With the whole country facing winter chills, I thought I’d focus this playlist on some jawns to keep you warm: love songs.
Been a minute since last we heard from Q-Tip but damn if the wait wasn’t worth it. The Renaissance is a throwback to old ATCQ without being maudlin. With most of the production by ‘Tip, he shows himself mature and capable behind the boards. “Won’t Trade” deftly weaves a sample of “You Made a Believer Out of Me” by Ruby Andrews between ‘Tip’s raps about love and basketball. Two of my favorite subjects. And the rhymes? They don’t call him the abstract for nothing — as ever, ‘Tip keeps it vague and direct. “You” is a kiss-off to a lover that says so much with so little evidence.
Erykah Badu’s last album, Worldwide Underground, was artistically ambitious but financially a flop. Woman went into hiding and decided to come back harder. With New Amerykah 1, she reminds all the wannabees who is the Queen Bee. Playing on themes of ’70s disco, black power, jazz-funk fusion, and blacksploitation soundtracks, the LP is a sonic war call. Badu is looking for a revolution. Musical, political, or of the heart, it doesn’t seem to matter. “Honey,” the hidden track that closes the album, is a butter soft lullaby asking a lover to get serious. “So tell me Slim, what’s it gonna be?”
2008 really could be seen as the return of the neo soul artist. ‘Tip, Badu, and Raphael Saadiq. With The Way I See It Saadiq plays up his love of vintage 60’s style soul by flipping the script on contemporary R & B and recording an album that hearkens back to old Motown and Holland-Dozier-Holland jams. Even with guest vocalists like of Joss Stone, Stevie Wonder, and Jay-Z, the man is best on his own. On “Big Easy” he uses the hypnotic sounds of the Soul Rebels Brass Band to give his song about losing loved ones during Katrina a funky, uptempo feel, essentially pulling the rug out on the listener. When kids on the dancefloor really listen to the words, light bulbs will flicker.
Speaking of Jay-Z, seems since American Gangster he’s ready to show you how hungry he is. “Brooklyn (Go Hard)” comes from the soundtrack to the forthcoming biopic about Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G., and the former Def Jam CEO rocks it. Jumping out on some sinister drums with hipster flavor of the month Santogold, Mr. S-dot reps his borough, his ‘hood, and his boy.
Estelle’s Shine is as near perfect a debut album they come. The guests are big but never overbearing and when the girl’s on her own she’s as sweet as can be. “More than Friends” is all about taking it to the next level, about dropping all the insecurities in the hopes of finding something great.
Brooklyn’s Jose James and L.A.’s Flying Lotus are probably two of the most progressive artists recording right now. 2008 saw them respectively release The Dreamer and Los Angeles, two of this year’s most forward-looking albums. 2008 also saw the two collaborate on a track for James’ Park Bench People EP. “Visions of Violet” is a love song that mixes pop, jazz and electronic styles with James cooing sweet nothings in your eardrum.
Electronic music composer Milosh has the soul of a sad, lonely singer-songwriter. His latest, iii, is a haunting mix of glitchy and ambient tones mixed with emotive vocals.
And finally let the Reverend Al Green take you home. From his latest LP Lay it Down, produced by Questlove of The Legendary Roots crew, the track “Just for Me” is a reminder why almost everyone loves Al Green. The good reverend shows that it’s not just the ladies pleading for a little loving.
Something to think about during this cold season.
– Sandeep Chauhan hosts “The Late Shift” on CHLY Radio. This article was first posted on our social network, bobalicious.