In an age where musical creativity has never been at such a height; to see the youth creating and discovering their own sound while simultaneously being able to capture a guided approach to what was once a guild and impenetrable. The music industry as a whole has never seen this level of intriguing outsiders who were once never exposed to a musical background and now seeing platinum records.
Tierra Whack is one of the first artists that have ever released an album with exact cuts of one-minute tracks, to form a fifteen-minute (do the math) record release that spreads itself thin and comes out as more of a performance art piece than a record that will be continually played again and again. Whack World is a record that spans like flipping through the television during late nights, there are tracks that work well within the short run-time, leaving the listener in a daze and almost always wanting more.
And that is almost the problem within Whack World; Whack moves quickly and can showcase true effort behind her tracks, but the incredibly layered tracks are spread thin across a board of sudden jump cuts. With catchy tracks of “Hungry Hippo” or “Silly Sam” that have glistening production and a beautiful delivery, it makes a design for an overarching and repeatable journey. With the short run time however, as soon as “Hungry Hippo” gets started, it ends and each piece works more as interludes that are sewn together.
Miraculously, the fifteen-minutes are surprisingly fun to dance along to as the consistent shifts keep the listener on their toes. Whack World was one of the first records that questions the typical hook-sixteen-hook styles of rap music and pushes the strangest conglomerate and mixes to work together.
Tierra Whack has some true talent behind this sound, and it is ironically her own; unfortunately Whack World is not long enough to keep the replayablity in the end. Whack World is actually the perfect album to DJ at a party or an event however as you could let the record play all the way through and it will continue to change itself.
Creating something new and different is such an important task in the oversaturated world of music, music journalism, and music creation. Tierra Whack is one of the first artists to push incredibly short tracks, one-minute to be exact under the magnifying glass with cheerful production, intense wordplay, and one of the more engaging releases of the year.
Sheck Wes took over stadiums and charmed hearts with his single “Mo Bamba” that was a basement Soundcloud hit through the summer and in turn quickly moved into a radio hit. Under the guise of Travis Scott and some other influential partners, Wes has quickly established a name for himself as a standing monument as a commander in hip-hop music.
With the initial singles that dropped from Wes, it was easy to see the approach that the Harlem born-and-raised artist would use. Almost like a maniacal Sun Tzu, MUDBOY shatters the backboard and the expectations for Wes, allowing for full, creative distance from the normality’s of a debut record. He is loud, abrasive, and ultimately one of the first fire starters that open for Playboi Carti, which is where Sheck Wes made his first contact in a live setting. He was able to conquer the microphone even with his short list of tracks and ultimately found success in the way that he could keep all eyes on him. Even as he would rap until he was out of breath; Wes proved that this was a young man’s game and everyone would have to watch.
MUDBOY is a similar instance that works in his favor to keep the attention on him and even as the singles are the best part of the album from “Mo Bamba”, “Live Sheck Wes” or “Chippi Chippi”; there are still reasons to come back to the record. With booming tracks that use the 808 bass to the manipulation of the audience with “Gmail” or “Kyrie” to the more brake-driven, more humanistic tracks like “Never Lost”, “Danimals”, and “Vetements Socks”. Harlem never seemed so clean as the epicenter of most iconic rappers, Sheck Wes should be proud to be added to the list but there are some shortcomings of MUDBOY as well.
There are no features which from a fan of Sheck Wes this is perfect, it allows the attention to be entirely on Wes without any disruption. This is also one of the problems however as Sheck Wes does not have this amazing scale of adaptability that can work to fill an entire album. It feels consistent throughout and with little variation besides the occasional haltered jam here and there. For the most part, MUDBOY is a quick, straightforward arrow that strikes in a painless sort of way. It does not challenge the listener or create this moments of awe-inspiring wonder though.
Instead, Sheck Wes is a thankful addition to the booming bass hits and screams of the style of rap today. He is not reaching even close to his peak and that is exciting to see where his career can lead to. As of today however, MUDBOY is a slug fest of fantastic and energetic fun that does not last too long or drag. It could use a feature or two though.
With the influence of jazz music on the 1950’s, the influx of largely populated areas of immigrant and minority musicians came a new dissection of genre and quickly changed almost overnight. Dorothy Ashby was a part of that movement with a surprising instrument choice, an oversized, operatic harp as her tool of decision. While not a majority of people were an audience to the harp, Afro-Harping is a record that stands behind the walls of the mainstreams and attaches to the fine roots of jazz history.
