Archive for May, 2014

Welcome to the May 2014 Issue

Welcome to the May 2014 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re leading with Beyoncé’s self-titled “visual” album, released digitally in December and now available as a CD/DVD set. Also featured are four new hip hop albums: Gravitas by Talib Kweli, Oxymoroon by ScHoolboy Q, Gold PP7s by Detroit’s Clear Soul Forces, plus the compilation Rock It… Don’t Stop It: Rap from Brooklyn, Boston and Beyond, 1979-83.  Other new releases include The Floacist’s Rise of the Phoenix Mermaid, Kandia Crazy Horse’s country rock debut album Stampede, and the debut EP from Lolawolf, fronted by Zoe Kravitz.

Three recent releases from the reissue label Real Gone Music are reviewed: Irma Thomas’s Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album, Professor Longhair’s The Last Mardi Gras, and Samuel Jonathan Johnson’s My Music. Also covered are new box sets devoted to blues musicians Michael Bloomfield and Johnny Winter.

Our featured gospel music title is the book The School of Arizona Dranes: Gospel Music Pioneer, by Timothy Dodge.  Under world music is Black Slate’s new reggae album World Citizen, Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi’s latest release Sarawoga, and the South African collective ImprovED’s Marula’s Shade which supports efforts to  create  an AIDS-free generation in South Africa.

Wrapping up this issue is our summary of April releases of note, not previously featured in Black Grooves.

 

View review May 2nd, 2014

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter – Beyoncé

Beyonce
Title: Beyoncé

Artist: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Label: Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia

Formats: CD+DVD, CD + Blu-Ray, MP3+Videos

Release date: December 13, 2013

 

What were you doing on December 13th, 2013?

That was the question on majority of the world’s minds when it came to the impromptu release of Beyoncé, the groundbreaking self-titled fifth studio album by the pop songstress Beyoncé Knowles-Carter—not since Michael Jackson’s Thriller has there been such an “experience” surrounding a musical project.  Foregoing the traditional marketing strategy she carried out on her first four critically acclaimed albums, Beyoncé opted for a more untraditional route by releasing her new album on her own subsidiary label, Parkwood Entertainment, without any marketed publicity, along with a new miminalistic sound in an effort to create a monumental experience which she felt has been lost in the digital era of music. To accomplish this, she not only recorded in strict secrecy, but did it all while on a two-year-long world tour in support of her previous material.  What resulted was a creatively dense “visual album” complete with not only 14 unreleased studio tracks, but accompanied by 17 visually stunning high-definition videos for each track on the album (one being a bonus video for the Timbaland-produced, “Grown Woman”, later omitted from the official tracklist.) As a result, Beyoncé has proven that she is not only an influential global superstar, but also one with a grasp on her own autonomy.

With Beyoncé, Knowles lyrically and visually presents her impenitent feminist manifesto, drawing numerous comparisons to Madonna’s Erotica in its post-feminist (and womanist) theory approaches (“Bow Down”/”***Flawless”), its sexually adventurous themes (such as 70’s-disco tinged “Blow” and the bounce-driven “Partition”), and the rawness in its female empowerment compositions.  All revolve around Beyoncé’s perceptions of motherhood (“Blue”), womanhood, sexuality (such as the D’Angelo-influenced “Rocket” that makes one feel as if they are privy to a down home religious experience), vulnerability (“Mine” and “Heaven”), and companionship (the Jay Z featured “Drunk in Love,” the beauty of imperfection in the Trap-heavy “No Angel” and the  alternative doo-wopped R&B track “Superpower” that features crooner Frank Ocean). Most importantly, Beyoncé comes into deeper contact with her self as she contemplates the thin line between being a successful superstar and what it means to truly be herself (such as the minimalistic “Ghosts” suggests). She finds beauty in her imperfections and urges other women to do the same. For example, the idea of beauty’s double standards is touched on in the Sia-penned opening track “Pretty Hurts,” as well the female empowered “Grown Woman” video that closes the album.

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Beyoncé also pushes the “Single Ladies” artist to new territories once unheard of. Gone is her cookie cutter image, and in her place is a woman of complexity, both in image (consumers see a more sexually aware Beyoncé both in mind and body who is as much of a fashion chameleon as the “Material Girl” herself), vocal ability (such as the whispery “No Angel”), and her freedom of expression (“Driver role down the partition please/I don’t need you seeing Yoncé on her knees”). Knowles reveals the complexities of ALL women: a woman who can be as poised and glamorous as a beauty queen, as authoritative as a dominatrix, as sexually uninhibited as her fantasies wield, as vulnerable as she wants to be, and as ratchet as she decides to be. Beyoncé is both a triumph to postmodern feminism and to the celebration of womanhood.

There are a few “weaknesses” on the album, such as its suggestive lyrics (“Can you eat my skittles, it’s the sweetest in the middle/Pink is the flavor/solve the riddle”), which gives Knowles her first album affixed with a Parental Advisory sticker. Very mature in sound and imagery, Beyoncé makes no apologies in presenting herself as a grown woman.  Also, while Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie adds a nice touch with an audio snippet of her talk “We Are All Feminists” on the “***Flawless” track, Beyoncé’s omission to true feminist theories leaves a bit more to be desired. However, what Beyoncé does is use herself as the primary embodiment of a woman in total control of herself. I would recommend this album as a must-have in your collection, especially for women and men who all desire to be feminists. King Bey has returned to claim her throne.

Reviewed by Floyd D. Hobson III
Doctoral student, African American and African Diaspora Studies, Indiana University

View review May 2nd, 2014

Talib Kweli – Gravitas

Gravitas
Title: Gravitas

Artist: Talib Kweli

Label: Javotti Media

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: February 18, 2014

 

Having been in the business for close to twenty years, the veteran Brooklyn-based rapper, Talib Kweli, has by now firmly established himself as one of today’s more meaningful conscious rappers, with profound lyrics to match his equally solid rhythms. Undeniably a musician of substance, Talib Kweli stands as one of the few contemporary artists with the rare ability to convey socially-conscious messages in a non-abrasive, aesthetically-inducive manner. With his sixth and latest solo release, Gravitas, Kweli follows in the same vein, addressing relevant social issues ranging anywhere from the current unsavory state of mainstream hip-hop to the politicization of women’s bodies. Indeed, even the album’s distribution contains a statement in that Gravitas stands as a project made independent of any major label, thereby cutting out the middleman entirely and allowing for the creation of music solely under the artist’s own terms. The end result finds Talib Kweli pushing the envelope conceptually, rewarding listeners with one of his most compelling albums to date.

