’s ready to put some new, lengthier material out: her verse is a nice addition to the track, playing off Miguel’s lyrical theme well and keeping in line with the mood of the track, unlike other attempted remixes of this track which kill the momentum of the track rather than enhance it.
Having recently rebranded herself as a ‘rich hipster’, Chrisette drops off a mixtape that I’m quite looking forward to giving a go.
Truthfully, that excitement is borne out of a strong affinity toward her first single from the tape, Charades. Sadly, the version on the tape still includes 2 Chainz, but it’s still great to have the finished track, and there’s sure to be plenty more to enjoy on the other 8 tracks. Features include Wale and Bilal, and I’m sure this will be a good addition to many R&B heads’ libraries. Free grab below.
Not only was this one of the strongest tracks on the 1977 free album (due for a CD re-release on 18th December), but its easily one of the best in his entire back catalogue. No mean feat given his impressive history, but those unfamiliar with this will require only one listen to be in agreement.
The cold, atmospheric production combines brilliantly with the regret-tinged vocal work and brutally honest lyricism (it’s hard to ignore that this is probably about Christina Milian), and the end product is an introspective, regretful R&B track of the highest order.
One thing that’s possibly let Dream down is his lack of strong visual accompaniment to his better music, and this should go some way to putting that right. His expressions throughout are downbeat and morose, ensuring his delivery of the lyrics remains true to their meaning, whilst the slow pacing and dimly-lit scenes enhance the reflective nature of the song and add a dark mood to the entire package. As a result, the increased speed of clip transitions towards the end really heightens the impact of the scenes’ content, and adds an intensity to what is a rather unexpected twist to close the video. An audiovisual that’s up there with anything in the R&B game over the last few years, be sure to grab Dream’s re-release on the 18th.
Always a pleasure to cover Jhene’s material, and it’s only a matter of time before she’s one of R&B’s leading ladies. Dark, atmospheric and unashamedly attitudinal where required, she brings something unique to supplement her addictive vocals and popstar good looks.
This one’s right out of the Aiko textbook. The production is considerably wintery and full of an uneasy aura, which interchanges with a sense of grandeur via the intermittent inclusion of bright synth work. As a result, it captures both aspects of Jhene’s lyricism: the downbeat side is wrapped into the more sombre sections, whilst the more positive elements are taken into the synth heavy portions. Wrapping it all into a tidy package are Jhene’s gentle, whispery vocals that enhance the introspective lyrics, whilst being restrained enough to allow the production to breathe and expand into every corner of the soundscape.
The video captures the audio’s duality in a simple and effective manner, portraying Jhene as a ballerina in both black and white, both differentiated by a series of subtle facial expressions and more overt mannerisms, whilst the grainy, monochrome filter add to the unease of the entire clip and give it a near-ghostly feel. Props to directors Topshelf Junior (who are quietly churning out some great videos) and Jhene for this audiovisual, and that official Def Jam debut isn’t far away now.
Borrowing the production from Mac Miller’s track of the same name, from his Macadelic mixtape, Lloyd drops off a new visual from his recently-released Playboy Diaries mixtape.
If you’re unfamiliar with the original, you’ll be surprised this was ever meant to be a hip-hop beat. The smooth sample, the soft synths and laidback percussion all point towards an R&B slow jam, and thankfully that’s exactly what Lloyd comes through with. The mellow production style is one that suits Lloyd down to the ground, and his light, whispery are an excellent complement to it throughout, resulting in a combination that warrants several replays at the least. Not a massive amount going on in the video, as it follows Lloyd around on the Amsterdam leg of his tour, but the slow pacing of the clip works well enough with the audio. Arguably, this is one of his better tracks in quite some time, and be sure to grab that mixtape if you haven’t already.
His abilities as a live performer are tested with his choice of songs, and once again he passes with flying colours. Wicked Games is mostly the same as the aforementioned TV performance in terms of quality, and it’s the other three that most will want to go for. The Zone‘s surely one of his most difficult tracks to perform given the sheer variety of vocal deliveries, but he does an excellent job throughout (and in one take!), though the unecessary and sharp guitar blasts in the first third ruin the soft vibe of that segment.
