ALBUM REVIEW: AUGUST ALSINA – THIS THING CALLED LIFE

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Contemporary R&B has made an interesting jump from love and affection, to smooth street tales and August Alsina, 23 is at the forefront of its transformation. Ruminative, vulnerable and hollow best describe This Thing Called Life, the sophomore album from the Def Jam Recording artist.  The follow-up to 2013’s Testimony shows the singer battling with fame, fortune and family, opening up to fans with his raw, no-holds-barred songwriting.

The New Orleans native, whose scarred vocals seem more like a cry for help, are shaky, as he tries his best to navigate away from the ghosts of his tormented past. “Song Cry,” the album’s third single, packs a eerie punch, speaking to the gritty reality of life and the singer’s struggle with family matters. “Change” in all of its vocal strength, flows as it bridges the dissonance between wanting change, and enacting it. “Look At How Far I’ve Come” is a successful attempt at moving toward a brighter future. With uplifting lyrical dexterity, Alsina gives hope to those in struggling circumstances, singing “I know some days you feel like giving up… tryna keep your head up, but you fed up, tryna stack your bread up.”

“TTCL,” although solidly constructed, is lacking in its ability to project a clear message, as it is overwhelmed with painstaking bottled emotions aching to be released. This could be reason for Alsina’s uncertainty throughout the 15 track-LP. Too often, the singer has more questions than answers. The album opens with the title track, which is oversaturated with questions that would compel one to offer Alsina a suicide hotline number. Furthermore, the repeat lyrical content about the loss of his brother, and inconsistent flow about the harsh realities of celebrity, showcase the album as disjointed, hurling listeners into a perplexed disposition that hurts it creatively.

This by no means says that the album is intolerable, as there are a few bright spots that ignite TTCL, mainly the album’s features. Such as “Job,” the Anthony Hamilton and Jadakiss assisted banger that is a testament to the young, black struggle many face today. While it takes a confident singer to allow Hamilton to sing the catchy and relatable hook, Alsina holds his own while gliding over the Sampha sampled beat. Second single “Why I Do It?” featuring a vintage Lil Wayne give listeners what they truly want from Alsina, beat thumping bounce tracks that showcase the star quality he possesses. The album’s latest single “Been Around The World,” is the strongest [of the four] released in support of the album’s promotion, and rightfully so, as repeat collaborator Chris Brown reinforces the “around the world in 80 days” concept. Besides, you can never go wrong with a clever Biggie Smalls sample. The most compelling track however, is toward the end of the album. The Jahiem-esque “American Dream” highlights the singer’s signature bounce and offers listeners inspiration and motivation in the most unique of ways.

At the end of the album opener Alsina asks the question “what is this thing called life?” To be honest, it doesn’t seem like he gets it quite yet. However, it is clear that although Alsina still does not know what this thing called life actually is, he’s trying really hard to understand his place in it.

C

The Urban Connect standouts “Job,” “Hollywood,” “Been Around The World,” “First Time,” “American Dream.”

ALBUM REVIEW: BRYSON TILLER – T R A P S O U L

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Unexpectedly trailblazing through R&B music with force, is trap-infused newcomer Bryson Tiller, and his grand slam debut. Appropriately titled, T R A P S O U L, Tiller, 22; shines as his ‘rough-around-the-edges’ styled singing and occasional rapping, take center stage. Dancing between breathy vocals over atmospheric soundscapes, and rugged rap cadences over cacophonic beats, R&B’s newest trendsetting artist encapsulates you into his world; and never lets go.

Lyrically personal and deeply intuitive, T R A P S O U L is laced with the best that the self-proclaimed “Pen Griffey” has to offer, with production by a plethora of underdogs, and a heavy-hitting legend. What’s incredible about Tiller and his debut is much of what he does musically, although done before, is refreshingly candor, translucently forthright and immensely clever. Instead of talking at women, he talks to them in such a way that effortlessly draws them in, simultaneously allowing him to score points in the respect department with the fellas. “Exchange,” “Don’t” and “Overtime” showcase a softer side while “Rambo” and “Sorry Not Sorry,” whose infamous Street Fighter sample assist the Kentucky native as he speaks to the male bravado that’s sparsely prevalent throughout the 14-track LP.

Cited as one of the year’s best on multiple end-of-year lists, Tiller’s first full-length offering serves up some healthy doses of a genre all it’s own. At times, you’re crooning about an ex-girlfriend who moved on after you admitted that you couldn’t give her what she wanted, to rapidly rapping cadences of “and we like, b—– with they own $*…/ we don’t like gold diggers. Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes is a likable, relatability factor that before Tiller, hadn’t existed for quite some time.

Lead single “Been That Way,” carries the latter part of the album, while “Open (Interlude) stands out as one of the strongest offerings from the Louisville native, who clearly isn’t shy about speaking exactly how he feels. 2015 was a great year for hip-hop, but with the release of T R A P S O U L, Bryson Tiller is telling us to not out count R&B just yet. Currently gearing up for his first U.S. tour with newcomers THEY, Tiller has the remedy, infusing both hip-hop and R&B.

A+

The Urban Connect standouts “Don’t,” “Open (Interlude),” “Ten Nine Fourteen,” “The Sequence,” “Sorry Not Sorry,” “Right My Wrongs.”