In terms of social content, particularly notable tracks include the album opener, “Inner Monologue,” both a lament over the increasingly materialistic nature of hip-hop today as well as a call for artistic freedom; “Wormhole,” an energetic diatribe against the cultural obsession surrounding Illuminati conspiracy theories in relation to hip-hop; and finally, “State of Grace,” an exploration of the disillusionment felt by female fans of rap when confronted with the genre’s prominent misogynistic themes.

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Unique to this album, as opposed to his earlier releases, Kweli also speaks on a more personal, introspective level. In this regard, the most revealing tracks consist of “Demonology” and “Rare Portraits“—the first of which resembles a survey of Kweli’s own struggles as an artist, all set to an intriguing, fast-paced rock beat and astounding guitar riffs, whereas the latter presents Kweli reminiscing about his career’s early history while backed by luscious instrumentation in the form of flowing pianos and soaring strings. Along with Kweli’s distinct talent for writing thoughtful narratives, “Gravitas” also features a formidable line-up of collaborators, including Abby Dobson, Big K.R.I.T., Raekwon, The UnderAchievers, RES, Black Thought, Rah Digga, and Mike Posner. These contributions, coupled with Talib Kweli’s signature lyricism and effortless flow, mark Gravitas as a refreshing offering to today’s hip-hop landscape.

Reviewed by Catherine Fonseca

View review May 2nd, 2014

ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron

oxymoron

Title: Oxymoron

Artist: ScHoolboy Q

Label: Top Dawg Entertainment/ Interscope Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: February 25, 2014

 

 

“Hello? Hello? Fuck Rap…MY Daddy a Gangsta!”

Spoken by his four-year-old daughter Joy, ScHoolboy Q commences his third studio album, aptly titled Oxymoron, in a foreshadowing way on the heels of labelmate and fellow Black Hippy member, Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. This is the Top Dawg Entertainment emcee’s his first studio album on the Interscope label, released with high expectations [“Kendrick [Lamar] left me no choice but to drop a classic”] and West Coast and Gangsta rap motifs in mind.

A concept album based on ScHoolboy Q’s life experiences being in the “Real LA,” raw and uncensored, Oxymoron centers both on the juxtaposition of his responsibilities as a father, and his hustle as an Oxycontin drug dealer, along with his past as a member of the Los Angeles Crips street gang (both of which are reflected in the dual covers). In multiple interviews he’s stated his opinion that there aren’t any “gangsta rappers” in the music industry today, the majority of rappers instead focusing on the growing trend of trap music. Being a self-proclaimed gangsta rapper, he reflects this theme both in his lyrics and most notably in his production. Producers Nez & Rio (“Gangsta,” “Man of the Year”) and Sounwave of Digi+phonics (“Hoover Street,” “Prescription/Oxymoron,” “Blind Threats”) handle the majority of the production on Oxymoron, while Pharrell Williams (“Los Awesome”), Mike Will Made It (“What They Want”), The Alchemist (“Break the Bank”), and Boi-1da (“Yay Yay”) also contribute additional production.

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Guest appearances by TDE-cohorts Jay Rock (“Los Awesome”), Kendrick Lamar (“Collard Greens”), and lone female R&B songstress SZA (“His & Her Friend” on the Deluxe ed.) top off the debut, along with West Coast artist Suga Free accompanying the pimp-influenced track “Grooveline Pt. 2” (Deluxe ed.), while Kurupt and Tyler, the Creator feature on the latter-helmed production of “The Purge.”  ScHoolboy Q also brings aboard Southern rapper 2 Chainz on the laidback trap-laced “What They Want,” lyricist BJ the Chicago Kid on the fourth single, “Studio,” as well as Wu-Tang’s own Raekwon on the LordQuest and Sounwave-produced “Blind Threats.”

The strengths of the album are undoubtedly its true to form authenticity both to the West Coast G-Funk style popularized by Dr. Dre’s The Chronic,  Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle (which ScHoolboy Q calls a primary influence on the record), and labelmate Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City which was held as the bar to surpass. He also delves deep into his own personal narrative by reflecting on his past drug use, his dope dealing antics, his experiences growing up in Los Angeles, and  his gangbanging past. His daughter Joy can also be heard on many of the records, most notably “Prescription/Oxymoron” where she tries to wake him out of a drug-induced coma.

The weaknesses apply more to the deluxe version, which runs a bit long, plus the extra tracks kill the complex simplicity of the standard album. Also, the constant comparisons to Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City put a harsh light on the lack of common denominators between the tracks on the album, whereas Lamar’s album tells a cohesive story track-by-track. Despite these issues, Oxymoron stands alone in its prowess as one of the few albums that have successfully highlighted a sect of Gangsta rap culture that has been long since forgotten.

I would recommend Oxymoron to those who are fans of gangsta rap music and rap enthusiasts, as well as those who are die-hard fans of Top Dawg Entertainment’s roster of artists. The album is not kid-friendly by any means, but what ScHoolboy Q does successfully with this record is shed an unapologetic lens on the West Coast gangsta lifestyle, both from within the space and outside of it, while demonstrating self-accountability for his actions.

Reviewed by Floyd D. Hobson III
Doctoral student, African American and African Diaspora Studies, Indiana University

View review May 2nd, 2014

Clear Soul Forces – Gold PP7s

Clear Soul
Title: Gold PP7s

Artist: Clear Soul Forces

Label: Fatbeats

Formats: CD, 2-LP, MP3

Release date: September 17, 2013

 

Detroit has never been known as an environment to foster optimism.  As Clear Soul Forces emcee/producer Ilajide puts it during a an episode of Red Bull Music’s Sound and Vision, “even the green has a shade of gray to it.”  But the way this Motor City quartet raps, it is clear they have found refuge and inspiration in their music.  Gold PP7s is their third full-length project, and first release on the Fatbeats label.