While she has a “triple burden” within the community as she was not only a woman in a male dominated industry, she was also African American, and played an instrument that most of the general public had little to no interest in at the time. It was this navigation and determination that makes Afro-Harping feel like such a victory behind music as it becomes a step back into the sun-ridden hills of 1968 with 10-total tracks that form quickly and dissipate just as soon. Even as the sound remains throughout, there is this emotional attachment that can reflect from the almost swing-sense that follows on Afro-Harping.
Ashby can collect this velvet smooth framing with the harp and the backing band that delivers whole-heartedly on manipulating the listener into becoming a monument of momentum. It was Afro-Harping that let the harp become the front instrument running the show as it grooves along to some blends of Richard Evans that allowed the instrument to really flow throughout the record. Opening tracks of “Soul Vibrations”, or the following of “Action Line”, Ashby strikes gold time and time again with a dedication to dropping some immensely beautiful rides of sound.
Even with “Life Has Its Trials” that feels focused on creating an uplifting sound on a daunting subject, it is deliberate through each release of the chords and surprisingly effective. Rather than creating downfalls within the record, Ashby stays on the up and up as she moves through the average length tracks of mostly three-minutes through these dance-esque movements. Afro-Harping breathes a ferocious light into the music and strangely enough creates an adaption to the harp that most at the time, would have been uneasy to.
The last moments of the record start to wind down and become more quiet before a giant barrage finale. Just as it starts, Afro-Harping ends with Ashby laying down an attractive muse of jazz music that builds and finally crumbles to the silence that follows behind.
Xavier Wulf is the whiplash general stemming from Memphis. With previous mixtape releases that shook arenas and quickly rose Wulf to a mainstream audience with an underground flare, East Memphis Maniac is the well deserved sequel to all the hell that he raised previously.
Independent and basically the worst thing to ever happen in a record label’s worst nightmare, Wulf commands audiences with an iconic delivery through vocal aggression. An artist’s voice is always important when it is the main instrument being used; often paired with a flurry of 808 bass and tormenting instrumentation, there is no shortage of possession within his voice. East Memphis Maniac is an additional outlook from Wulf that seems more as an overlord than an artist at times.
Opening with the thunderous “Check it Out”, Wulf is a standard in the underground hip-hop collection of kings that reign with an iron hand. Still able to slide in the relaxed and non-threatening, East Memphis Maniac takes hold of a different animal. Where Project X, Blood Shore Season 2, or even his collaborative effort with TeamSESH collective leader Bones; Wulf is a dual-faced artist of intrigue and power that establishes sequences of mystery as well. As what seemed like millions scream “Fuck a bitch boy fuck a nigga shit too, I give no fuck about who the fuck she came with…” Xavier Wulf holds these bars on the audience and can manipulate that energy to create something almost superhero-esque.
As he continues to move on, through “Homecoming”, “Request Refused”, or “Wake Walker”, Wulf holds a truth behind his lyrics that makes the easiest work of running through brick walls and standing ten feet tall. Each release can instantly open up a mosh-pit within the office, or at the family picnic without a hesitation, East Memphis Maniac is no different. There are moments on here where Wulf leaves no room for the imagination and describes in immaculate detail what a day in his life looks like.
“I slide by ‘em like Suzuki’s, watching movies in my Bimmer…Don’t make me pull up in a damn bus just to school you. Boy, I’m plottin’ sippin’ sake, they gonna watch because they can’t avoid it” Wulf explains through this veil of clouded vision on “Riding Shotgun in Japan”. With an all-star cast of features diving from KOHH, Skepta, Chris Travis, Bones, Idontknowjeffery, Tay Keith, Eddy Baker, and even MadeinTYO stops by for a quick verse on “Match Hunters”. In a seamless transition, “Chaos Castle” holds all members of SHWB in a pit of fury that erupts with verses from each member.
With a perfect send off into the eventual ether of silence. East Memphis Maniac is a continuation of the Wulf story. A fairy tale to the common man, but to the legend of the underground, it is just another day.
Listen/Watch Here – Youtube
Featuring A$AP Rocky + Project Pat
Director: Devonté Hynes
Producer: Nicholas Harwood
Production Co.: Industry Plant
DP: Stefan Weinberger
1st AC: Consuelo Althouse
Drone Op.: Peter Lansworth
Production Manager: Eric Cross
Durags: Lisa Katnic
Colorist: Bryan Smaller
Special Thanks: Malcolm Hill