Peep This Joint: Top 5 Rap/RnB Albums of the Year

As the year winds down, it’s time to look back at all the outstanding albums that released this year!

Reflecting on the 2019 year’s lineup, it’s clear to see the lineup is stacked. From memorable debuts such as YBN Cordae’s The Lost Boy to disappointing releases like Chance’s The Big Day and Kanye’s Jesus is King.

Nevertheless, a wide range of artists from all sides of the rap spectrum released music this year as we’ve seen with the dynamic Atlanta duo EarthGang releasing their debut, Mirrorland to the surprising posthumous project, One Of The Best Yet by legendary rap group Gangstarr. 

With not only the year but the decade coming to a close, I felt that it was right to go over what I personally think are the top releases this year for rap and R&B. It was a hard decision to whittle down my favorites to only five, but these are the albums I felt deserve some noise:

YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy

Cover from: Stereogum

This album is a phenomenal debut for the young, up-and-coming rapper hailing from Maryland. He initially blew up through a remix of J-Cole’s “1985” that circulated the web and moved its way to the charts. From then on, things have only been going up for the young rapper as shown with his song “RNP,” featuring Anderson .Paak being produced and co-written by J-Cole himself just a year later. The lyrics and production in this project are nothing but top-tier so this definitely deserves to be in the top five of the year.

Tyler, the Creator – IGOR

Cover from: Twitter

Many wondered what direction Tyler would take for his album after the release of Flower Boy, which received both widespread critical and public acclaim. What resulted was the release of IGOR, which Tyler proudly proclaims is all self-written, produced and arranged. The rave reviews of Flower Boy led Tyler to tap into his creativity to create a unique album that sonically differs from his past discography. Exploring the journey of a love triangle, Tyler paints the emotional struggles experienced throughout the album. If you ask me, this project would be the number one release of the year.

Summer Walker – Over It

Cover from: Hypebae

Another stellar debut project that dropped this year was Over It by R&B singer Summer Walker. Dropping in October, this album proved to be a hit as it broke records by becoming the most-streamed album by an R&B female artist ever during its first week. After getting her song, “Girls Need Love” remixed by Drake, her popularity instantly skyrocketed. Her sultry vocals paired with the slow-groove production made this album a top contender for best R&B album of the year. 

Anderson .Paak – Ventura

Cover from: Consequence of Sound

Anderson .Paak came through this year with the release of his album, Ventura. This album came out just a year after the release of his fourth album Oxnard, which received some criticism for his rap-centric approach. It didn’t seem to bother him though as he came out strong this year with Ventura just 5 months after Oxnard’s release. Returning back to the soulful roots with this album, Paak recovered gracefully with this “return to form” album.

Gangstarr – One Of The Best Yet

Cover from: HipHopDx

One Of The Best Yet marks the end of the 16 year hiatus of legendary rap duo Gangstarr, which consists of rapper Guru and producer DJ Premier. The death of Guru back in 2006 resulted in DJ Premier losing access to all of his old verses until recently through legal action. Fortunately, once DJ Premier recovered his partner’s forgotten and unreleased material, he was able to make magic and produce beats that ultimately culminated into the album. One of my favorite aspects of this album was the fact that Guru’s verses have a timeless element since they are very relevant in today’s rap climate. Overall, this is a classic sounding album reminiscent of the 90s that sounds like a treat for backpackers. If you’re a fan of hard-hitting lyrics, this is the top release of the year for that category. 

With so many hard-hitting releases this year, there’s a lot of content to listen to in order to keep up. Hopefully, this list gives you some ideas or suggestions on what projects to catch up on. Peep these joints out!

Written by: Johann Oribello

You Should Know: Your new favorite band The Maine

For this last You Should Know post of the semester I talk about one of my all-time favorite bands, The Maine.

Normally, I would recommend some of my favorite songs from the band and explain why I like them, but my love for The Maine is based on a lot more than just their music.

I’ve been listening to The Maine for over eight years now. They were my first concert in 2011. I’ve grown with them along the years, and have been able to see them create a personal and unique experience through what they do.

Of course it all begins with music.

