ARIZONA BABY // Kevin Abstract
It’s not hard to tell that Kevin Abstract is inspired by Tyler, The Creator. A friend once remarked that BROCKHAMPTON, the indie rap collective of which Abstract is the unofficial figurehead, is like “Odd Future if they went to college.” On Abstract’s ARIZONA BABY, a solo effort featuring contributions from various members of BROCKHAMPTON, Tyler’s influence on the indie rap scene remains evident. ARIZONA BABY is particularly reminiscent of Tyler’s Flower Boy; it’s a sweeter, sunnier project than his comparatively more aggressive discography, featuring loads of emotional vulnerability as it explores Abstract’s life as a gay man in the rap scene.
The production comes courtesy of Jack Antonoff: the most talented and relevant pop musician you’ve never heard of. His long resume includes work with Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and many more pop icons. In collaboration with Abstract, who (much like Tyler) insists on a hands-on approach to everything from songwriting to production, they make ARIZONA BABY an unpredictable, multi-dimensional, gold-lined collage of indie rock, R&B, hip-hop and more, promising to soundtrack many summer afternoons to come.
“Big Wheels” is a burst of lemonade-sweet electric guitar riffs, menacing trap synths and basslines, and saxophone improv (yes, really). What’s most impressive, however, isn’t how many styles crammed into the 96 seconds, but how naturally they seem to gel. “Peach,” a slow-jam ballad about semi-committal adolescent affection with a central guitar jam John Mayer would have been proud to invent, is a masterclass in catchy songwriting. “Georgia” is irresistibly bright and sun-shiney, featuring mellow electric piano chords and a wandering guitar melody laced with synth flourishes and pitched-up vocals. “Joyride,” an accurately titled track, begs to be blasted from a car’s stereo with the wind rushing in the windows. It feels like an Outkast song, which is not a comparison I just throw around.
ARIZONA BABY is highly personal, with Abstract showing vulnerability and maturity as he reflects on his adolescence, relationships, and depression, particularly as they relate to his experience as a gay man. This narrative is particularly compelling, as a mostly new perspective in hip-hop — not to discredit Tyler, The Creator.
Many of the songs on ARIZONA BABY have serious radio potential without compromising any of their originality or personality. This combined with Abstract’s fearless, earnest approach to his sexuality makes ARIZONA BABY poised to become a landmark album in establishing a more accepting, progressive culture in hip-hop. Abstract is here to be nothing short of wholly himself, and he sounds damn good doing it.
CrasH Talk // ScHoolboy Q
After exploring his most groovy sounds to date on Blank Face, ScHoolboy returned from a three-year album drought with CrasH Talk, an album that, while it hasn’t resounded with wide audiences as strongly as his other albums like Blank Face or Oxymoron, is still a project well worth the wait as a reflection of ScHoolboy’s perspective on the modern state of rap/trap.
On singles “Numb Numb Juice” and “CHopstix,” ScHoolboy established the sounds that we now see as pervasive through CrasH Talk, a style that Q has run with in the past on songs like “Gangsta” and “Collared Greens” off Oxymoron. While it’s hard to say that Groovy Q pulled off the sound as well in this most recent round of releases- Travis Scott’s feature on CHopstix is almost completely overpowering, and “Numb Numb Juice” just isn’t long enough to hold on to- it’s still good to get new music from ScHoolboy.
“Tales” is an early standout, along with “CrasH.” On each track, ScHoolboy Q talks about growing up and becoming a man in the crime-ridden streets of his youth, and what it takes to make it out of the city. On “Tales,” Q raps; “I could’ve went D1 but like, I wasn’t with it
My SATs and grades was high enough but I wasn’t with it / I couldn’t bring my dawgs with me so I wasn’t with it.”
Although the album is full of thought-provoking lyrics and trappy beats, there are several snoozers, including “Drunk,” featuring 6LACK, and “Dangerous,” featuring Kid CuDi. The featured artists would imply some more nuance within the tracks, but unfortunately, neither can keep the track afloat.
This is another solidly-produced album from ScHoolboy Q and the whole TDE team. Executive producer Boi-1da and multi-track producers DJ Dahi and Sounwave put together a project that, while it might not hit otherworldly streaming numbers like ScHoolboy’s other works have, it fits in with the rest of his discography, and confirms that his future albums are going to be just as hard as ones before.
Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats // Anger Management
Rico Nasty’s well-documented rise to fame in hip-hop communities has created a two-sided perspective on her rash delivery and aggressive flows. While verses like her feature on IDK’s “BAD NEWS,” was clever and bubbly, she just wasn’t able to continue that momentum on Anger Management, an album created in conjunction with Kenny Beats, who took to Twitter to explain the project’s meaning:
While the project may have been interesting in concept, Rico does little to make having a temper tantrum be a reason to listen to the 19-minute album, which isn’t effective in translating the three phases of a temper tantrum. While Kenny and Rico might see the project’s closing track, “Again,” as a calming meditation on earlier anger, Rico’s flow is just too similar to flows on openers “Cold,” and “Cheat Code.”
On each of these songs, it feels like Rico is airing out her most immature unhappiness. It’s like whatever she’s angry about on this project isn’t an honest reflection of her tantrums. An impressive aspect to the album is her constant willingness to attack Kenny Beats’ banging instrumentals, especially on the Jay-Z-sampling “Hatin,” which marks the best performance from both artists on the project. Rico’s flow is most clear and directed, and her lyrics are entertaining to frantically latch on to. “Yeah, I got bitches on my dick and I ain’t even got a dick
Yeah, I know I get ’em sick, I saw your nigga on my hip.”
While this follow-up to 2018’s Nasty wasn’t what many were looking for, it still captivated many fans’ attention and it does well to keep Rico Nasty on the map. Let’s just hope she reels it in a bit more in the future.
Others Releases This Past Week:
Hello Sunshine // Bruce Springsteen
Stop Snitchin // YG
Cellophane // FKA Twigs
Satellite // Two Door Cinema Club
Fishing for Fishies // King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
-The Sideline Sounds Staff