The Knowing is one that has to be delivered with a feathered touch, and the fragility of the track’s lyrics and vocals are captured well in the opening half, and though The Weeknd’s vocals do hit a couple of rough patches toward the final third, the instrumentation is at its peak here in its progressive nature. I wasn’t wholly enamoured with the studio version of Montreal, but this live performance has really brought me around to the track, and again that’s helped greatly by some strong instrumentation work, whilst the vocal work is unerringly consistent throughout this one. A good set of performances throughout, and I hope to hear more soon.
I saw many of you commenting on this last night, and if like me you didn’t get around to catching the TV show, you’ll want to give this a watch.
Surprisingly, this was The Weeknd’s first live TV performance. I say surprisingly because the poise and quality he demonstrates from start to finish here are at levels any veteran would be absolutely delighted with, even more so given the relative difficulty of the vocal work on this one. Compared to some of his considerably-ropier performances very early on in his career, the progression he’s made as a vocalist (and an entertainer) is one that deserves much praise.
The progressive nature of the instrumentation and backing vocals combine excellently too, with the first half of the track emanating an intimate, acoustic style vibe, before his accompanying acts increase the depth and intensity to provide a strong climax for what is a thoroughly entertaining performance all-round.
Masspike is legitimately one of the most overlooked talents on the R&B scene today. Admittedly, he doesn’t brand himself ideally, with a rather aggressive stage name, mispelling of ‘sky’ and excessive use of the letter ‘z’ (it annoys me), but track-for-track his output over the last 18 months has comfortably been up there with his more revered peers.
The prequel to this project found its way to collections everywhere a mere 5 months ago, and Miles caps off a critically-successful year with this 15-track release. Features include Gunplay, Wiz Khalifa and Havoc, whilst the production credits suggest there’s going to be a nice diversity across the soundscapes offered. I know many of you are pining for some new, substantial R&B material and you could do much worse than grab this freebie. Do precisely that below.
Another of the extra tracks set for the 18th December re-release of 1977, and one more you can expect to give a couple of plays in your R&B playlists, even if its not massively packed with longevity.
There are very few R&B artists who manage to both harmonise and tell a story effectively these days, with most either capable of great vocal performances with little depth, or overkilling the lyrical complexity at the cost of good vocals. The-Dream’s been doing that, and arguably overlooked for doing so, for quite some time now. This is another good example of that, with his style of delivery moving between singing and near-spoken word to fit the gravity of certain lyrical sections, with the songwriting being good enough to keep your attention throughout better than most tracks of this ilk would. Whilst the production’s minimal nature does fit the title and emotion of the song well, it doesn’t quite progress into the climax you’d expect it to and hence ends up falling a little flat, meaning the song’s content becomes a little too monotonous to ensure any consistent replays of the track. It’s a shame as vocally and lyrically it’s enjoyable, but that beat just falls short.
Wow. This is a collaboration that promises so much, with two of the most impressive voices in the business coming together for the very first time. Alright, I’m kidding nobody-the mere thought of new Maxwell music alone has me giddy, even if its just a feature.
This could have gone one of two ways: huge, powerful track or smoothed-out soul vibes. No prizes for guessing which one I wanted, and it’s exactly what we got. Mellow guitar licks and soft claps comprise the majority of the production, giving this one a sultry bedroom vibe that’ll make for a lovely addition to various ‘special’ playlists, whilst also being an unobtrusive backdrop for the vocalists to do their work. Alicia’s vocals are subtle and laidback throughout to complement her loved up lyricism nicely, though even with my fan bias aside, Maxwell the highlight on this. His contribution comes via his beautifully-consistent falsetto delivery, contrasting with Alicia’s verse by opting for a slightly more passionate delivery that works excellently, whilst his lyricism stays on point throughout. Thoroughly enjoying this, and I hope Maxwell’s next album is near.
Having released the excellent 1977 album for free last year, The-Dream is capitalising on the critical success of that with a re-release on CD, set to feature some brand new additional tracks. This lead single is one of those new pieces, and sets things off superbly.
The lyrics are angsty yet boastful, with Dream coming across as an interesting mix of jilted and arrogant in what’s a nice bit of songwriting, whilst his vocal delivery sits in that flexible grey area between rapping and singing. The production which is layered excellently to create the illusion that it’s constantly changing and moving. The sharp yet winding nature of the synths are responsible for a lot of that dynamism, and there are elements which only appear for short bursts, whilst in contrast the percussion is mostly stable and consistent throughout.
