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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

Hip Hop Twitter: An Alternate Dimension

A few months ago, I decided to make a second account on twitter, strictly for hip hop (I worried my friends on my main account would grow tired or annoyed with my incessant posting about music– and with everything else going on in the world, I needed something to stimulate my brain). This eventually sparked the inspiration for The Greater Good.

So I made an offhand username and chose a meme of Bart Simpson wearing headphones with what might be a blunt in his hand as my profile picture, because I felt that was just the right vibe. Once I got my account set up, I was already overwhelmed– I didn’t really know where to start. I followed my favorite artists and sought out fellow discussion accounts. I’m not sure if you’re aware (I wasn’t) but a good portion of the hip hop discussion accounts you see on Twitter are run by younger people—I’m talking teenage kids.

In my first week, I was invited to a private group chat with 43 other accounts—let that sit on your mind for a second. 43 accounts, in a group chat. To say the least, I lasted about a week before I had to Irish exit out of that group chat, due to social anxiety and just being overwhelmed by the frequency with which that group chat was popping off. But in the time I spent there, I learned a lot—a lot about the people who are listening. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Hip Hop has major international reach. I was confused at first because it seemed like this group chat never slept—until I realized we were all in different time zones. There were people from all over in this online community.
  2. If you have Bart Simpson as your avatar, it is automatically assumed that you are a “bro.” I was fine with this, though it was interesting that I felt my opinion was taken a little more seriously when people came to their own conclusions that I was a dude. I didn’t bother correcting them most of the time, because what does it matter? I wasn’t pretending to be someone I wasn’t, I just didn’t care because it wasn’t about that.
  3. I saw a lot of myself in these users—at one point, a question was asked in the chat by an account with a picture of JID as their avatar: “Does anyone in your real life know about your account?” which was met with an overwhelming response of “absolutely not.” One user said, “I don’t know anyone in my real life who likes music as much as I do.” Another user with a picture of Mick Jenkins as their avatar said, “People got sick of me talking about music on my main account.” (Felt that.) Another said, “All my friends are here, not out there.” This softened my cold, hard heart. These are people, the majority of which are in their formative years, searching for a place in the world, guided by their love of music. In the words of Naptown Native, AyeGritty, “I thought I had lost my mind, found that shit between some headphones.”
  4. The energy between these users is unmatched—imagine you spoke a language that no one in your physical life understood, imagine how isolating that can be. Now imagine that you found a place– a homeland if you would—where you finally felt understood. That’s what it’s like for these fans. Social media can be detrimental to mental health, there is no question about that, but have you considered that social media may be a place of escape for some? I learned a lot about these people and their physical lives, and sometimes you need (and deserve) an escape from reality.
  5. It’s also a wonderful place to network. At one point in this group chat, everyone was dropping links to their own artistic endeavors—graphic design, blogs, beats, etc. There is power in that.
  6. Hip Hop Twitter NEEDS new artists to talk about. Somehow, I was tasked with creating a joint playlist for the group. There’s definitely an eclectic blend of sounds on this playlist, but a lot of artist repeats. With that being said, if you are an artist looking to grow your audience and you’re not engaging with fans of the genre, you’re missing out on an opportunity. They need you just as much as you need them.
  7. There are people out there who actually think Some Rap Songs is a 9/10 project. I know. But who am I to tell them any different? We all need to feel heard, and art is subjective, not objective—your taste is your own and you do not have to justify it.

My journey through Hip Hop Twitter continues, and I will continue to update the blog on my experiences.

Categories
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