Summer is here and the music kept on coming. I had more hip-hop in my playlists this month than previous, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t room for some surprises (Mdou!). Here is what I’ve been listening to this month.
Also, you can find a playlist of tracks that I love on my Right About Now playlist.
All the Brilliant Things
My hip-hop pick of the month, maybe the year. I could listen to Skyzoo all day but haven’t clicked into one of his albums for a while. This one does it. Also going back and listening to the Pete Rock-produced album Retropolitan as well.
There Is No End
Another hip-hop pick, this one totally different than the above. A complication album featuring known and lesser-known MCs, all the beats were made by Tony Allen, who passed away prior to the release:
During his 60-plus-year career, Allen pioneered a genre fused with multiple signifiers of Black cool—jazz, highlife, soul, funk—while traveling the world as a solo artist and shaping the musical direction of Africa ’70, one of the most captivating bands in Afrobeat. Yet one of his most impactful gifts was his commitment to collaborating with a wide range of musicians. On his final, posthumous album, There Is No End, he’s entirely in his wheelhouse, directing up-and-comers and veterans as they find their place in his steps.
And now for something totally different. A rock album from the “Hendrix of the Sahara.” Don’t let the fact that the lyrics are in Tamasheq, the Tuareg language, turn you off. This rocks. Beautiful stuff.
Moctar mostly recorded Afrique Victime on the road in 2019. With the Tuareg people being semi-nomadic, it’s perhaps not surprising that Moctar says he enjoyed recording songs one at a time in various studios, as opposed to holing up in one place for a week like he and his band did for Ilana. In this way, too, Afrique Victime captures the rich chemistry of the Mdou Moctar Band in the midst of a run of shows. The four-piece comprises Ahmoudou Madassane, Moctar’s rhythm guitarist and close collaborator since 2008; the hotshot drummer, and the group’s youngest member, Souleymane Ibrahim; and Brooklyn-based bassist Mikey Coltun, who also serves as their road manager and producer/recording engineer.
Sons of Kemet
Black To The Future
My jazz pick of the month and one of my favorite discoveries this year.
The fourth album by one of south London jazz nucleus Shabaka Hutchings’ three bands, Sons of Kemet are both accessible and fizzing with righteous anger and exasperation. Kojey Radical, D Double E and Lianne La Havas are among the guests, but the real draw is how the quartet sound: danceable but ominous, their taut and controlled grooves peppered with explosions of ferocious improv.
Honorable mentions ✌️
For more great summer hip-hop, I’ve been listening to Potatohead People’s album Mellow Fantasy from last year A LOT. The True Loves Sunday Afternoon is a great instrumental funk album. And I also discovered jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim (father of Jean Grae) and his album A Celebration. So good.