Have you ever been driving to the store, minding your business, when you hear a song or certain formation of notes that transports you to a very specific point in your life and you’re met with a wave of memories or emotion? Always having had a fear of forgetting things, I began keeping track of these memories– curating a soundtrack for every year of my life for at least the last 10 years, and keeping journals specifically recounting the memories tied to each song. I like to call this time travel, but science likes to call it MEAM– music-evoked autobiographical memories.
Our memories have sensory triggers, and music is one of the most sensory forms of creativity– whether consuming or producing, the chances that you’re sitting still while doing so are slim. The ways in which music can engage numerous senses at a time is automatically stored in your brain at the time of its engagement. The limbic system, structures within the brain that directly correlate to emotion and memory, is activated when listening to music. There have been countless studies regarding the connection between music and autobiographical memory and why music can trigger certain emotional responses. There have also been studies which indicate mimicking your music selection with your mood– listening to melancholy music during times of turmoil– can provide comfort, which can aid in the healing process. The ways in which grief can manifest in the body are sensory effects to the cause just like the ways we engage with music are sensory effects to the cause. You see where I’m going here?
Music has healing properties, so I encourage those reading to tap into those parts that have been forgotten. Start small—no need to delve right into trauma– think about who you were a year ago, how have you grown? Sift through your library and find a song you remember enjoying this time last year. What kinds of emotions come to the surface and have those emotions evolved from their origin? I recommend sitting with it for a while and writing about what you’re experiencing. Is there a certain song or body of work that comes to mind for you while reading this? This is a call to embrace the elements of life that have brought you to this point, to gain a better understanding of the different components that create the whole.
As important as it is to reflect, it is equally important not to dwell on things that are out of our control or that we cannot change. As you dive into your library, it’s worthy of note that these are memories, and sometimes memory can be deceiving; each time you listen to a song, your neural catalog is updated, attaching a different memory to that song. Listening to Joni Mitchell won’t make your dog come back to life, but it might make you smile when you think about the times he’d stick his whole head out the window just so he could feel the sun on his face.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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