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Photo Credit: Matthew Yoscary

Brooklyn-via-Maryland rapper Oddisee, 35, is leaving a real estate meeting when I call him for our interview. The rapper born Amir Mohamed el Khalifa is considering investing in houses throughout Brooklyn over a handful of years to create non-music-based revenue streams.

Throughout his 10-plus year recording and performing career,Oddisee and his worldly perspective and live-band hip-hop sound have bred an everyman relatability that grounds projects like 2017’s The Iceberg and 2020’s Odd Cure, his latest EP, out today.

Created over eight weeks — two of which he spent in self-isolation in his Brooklyn studio — Odd Cure is an attempt at navigating the looming anxieties of a global pandemic in the broadest sense. …


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Photo Credit: Jake Franssen (@thejakefranssen)

There’s a very particular life I was meant to have. I was meant to meet a nice Jewish boy, get engaged in a flurry, and move to a delicate home in the ‘burbs, not too far from my parents, and live a quiet existence with a child, a beautiful yard, and no second thoughts. I was meant to be a sweet Russian-Jewish girl, one who works in speech pathology or the pharmaceutical world, like all the other sweet Russian-Jewish girls I know.

But I was none of these things. I am gay — I met a nice Jewish girl, though — and I live in the city, and I don’t have a yard, and I couldn’t be further from my parents both in mental schema and physical distance. But, as Frank Ocean writes on his Blonde opus, “Seigfried,” “I’m not brave,” I’m merely living for myself. …


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Photo Credit: Interscope Records

On the day Juice WRLD’s first posthumous album, Legends Never Die, released, it was pouring in Philadelphia. It’s hard not to imagine the sky weeping — tears of anguish or joy; I couldn’t tell you — in honor of the late Chicago rapper, hitmaker, and certified lifesaver. Juice WRLD’s music dealt in heartbreak and depression, addiction and overcoming. He gave his fans hope. He was hip-hop’s radiant light.

Juice WRLD was only 21 when he passed, but it felt as if his music had been in our general consciousness for far longer. He felt seasoned in his approach — just watch his hour-long freestyles. With Juice, every performance was a smash; every lyric a chance to reach out to a fan and touch them in a way they may have never been before. He was all-seeing. …


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Photo Credit: Apple Music

Have you ever heard of an album created on a limitless budget? Although uncommon, acclaimed manga artist, screenwriter, and film director Katsuhiro Otomo once approached composer and neuroscientist Tsutomu Ōhashi — also known under the pseudonym Shoji Yamashiro, who founded the immense Japanese music collective Geinoh Yamashirogumi — to compose the soundtrack and score for a multi-million dollar film adaptation he was directing of his 1982 manga series, Akira.

“It was quite a luxury not to have any deadlines or budget restraints to worry about on this project,” Yamashiro said during an interview for The Akira Production Report, a 50-minute, behind-the-scenes documentary recorded in 1988 alongside the dystopian film’s creation. …


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Art By: VavaArt (@_vavasart)

Anglophones are notoriously insular when it comes to consuming foreign culture. We’re picky, limited, and disinterested in straying from our comfort zone. There are logistical reasons for this; we have a functionally infinite amount of English-language culture and an education system that has only started taking foreign language instruction seriously in the past decade or so. But as the tentacles of Anglophone culture reach into increasingly isolated areas of the world, it’s difficult to ignore that the opposite is also happening.

So, what is it about listening to foreign music that English speakers find desirable?

To say it’s to “better understand other cultures,” while perhaps true, rings stale and disingenuous in the age of voluntourism and debates over cultural appropriation. Perhaps we listen to foreign music not to better understand other cultures, but for better access to emotions and ideas that have atrophied under the ever-expanding umbrella of Anglophone cultural life. There are myriad emotions our acute sense of collective irony has muted, and earnestness may be chief among them. …


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Photo Credit: Kenecia “Keekee” Taylor

Go-go music’s definitive conga-infused rhythms, call-and-response tradition, and style of dance have primarily remained within the confinements of the D.C. Beltway. But in 2020, Chuck Brown’s inventive brand of funk has found its way to the popular video-sharing platform, TikTok.