The Gold PP7 was the secret one-shot kill weapon on the James Bond Nintendo 64 blockbuster Goldeneye.  It is also the modus operandi of E-Fav, Ilajide, Noveliss, and L.A.Z. for attacking each track with every rapid-fire bar they can muster.  Album opener “Continue” flexes lyrical prowess through a series of video game-inspired metaphors:

Throwing the mic like a boomerang, you can’t hang, you just dust in the cartridge
Blowing you the cartilage carnage with the Symbian artist shit

Arcade themes continue throughout the LP referencing Street Fighter, cheat codes, Mortal Kombat, Zelda, expansion packs, Halo, and of course, Goldeneye.  The effect is a lessened ability to relate at a personal level that’s present in their previous work, but instead they accomplish a greater sense of grandeur and Wu-Tang Clan-like mysticism, allowing for exploration of broader philosophical themes and cunning braggadocio.

Clear Soul Forces are neither in-depth storytellers nor simple punchline rappers, but through every sixteen traded among these four we get glimpses into struggles of life in Detroit, imaginative critiques on pop culture and society, and wordplay for the sake of poetry.  Hooks are understated, and keeping up with four dudes who love to rap as much as they do can be exhausting, but careful, repeat listens are greatly rewarded.  E-Fav, Ilajide, Noveliss, and L.A.Z. trade bars with such ease that it takes a bit of orientation to figure out whose voice belongs to whom.   Gold PP7s‘ second single, “Ain’t Playin,” offers a solid introduction to each member’s distinctive voice:

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Production-wise, Ilajide falls in line with the fine Detroit lineage injecting 11 of the 15 tracks with the loose bounce of the late J Dilla and more than some of Black Milk’s synth futurism.  Perhaps the most socially aware song, “War Drum,” militantly underlines warnings against ignorance perpetuated by the mass media, corrupt religious leaders, and crooked politicians with loops from Fela Kuti’s “Water No Get Enemy.”  L.A.Z.’s killer concluding verse is almost usurped by an epilogue skit featuring a bottle-popping Arnold Scharzenegger that is significant in that it aptly encapsulates their world view on hip hop.

Gold PP7s is an admirable label-backed debut from these Detroit natives.  It is clear the city is not about to crush their spirits any time soon, and if they can keep each other this inspired, we can expect more great things to come.

Reviewed by Will Chase

View review May 2nd, 2014

Rock It… Don’t Stop It! Rappin’ to the Boogie Beat from Brooklyn, Boston and Beyond 1979

Rock It Don't Stop It

Title: Rock It Don’t Stop It

Artist: Various

Label: BBE

Formats: CD, 2-LP, MP3, WAV

Release date: April 1, 2014

 

 

The early days of hip-hop have been documented on anthologies highlighting different scenes, styles, and labels, but it seems we have still just scraped the surface of what’s out there.  London-based DJ Sean P dusts off ten 12″ singles from his expansive collection for Rock It… Don’t Stop It!  Rappin’ to the Boogie Beat from Brooklyn, Boston and Beyond 1979 – 1983.  These selections, overshadowed by the success of “Rapper’s Delight” at the time of their release, and subsequently long unavailable, exhibit the influence and appropriation of disco in early hip-hop.

Unlike the ubiquitous Sugar Hill Records, some of the labels featured here released few other discs than those featured on Rock It… Don’t Stop It!, and some of these singles are the only recordings made by the artists.  Thankfully Sean P’s copies are all in good condition, and his transfers and restorations of the material are about as transparent as one can hope for from vinyl.

The beats on Rock It… Don’t Stop It! were looped from party music classics from the likes Cheryl Lynn and Yazoo.  While there are plenty of prompts to get up and dance (“and you don’t stop!”), there are also some thoughtful insights on poverty (“The People’s Message,” “Sweat (The B Side)”) and the pitfalls of promiscuity (“Take it to the Max”) mixed in that really help to get a feel for where this music is coming from.  The Jackson Two, a pair of teenaged sisters no older than 16 according to the liner notes, show that the ladies were not about to let their male counterparts dominate rap during this time period:

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Sean P’s liner notes give a brief narrative of his vision for the compilation and short backgrounds on each single.  Because of its loose thematic cohesiveness, it is worth examining Rock It… Don’t Stop It! in context with more focused collections such as Soul Jazz Records’ Big Apple Rappin’ or Third Unheard: Connecticut Hip Hop 1979-1983 from the Stones Throw label for a more complete historical perspective.  Historical significance aside, it is just as easy to enjoy Rock It… Don’t Stop It! as a great snapshot of over-looked, body-moving old school rap.

Reviewed by Will Chase

View review May 2nd, 2014

White Boys Play The Blues

From His Head to His Heart to His Hands

Title: From His Head to His Heart to His Hands – An Audio/Visual Scrapbook

Artist: Michael Bloomfield

Label: Columbia/Legacy

Format: 3CD/1DVD set

Release date: February 4, 2014

 

 

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True to the Blues The Johnny Winter Story

Title:  True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story

Artist:  Johnny Winter

Label:  Columbia/Legacy

Format:  4CD set

Release Date:  February 23, 2014

 

 

These two box sets are presented differently, and each covers a singular artist with a very unique approach to blues music, but they are of a pair.

For one thing, the Johnny Winter box set starts with a couple of tracks from his pre-Columbia days and then gets down to business with Michael Bloomfield introducing Winter to an enthusiastic December 13, 1968 Fillmore East crowd.  Winter was a guest of Bloomfield’s and Al Kooper’s band that night, and he proceeds to tear the walls down in a very successful introduction to the big leagues.  Much of that same concert is heard in the Michael Bloomfield box set, but there is no overlap.

Another, more superficial connection is the simple fact that both men were white guys playing a music invented and dominated by black people, and doing a more than credible job at it.  Mike Bloomfield’s style evolved from country blues and hewed more toward the folkier side of things.  But he could tear it up with the best of them. His favored tone was more ringing with less bending and vibrato than some blues guitarists prefer. He was a perfect foil to white harmonica ace Paul Butterfield in the original Butterfield Blues band.

Johnny Winter is a rough and tumble Texas bluesman in the Lightning Hopkins and T-Bone Walker mold. He is incredibly quick-fingered and plays with an aggressive style perfectly suited to the meeting point of blues and rock.  He also has quite a way with slide guitar playing. He is featured in both blues and rock settings in the 4-CD box set, issued in conjunctions with Winter’s 70th birthday.

Between these two box sets, there is a lot of music, and most of it is darn good. Both men exhibit a deep understanding of the blues, and play with different but equally adept technical wizardry grounded by soul and impeccable timing.  If all this sounds academic, the music is not boring or clinical by any means.  In fact, putting on any of the seven total CDs from these box sets and turning up the volume may well spawn an instant party.

