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Look & Listen Reviews Roundups

2020: TGG Roundup

It should be no secret that creativity kept the majority of us afloat throughout a very tumultuous and traumatic year. With unforeseen obstacles around every corner, some new beast lurking and watching nearby, waiting for the right moment to pull the foundational Jenga piece right out from under, it was difficult to remain optimistic in the face of 2020. Today’s roundup is dedicated to the artists whose music kept me company during an emotionally, financially and socially grueling year.

A brief aside: With 2021 right around the corner, I’d like to take a moment for some mild sappiness to extend a hand of gratitude to this blog’s readers. I started TGG as a distraction from a lot of things I was struggling to face, and in turn was forced to face them in roundabout ways through music, introspection and discussion with a diverse group of people. With each roundup, it’s typical of me to mention the horrors of 2020, but without the trials of this year, you wouldn’t be reading today because this blog wouldn’t exist as it does in its current form. Thank you for reading, for the support and for continuing with me on this ride through 2021. Thank you to the artists for your submissions. May we all find ourselves sailing smoothly into the new year.

Back to business. Sadly, there will be no roundup for the month of December, but the roundup playlist has been updated in accordance to the month’s listens and releases. The autumn playlist has also officially transitioned to winter vibes, and will continue to be updated almost daily throughout the remainder of the season. Now, in no particular order, let’s get to the goods.

Synthetic Soul – Chiiild

A mysterious concoction of R&B, soul and synthesized pop results in 7-track EP, Synthetic Soul, the product of Montreal-based Chiiild. Virtually genre-less, Chiiild accelerates down a lane adjacent to Blood Orange or Tame Impala, where the point of focus falls mostly on the band’s sweeping instrumentals and sonic fluidity. We’re met with a gentle daydream of strings on the EP’s intro, “Count Me Out” which carry us through to the outro, “Easy On Yourself,” transforming into a luminous awakening.
Favorite tracks: “Pirouette,” “Hands Off Me”

SuperGood – Duckwrth

As mentioned in a previous roundup, Duckwrth’s major label debut is, essentially, a 44-minute long love letter to the ladies. Bridging gaps between pop, hip-hop, funk and soul, SuperGood is a fitting soundtrack for one’s romantic reverie. Duckwrth eclectically executes the manipulation of classic sounds paired with modernity with personality and catchy craftsmanship throughout the album. The project’s undisputed standout, “Kiss U Right Now” might find some religiously moisturizing their lips out of sheer anticipation of the mere possibility of a kiss.
Favorite Tracks: “Kiss U Right Now,” “SuperBounce”

To Myself – Baby Rose

Released in August, Baby Rose’s To Myself was a fitting conclusion to 2020’s Sad Girl Summer; the artist’s debut is a tender, simultaneously thunderous arrangement of truth and vulnerability. Pouring from an overflowing cup of talent and wisdom far beyond her years, Baby Rose’s velvety, rasping vocals sing tales of heartache and healing over somber, bluesy production on To Myself.
Favorite tracks: “Borderline,” “Show You”

The Circus – Mick Jenkins

Following 2018’s masterfully executed Pieces of a Man, The Circus admittedly pales in comparison but shines in its own right. If there’s one thing Mick Jenkins isn’t gonna do, it’s waste a word. If there’s one thing Mick Jenkins is gonna do, it’s monopolize any opportunity to contort and stretch a phrase with the utmost of ease. We’re smacked in the face with a reminder of just that on the project’s intro, “Same Ol,” where the rapper’s undeniable witticism is matched evenly with a bass-heavy Hit-Boy beat. A professional in the game of double entendre, Jenkins’s wordplay leaves The Circus in rotation for more than just a couple of spins. If you’re left wanting more, allow me to direct you to the cornucopia of songs lucky enough to have been blessed by a Jenkins feature this year. From alt-indie band Vansire’s “Central Time” to Kipp Stone’s “Sprague Street,” to name a couple, no one can say Jenkins hasn’t put in the work this year.
Favorite Tracks: “Different Scales,” “The Light”

Dance Without Me – DRAMA

If there’s anything DRAMA can do, it’s provide ample content for your breakup playlist. The Chicago-based electro-pop group released Dance Without Me, a body of work composed of upbeat songs contrasted by elegies of heartbreak, on Valentine’s Day. Two parts of a whole creates DRAMA: singer-songwriter Via Rose provides the whimsical lyricism and somber subject matter buoyed by producer Na’el Shehade’s golden touch. A valentine to those without a valentine, Dance Without Me requires you do just that– dance (and probably cry).
Favorite tracks: “7:04 AM,” “Good For Nothing”