The first album of theirs I got was 2011’s Pioneer. It remains on my favorite albums list; “Like We Did (Windows Down)” and “Don’t Give Up On “Us”” are still two of my favorite, most listened to songs today. I actually heard the entire album live a couple weeks before its release, front row in a small venue on the tour to present the album. Listening to the music itself provides quite a raw and personal feeling, and the live concert emphasized that even more. Eight years later and The Maine has only made that experience feel even more special. Despite playing bigger venues, having a larger fanbase to play for, and having more responsibilities as a bigger artist, The Maine is still the same sweet group of people who go way above and beyond to make their band meaningful, and create a family within what they do.

The Maine understands the importance of the band’s relationship with their fans.

The question “Why would you pay money to meet a human being?” sums up their philosophy, and led to free meet-and-greets and even a 100% free tour. The Maine have kept that personal feeling all throughout their career because they stay true to their humanity. They would have gotten nowhere without their fans, and they know that. Fans of The Maine made it possible for them to independently release albums, because at the heart of everything is the love and support for the music.

Their music has always been very candid. “Happy” and “Waiting for My Sun to Shine” (and its hidden track) deal with depression/sadness and “24 Floors” poignantly tells the story of frontman John O’Callaghan’s thoughts of taking his own life. Speaking about these topics allowed for their listeners to find solace in the band and in each other. That connection created the 8123 Family, the band’s fanbase that is so much more than that.

The 8123 Family is always there for each other, and that includes the band themselves.

From giving fans free tickets to shows, to randomly sending fans flowers or coffee, The Maine is always looking out for the people that love them and loving them in return. They take giving back even farther with 8123 Impact. In select cities on tour, the band organizes charity events for fans to take part in, including volunteering at food banks and other local organizations. And you can find the band members right there alongside the fans, all working together to help make a difference.

In everything The Maine does, it is so obvious that they truly care. The love they put into their work is like no other. And the love they receive from their fans in the 8123 family is quite special, too. 

Become part of the 8123 Family and listen to The Maine’s newest album You Are OK here.

Written by: Emerson Redding

They Did What? – Jonas Brothers

A series dedicated to what the media does not broadcast about your favorite musical artist. Now, I present to you the Jonas Brothers.

The infamous Kevin, Joe, and Nick. The Jonas Brothers are back together in 2019. If you were to ask anyone a year ago if this band would reunite no one would have guessed it.

Where did the brothers come from?

The Jonas Brothers have had an interesting ride to success and their career is unlike any other musical group to ever exist. Coming from a small town in New Jersey with a family that does not have much money, to signing a record deal, then getting dropped, to get a gig with Disney channel, to prove themselves as artists, to breaking up, to reuniting as a band. It has been a bumpy ride for the band but they could not be in a better state than they are in today. Happiness truly begins with this new era.

Disney Days

Becoming famous from Disney Channel can have its negatives in this day and age. The brothers even admit on Carpool Karaoke with James Corden that they were robots back in the Disney days. They were afraid to be themselves because Disney was a clean-cut “machine,” as Nick says, that was giving them this opportunity to be performers while also controlling their actions in a way. Artists who come from Disney are often viewed as artists who only appeal to younger audiences who don’t have real talent. Because of how fast their life changed from Disney, the boys were scared of it leaving just as quick as it came; they were afraid to be themselves. This was all a part of the Disney management, as they were expected to keep a squeaky clean reputation.

What people may not know is the reason the Jonas Brothers were even considered by Disney was that they were already a band putting out music. In the documentary, which was released on Amazon this past year, Nick says that many people think they were a manufactured group put together by the Disney, but in fact, they were signed to a record company before Disney and started writing and performing songs together at a very young age.

Did you know that the Jonas Brothers write all of their own lyrics?

In the new documentary, it revealed that one of their most famous songs, “Lovebug“, was written by Nick in response to his first real love with co-Disney star Miley Cyrus. Not only can the brothers perform, but they are also all songwriters. Their newest album, Happiness Begins, was all written by the brothers themselves. This album reflects where they are in life showing love and happiness to the world.

The Jonas Brothers worked very hard to be where they are today.

They were dropped from a record label after their first album release.  At the same time, their family was living in a two-bedroom apartment because their dad lost his job at a church. The family began to receive judgment from the church due to the brothers not singing Christian music. This was one of the lowest points for their careers and also their personal life. However, the brothers kept pushing towards their dreams; they had no other choice but to keep trying. Then one day… Disney called and changed their whole life.

Never give up.

Disney may have helped them skyrocket their fame but they are always performers and talented young men. They prevail through the hard times and reach the light at the end of the tunnel. The brothers wrote the majority of their self-titled album in that one apartment basement during the most difficult time of their life.  They never gave up on their dreams. In life, you cannot appreciate the happy times without going through the hardships. One thing that people need to understand is how the brothers represent hard work and dedication and to never give up on what you want in life.