TRAILER: DOPE, THE A$AP ROCKY STARRING MOVIE

The trailer for the A$AP Rocky-starring movie is here. Exciting, right?

Well, this first teaser trailer doesn’t give away much… but we do know it’s directed by Rick Famuyiwa and a sort of coming of age drama. It’s about a young kid growing up in Inglewood, CA.

You get to see some slight shots of Zoe Kravitz, an MC Hammer throwback, Chanel Iman and more. The trailer is very multimedia enthused, as it almost feels like you’re scrolling through Tumblr/playing a video game.

Nevertheless, check it out below and you can expect Dope to hit the big screen on June 19th.

NEW VIDEO: TINK – RATCHET COMMANDMENTS

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Tink has been talked about on blogs and in music circles as the next big thing. The 19 year old definitely has something to prove, especially after being taken under super producer Timbaland‘s wing. In the visual for her debut single ‘Ratchet Commandments’, Tink takes on a couple of different personas inspired by the 90’s era.

In the Dave Meyers directed clip, she portrays a preacher and later an Egyptian goddess showing off some dance moves. Timbo makes a cameo of course, and there are even some kid dancers included, probably a homage to Missy‘s infamous videos.

Check out Tink’s big debut below and let us know what you think in the comments.

NEW MUSIC: KEHLANI – HOW THAT TASTE

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Kehlani, fresh off her tour with G-Eazy, is back in the studio and releases a brand new track from her upcoming mixtape, You Should Be Here.

The bass knocking song is a proclamation to her haters, but also inspired by her supporters as well. She told the FADER, “‘How That Taste'” was inspired by the amazing team and supporters I have, but also by the doubters I’ve met along the way. It’s a Tsunami Mob anthem, ready to wake people up and ask them how that shit taste!”

If you’re not hip to Kehlani, check out her debut tape Cloud 19 here, and “How That Taste” produced by Jahaan Sweet below.

NEW VIDEO: LION BABE – WONDER WOMAN

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So, we know we’re not the only ones who can’t get enough of Lion Babe… right? Well, if you haven’t heard of them yet, here’s your chance. Vocalist Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman make up a pretty stellar duo. Hervey with her velvety, Erykah-reminiscent tone and Goodman with his soul, funky infused beats definitely caught our ear last year.

While their sound is somewhere in between R&B, pop, and soul, the aesthetic leads to an infectious mix you can’t help but love. With one self titled EP release under their belt, the duo is gearing up for a debut album sometime this summer from Interscope.

Their latest visual for new single, ‘Wonder Woman’ takes us to the 70’s where Hervey’s beautiful tresses and dance moves captivate you, while Goodman vibes out on the piano keys. Check it out below and catch the duo at this year’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.

NEW MUSIC: RIHANNA – BITCH BETTER HAVE MY MONEY

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Ri’s calling the shots and y’all better have her money. On the second single from her upcoming untitled eighth album, Rihanna takes on a sort of rap persona proclaiming, “Turn up to Rihanna while the whole club fu**ing wasted/Every time I drop, I am the only thing y’all playin’!”

Produced by Deputy, the track is a reference to the AMG album/song of the same name.

Rihanna is also set to perform the song live this Sunday at the iHeartRadio Music Awards in L.A. Check out the banger below and purchase on iTunes here.

FESTIVAL SPOTLIGHT: BROCCOLI CITY

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Festival season is underway! Starting this week, we want to introduce a new segment spotlighting some of the festivals happening this spring and summer. First up is Broccoli City!

Taking place in our own nation’s capital, Broccoli City is a social venture of the group whose mission is to develop and implement innovative strategies on living healthier and more sustainable lifestyles in urban communities. The festival centers on having some fun while helping people make informed decisions about health and the environment.

So, BC Festival in a nutshell covers art, food, music, fitness, and more. One of the best things about it is the artist lineup. Erykah Badu, Kaytranada, Tink, Kali Uchis, and Joey Badass will all be on stage with more to be announced. Hipsters’ dream right?

The event is 16+ but of course, several bars will be around for the 21+ that want to be a little tipsy or beyond. Broccoli City takes place rain or shine on April 25 (12 – 9 P.M.) in Washington, D.C. at the Gateway Pavilion (1100 Alabama Ave SE).

Get your tickets here and check out last year’s recap below. General and VIP Admission is offered for $37 and $49.

NEW VIDEO: FKA TWIGS – GLASS & PATRON

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Directed by FKA Twigs herself, today she drops a new visual for the track “Glass & Patron”, as a part of the Youtube Music Awards. We can always expect something interesting from this artist and of course, she did not disappoint.

FKA gives birth to a very colorful scarf, which leads way to what might be the most epic vogue/choreo battle you’ve ever seen. The song, co-written/produced by Boots, was previously heard in a Google Glass ad seen here.

In other news, the quadruple threat is expected to release a brand new EP later this year (EP3).

NEW VIDEO: MIGOS – ONE TIME

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Released today from the collection through the Youtube Music Awards, Migos turns up one time for the one time in their trippy effect video. The trio relive the party last night frozen in time, with cameos from DeSean Jackson of the Washington Redskins and Blake Anderson from “Workaholics.”

Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset will be releasing their debut album on June 16 entitled YRN Tha Album. Features will include Chris Brown, Lil’ Wayne, Meek Mill and of course DJ Mustard.

Turn up below one time.