Bloomfield’s life was short and somewhat tragic. Raised in a Jewish family in Chicago, he was often at odds with his father, a driven and successful businessman.  Bloomfield’s sister speculates in the box set booklet that he was likely manic-depressive, and the drug and alcohol problems he developed in his formative years sped his demise. His flighty personality led him to walk away from many potential successes and yet his raw talent and gusto allowed him to string together a recorded legacy of superb music, including gigs with Bob Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited and Muddy Waters on Fathers and Sons. Bloomfield played lead guitar on the first two Butterfield Blues Band albums and led his own band, Electric Flag in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Keyboardist and producer Al Kooper, one of Bloomfield’s closest collaborators, conceived and produced the box set, which he called an “Audio/Visual Scrapbook.”  In other words, the 3 music CDs are only part of the presentation. The DVD, “Sweet Blues – A Film About Michael Bloomfield,” is not a throwaway promo or jammed-together collection of music videos like some box-set DVDs. The film, directed by Bob Sarles, is a tribute, a biography and a series of searing performance films. Capping the audio/visual experience is the excellent booklet, with essays by Kooper and Michael Simmons, and a detailed discography with Kooper’s comments about each tune’s context in Bloomfield’s career. Clearly, this project was a labor of love for Kooper, a long-overdue tribute to his late friend.

One of the many good production techniques Kooper used was keeping long spoken intros in the many live tracks.  Bloomfield had a unique way of saying things, often laced with humor and seasoned with well-placed four-letter words. The first disc has two examples of just plain good production.  The opening sequence is Bloomfield’s tryout for producer John Hammond at Columbia Records.  True to his precocious style, Bloomfield ended the tryout with an improvised acoustic country workout, ala Merle Travis, which he called “Hammond’s Rag.” As the tape reel runs out, Hammond tells Bloomfield that he’s going to sign him.  Later, in a snippet from a radio interview, Bloomfield gets going about what a “bad m-f’er” Paul Butterfield was, casting Butterfield as the original blues gangsta, and then the CD cuts right to the hard-driving opening track of the first Butterfield Blues Band album, “Born In Chicago,” featuring blistering solos by Butterfield and Bloomfield. The last disc contains later live tracks from Bloomfield, and its clear that time and substance abuse did dim his star somewhat. But, in his best moments, he still played with the fire and skill of his younger days.

The Johnny Winter box set is more traditional in format:  four music CDs with a booklet essay basically detailing Winter’s biography and quoting numerous musicians saying what a great guitarist he was and is.  The booklet is laid out with many color photos and a good discography/song list.  But the centerpiece to the Winter box set is the music and only the music. And boy is there a lot of good music to hear.  In his early days, Winter was a no-holds-barred player, coming on strong and aiming to shame any other guitarist in the room. He was somewhat of a white albino Robert Johnson—technically better than everyone else and filled with bravado. His voice is somewhat reedy, and in recent years he tends to more growl than sing. He’s also moved toward a mellower, more “proper” blues in his later years.

Some of the best material in Winter’s career was made with Rick Derringer on second guitar and second vocals.  The two men had nicely contrasting styles, and seemed to goad each other to their technical limits.  Winter’s brother, Edgar, was also a frequent band-mate in the early years.  The first bass player to record with Winter was Tommy Shannon, later of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble band.

In the lexicon of black blues guitarists, Winter is more akin to Buddy Guy, Robert Johnson and Lightning Hopkins, whereas Bloomfield is more akin to Muddy Waters, Hubert Sumlin and Mississippi John Hurt. Both Bloomfield and Winter were highly influential on rock guitarists in the US and UK in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

These two box sets gather up plentiful offerings of great blues music. Both are highly recommended.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

View review May 2nd, 2014

Samuel Jonathan Johnson – My Music

Samuel Jonathan Johnson

Title: My Music

Artist: Samuel Jonathan Johnson

Label:  Real Gone

Format: CD

Release date: January 7, 2014

 

 

The superlative Real Gone Music reissue label has done it again, this time releasing My Music, the sole long-player from keyboardist and singer Samuel Jonathan Johnson, originally issued in 1978 on Columbia.   Recorded in Chicago in two days time, the album opens with the title track introducing us to Johnson’s compelling musical vision.  Although this opener features a somewhat haphazard mélange of production techniques— strings, horns, backup singers, popping funky bass lines, and, alarmingly, swooshing synth waves straight out of Star Wars— it’s a catchy, energetic tune that hints at better things to come.

These better things include a cover of Bacharach and David’s classic “What the World Need’s Now Is Love,” taken at a funereal pace that undermines the tune’s characteristic lilt and transforms it into a yearning, heartfelt plea for love and understanding; the up-tempo “It Ain’t Easy;” and the heavy disco/funk of “You,” with a groove reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s “As” from Songs in the Key of Life.  Johnson’s original ballads are also moving, especially “Yesterdays and Tomorrow,” which further hints at Wonder’s influence on Johnson’s vocal style.  The disc ends strongly with “Thank You Mother Dear,” a high-stepping paean to mom, and a why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along number, the thumping “Reason for the Reason.”

Taken together, these 10 songs comprise a strong slice of ’70s disco/funk/soul that should have heralded better, or at least more, things to come from this talented musician.  But it was not to be.  As daughter Yolanda relates in the CD notes, a family illness caused Johnson to abandon his music career in favor of more important obligations, scuttling his opportunity for a follow-up.  But thanks to the crate-diggers at Real Gone Music, we now have this wonderful long-lost slice of ’70s disco/soul back in circulation.

