We can’t think of a better ending for Black History Month than new music from five important black artists.
Five artists with varying accolades and accomplishments released five great projects this week, and well, we’re a little overwhelmed. From Pharrell and Rick Ross’ free album streams, to ScHoolboy Q and Kid Cudi’s brand new albums, this week has been exciting for music lovers.
Despite the controversy surrounding Pharrell’s G I R L album cover and mixed reviews of Rick Ross’ Mastermind, both albums house standout songs. To assist you with sifting through five-plus hours of music, we reviewed each project and chose two must-listen songs from each record. It wasn’t easy, but we’re confident that you’ll enjoy the songs we chose.
So far, 2014 is proving to be a good year for music. Check out the 10 songs you should listen to down below.
ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron
“Hoover Street” – How does it feel to be a real n*gga? Good question. How does it feel, Q? This Soundwave-produced track is one of the most enlightening and personal tracks on Oxymoron. Sharing vivid detailed vignettes of his maturation as a gangsta, ScHoolboy Q’s admission of a combative, functionally-dysfunctional family life plagued by gang violence, illicit drugs, crime, and addiction serve as a narrative for his introduction to the Hoover Crip gang. From his uncle’s divisive drug habit to depicting his seemingly unorthodox relationship with his grandmother (who showed him his first gun), ScHoolboy’s no holds barred approach over the snare-riddled production is a first hand account of what a “real n*gga” really means. Q’s family portrait isn’t a Mona Lisa, but it’s his truth and for him, it confirms his status as real – a real n*gga.
“Studio”– Aahhh…gangsta love: a tale of complicated indiscretions, definitive desires, and toe-curling passion. Can’t say many people were expecting this record, but ScHoolboy’s inclusion of women allow female listeners to know their musical needs are being acknowledged. Gangstas need love too, right? Of course they do; because behind every gangsta, there’s an even more gangsta woman, suffused with wisdom, strength, and vision. Line-by-line, Q expresses his craving for a woman equally yoked by his lifestyle. BJ the Chicago Kid sings, “this song’s so fuckin dope, it’s hard for me not to play it.” So grab your significant other, close your eyes, and ride these sonic inclinations.
Kid Cudi – Satellite Flight: The Journey To Mother Moon
“Satellite Flight” – Classic Cudi. Get ready to take flight, because Scott is taking his listeners on an out of this world intergalactic journey. Taking on opposition and those attempting to destroy his mission, Kid Cudi offers up a 4-minute cosmic opportunity for listeners to find release without feeling scathed by judgment or the perils of life. The psychology one adapts to feel “invincible” has become a reoccurring theme on Cudi’s projects; operation freedom is the goal, and “Satellite Flight” will get you there.
“Balmain Jeans” Featuring Raphael Saadiq – How do expensive designer jeans affect Kid Cudi? They electrify him, his mind, and his body. Kid Cudi parallels his relationship with his Balmain Jeans to his relationship with a mesmerizing mortal – a woman. Cudi and Saadiq create an emotional soulacoaster through their respective galaxies, where both artists are seeking unequivocal love with the hopes of magnetic copulation.
Pharrell – G I R L
“Gush” – “Make it just gush.”
“Gush” is reminiscent of the Pharrell so many people fell in love with almost two decades ago. Brimming with his signature cadence-filled production, Pharrell teeters between his classic reverberation and inviting elements of a symphony orchestra on the naughty-natured song. “Gush” also features a reference to his 2003 produced song “Light Your Ass On Fire.” The most notable section of the song arrives mid-point: a bridge filled with the elegance of vibrating violin strings, before Pharrell returns to close out the song.
“Marilyn Monroe” – With the assistance of Hans Zimmer, Pharrell composed a plush record about his desire for a “different” girl. The opening number begins with a robust string ensemble, before the percussion-filled song goes into Pharrell’s declaration of what a real woman means to him. And Pharrell’s interpretation of beauty is far from conventional.
“Not even Marilyn Monroe or Cleopatra please/ not even Joan of Arc, that don’t mean nothing to me/ I just want a different girl.”
“Marilyn Monroe” will undoubtedly make you want to wiggle, but it also delivers a message about defining beauty for one’s self. It’s the perfect opening track for an album dedicated to women.
Migos – No Label II
“No Label II Intro” – Migos kicked in the door on this one. As the opening track of their extensive 25-track mixtape, Migos fire off with their signature rhythmic inflections many rappers have emulated over the past nine months (which they address). “No Label II Intro” features the hip-hop trio recounting the past year, and everything they’ve experienced to get where they are today, and most importantly, they did it without a label.
“Hot Boy” – This Breezy-produced track is a trapped out version of what happens when “feds watching” turns into “feds gotcha.” Add in a few bars about snitches cooperating and informants, and you have the perfect hustler anthem. Being a hot boy isn’t easy, but as long as you abide by the street’s code of silence, the business thrives and your honor remains intact.
Rick Ross – Mastermind
“What A Shame” Featuring French Montana – Got to love a classic hip-hop reference. Pulling inspiration from Wu-Tang Clan’s “Shame On A N*gga,” Rick Ross denounces sneaky haters, fake friends, and con artists attempting to threatened his empire.
“Snatch a n*gga chain just for posing on the blog/Assassinate a name, n*gga spraying in the dark/ Hate you with a passion, but he asking for a job/ Shame on a n*gga who tried to run game on a n*gga.“
French Montana takes control of hook duty, and as always, he masterfully adds an element of infectiousness on the hard-hitting Reefa-produced banger. Only gripe with this track is it’s way too short. Any and every Wu-Tang reference deserves more than two minutes.
“Blessing In Disguise” Featuring Scarface & Z-Ro – How could this record not be great? One of the greatest storytellers in hip-hop, Scarface, riddles out a story surrounding the plight of black men in America.
“Fuck the police, stop running/ white boys terrorize nigga neighborhoods, gunning.”
Law enforcement, systemic racism, and the prison-industrial complex – three terrorists destroying the lives of countless black men. Some survive, some don’t. But because hindsight is always 20/20, Scarface ruminates on his trials and tribulations, all of which he now identifies as “blessings in disguise.” Despite the mixed reviews Mastermind has received, “Blessing In Disguise” is one that should elicit universal praise.