“GED” – Lute

A tale of a humble come-up and letter of encouragement for all who are down bad, Lute’s “GED” was one of my most played songs this year. The single was released in February, following Lute’s debut with Dreamville, critically underrated West1996 Pt 2 and a particularly explosive verse on 2019’s Revenge of the Dreamers III‘s intro, “Under the Sun.” With Dreamville bankrolling your promotion, your resources are virtually limitless; as yet another act of clever marketing from the label, released with the single is the GED credit card.

Petrol Bloom – LAUREL

Sneaking in just under the wire, LAUREL released 5-track EP, Petrol Bloom just this month. The EP’s first two singles, “Scream Drive Faster” and “Best I Ever Had” received a lot of love from me upon release, so it’s only fitting that the UK vocal powerhouse and creative wunderkind made it to the final roundup. Differing vastly from her debut, Petrol Bloom is a retro-pop time warp adorned with colorful synths and LAUREL’s echoing, sometimes aching vocals.
Favorite tracks: “Best I Ever Had,” “Appetite”

Lost In June – Pip Millett

April showers bring May flowers with Pip Millett’s 8-track EP, Lost In June. The British singer-songwriter has been on the radar since her melancholic 2018 single, “Make Me Cry,” which still remains in rotation almost three years later. What sets Millett apart from the sometimes all-too-saturated world of UK neo-soul is the natural humanity and grace portrayed when delivering sweet and stirring vocals swaddled in emotionally profound lyricism. Why would anyone want to make Pip Millett cry? In order to gain a deeper understanding of something or someone, you must find the root. Millett pierces the veil with Lost In June, granting us an intimate peek at how and why she came to be the young woman she is today, paying homage and due retribution to her family and upbringing.
Favorite tracks: “Heavenly Mother,” “Ava”

Alfredo – Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist

The recipe cooked up between Freddie Gibbs’ effortlessly audacious lyricism and The Alchemist’s collation of beats sprinkled with soul and jazz brings Alfredo to the table. A surprise serving of sustenance, the collaborative effort between two hip-hop heavy hitters set social media ablaze upon release. With the project’s intro, “1985,” we pull back the velvet curtain to reveal a dimly lit room in the back where Gibbs’s sustained flow permeates the air like a haze of smoke. Like flies on the wall, we watch as the sequence unfolds to reveal much more than meets the eye.
Favorite tracks: “1985,” “Something to Rap About”

New Me, Same Us – Little Dragon

Practiced and ever-evolving Little Dragon’s latest project finds the group at the intersection of funk and R&B, with Nagano crooning anecdotes of long-term growth and revelation. Formed in 1996, Little Dragon has journeyed through varying genres throughout the years, leaving some of their finest work on other artists’ projects. That isn’t the case with this album; a rose-colored bulb in the early days of the pandemic, New Me, Same Us was a soft light in the very dark room of 2020.
Favorite tracks: “Where You Belong,” “Water”

Circles – Mac Miller

Posthumous albums were, unfortunately, in high demand in 2020. Mac Miller’s Circles ultimately set the tone for the rest of the year with its January release; beginning our year in remembrance of loss, forecasting another 12 months of, well, loss. Barely a month prior to the artist’s untimely goodbye in 2018, Mac released Swimming, a project held very dearly to many. In a similar light, Circles— which was also produced in part by composer John Brion– is one to sit with and ponder a while.
Favorite tracks: “Right,” “Woods”

Spilligion – Spillage Village

The latest generation of Atlanta’s vanguard of hip-hop and neo-soul apostles ban together to bring us an offering of salvation in the form of 12-track Spilligion. The collective’s first project since 2016’s Bears Like This Too Much differs from the group’s Bears series, which can be described as chronological checkpoints for each artist; an outward display of their creative growth throughout the years. Spilligion preaches themes of family, spirituality, sex and weed and is bolstered by the project’s gather-round-the-campfire-style production.
Favorite tracks: “Oshun,” “Mecca”

BETTER – Deante’ Hitchcock

Deante’ Hitchcock’s debut album, BETTER, holds a very special position in TGG’s archives as the first published review on the blog. Read my full review and see how far (thankfully) we’ve come since then.
Favorite tracks: “Angels,” “Circles

For a more detailed overview of the year, peruse my 2020 playlist:

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Look & Listen

June Roundup

Here we are, yet another month of 2020 under our belts and yet another month of bops added to our libraries. Let’s dive into what we’ve been listening to this month, old and new.