Reviewed by Terry Simpkins

 

 

View review May 2nd, 2014

Professor Longhair – The Last Mardi Gras

Professor

Title: The Last Mardi Gras

Artist: Professor Longhair

Label:  Real Gone

Format: CD

Release date: March 3, 2014

 

The second offering this month from Real Gone is another release from 1978, Professor Longhair’s The Last Mardi Gras.  This live album, recorded at Tipitina’s during New Orleans’  Mardi Gras festival and much praised upon its original release on Atlantic shortly before the Professor’s death, simply does not hold up well.  The problem is not with the great, rollicking pianist, who plays and sings with his customary flair and cracked-voice passion, or even with the Professor’s by-now-standard set list of time-honored New Orleans classics.  Rather, the problem is with the awful backing band he was saddled with on this particular night.  Drummer David Lee, in particular, sabotages much of the evening by perversely staying away almost entirely from any hint of a genuine second-line groove, instead playing clichéd rock and disco-esque beats that would embarrass many high-school age drummers.  However, the Professor soldiers on, seemingly unperturbed, and single-handedly raises the album into the realm of something listenable.  If you are looking to complete your Longhair collection, by all means pick this up, but if you are looking for an introduction to this most amazing of New Orleans pianists (apologies to James Booker, Dr. John, and Henry Butler), start elsewhere, perhaps with either his early Atlantic sides from the 1950s or with his final, amazing, and best-recorded album, Crawfish Fiesta, a disc that features the kind of utterly funky, grooving, and professional backing band the man’s music so richly deserved.

Reviewed by Terry Simpkins

View review May 2nd, 2014

Irma Thomas – Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album

irma-thomas-full-time-woman

Title: Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album

Artist: Irma Thomas

Label: Real Gone Music

Formats: CD

Release date: March 3, 2014

 

 

In 1960, Irma Thomas came on the scene with her bold debut single, “You Can Have My Husband (But Don’t Mess with My Man).” The record quickly gained momentum, reaching the number 22 spot on Billboard’s R&B chart. Her career was on the move and she recorded with several record labels including Ronn, Bandy, Minit, Chess, and Cotillion, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. This is where Real Gone and SoulMusic Records founder David Nathan enter the narrative of Irma Thomas’ career. Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album is a collection of recordings from her stint with Cotillion, including the only two recordings ever released from that label: “Full Time Woman” and the “B” side, “She’s Taken My Part.”  Uncovered by Nathan during vault research in 2005, this compilation acknowledges the 13 previously unreleased tracks from Cotillion sessions that took place between 1971 and 1972, bringing all of these lost recordings together and giving more insight into the career of the New Orleans Queen of Soul.

Though the compilation consists of mostly original material, the highlights are the four recordings that are actually covers of previously recorded songs. “Fancy,” the first of the covers, was originally recorded by pop/country singer Bobbie Gentry in 1970. Here, however, Thomas transforms the song with a more intense rhythmic drive. “Time After Time,” a standard interpreted by many, is reinterpreted with a driving triple meter that gives Thomas just enough room to soulfully and expertly maneuver through each phrase. She lights a fire under “Turn Around and You,” originally recorded by Dee Dee Warwick, transforming it into an up-tempo, almost racing, love declaration. Lastly, she takes on another country cover, “Tell Me Again,” in which she carefully inserts her own soulful flavor.

Full Time Woman: The Lost Cotillion Album highlights a brief moment in Irma Thomas’ career, a moment in time that until now has not been fully explored, and will be an important addition to the collection of longtime fans, as well as an excellent introduction to those who may not be aware of Irma Thomas, her career and her music. Liner notes by David Nathan that recount his personal odyssey in search of these tapes add considerable depth to the story.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review May 2nd, 2014

Timothy Dodge – The School of Arizona Dranes: Gospel Music Pioneer

timothy doge

Title:  The School of Arizona Dranes: Gospel Music Pioneer

Author: Timothy Dodge

Publisher: Lexington Books

Formats: Book (hardcover, 206 p.), eBook

Release date: September 12, 2013

 

 

While the sounds of gospel music have touched the ears and hearts of peoples all over the world, research on the subject still has a good deal of ground to cover. Several texts, autobiographies and biographies, have been written which expose the significance of the lives of gospel music pioneers like Thomas Dorsey, Shirley Caesar, and Kirk Franklin. However, many key figures and developments of the genre remain largely undocumented. In his text, The School of Arizona Dranes: Gospel Music Pioneer, Auburn University reference librarian Timothy Dodge attempts to address the early history of gospel music by exploring the life and influence of this largely unknown pioneering gospel pianist and vocalist.

Over the course of seven chapters, Dodge not only presents a biography of Arizona Dranes (who was blind nearly from birth), but strongly emphasizes the ways in which the historical context in which she lived shaped her career and influence. Using census records, historical governmental documents, personal correspondences with her record company Okeh Records (from the Arizona Dranes Papers at the Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University), and secondary sources, he outlines the contours of her life. His discussion ranges from her childhood to her involvement with the growth of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), her “epochal” recordings in the 1920s, her work as a traveling missionary and her eventual obscurity and death in Los Angeles, California.

While she may have received some formal training in a school for the blind, it was her encounters with secular and sacred black music styles that allowed Dranes to develop her own distinctive style—here called the “gospel beat.” Dodge suggests that her recordings are the first to feature this unique sacred musical sound, making Dranes’ work an important catalyst for what later became known as gospel music. Following is her 1926 rendition of “Lambs Blood Has Washed Me Clean,” described by Dodge as “one of Dranes’ most visceral recordings and one that fully captures the sound of a Pentecostal workship service”:

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Dodge goes on to devote significant space to discussing the black sacred music Dranes work in the context of the Pentecostal movement which sparked in the early 1900s and spread throughout the United States. Dodge then turns his attention to early black sacred music and the recording industry and ends the text identifying artists like Rosetta Tharpe and Thomas Dorsey that he considers students in the “School of Arizona Dranes.”

In many ways, Dodge is successful in reaching his goal of presenting a general sketch of Dranes’ life and the sociocultural context in which she lived. He argues that Dranes’ career and impact was a direct result of religious spaces she frequented as well the technological and economic climate of her day.  For instance, he indicates that the Pentecostal church nurtured spaces for the participation and leadership of women that were usually unavailable elsewhere. In conjunction with the increasing influence of the radio and recording industry, her religious affiliations allowed her to gain notoriety within the Black religious world. Dodge is also effective in his attempt to trace an actual musical lineage of Dranes’ piano and vocal style. He offers several specific musical examples of artists from the 1920s to the 1970s (including persons like Mahalia Jackson’s pianist Mildred Falls to the duo the O’Neal Twins) that he recognizes as being directly or indirectly influenced by Dranes’ live performances and recordings.