The Jonas Brothers always thank Disney for what they did for them but in the documentary, they all agree that they regret doing the second season of their show, Jonas, because it was not who they were anymore. It felt too young for them and feel like it stunted their growth as a band. They were young adults wanting to continue on with life but were stuck in a show for children playing a 14-year-old at age 23, as Joe says in the Bazaar interview from this year.

The Music

The Jonas Brothers produce catchy music that people jam to all the time. However, what people do not notice is the deeper meaning behind these songs. The brothers are just normal human beings from a small town who happen to write songs and perform. Have you ever stopped and actually listened and processed the lyrics you are so energetically singing? One big hit song they have is called “Hold On” which is about how you have to keep pushing through the hard times life throws at you. It is not the happiest of songs lyrically, but the brothers paired the words to an upbeat tempo that makes for a great anthem to sing when one is feeling down.

“There’s more to life than just to live, ’cause an empty room can be so loud
It’s too many tears to drown them out, One single smile a helping hand
It’s not that hard to be a friend
So don’t give up stand ’til the end.”

Hold On – Jonas Brothers

The brother dynamic and connection that they bring to their songs and performances is undeniable. In their most recent performances since their reunion, their presence oozes happiness. They brought together the band because they missed the magic that was the Jonas Brothers. All they were craving was to be happy together again and playing music.

I can say from personal experience that the Jonas Brothers are incredible live performers. The feeling they bring to their concerts is something that only brothers can create. Happiness truly begins at the start of their shows.

Break up?

You may or may not know that when the band broke up it was not at all a happy moment for anyone, including Kevin, Joe, and Nick. It was not a mutual break up, as Nick was the one to say that the Jonas Brothers should be no more. In their new documentary, you find out that the brothers did not even talk after they called it quits for the time being. I cannot imagine not talking to your best friends for more than a day. They went through a rough patch as a family but it was much needed for them to come back even stronger. What makes the Jonas brothers so relatable is that they do not hide anything in regards to their journey as a band and family.

Diabetes Turned Positive.

At the beginning of the Jonas Brothers journey, Nick was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 13. This was a hurdle in his life that he has now found a way to help others who have the same chronic diagnosis. He is the co-founder of Beyond Type 1 which is an organization that uses social media to educate young people on how to live with type 1 diabetes. Nick has been vocal about how he knew no one with diabetes and felt alone when he was diagnosed. He uses his platform to help others not feel the same way he did. Nick even posted on Instagram that it has been 13 years since he was diagnosed and he is now a happy and healthy man.

Click here for the full post

He vocalizes that it can be hard but you can live with this disease as long as you take care of yourself. Out of all that, Nick wrote a song called “A Little Bit Longerback in 2007 that was about his diagnosis. He embraced his sadness and fear in the song and hopes that it can help people living with the same disease. That is what music is all about.

I am so happy the Jonas Brother are back together. When they were younger, the media was so caught up in the purity ring “scandal” that they were not focused on the music. Side note, if you don’t know what the purity ring scandal is, then watch this interview here where the brothers explain it. It was a running joke that every media platform loved to talk about. People began to question the Jonas Brothers for no reason. Nick expresses what it felt like back then.

“The very simple answer is that it was incredibly annoying. And then it became a defining factor of who we were as a band, which was disappointing. I was just trying to navigate love, and romance, and what sex even meant to me, at a sensitive age. The question should have been: Is it appropriate for people to talk about a 16-year-old’s sex life? It’s absolutely not—and it wouldn’t necessarily fly today.”

Nick Jonas – Bazaar, 2019

This Happiness begins album is the start of a new era for them.

The Jonas Brothers stand for those small-town kids who may think they cannot go anywhere in life. Never stray away from your dreams no matter what happens. Keep pushing for what you believe in. In the spirit of the Jonas Brothers, chase the happiness you are so longing for in life. Happiness is what matters in life and the Jonas Brothers have now shared that with the world.

Written By: Adrienne Murdock

An Experimental Album Collective: Oscar Lang, Big Thief, and More

I decided to do an experimental four album collective review and recommendation this week. These four albums from Oscar Lang, Big Thief, Meth Wax, and Keane are ones I’ve just recently been getting into, and I’ve been loving all of the varying genres and moods that come along with each one.