Jany Green

Starting off this month’s playlist, we have independent artist, Alaska-born Jany Green entering the chat with his genre-bending, brass-heavy single, “Little,” which dropped back in May. The track is a tale of puppy love backed by upbeat, fun 80s-tinged instrumentals.

FHAT

Up next, we have queer pop duo, FHAT. The duo originally formed in Los Angeles, and has spent the majority of their development as creative partners in Germany. The duo consists of members Sedric Perry and Aaron Pfeiffer. Aaron described FHAT’s sound in an interview with Pile Rats, saying, “We both come from strong jazz background but in today’s world it’s so fun to just be free when creating and take chances. If I had to classify it I would call our sound alternative electronic R&B.” FHAT released a “mood video” for their single,”Waves” during isolation in April.

blackwave.

On this episode of “Keeping Up With the Europeans,” we have Belgian hip-hop duo, blackwave. with their newly released single “Arp299.” For those of you who don’t know (I had to give it a goog myself), Arp 299 is “a pair of colliding galaxies approximately 134 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.” The duo, comprised of rapper Jay Atohoun and producer Willem Ardui spoke of the track and its title saying, “We felt like this was the right metaphor to use in this track. In the process of writing our debut album (which is space themed all the way through) we had some thoughts of wanting to leave everything behind, to run and not look back. The pressure that comes with writing an album while also trying to figure out your own personal life was weighing hard on us. In the video we made for Arp299 we land in an otherworldly place during our journey of leaving everything behind.”

Tesia, Pretty Boy Aaron

Up next we have independent Pretty Boy Aaron and Tesia Jaramillo with 2019 collaboration, “Comb My Hair.” Tesia earned two spots on this month’s playlist with her latest single, “Come Kick It.” The 70s-inspired music video for “Comb My Hair” was released in early June.

Franc Moody

Rounding out the funk for this month’s playlist, we have London-based band Franc Moody, originally comprised of duo Ned Franc and Jon Moody, hence the moniker. The electro-pop group dropped their debut album Dream In Colour, in February. The project is loaded with funky house instrumentals and catchy lyrics, with songs like “Charge Me Up” and “Flesh and Blood” taking the lead as the best tracks. The band released a visual for the latter song labeled the “Isolation Version,” where we see each member in their respective homes, collaborating over video chat to give us the final product:

6lack

6lack released his 6pc Hot EP on June 26th, giving us plenty to mull over for the weekend. The 6 track project was named after the artist’s favorite item on his favorite Atlanta wing spot’s menu. The EP has been deemed a mere appetizer for the main course, which we can only assume to be a full-length project. The artist originally teased the release of 6pc Hot on Twitter, ominously tweeting “It’s new music season,” back in May. It recently came to light that 6lack is the second-highest streaming R&B artist behind Frank Ocean. After listening to “Know My Rights” and “Elephant In the Room,” you’re left with no lingering questions as to why he’s top of the game in terms of active artists in R&B right now.

Little Dragon

If you’re anything like me and just recently got around to listening to Little Dragon’s latest project, New Me, Same Us, you might have also had it on repeat for a solid 10 days (or more, full disclosure). The Swedish alt-pop/r&b group released their 6th studio album back in March, and the project might very well be their best yet. The project as a whole is what we like to call a full-circle event, one that begs for a loop– mostly because you might’ve missed something you didn’t catch on the first listen. The project’s standout tracks “Another Lover,” “New Fiction,” and “Water” all cater to the album’s theme and title seamlessly: New Me, Same Us. Watch the band’s front woman, Yukimi Nagano, perform “Where You Belong” for Colors Studios:

Busty and the Bass

Keeping up this month’s trend of electro-soul, we have Canadian super group Busty and the Bass coming in with their EP Out of Love, which was released earlier this month. The project’s title track has a surprising feature in conjunction with a very entertaining music video that you won’t want to miss. The project’s closer, “Summer” will have you so far deep in your feelings, you might not know how to recover– enter at your own risk.

Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist

Rapper Freddie Gibbs and producer The Alchemist dropped their surprise collaborative project, Alfredo, in early June. The project comes almost a full year after Bandana, the second collaborative album from Freddie Gibbs and producer Madlib. One-rapper, one-producer collaborations have a tendency to rile up fan excitement, which might be why the artists decided to keep this one so close to the vest. A couple of tracks from the project were leaked prior to release, and that’s when the news broke that the two were working together, igniting mayhem and fan-ticipation across all social media platforms. The project does not disappoint, with features from Rick Ross, Tyler the Creator, Benny the Butcher, and Conway the Machine. The best on this project is “God Is Perfect,” where Gibbs reflects on the differences and changes in lifestyle he’s made and endured prior to, during and since his come-up as one of the most respected hip-hop artists currently in the game.

As will be the norm for the end of the month here at The Greater Good, a carefully curated 45-song playlist featuring artists written about in this post as well as other posts from the month has been made available for your listening pleasure.

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Reviews

Review: Kota the Friend – EVERYTHING

Brooklyn-based independent Kota the Friend dropped his sophomore album, Everything, at midnight. Kota stirred something up in the hip hop community when he released his first full-length album, FOTO, a year ago. The album put him in the spotlight as someone to keep an eye on in the future. 

Kota teased the release of Everything with “B.Q.E,” which dropped on the 1st of this month, and features fellow Brooklyn native Joey Bada$$ and Dreamville contender, Bas. The single sparked heavy interest and anticipation among many for the project. Kota also released a video for a bonus verse he wrote for the single that truly reflects today’s cultural atmosphere.

The album begins with saxophone-laden  “Summerhouse,” which Kota teased then deleted on his Instagram prior to the release. The initial track prepares you for the rest of the project, letting us know exactly what we’re tuning in for, with pure-spirited lyrics like “Open your mind, turn on the vibe and get off the internet.” (For the sake of this review, please stay on the internet until you’ve finished reading.)

The 37-minute long LP seems to be a sequel to Kota’s 2018 EP, Anything, which carries a similar theme of stopping to smell the roses. Kota spoke about the project in an interview with UPROXX, saying, “…this album, I’m pretty much talking about all the things that I want, what means everything to me, what’s important to me, and what I put before everything else. We have other people on the album — fans, actors, and artists — just talking about what means everything to them on the interludes.” There are three interludes on the album, two of which feature the undoubtedly talented and introspective Lupita Nyong’o and triple-threat, Lakeith Stanfield. On one of those interludes,”Seven,” Kota speaks on the importance of separating the art from the artist, and staying humble in order to focus on what’s first and foremost for him– his son.

His son also makes a few appearances on the project, including the final and title track, where Kota makes a clever nod to his previous works: “And you free now, go fly fly, under palm trees sippin’ mai tais/ On Paloma beach, doing anythin’ in my photo book full of everything.”

Everything is a project with a purpose. Overall rating: 7.9/10
Favorite tracks: Summerhouse, Always Park, Volvo, Everything

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Reviews

Review: Growing Teeth – WizTheMC

An excerpt from WizTheMC’s website describes the story of the first verse he ever wrote: “…So we downloaded a beat from youtube and wrote something down for a couple minutes, recorded it and it turnt out to be complete TRASH, but we felt like 2 chainz and Tyga and that’s all that matters. HOW YOU FEEL about it.” WizTheMC is the self-described “black Shawn Mendes with an edge,” a moniker with which I would have to agree.  

On Growing Teeth, Wiz’s gentle vocals and raps over beachy beats on tracks like “The One” and “Fear of Heights” set the tone for the project—this album may have been released in January, but if this isn’t a summer vibe, I truly don’t know what is. In fact, a common theme throughout the album is water, only lending to my assumption that this album was meant to be listened to in the dog days.

WizTheMC, or Sanele, was born in South Africa, raised in Germany and made the trek overseas to Canada in 2016 to follow his dream of making music. On “Take Me,” Wiz raps about the experience with witticism. In the first verse, he makes a nod to a mindset found to be fairly common among young artists without guidance, “I do what I can, and avoid what I can’t/ So it looks to everybody like I’m doing my best/ Posting old tracks while I’m still layin’ in bed/ ‘Cause in reality I’m rarely working, I’m just in my head/ Oh yeah, true, I rap, sometimes I just forget/ ‘Cause my mind is not where theirs is, I guess.”