Conversely, some of the same elements that make this text engaging may also detract from its effectiveness.  As the author acknowledges, the lack of concrete sources that directly recount the details of Dranes’ life causes him to use a healthy dose of speculation about her circumstances, choices, and movements. This lack of information also results in a significant portion of this text focusing on the historical context in which she lived rather than her specifically.  Secondly, drawing on the work of musicologist Horace Boyer, Dodge discusses Dranes’ innovation of a rhythmic barrelhouse inspired piano style referred to as the “gospel beat.” Drane’s “gospel beat” would become a key element in the sound of gospel music. However, in the text, the musical elements that create the “gospel beat” remain a bit unclear. This is not to say that Dranes did not introduce a new sacred music sound to her listeners, but rather it would have been helpful if the crucial dimensions of that sound (or beat) were described more explicitly in this text.

Though not perfect, The School of Arizona Dranes attempts to elevate one of gospel music’s largely overlooked heroines. It offers plenty of food for thought concerning Drane’s musical legacy even as gospel music continues to develop in the 21st century. Likewise, the text also serves as an invitation to gospel music lovers to take a second look and listen to the music and people that changed the sound of worship music and subsequently popular music in the U.S. and beyond.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

[1] In his text, How Sweet the Sound: The Golden Age of Gospel, Boyer outlines a musical definition of the “gospel beat” that is slightly clearer.

View review May 2nd, 2014

Black Slate – World Citizen

black slate
Title: World Citizen

Artist: Black Slate

Formats: CD, MP3

Label: Unit 8 Records

Release date: April 15, 2014

 

Hailing from England, Jamaica and Anguila, Black Slate is a global phenomenon formed in reggae’s second home: London. Touring as a backing group to acts like Dennis Brown and Ken Boothe during the 1970s, Black Slate also performed extensively as an independent act until calling it quits in the mid-1990s. However, they returned in 2013 with the majority of their original members to release their first album since Get Up and Dance (1995).  On World Citizen, Black Slate recaptures the original sound that made the group a force to be reckoned with. Maintaining a perfect blend of solid instrumentation with vocals that sound as fresh and powerful as they did in the 1970s, Black Slate offers another great contribution to the contemporary reggae scene. Strong tracks include “World Citizenship,” “Mozart in Trenchtown,” and the beautiful “Living in the Footsteps.”

Following is the official video for the single “World Citizenship”:

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Reviewed by Ian Hallagan

View review May 2nd, 2014

The Floacist: Rise of the Phoenix Mermaid

FLoacist
Title: Rise of the Phoenix Mermaid

Artist: The Floacist

Label: Shanachie Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 18, 2014

 

Rise of the Phoenix Mermaid is The Floacist’s third solo album following her solo debut Floetic Soul in 2010 and Floetry Rebirth in 2012.  This album, entirely written and produced by The Floacist and producer Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis, doesn’t stray at all from the stylistic flavor of her previous albums—poetry with musical intent, mixing poetic rhythm with R&B and jazz influenced melodies. Her tales of holistic love, global consciousness, letting go, ambition, and purpose are masterfully spun in an almost ethereal musical presentation with a very relaxed approach to her recitation and/or singing.

Of the thirteen original songs included on this album, there are a few standout performances that deserve acknowledgement. “Feel Good,” the album’s opener, sets the tone for the entire album, offering, as the title insists, a “Feel Good” atmosphere:

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The following track, “Try Something New (I Do),” opens in the same manner as the majority of her songs—her poetic lines coasting above the instrumental harmonies—but ends in a soulful vamp that fades into a poignant and purposed solo piano performance. In “On It,” the guitar leads the song into a mid-tempo appeal to listeners to go after their dreams.

Rise of the Phoenix Mermaid is a personal and purposeful album that appeals to much more than the concepts of romantic love, but also to the inner depths of aspiration, confidence, and purpose.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review May 2nd, 2014

Lolawolf EP

lolawolf
Title: Lolawolf

Artist: Lolawolf

Label: Innit

Format: MP3

Release date: February 4, 2014

 

From the New York-based electropop band, Lolawolf, comes their self-titled five-song debut EP. Despite the group’s relative novelty, formed only months ago, this album sets a remarkable precedent, marking Lolawolf as one of the most acclaimed acts of 2014. The release highlights the group’s colorful frontwoman, Zoë Kravitz, actress-turned-singer and daughter of legendary Lenny Kravitz.

However, if “Lolawolf” is any indication of the band’s artistic leanings, Zoë is in no way derivative of her famous father’s music, but instead carves her own creative direction. This direction takes the form of an amalgamation of various influences, in what Kravitz herself describes in an interview with Life and Times as “a weird combination of  ’80s pop, dance music, and then hip-hop beats with ’90s R&B.” Although this chaotic list of ingredients may have potentially yielded a complete disaster, the EP delivers a surprisingly accurate representation of this promised stylistic confluence in an entirely enjoyable manner.

The EP integrates an interesting play on light and dark with the airy, ethereal quality of its synth-heavy beats mixed with the moodiness of the lyrical content and Kravitz’s voice. The opening track “Drive” is illustrative of this unique blend, featuring a slick, perhaps even sweet, presentation of some very racy lyrics over a soulful, ambient vibe. Unapologetically raunchy lines like “Would you take me to the west side?/ Would that be all right? / I could stare out your window / And fuck you tonight” makes for a provocatively charming performance, a level which carries through the rest of the EP. The subsequent track, “What Love Is,” features sugary pop hooks which serve to perfectly cut the serious contemplations over love’s complexities and struggles:

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“Chainz” stands as the most danceable track, exuding ‘80s pop references, but whose sulky lyrical content contends with the pensive reflections on converging feelings of both love and hate. The risque underpinnings of previous songs make another appearance, as found in the chorus “I’d put you in chains if I could change you.” Its looping, upbeat synth melody creates a tension which matches the track’s electrifying lyrics, thus striking a delightful balance between fun pop beats and sinister subject matter. The seductive staccato stomp of the following number, “Too Lovely,” perfectly pairs with the feverish ache found in Kravitz’s breathless descriptions of falling in love. The fifth and final track, “Wanna Have Fun,” tells the tantalizing tale of a threesome gone awry and its destructive aftermath. The heavy bass line drives the song and serves to highlight the ominous words sung with intriguing reverbed vocals.

Overall, Lolawolf delivers a bizarre yet delicious mixture of sultry playfulness and melancholy  meditations all set to the backdrop of catchy, mellow pop. This debut album delivers a risque and rebellious exploration of both love and lust, all of which certainly promise great things for the group’s imminent future.

