J. Cole-Born Sinner (Full Album Stream)

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Cole set up a bunch of listening sessions a few days ago, each at a specific bunch of co-ordinates across various locations for those unable/uninvited to the main NYC album premiere, and now provides the full LP for stream a full 11 days before its release.

A mixture of reasons make up that decision; it’s surely as motivated by the recent leak of his album as it is by the confidence he has in the material, and hence it might not have been Cole’s preferred time for this stream release. Nonetheless, he’s backing himself, and I thoroughly hope the material stands up to scrutiny- given the generally negative response amongst the hip-hop community to his debut album, there’s no denying Cole needs this one to come off, and all of the early signs are that he’s definitely surpassed that disappointing first take. Features are as expected from the tracklist release some time ago, with Kendrick Lamar, TLC, James Fauntleroy, Amber Coffman and Miguel all appearing, whilst the deluxe edition of the album will also include Truly Yours 3, which features 50 Cent and Jhene Aiko. Stream the project (without Truly Yours 3) here

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Drake-Girls Love Beyonce ft. James Fauntleroy

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If the earlier release had under-21s (and over-21s, let’s be honest) stroking their Drake poster, this one might provoke a slightly more pronounced reaction. I’ll stop there as I know there are folks under 18 that’ll be reading this, but the rest of you know where I was going with that.

Drake’s penchant for old-school R&B is no secret, with several odes and references to the genre across his career, and here he (sort of) remakes Say My Name, with the aid of the ever-excellent James Fauntleroy. Of course, it’s not exactly meant to replace the original, but instead comes across as a bit of fun and a semi-return to the R&B style that won many over back in ’09, though his hybrid rap-singing delivery in the verses does mark a return to monotony-the moments that he leans more toward one side than the other are his vocal highlights here. Fauntleroy does a nice job reinterpreting the iconic hook, staying true to the original and adding a soulful twist, whilst the sultry, minimal production works to further rework the track into something that closer resembles a slow jam than the angsty, attitudinal R&B vibe of the Destiny’s Child piece. It’ll get a couple of plays for novelty, but it’s nothing that’s going to hang around for too long.

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Common-Congratulations ft. Cocaine 80s

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And that summer music just keeps coming. Has someone finally told the industry that music should be seasonally-timed?

Common joins up with the rest of the Cocaine 80s collective for his first new release in quite some time. It’s a great effort too and certainly leans more towards classic than contemporary Common, with a mellow production that combines gentle melodies with pillowy, bassy percussion for a style that effortlessly lands somewhere between neo-soul, smooth jazz and a dash of vintage R&B. Of course, they’re all genres Common’s had no problem associating with in the past, and that throwback nature comes to the fore with his raps too, courtesy of his slowed-down, near-spoken word delivery talking to the listener rather than rhyming at them, a style remarkably similar to the material of his that many hip-hop heads grew up listening to. His storytelling ability has gone nowhere either, as this alternative tale of his friend’s wedding day expertly runs through Common’s internal monologues, observations and flashbacks to interactions with the bride. There’s a good touch of vocalising from the 80s team at the end to wind things down, and this is a superb slice of hip-hop that’ll make for good listening for the foreseeable future.

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Cocaine 80s-The Flower of Life EP

flower of life
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.

Cocaine 80s-The Flower of Life EP

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Jhene Aiko-Wrap Me Up ft. James Fauntleroy


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.

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Big Sean-Detroit (Mixtape)


One of the most anticipated releases in recent weeks, Big Sean drops off his first project since his mainstream breakout debut LP, Finally Famous.

We’ve caught three tracks from this so far, each with their own very different charms, displaying that Sean’s newly-gained popularity hasn’t affected his versatility or desire for hip-hop. The tracklist honestly reads like an album, with huge features in the shape of Kendrick Lamar, close friend Mike Posner, Chris Brown and fellow Detroit native Royce Da 5’9″ amongst several others, whilst Snoop Lion (Dogg), Common and Young Jeezy feature on their own interlude sections, each titled Story. That sort of detail is always appreciated on an album, let alone a mixtape, and I’m sure it’ll all contribute to what’s set up to be an excellent all-round project. Free grab available below.

Big Sean-Detroit

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Cocaine 80s-Chain Glow ft. Nas


Given the vast amount of material that Common, James Fauntleroy, No I.D. and friends have released as Cocaine 80s, it’s a surprise I’ve not posted any of it on here. Nonetheless, they’ve started releasing more music recently after a few months off, and this is certainly the standout of the bunch courtesy of a great Nas verse.

Fauntleroy does a superb job with his harmonies throughout this one, taking on the soft yet atmospheric No I.D. production with a delicate delivery on the vocals, both in rapped and singing sections, working to really accetuate the high points of the beat and showcase his own abilities. The slick Nas verse contrasts excellently with the smooth vocal work that comes before and after it, with a razor-sharp delivery that definitely leaves you wanting more; clever move with his next album on the horizon. A really likeable effort that straddles the lines of soul, R&B and hip-hop very expertly.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 117


A shorter episode than usual, but still packed full of big names in the current R&B/pop/hip-hop scene, including a couple of unexpected collaborations. Similarly, only a small recap is required from this week’s posts, with the official relese of Skylar Grey’s second set of solo visuals, and a very promising new mixtape from Jay Sean.

Click below for this week’s injection of harmonic, overly-emotional goodness.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 23

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A very different line-up this week to what we’re normally used to, but still bringing the R&B goodness. There’s an entirely free 14-track EP from the acclaimed Kevin Cossom in there too, so be sure to click on.

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