The ten-track project was produced by Hugo, with the exception of “One Problem,” which was produced in collaboration with Wolfskind. The project itself seems a bit more grown than the title suggests; on tracks like “Blind” and “Demons,” the 21-year old addresses the difficulties of paving your own way, and maintaining individuality in life, in art, and in relationships. On “Demons,” Wiz sings about another common concern within the music industry, especially for up and coming artists growing their teeth, so to speak—clout, and those who chase it. It’s recommended to listen to this song in the car—don’t ask questions, just trust me. Sometimes, you just gotta let the music speak for itself.

Growing Teeth is short and sweet, and definitely worth a listen. HOW I FEEL about it: 8.1/10, I look forward to seeing how he grows as an artist in the future.

Read Sanele’s story on his website: https://www.wizthemc.com/story

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Reviews

Review: Bishop Nehru – Nehruvia: My Disregarded Thoughts

Just a few months after his February release, Nehruvian Tuesdays: Vol, 1, 23 year old Bishop Nehru dropped his second project of the year, Nehruvia: My Disregarded Thoughts. Nehru speaks on the title of this project on his artist Bandcamp: “I knew I wanted to make a concept record about what it takes to free yourself from mental enslavement.”

The project starts off with a cryptic introduction, “Colder,” as he begins with spoken word, setting the scene for us: “It was a cold and breezy fall afternoon. The wind blew at a velocity that could make the sound of a screeching halt. As a man proceeds on his walk home, there’s an intuitive feeling following him, as a lion does an unaware gazelle. A tingling feeling that makes him feel as if he’s exactly where he needs to be.” Over an ominous beat, Nehru walks us through the complexities of his experience living as a black man in today’s “modern world,” barely scratching the surface of social commentary and armchair activism with bars like: “…it’s a lot of people don’t wanna open their mind to see/ They want me mad, ’cause cops drop us within a week/ But it’s nothin’ new, it’s just now you can send a tweet.”

The album has many valleys and swells, like our own disregarded thoughts, lending to the theme of the album. From DJ-Premier-produced “Too Lost” to reunion with old friend and mentor, MF DOOM, on “MEATHEAD,” it’s almost as if Nehru is telling his audience, “Don’t get too comfortable.”

 With reflective trap-style tracks like “In My Zone” and “EMPEROR,” which were most definitely meant to be heard in the whip, Nehru showcases his versatility—continuing the trend of sonic adaptability (a fancy way of saying he bodied these beats) with poetic vocals and prose over some might-y jazzy beats on “All of My Years” and “Me & My Thoughts.”

If I could, I would write a 3000 word review for this album, that’s how intricate it seems to me. I will say that this project was a grower for me. If I had written this review off my first listen: a solid 8/10. After a few more spins, you notice different things and appreciate different aspects, much like any other piece of music. In terms of understanding the themes in this project and to appreciate it for what it was meant to be, final overall rating: 8.9/10

Read more about Bishop Nehru’s album here: https://bishopnehru.bandcamp.com/album/nehruvia-my-disregarded-thoughts

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Reviews

Review: Deante’ Hitchcock – BETTER

After hearing Deante’ Hitchcock’s first two singles from his debut with RCA Records, BETTER, I was optimistically anticipating this release. His first single from the project, the R&B-infused “How TF” with East Atlanta-raised 6lack, dropped in November of last year. Then, just a month before the album’s release, RCA dropped the second single– the high-powered underdog cash anthem, “I Got Money Now” with fast-talking wordsmith, JID. The release of this particular single couldn’t have come at a more perfect time; in the same week, the US government began rolling out its first round of stimulus checks, and it seemed people all over were singing, “I was having withdrawals, now I’m at the bank, making deposits.” (Maybe that was just me?)

Fast forward to this past Wednesday, the album’s official release on all platforms. The project starts off strong with “I Remember,” no doubt setting the tone for the rest of the album. The track order was a little disappointing; Hitchcock comes in heavy with every feature on the album in the first half. Maybe it’s personal preference, but spreading the features out could’ve sent this album over the edge to 8/10. I’d say the album is exactly what you’d expect from a gritty Atlanta rapper, but the project is multi-faceted with heartfelt lyrical tracks like “Growing Up/Mother God” intertwined with sample-rich ear-candy like “Circles.”

Hitchcock wraps the album up with “Angels,” which is one of the strongest tracks on the project, with a beat switch halfway through the song that begs you to say “Hold on, run that shit back.”

All in all, this project is worth a listen, or two, or three. Overall rating: 7.8/10

Deante Hitchcock – BETTER album credits