Because of the rise in popularity of streaming services over the past decade, album drops from our favorite artists have become extremely frequent. A new release is no longer as impactful as it once was because the next week, the music community moves onto the next wave of new records. We tend to overlook the details and magic of new works and often rush to move on to the next piece of music. Countless quality records fall through the crack; as such, in this article, I have highlighted three releases over the past decade that deserve to be revisited and celebrated.
Diaspora — GoldLink
“Diaspora” was my first introduction to GoldLink as an artist, and I was left thoroughly impressed.
The record features a diverse collection of tracks as its production varies from intense, hard-hitting beats like “Cokewhite” to light and bubbly melodies on tracks such as “Zulu Screams.”
The two R&B-influenced tracks — “Joke Ting,” featuring Ari PenSmith, and “Days Like This,” featuring Khalid — set a tone for the album, as they emulate inner-city life and the experiences that come with it. Through lyrical storytelling, the tracks perfectly depict GoldLink’s early childhood and relationships.
By contrast, the album also features songs that are energizing, starting with “Zulu Screams,” a classic club song that you can’t help but dance to because of its fast-paced rhythm and extremely prominent kicks. Maybe it’s because I was driving through Capri, Italy, when I first heard this album, but the song “More” emulates the feeling of driving through Italy in a convertible.
“Swoosh” is an immediate album standout. The song makes rapping seem easy as GoldLink casually — almost lazily — delivers his bars. His calm persona as he talks about his desire to become a legend in his home city of Washington, D.C., creates a song that makes you feel cool while listening to it.
The main criticism I have for this album is that GoldLink is occasionally overshadowed by the features on a few of the tracks. His rapping can sometimes sound too monotone compared to the artists being featured, and he fails to switch up his voice modulation over long periods.
Nevertheless, “Diaspora” remains an underrated hip-hop album that deserves more love from listeners.
“4:44” — Jay Z
Jay-Z’s “4:44” is a personal record that sees the hip-hop artist at the most vulnerable point in his career. The sample-driven beats paired with Jay’s introspective lyrics draw the listener in, as the rapper opens up about his private life and delves into intense themes of segregation, sexuality and infidelity.
In the album opener, “Kill Jay Z,” Jay peels back the layers of his ego. The artist appears to apologize for cheating on Beyoncé with the line “You almost went Eric Benét / Let the baddest girl in the world get away,” referring to Benét infamously cheating on actress Halle Berry in the early 2000s. Jay also refers to his longtime public feud with Kanye West, which saw the rapper skip West’s wedding.
The following track, “The Story of O.J.,” sees Jay rap powerfully about racial inequalities in America over a sample of Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” Jay claims that a Black man will always be perceived as less, whether rich or poor. The line “I’m not Black, I’m O.J.” refers to O.J. Simpson’s attitude after achieving commercial success. Instead of using his platform to speak out about racial injustices in America, Simpson tried to distance himself from the African American community at the time.
The track delves into topics such as financial freedom, as Jay gives his two cents on the importance of growing one’s wealth and investing it instead of buying materialistic goods. He urges African American communities to accumulate wealth and pass it on to the next generation to create a more equal America.
Gloria Carter, Jay’s mother who recently came out as gay, features on the track “Smile.” While most of the track sees the rapper flex his wealth over a beautiful sample, the end of the track contains a heartwarming poem narrated by Gloria about the importance of not being afraid and loving who you want because life is too short.
While the album may not have any mainstream hits, the mastery of the lyrics and unique production is a rarity in the industry today.
Call Me If You Get Lost — Tyler, the Creator
On “Call Me If You Get Lost,” Tyler, the Creator carries on the momentum he created with his previous two releases. While the project is not as focused as “Igor,” an album in which he beautifully connects each song to tell a story about love and heartbreak, it was arguably just as good.
In “Call Me If You Get Lost,” Tyler doesn’t try to narratively connect each song; instead he vividl creates a breathtaking utopian landscape through his selection of beats and sounds.
Throughout the album, Tyler perfectly displays his unique ability to balance features in his songs. The track “LEMONHEAD” was a personal highlight for me, with intense horns complimenting Tyler’s energy and 42 Dugg sounding the best he ever has. The track was also a reminder of why some underground artists need to start rapping over better-produced beats to advance their careers.
“WUSYANAME” was by far the most impressive track on the album — the angelic production coupled with Youngboy singing his heart out made it one of my favorites. “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE,” which spans nine minutes, is a classic Tyler track, as he fuses two songs into one. The track transitions from Brent Faiyaz’s smooth vocals to a reggae beat with a pitched-up Tyler and Fana Hues singing over each other. “JUGGERNAUT” is another standout track where Lil Uzi Vert and Pharrell Williams provide the album with a much-needed shot of energy before listeners enter the last league of the project.
Overall, this album yet again shows how much Tyler has grown as an artist. From his early days of “Goblin,” in which he adopted an edgy persona, to arguably being the most talented artist in the industry, Tyler has so much to be proud of. His rapping improved throughout the decade, and raw ideas that he unsuccessfully experimented with on earlier releases are now some of the most complex, well-thought-out beats. With his last three releases being almost perfect, this is an example of an artist who has found himself, and we, as listeners, should cherish it while he remains in his prime.
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