Catching the recurring theme? There’s a fantastic attention to detail in Dream’s hybrid workings, and despite all of the diverse elements, the end product is strictly R&B with a coherent structure. Masterful once again, and whilst the song probably won’t have a huge chart impact, it’s a great reminder of The-Dream’s all-round ability.
The soft production, subtle vocals and likeable lyricism combine for one of the standout R&B tracks in recent times, and it hasn’t left my playlist since its release a short while back. However, the released version had an entirely unnecessary 2 Chainz verse as the opener and whilst he has his time and place, a song of this delicate nature deserved better than his odd attempts at being a singer. Hence, I was beyond delighted when I noticed she’d cut him out for the video version, and that allows the style of the video to stay much closer to the vibe of the audio.
Between the monochrome filter and Chrisette’s economical movements at the start of the video, there’s a sultriness and minimalism that enhances the mellow audio, whilst the general lack of excessive action allows her to adding flashes of emotion to her observational lyrics. There’s a nice progressiveness off the back of that too, with her movements becoming less frugal as the video rolls on, coupled with her reducing the distance between her and the male lead character from start to finish-she opens the video watching him from a distance, and ends it in his arms. Really enjoying this audiovisual, and in a genre bereft of almost anything worthwhile, this makes for a nice change.
The generosity continues with another release, though this one was more expected given it’s included with the iTunes pre-order. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasure to have it a week prior to Trilogy‘s release.
Viewed by many as the outstanding track from Thursday (I disagree, for the record), The Zone was arguably The Weeknd’s mainstream breakout, helped by the appearance of his good friend Drake. The remastered audio cuts out the dead time before the latter’s verse, whilst also improving the intensity of the background vocals-both are touches that definitely improve the track and give it much more depth.
The video fits the moody nature of the audio rather well. Outside of the early clips of the love interest, the video is mostly bathed in darkness and full of shadows, frowns and a general reflectiveness that culminates in the early bright, positive scenes turning dark and negatively charged in the second half. To borrow one of his other song titles, it’s a party and after-party sort of duality that builds very organically throughout the video, and cleverly the video’s key emotional changes take place after the camera focuses on the lead character’s eyes: there’s nothing beyond the surface in this relationship (I’ll be making love to her through you), and when he keeps looking for it, things fall apart. Worth a watch if you liked the audio, and look out for Trilogy next week.
The rate at which he’s churning out releases is very surprising. Whilst I’m fully aware he’s at the business end of a promo cycle, his ‘out of nowhere’ style was something that built his brand across the 3 mixtapes that compile Trilogy, and hence the reverse in quantities of pre-launch material is staggering.
Don’t mistake that for a criticism though. Almost everything he’s released throughout October has been of great quality, and has helped solidify his status as one of the premiere R&B artists around right now. This brief clip is no different, with a snippet of Till Dawn (Here Comes the Sun) thrown in (meaning the first trailer was Twenty Eight), and the early signs once again being very positive for the new material. The production sounds dark and atmospheric, whilst the vocals are passionate and dominant, utilising the formula that makes some of his music so deliciously addictive and hopefully we’ll get to hear more of his improved songwriting to boot. Trilogy arrives on 13th November, and the buzz is at record levels.
Always a pleasure to have a full project from Lloyd, and with his recent releases from this tape being of a very good standard, there’s a good chance the rest of the tracks will follow suit.
13 tracks make this one up, with 4 of them being released at various intervals prior to today, whilst the rest keep the features to a minimum in order to give Lloyd a little more shine. The assists on the new tracks come from prominent rappers Lil’ Wayne, Trae Tha Truth and CyHi the Prynce, and I’m sure the unannounced production credentials make for a solid list too. Free stream and grab below.
Lloyd-The Playboy Diaries
Earlier this week, the enigmatic singer promised a gift for his fans ahead of the release of Trilogy, and his generous streak continues with this hit of unreleased material.
