July’s been a month full of expectations. Some of these expectations were warranted, others not so much. Some expectations were met and exceeded, while others, well, not so much. Let’s take a look. Disney’s The Lion King - the live action remake of the 1994 cartoon - set the stage for a month of expectations, and well, it probably should have just stayed a cartoon. But, on the other hand Beyonce’s The Gift offered the film the creative new life that it needed. Then, there’s Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III - which flooded social media a few months back during its recording, leaving many wondering what would come of it. After a string of successful projects from Ari Lennox, J.I.D., and others, the label feels like it’s in the eye of the storm, creatively pushing the envelope. Revenge of the Dreamers III is high expectations being set and met. July also featured some first time releases that show a great deal of promise from YBN Cordae, The Lost Boy and GMJR’s Tw3nty Six // The Superfriends, as well as single releases from Brik.Liam and Tragic Hero, both of which we can only hope for leading to LPs. Maybe the highest expectations of them all were set for Chance The Rapper. After releasing a string of “mixtapes”, Chance The Rapper released his debut owbum, The Big Day. (Was naming his debut owbum, “The Big Day” a set up for unnecessary pressure?) Anyway, by most accounts, even for Chance diehards, this album just wasn’t it. There were a few moments, but the owbum largely felt like it lacked cohesion and depth at times.
Below are some of our favorite songs from the month and a bit about why we love them. Side A, songs 1-11, were selected by me, and Side B, songs 12-22 were selected by Kevin. We hope that you enjoy the playlist, find a song you like, and dive into an entire album!
Stanley: PTSD (with Omen Feat. Mereba, Deante’ Hitchcock & St. Beauty)
Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III — the third installment in their ongoing collaborative series — features a range of artists, producers, and musicians, both from within the label and those associated with the label. Recorded in just 10 days, this album is evidence of the power of collaboration. Considering the number of contributors to this project, it’s surprisingly cohesive. There are a number of songs from this project that resonated with me, but PTSD really struck a chord. The harmonically-driven chord progression, the lead vocals, the verses, and the combination of bass and drums just lock you in to a steady groove. Typically, after I find a song I like, I end up going down rabbit hole looking for credits, and this time there were a few familiar, and pleasant surprises. The bass line, which made me fall in love with the song, features a friend from college Kenneth Harris II, vocals from St. Beauty, who I’ve been a fan since before they were St. Beauty, and Mereba who I’ve been a fan of for some time now, too.
Stanley: Tragic Hero — In My Mind
I’m a sucker for ‘80s drums/drum programming and synthesizers. Luckily, Tragic Hero’s In My Mind has both. And because it has both, I have probably listened to this song a ridiculous number of times since its release. In My Mind , released as part of a double single package earlier this month, displays Tragic Hero’s versatility as a rapper, singer, and composer, seamlessly switching from rapping verses to singing hooks. And as with any of Tragic Hero’s music you can count on quality storytelling that’s both introspective and a personal journey of his faith.
Stanley: YBN Cordae — Family Matters (feat. Arin Ray)
Where’s the entrance for the YBN Cordae bandwagon? I need to reserve my seat ASAPington! YBN Cordae’s debut album, The Lost Boy is incredibly impressive, as he displays a high level of lyrical dexterity, an ear for production and musicality, and nuanced storytelling. At only 21, YBN Cordae’s rubbed shoulders with some musical heavyweights - getting the stamp of approval from artists like Quincy Jones, Terrace Martin, and Robert Glasper. His album was even mixed by mix engineer Derek “Mixed By Ali” Ali . But all the name dropping aside, The Lost Boy is an incredible story of coming of age, dealing with trauma, and overcoming obstacles.