Over the past few weeks, the 2000s go-go song “Phatty” by Critical Condition Band — a five-member group that helped trailblaze go-go’s bounce beat, trading signature congas for powerful timbales and rototoms — has resurfaced in all its glory 13 years after its initial release.

Everyone from social media influencers like Rickey Thompson to celebrities like Niecy Nash have shown off their “Phatty” choreography while having some fun as the song encourages. However, like most things that go viral, few on social media are entirely aware of its origin story as they’re tagged and challenged to participate. …


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Photo Credit: Create Music Group

Tekashi 6ix9ine and Nicki Minaj’s “TROLLZ” went №1 on Billboard this week. The infamous duo displays noteworthy chemistry on the record, but they also had a few other things working in their favor: numerous signed merch bundles, four different versions of the song, two diehard stanbases who incessantly streamed it, and (possibly), fake YouTube streams.

6ix9ine, his co-star, and his record label, 10K Projects, pulled out all the stops to get the 808-driven record to the top of the Hot 100 chart. “TROLLZ” follows “Say So,” Nicki’s May collaboration with Doja Cat, which earned the veteran star the second №1 single of her career. Nicki is now the first woman rapper of the 21st century to debut at №1. …


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Art By: VavaArt (@_vavasart)

From the moment JAY-Z’s much-hyped post-retirement album Kingdom Come dropped in 2006, its atmospheric closing song, “Beach Chair,” a duet with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, proved divisive. Day-one fans who waited three years to hear their hero rap like a big emo about angels and having a midlife crisis over a Coldplay chillwave instrumental were none too pleased. Critics were also confused, with Rolling Stone bluntly stating: “You know how bad you think it is? It’s that bad.” Pitchfork described the song as “strange to the point of discomfort.”

Fourteen years later, with the benefit of hindsight, “Beach Chair” feels a lot less like a peculiar outlier in JAY-Z’s catalog and more like one of his more powerful moments — a moment that paved the way for the second act of his career. …


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Photo Credit: Joseph Baura (@j.baura)

“Keep looking if you’re looking for average / I’m living proof, a human covered in magic” -6LACK,” Mourning Star

6LACK, real name Ricardo Valentine, was born on June 24, 1992, a Baltimore baby. A move to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1997 brought the future rap and R&B star down South. Atlanta is where we met. At the Ponce de Leon Urban Outfitters. I wrote about this encounter back in 2016, when 6LACK was still a star in the making and truth be told, no one knew if he would make it big.

Before award show nominations and headlining tours, 6LACK was a local face, a man of great promise known for words with no guarantee the world would receive those words. The years following our initial meeting have been good to him. With over 585 million collective views on YouTube, two certified Gold albums, and several certified Gold and multi-Platinum singles, the LVRN flagship artist is only rising higher with every release. …


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Photo Credit: TDE

The September 2, 2016 release of Isaiah Rashad’s The Sun’s Tirade never felt quite right. In terms of timing up the mood of the music with the spirit of the environment upon release, Zay’s viscous sophomore Top Dawg Entertainment release always felt like a height of summer listen, not meant to be played as the cool of fall settles in. The Sun’s Tirade feels like a profoundly contemplative listen, like the sun itself beaming down and splitting us open so we can better face ourselves.

“My lyrics are like a beautiful accident all the time,” Rashad told Complex in 2016. “When something sounds cool, it’s like a wonderful coincidence.” He really should give himself more credit. The Sun’s Tirade is packed with vivid imagery and milky textures. The album is hot concrete on our feet, causing us to do that skipping dance into the shade, where we’ll inevitably miss the warmth. I missed the warmth when The Sun’s Tirade initially released, but what I did not miss was Isaiah Rashad’s ability to be self-effacing in the heat of it all. …

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DJBooth

Conversations about hip-hop music and culture.

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