Reviewed by Catherine Fonseca

 

View review May 2nd, 2014

Kandia Crazy Horse – Stampede

Kandia
Title: Stampede

Artist: Kandia Crazy Horse

Label: Bluebilly Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: January 21, 2014

 

 

Kandia Crazy Horse is well-known for her music journalism. Her writing has been featured in the Village Voice, San Francisco Bay Guardian, and Creative Loafing and she also served as the editor of Rip It Up: The Black Experience in Rock & Roll. With Stampede, the esteemed music journalist steps out from behind the pen and in front of the microphone for the first time. This debut album is a collection of eight original and two cover songs that showcase Kandia’s raw, strong and rich vocals as well as her talent as a songwriter. With Stampede she has begun to make her mark as not only a music critic, but also a country music artist.

Of the original songs in the album, there are three in particular that stand out, propelled by knock out performances.  “California,” the album’s lead single and the first to be written for the album, is Kandia Crazy Horse’s nod to her California rock country love, written after an extended stay in Sunset Beach. From the very beginning, the song screams of wide open spaces and breezy road trips with the top down through the barren west as the sun sets:

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The following track, “Congo Square,” definitely ups the ante on the energy scale, but reads as a tribute to her late mother’s humanitarian lifestyle. “Cabin in the Pines” is her father’s song. Originally, Kandia conceived of this album as a tribute to her late mother, but this song is in recognition of her father and particularly references stories he would tell of his boyhood in Southwest, Georgia which included visits to one of the town’s jookhouses.

The two covers on the album include Kandia’s version of “A New Kid in Town,” a piano-driven version of the Eagles’ hit from 1976. Stripping the song of its original, open, but very present instrumental arrangement and the plush harmonic bed of the Eagles, Kandia inserts her raw, soul-filled solo vocals that gently pierce the space around the piano’s accompaniment. A personal favorite of mine is her cover of Neal Casal’s “So Many Enemies.” Her slightly slower rendition retains the energy and life of the original song, but her vocals add a different edge to the performance.

Overall, this album is a colossal step into the artist world and a statement that all should take notice.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review May 2nd, 2014

ImprovED – Marula’s Shade

ImprovED
Title: Triad Trust Presents Marula’s Shade

Artists:  ImprovED

Label: Triad Trust

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: August 28, 2013

 

Triad Trust, a Boston based organization aiming to stop the spread of AIDS through various creative means, uses local artists to spread their message in colloquial cultural terms. In South Africa, artists in the ImprovED project working in Nkomazi, a rural area far outside of Johannesburg, use their music to teach children about AIDS. The music, while originally written by ImprovED members in South Africa, is largely influenced by the recording process in New York City. Triad Trust’s Marika Hughes began this collaborative project on her first trip to South Africa and brought Joel Hamilton and his recording equipment back on her third trip in order to record ImprovED’s vocal and spoken tracks. In New York City, Jordan McLean, Mazz Swift, and Joe Tamino also contributed to this collaborative effort.

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The final product, Marula’s Shade, is an American hip-hop and R&B album with unique South African harmonies, lyrics, and vocals. Proceeds from this collaboration will support ImprovED in their effort to  create  an AIDS-free generation. Songs range in purpose from giving hope to children born HIV+ (“Lullaby”) to encouraging women to find alternatives to selling their bodies for money (“Money for Love”). Hopeful and inspiring messages are also included on the spoken tracks of this album. If you are looking to support organizations fighting AIDS, Marula’s Shade should be your next purchase.

Reviewed by Sarah Neterer

View review May 2nd, 2014

Oliver Mtukudzi – Sarawoga

Sarawoga

 

Title: Sarawoga

Artists: Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits

Label: Tuku Music/Sheer

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: May 21, 2013 (U.S.)

 

Oliver Mtukudzi, known lovingly by his fans as ‘Tuku,’ began his music career at the age of twenty-three in Zimbabwe and has devoted his life since then to creating and performing a distinct style of Afropop, commonly known as Tuku music. In his thirty-nine years of performance he has managed to release sixty-one albums, his most recent titled Sarawoga. Though the production took longer than most of his other projects, it has been a worthwhile wait as his distinct guitar stylings, unique vocal timbre, and grooving rhythms are present and engaging.

Sarawoga was released two years after the tragic death of his son, Sam, who was “more a friend than a son.” After graduating from high school, Sam performed with Tuku until his passing, creating a relationship that left Tuku feeling alone. “Sarawoga,” the title song, means “left alone,” and indeed his a cappella introduction to this song leads the listener to feel the loneliness that he sings about. Over the consistent rhythm played by percussion, Tuku sings of his loneliness in a call-and-response with choir.

Tuku continues to speak about the world around him and motivate people to make the world better for the coming generation in “Deaf Ear.” This message shines through the simple guitar and drum pattern, while the reflective guitar solos give the audience time to process the words that they hear.

Sarawoga is a wonderful commemoration of Sam’s life and a milestone in Tuku’s career.

Reviewed by Sarah Neterer

View review May 2nd, 2014

April Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during April 2014—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues

Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin’: Decisions (Silver Talon)
Fire & Fury Records Rarities Collection (Varese)
Holmes Brothers: Brotherhood (Alligator)
Joe Turner: Real Boss of the Blues (Ace)
Keb Mo: Bluesamericana (Kind of Blue Music)
Otis Spann: Sweet Giant of the Blues (Ace)
Rip Lee Pryor: Nobody But Me   (Electro-Fi)
Robert Cray Band: In My Soul (Mascot)
T-Bone Walker: Every Day I Have the Blues (Ace)

Classical
Barbara Hendricks: Faure and Ravel (Arte Verum)
William Averitt: Deepness of the Blue: Choral Cycles on Poems by Langston Hughes (MSR Classics)

Gospel
Anthony Evans: Real Life / Real Worship (Fair Trade Services)
Beverly Crawford: Thank You For All   (Echo Park JDI)
Brothers & Sisters: Dylan’s Gospel (Light in the Attic)
Deitrick Haddon: LXW (League of Xtraordinary Worshippers) (Tyscot)
Derrick “Doc” Pearson:  It’s Alright (IAM Music)
Sheri Jones-Moffett: Power & Authority – Live In Memphis (Motown Gospel)
Williams Brothers: Songs of Worship Praise & Deliverance (Blackberry)
Zacardi Cortez:   Reloaded (Worldwide / Red)