Oscar Lang’s release gives off a more indie and thrilling vibe, while Big Thief is more eerie, warm, and noisy. Meth wax is explosive, wild and punchy whereas Keane emits a softer, more nostalgic mood. Overall, these four LP’s have something to offer everyone, no matter the music preference or taste. All four are dynamic, emotional, and thrilling experiences. These are definitely some of my go-to’s when picking from my record collection.

1. Oscar Lang – bops etc. 

A friend recently recommended this album and it perfectly fits the mood of waiting for school break and reminiscing on summer. It was released in June of this year and recently on the Dirty Hit record label. Being 6 songs, it is more of an EP, but the mood and feeling is summed up overall in these few tunes. I especially like the light mood around all of the tracks and how airy the record feels and sounds. “French Girl” definitely stood out to me, the melody is strong yet up and down. It also features Johnny Utah, who is a great indie-go to and is known for his song “Honeypie.” The synth is very arpeggiated and I like it in front with the guitar, bass, and drums being more focused towards the back. “Change,” being more guitar focused, is a cute, nostalgic tune with catchy lyrics; the walking bass line gives the slower guitar chords a boppy groove. The last track, “Pull Me Up,” is a ballad type song over hearty synth and slower drum beats. This is a great one for indie and alternative listeners.

2. Big Thief – Masterpiece

Every melody on this line surprises me and leaves me grabbing for more. Adrianne Lenker’s vocals stand out against the music yet complement it so perfectly at the same time. Her voice is elegant and soft yet so strong, being fitting for the genres Big Thief fronts. The guitar riffs beautifully go against the vocals and melodies of each song. The chords are surprising which is very refreshing when listening to Masterpiece as I feel as if I’m experiencing something new every time I listen. Every song on this album gives off ease and confidence, yet angst through the dynamics, shifts, and balance between the full band at times and the guitar and vocals at others.

The whole album feels like a long, heartwarming, reassuring journey through the depth of lyrics and maturity of sound over the 12 tracks. Two songs that particularly stand out are “Little Arrow” and “Velvet Ring.” “Little Arrow” sounds like it is played over an old radio or cassette machine; a more lo-fi track with just guitar and vocals. “Velvet Ring” is one of the only acoustic songs, the guitar picking style and walkdown chord choice vary to the rest of the album but nonetheless, fit it in a perfect way. The melody choice and lyrics are immensely unique here, and go so well with the background noises that it almost sounds eerie. Overall, I would rate this album a 10/10 and definitely recommend it to anyone who likes alternative and experimental music.

3. Meth Wax – Meth Wax

The lower quality of this album gives it a lot of character and makes all the difference in the energy that the album gives off to the listener. This lo-fi garage group gives off a slower, grunge vibe but there are also a few more upbeat, surfy tracks that stand out. Instrumentally, the production is the perfect pop-punk and garage tone and release. The guitar has a deep gutty and punchy feel to it and the drums are washy, muted, and perfectly balanced between surfy breaks and beatdowns and head banging fills. The vocals and lyrics are especially unique, being fronted and catchy. Released in 2016, this independent release is an easy listen and great for driving, hanging out, or just as background music. This release is an engaging and impressive listening experience, it mixes non-serious topics with deeper subjects together. I recommend to any Ty Segall fans or any lofi, garage, or punk lovers. 

4. Keane – Under The Iron Sea

One of my best friends recently showed me this album and I fell in love with it the second I started listening. This is a sentimental and mesmerizing album. Under the Iron Sea is my go-to rainy day album and it is a great walking and driving album as well. This release, being an older album from around 2006, captures the listener and takes them on a journey of finding themselves and being in the world. The lyrical content is hooking and powerfully written, alongside the string instrumentals, almost unnoticeable harmonies, and fronted piano lines and chords. It feels like a winter cold fairy tale, and a sense of warmth coming from it, almost like a fever dream. My favorite track is definitely “A Bad Dream” as it’s almost nostalgic and makes me feel like I’m in a different time period. Dominic Scott’s vocal range is always surprising and leaves the listener not knowing what is coming next. Keane’s music feels somber yet refreshing, and I’m always in the mood for it.

These four albums are there for any mood and time, and have become some of my favorite records over this past fall season. Hopefully, this becomes a new favorite record for someone or a song that makes someones day. Have a great winter break, stay warm, and keep updated for more tunes to come!

Written by: Jesse Miller