If this is any indication of his new material on Trilogy, and forthcoming additional work, we’re in for some excellent listening. Enemy combines the slower, darker production stylings of Echoes of Silence with the desire-filled vocal deliveries of House of Balloons, and the end product is one that’s as perfect a slice of winter music as has been released by anyone this year. Soft key melodies, hints of guitar and crashing yet intermittent percussion combine for a backdrop with far more depth than you’ll first realise, and also one that’s got a hint of dynamism as elements fly in and out throughout the near 5-minute track. The vocal work is superb, from the tender intro to the more cool, attitudinal hook, whilst the lyricism is much improved from his more structure-less early days. Huge fan of this, and I’m hoping the audio gets dropped off soon.
He took to Twitter yesterday to reveal both the pre-order for Trilogy (US iTunes for now) was available and also took time to put out another short clip ahead of that 13th November release date. He also announced ‘something for the fans’ to be released on Thursday-my inclination looking at that preorder is that it’ll be the video for his collaboration with Drake, The Zone.
The first trailer showcased one of the 3 new tracks set to be included and this one does the same thing, opting for a quick blast of Valerie (meaning the first trailer was either Till Dawn or Twenty Eight) accompanied by a rather upset lady surrounded by balloons, slightly reminiscent of the House of Ballons and (an inverted version of) the middle of the Thursday cover. Given that the track is attached to the end of the Thursday section on the album, I suspect it’s meant to be the latter. As this clip progresses, his vocals become incredibly impressive and that’s sure to make for good listening on the end product; let’s hope that’s the case on 13th November.
Knowledge bomb: I’ve seen this track posted and discussed in several places, but no-one seems to have noticed this is actually a retooled version of a track from 2009. Proof?
That’s not a negative thing at all though, as the original was a great listen and this rework is even better. The production’s got a little more punch about it, without losing the wispy elements that complement Lloyd’s voice so well, and relies less on the tribal-esque production and slightly overdone backing vocals the original used. The speed is slowed down too, a shift that suits the lyrics much better and gives them a far sultrier styling that befits the bedroom music nature of them, whilst Lloyd’s re-recorded vocals also achieve the same effect as he throws in a varied combination of urgency and softer deliveries. A good update of the original, and look out for that The Playboy Diaries mixtape on 29th October.
We’ve already had videos for Rolling Stone, the Trilogy trailer and Wicked Games, and now we get another new release from The Weeknd. This time, we get the artwork and tracklisting for Trilogy, the upcoming 3-part album he’s dropping off on 13th November.
As has been discussed several times across the above posts, this compilation is made up of remastered versions of the tracks from his three projects to date: House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence. In addition, we’re getting 3 new tracks split across the 3 individual projects, with a new track appended to the end of each one, and hopefully that’s a sign that they’ll be a diverse bunch to keep in line with the preceding 9 tracks.
Having released a remastered version of this track from House of Balloons around a month ago, The Weeknd follows that up its official visuals ahead of that 13th November release date for Trilogy.
Funny thing to say, but this coupled with his recent video release for Rolling Stone suggest he’s a little closer to removing that veil of mystery and becoming a more ‘regular’ artist. Good thing? Not sure, but it hasn’t compromised his minimal nature as this video will attest to. All shot in monochrome as you’d expect, and full of the dark, moody elements that make his work so viscerally appealing, including (but not limited to) borderline angry, attitudinal face shots, shadowy dancing and late night walks. The combination works excellently to highlight the desperation of the vocal and lyrical work, showcasing that ‘tell me you love me‘ line to be much more downbeat than the lively remastered production would suggest. It’s an easy watch accompanied by an audio that benefits from the rework, in addition to being a combination that very much stays on-brand as far as The Weeknd’s general approach to his art goes, regardless of whether his mystery is slowly peeled away.
Give this a listen and you’ll forgive me for the late pass.
Though some may already be familiar with his work, the closest comparison I can make of Steven for the rest of you is somewhere between Miguel and Maxwell. The album art here is clearly inspired by the latter’s most recent album, whilst his passionate yet occassionally delicate vocal style also draws from the same influence, though his music carries a more hook-centric and contemporary vibe and hence the Miguel parallels. Clark though is more inclined to select productions that have a hint of experimentalism about them, giving his music a unique and genre-blending feel: as he self-produces almost all of his work, it’s fair to suggest his eclecticism isn’t falsely derived from those he works with either, and instead is genuine diversity. From the lively and incredibly infectious opening track through to the soft and progressive closer, it’s a project delivered with an assurance and quality that belies his status as an upcoming act, and one that showcases a very talented artist with a great future.