Jazz
Abdullah Ibrahim: Mukashi: Once Upon a Time  (Sunnyside Communications)
Bobby Sanabria & Manhattan School of Music: Que Viva Harlem (Jazzheads)
Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band: Landmarks  (Blue Note)
Cannonball Adderley: Black Messiah (Real Gone)
Cassandra Wilson: Blue Light T’il Dawn (Blue Note)
Creative Music Studio Archive Collections, Vol. 1 (Innova)
Eddie Allen: Push (Edjalen Music)
Ella Fitzgerald: Let No Man Write My Epitaph (APO)
Ellis Marsalis: On the Second Occasion  (Elm)
George Lewis: Keeper of the Flame (Storyville)
Harvey Mason: Chameleon (Concord)
Incognito: Amplified Soul (Shanachie)
Jackiem Joyner: Evolve (Artizen)
JD Allen: Bloom (Savant)
Natalia M. King: SoulBLAZZ (Jazz Village)
Nick Colionne: Influences (Trippin & Rhythm)
Nina Simone: Little Girl Blue (Masterworks Singles)
Paul Murphy: Paul Murphy Presents the Return of Jazz Club (BGP)
Somi: Lagos Music Salon (Okeh)

Rock, Pop, Funk
Baby Baby: Big Boy Baller Club (Gospel of Rhythm)
Death: Death III (Drag City)
Fishbone: Intrinsically Intertwined EP (Controlled Substance/Zojak)
Flutronix: “2.0”  (Flutronix)
Instant Funk: Witch Doctor (BBR/Cherry Red)
Kwesi K: Lovely EP (digital, Bandcamp)
MKTO:  MKTO (Columbia)
Nick Cannon: White People Party Music (Ncredible)
Pigeon John: Encino Man (Megaforce)

R&B, Soul
5 Royales: Soul & Swagger: The Complete “5” Royales (Rockbeat)
5th Dimension Earthbound: The Complete ABC Recordings (Real Gone)
August Alsina: Testimony (Island/Def Jam)
Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland: The Duke Years, 1952-1962 (Not Now)
Club Nouveau: Consciousness (Nuvo Music/Phaze One)
Complete Fame Singles Volume 1: 1964-67 (Ace)
Dramatics: Greatest Slow Jams (Stax)
Eddie Kendricks: Love Keys (Real Gone)
Esther Phillips: From a Whisper to a Scream (Soul Music/Cherry Red)
Evelyn-Champagne King: Action Anthology, 1977-1986 (BBR)
Hues Corporation: Freedom for the Stallion (BBR)
Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty (Warner Bros.)
Jesse Boykins III: Love Apparatus (Nomadic Music)
Let the Music Play: Black America Sings Bacharach & David (Ace)
Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles: Complete Atlantic Sides Plus (Real Gone)
Revelations: The Cost of Living (Decision/Sony RED)
Sonny Knight & The Lakers: I’m Still Here (Secret Stash)

Rap
9th Wonder Presents: Jamala Is the Squad (Empire Distribution)
Army of Pharoahs: In Death Reborn (Enemy Soil)
AWOL Mafia Royalty 2K14  (West Coast Mafia)
Black M: Les Yeux Plus Gros Que Le Mond (Jive/ Epic)
Blueprint: Respect the Architect (Weightless)
Chuck Inglish: Convertibles (Federal Prism)
CunninLynguists: Strange Journey, Vol. 3 (Red Distribution)
Da’ T.R.U.T.H.: Heartbeat (Mixed Bag)
Danny Brown: Hot Soul  (Street Corner Music)
Fel Sweetenberg: The Invisible Garden (Effiscienz)
Flame: Jesus or Nothing (ClearSight)
Future:  Honest (Epic)
Girl Talk & Freeway: Broken Ankles (download only)
GoldLink: The God Complex (download)
Gucci Mane: Trap House 3 (1017 Brick Squad)
J. Stalin: S.I.D. (Shining in Darkness) (10 SPOT/Livewire)
Kelis: Food (Ninja Tune)
Locksmith: A Thousand Cuts (Landmark Entertainment)
L’Orange: The Orchid Days (Mello Music)
Meek Mills & Future: Never Give Up (LRG)
Meyhem Lauren: Mandatory Brunch Meetings (Traffic)
Mobb Deep: Infamous Mobb Deep (Infamous)
Mobonix: Machine Man (XIL Recordings)
N.O.R.E.: Noreaster (Militainment/Empire Distribution)
Nas:  Illmatic XX  (Legacy)
Onyx & Snowgoons: #WAKEDAFUCUP ( Goon MuSick/Mad Money)
Pharoahe Monch: P.T.S.D.  (W.A.R. Media/Duck Down)
Rapper Big Pooh & Roc C: Trouble in the Neighboorhood (Green Streets)
Ras G: Raw Fruit Vol. 1 & 2 (Leaving)
Ratking: So It Goes (XL)
Slim Thug: Boss Life (Hogg Life)
Smoke: DZA (Dream.ZONE.Achieve/R.F.C. Music Group)
Styles P: Phantom and the Ghost (Phantom Ent./Empire Dist.)
SZA: Z (Top Dawg)
Tali Blanco: Gettn 2 It (At All Cost)
Union Blak: Union Blak Friday  (Effiscienz)
Young Jeezy & Lil Wayne: Money Mafia 7 (Venom Ent.)
Z-Ro & Agonylife: Street Legends 3 (Oarfin)

Reggae
Black Slate: World Citizen (Unit 8)
Derrick Morgan: Singles Collection 1960-62 (Not Bad)
Horace Andy: Get Wise (Pressure Sounds)
Lee Scratch Perry: Back on the Controls (Upsetter)
Lifetime Reggae, Vol. 1  (+180 Records)
Sizzla: Radical (VP)
Ziggy Marley: Fly Rasta (Tuff Gong)

Spoken Word/Comedy
Hannibal Buress: Live From Chicago (Comedy Central)

World
Ayo: Ticket to the World (Wrasse)
Blitz the Ambassador: Afropolitan Dreams (Jakarta)
Hassan Hakmoun: Unity (CD Baby)
Karol Conka: Batuk Freak (Mr. Bongo)
Lira: Rise Against the World (Shanachie)
Meklit: We Are Alive (Six Degrees)
No-Limitt:  Let the World Unite (Tropical)
Yaaba Funk: My Vote Deh Count (Sterns Africa)

View review May 2nd, 2014

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