In the age of the Internet, releasing music has never been easier. Global platforms have provided artists with the opportunity to share music with their listeners like never before. Within the past month, some of the biggest names in hip-hop have blessed audiences with their most mature and dynamic sounds yet.
Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
Of all Kanye’s protégés, Travis Scott is without a doubt a fan favorite. Scott, also known as La Flame, recently released his newest project, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight,” or ‘Birds,’ for short. This is the Houston rapper’s sophomore studio album; in it, Scott pushes the boundaries of his versatility as a songwriter, lyricist and producer.
Scott is no newcomer to the rap scene, having done collaborations with some of the biggest names in hip-hop — from legends like Gucci Mane, to up-and-comers like Lil Uzi Vert. Despite Scott’s long history of making mumbly trap music, “Birds” provides us with a new, cleaner sound than ever before heard from Travis.
Scott has frequently made beats for himself as well as other artists, which he credits as a major building block of his rise to fame. Previous La Flame mixtapes such as “Owl Pharaoh” and “Days Before Rodeo” have had an unfinished sound, possibly experimental but overall sounding a bit sloppy as far as production is concerned. Despite this, the two albums were received extremely well, giving Scott a platform to build on his sound and focus on his strengths and weaknesses, which he mastered in “Birds.”
The album is a combination of calm, soothing melodies and Scott’s classic new Atlanta sound, full of pronounced beats, layered synthesizers and heavy use of remixing. Scott’s distinguishing technique for producing music is to take a common sound, distort it, reorganize everything and throw on some of hip hop’s hardest drums to make it slap.
Scott makes it well known that “first take” is his favorite track on the album. It features newcomer singer, Bryson Tiller, who won the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Best Male R&B/Pop Artist award in March. This is a perfect example of Travis’s tendency to combine styles and instruments that normally have no business together, yet surprisingly compliment each other, like having breakfast for dinner.
Another monumental track on the album, “Goosebumps,” features the iconic Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick and Travis tackle their unique feeling towards the duo’s love interests, it lets off an eerie but hyped sound, similar to “Untitled 07,” a massive hit off of Kendrick’s new album, “pick up the phone,” featuring Young Thug and Quavo, was one of the singles on the album, quickly became a radio favorite due to its wavy dynamic.
Scott’s original plan was to have André 3000 narrate the entire album. However; when André sent a verse, Scott knew he had to get him on a track, which soon became “the ends.”
Scott has made his admiration for Kid Cudi very clear, referring to Cudi as his favorite artist to work with, making the track “Through the Late Night” featuring Kid Cudi all the more powerful.
The Divine Feminine
Mac Miller is one of the few white rappers who has been able to secure a place as one of hip-hop’s greatest. In his most recent release he shows off a more mature side.
When recording his debut albums and mixtapes, Miller was a kid from Philly who was the life of the party, doing drugs and having relations with a plethora of women. However, with this latest release it appears that the once troubled young boy has turned his life around and matured into a semi-serious adult.
In “The Divine Feminine,” Miller is in love. Despite the title, the rapper isn’t attempting to explain femininity or even what it’s like to be a woman; instead, he’s trying to decipher exactly what love is.
In an interview with Zane Lowe, Miller described his album as “the journey that is love.” This project shows Mac Miller in a brand new light. He began as a “bad boy” who didn’t care about anything, to progressing as an artist and becoming more introspective, looking deeper into his own life and music — that is, until he fell off the grid completely.
For two years, the world didn’t hear a sound from Mac Miller. It was only in 2015 that he released his third studio album “GO:OD AM.” This album featured a sober Mac, taking the focus of content away from drugs and adding more melodically vibrant vocals.
In his latest release, Mac has traded in his hard beats and aggressive bars for thoughtful melodies and a vocal style more like R&B than rap at times.
The single off the album was “Dang,” featuring XXL Freshman Anderson .Paak, which only increased the anticipation for his new album. The jazzy, mid-tempo beat makes it impossible to listen to sitting still.
The Healing Component
Mick Jenkins is one of the most vibrant and diverse rappers to emerge from the recently booming Chicago rap scene.
Taking the world by storm in 2014 with the release of his first mixtape, “The Waters,” Jenkins has made quite a name for himself. This built up anticipation for his latest release, “The Healing Component.”
Similar to Mac Miller on “The Divine Feminine,” Jenkins is trying to pin down the meaning of love, while tying in faith and violence.
However, in this album, Jenkins puts himself in a position of authority, claiming he has the healing component and that everyone needs to listen to him to receive it. Despite his egotistical approach, the Chicago rapper provides us with fresh perspectives on these controversial topics mixed with Jenkins’ signature heavily jazz influenced production.
Many believe that “The Waters” was the breakout project Jenkins needed to gain a following. “The Water” and “Jazz” were both enormous hits, giving Jenkins traction to advance his sound. Having in the past done work with the Brooklyn native, rapper Joey Bada$$, a member of the group Pro Era, it’s a shame we didn’t get to hear the duo’s powerful collaboration on this project.
Jenkins seems to stick to his roots for the most part when it comes to features, having only a few artists credited on the album, most of whom are unknown. Some of the artists featured on the new album include “BADBADNOTGOOD,” “theMIND” and Ravyn Lenae. The track “Angles” features Xavier Omär and fellow Chicago rapper Noname, who both provide a soft, pleasant serenade to balance out Jenkins’ fast, rich and lyrical word flow.