–Pure Heroin by LORDE
The first time the world really heard of Ella Yelich-O'Connor--better known by her pop-star pseudonym, Lorde--was Royals. It seemed as if the song about lavish pipe dreams of “cristal, maybachs and tigers on a gold leash” was fabricated in a lab somewhere destined for radio fame. Surprisingly, however, it came from the mind of a talented young songwriter who went on to release “Pure Heroine” a gem that came out of left field. The honest, no holds-barred depiction of our post-internet reality carries weight not only in the instrumentation or the natural vocal talent, but in the way it makes you realize that what Lorde is saying is very much true. Featuring cuts like 400 Lux, a track detailing the not-so-extravagant lifestyle in which she’s “got a lot to not do,” and simply seeks a companion, her sincerity is on display throughout the album. Lorde speaks her mind in a world that seeks the exact opposite in its pop stars, and it’s clear that her journey on the slippery slope of stardom is one to keep an eye on.
–Nothing was the Same by DRAKE
“There’s times when I might do it just to do it like it’s nothing,” was a line on Crew Love from Take Care, Drake’s 2011 masterpiece. His 2013 follow up, Nothing Was the Same, feels like one of those times. “I reached a point where don’t shit matter to me/I’ve reached heights Dwight Howard couldn’t reach,” spits Drake on the 6 minute long intro Tuscan Leather, if there’s only one takeaway from NWTS, it’s gotta be the fact that Drake’s got it, and he knows it. Much like his previous records, NWTS provided 2013 with plenty of anthems like the repetitive and strangely infectious Started from the Bottom, or the R&B glory days love letter that is Hold on We’re Going Home. “Got everything, I got everything/I cannot complain, I cannot,” sings Drake on All Me, proving the suspicions that NWTS is nothing more than a victory lap for Drake, making it that much more impressive.
–Acid Rap by CHANCE THE RAPPER
There’s no denying that Acid Rap is a happy mixtape, Chance the Rapper opens up the tape with and intro titled “I’m Good,” and he wants his listeners to be good too. This is not to say that Acid Rap is without its serious moments, as they indeed are present, but their aim isn’t to dampen the mood, rather to give more meaning to the happier joints on the mixtape. Take for example Acid Rain, a slow burner that sees Chance in an honest mood, “my cigarette-stained smile all covered in sin,” and addressing tragedy, “my big homie died young, I just turned older than him,” despite all of this the track concludes with Chance croaking, “I am a new man, I am sanctified..I have been baptized, I have been born again,” moreover, the mixtape closes with a track titled, Everything’s Good, confirming the fact that Chance is good despite all the troubles he chooses to chronicle. Acid Rap also accomplishes a rare feat of music, it manages to be sweet. With songs like Everybody’s Something which quite simply explains that, “everybody’s somebody’s everything/nobody’s nothing,” it’s a sweet message, and Chance pulls it off in such a sincere manner that it doesn’t feel at all out of place on a rap mixtape. Acid Rap is an all around feel-good mixtape; it’s music without pretension with a message to relate.
–PARTNEXTDOOR by PARTYNEXTDOOR
PartyNextDoor’s self-titled debut album clocks in at just under half an hour. But it manages to feel like an entire night spent at a crazy house party. The opening track: Welcome to the Party is Jahron Brathwaite standing in the doorway of the house party of a mixtape welcoming the listener in. The mixtape has its triumphant highs, like the track Over Here, “poppin’ champagne over here/girl it ain’t a thing over here/blowin money fast over here,” also featuring a verse from Drake—who signed PartyNextDoor to his OVO Sound label—PartyNextDoor has a reason to celebrate in this manner. However as with any party, there are sobering realizations; Tbh a track whose title is the preceding statement before a confession, “Baby close just isn’t close enough/maybe my passion just ain’t enough/I can’t feel that you love me no more,” it’s a truly intimate moment of the album in which PND pulls back the curtain on the persona he’s developed up until this point, despite this fact it feels legitimate. Like any good party, PND ends too soon leaving an appetite for more.
–Yeezus by KANYE WEST
It’s doubtful if Kanye West even has the capacity to make a “bad” album. This can be credited to the fact that West’s work inhabits a league of its own, and 2013’s Yeezus is no break in tradition. Sonically, the record is chock-full of sharp edges, brash—borderline violent—instrumentals, it’s an Industrial trap, neo-punk, post hip-hop love child. It’s an extremely ambitious project of which only a mind like West’s is capable of. Who else could flawlessly intertwine a sample of Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit and TNGHT’s R U Ready to become the banger that is Blood on the Leaves? Who else thinks to put Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Chief Keef on the same track? A combination which breeds a heavenly backdrop for West to let loose a stream of honesty, “baby girl he’s a loner/late night organ donor/after that he’ll disown you/after that it’s just hopeless/soulmates become soulless.” Yeezus is a record that discomforts, polarizes and delivers. It serves to cement the fact that West is always thirty steps ahead of the game
–reviews by CARLOS NAVA