Blackbear – digital druglord

Let me start by saying that I have never listened to Blackbear before his new album digital druglord released on April 21st. The only reason I even bothered downloading it while I was scrolling through my Spotify’s New Releases section was because I’ve seen him pop up on my Twitter feed a few times because one of our old hosts (shoutout the Based Captin) is pretty into him and retweets him every so often. I can usually trust my fellow Drip hosts tastes in music so I gave him a shot, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Before we dive into the actual tunes, I need to mention a few things. I love Blackbear’s aesthetic. I don’t usually like it when artists try to be different with their grammar, but the lack of capitalization and the replacing you with the Myspace style ‘u’ works for this. It makes it feel like there’s something missing, like he rushed through it, but his music is also frantic and desperate, so it fits. I’m also a big fan of artists that can tie everything together. One look at his album art and you know what you’re getting yourself into: drugs and sex. He knows who he is and he doesn’t try to hide it, in fact, he almost makes it beautiful. Plus, if you look at the middle pill bottle on the album art, you can see the Utah Healthcare logo, so shoutout Blackbear for representing the best school this side of the Mississippi.

This is an album about addiction and emotion. It’s a roller coaster ride where you experience his ups and downs. He goes from hating his girl and thinking she’s ungrateful to hating himself and believing she’s too good for him. He brags about the drugs he does, then croons about the dangers of his habits. I love that he’s not afraid to show his emotions, his fear, and his straight savagery. He is all over the place. One hook goes, “I would wish you the best, but you already had it,” while on another he sings, “I know you don’t wanna be that girl that’s f*****g what’s his face.” Blackbear also pulls in some key features. Juicy J’s predictable flow completes the song ‘juicy sweatsuits,’ and the songs with 24hrs and Stalking Gia are two of the best on the album. If you’re looking for an R&B style voice similar to Ty Dolla $ign or PARTYNEXTDOOR but with a better flow and darker and deeper content, Blackbear is your guy.

The production on this record also takes some interesting turns. The album begins with a mellow piano beat that quickly transitions to your classic bass and snare heavy hip hop beat on the second track. There are some songs with a more EDM focused beats and others tapping into Drake’s pop style. The majority of the beats are slow and mellow, as his delivery, perfect for cruisin’ in the car or vibing by yourself.

This is a good album, but it’s not without its’ negatives: namely its’ length. At barely 30 minutes long, I don’t really feel like it’s completed. My other major gripe is that at times it starts to sound like a dirtier version of some of The Chainsmokers anthems. Those things aside, it’s definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re trying to get in your feelings.

Blackbear will be in Salt Lake City on June 3rd at The Complex.

Solange – A Seat at the Table

There are not many artists these days that have the audacity to attempt to create an LP that is expressive, expansive, and coherent. Even fewer are able to succeed in this endeavor. Solange does. A Seat at the Table, Solange’s third studio effort, is an album that has the potential to be a definitive art piece in the struggle of civil rights in the 21st century. This is her first project in 8 years and it’s okay if you’ve never heard the name Solange Knowles before. She has been living behind the incredible shadow of her sister, Beyoncé, for the vast majority of her career but here second album, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, and this more recent one are two very good reasons why she deserves her own reverence from the music industry. Disclaimer: this album is not Lemonade, and it is most certainly not trying to be Lemonade.

This album, like her sister’s newest work, is a celebration of blackness but that is where the similarities end. Even how these woman honor being black is completely different. Solange, rather than making an aggressive, almost militant declaration of freedom from the social constraints of traditional racial roles, takes a more earnest look at the state of black people in America today. Two songs that I felt really embodied her over-arching message on this album are “Interlude: Tina Taught Me” and “F.U.B.U.”. The first discusses a pride in being black and who you are and recognizes that just because you take pride in your culture, that does not mean that you are trying to disrespect someone else’s foundations. The latter discusses the rise in black culture and the potential of black people in the face of implicit bias and straight up racism that still exists in America today.

What really struck me about the tone of this album was the underlying sense of optimism and confidence in her people that Solange carries throughout this record. She seems to recognize the gains made by black people in the last 60 years but she never forgets that there is still a battle raging in this country for black peoples’ unalienable rights that very much needs to be fought.

A Seat at the Table will not go down as my favorite album of the year. It is a long 21 songs and her stripped down production is beautiful but after the first 30 minutes, I could use a change in tempo. On the positive end though, the transitions and interludes are fantastic, the production is definitely on point, and her message is clear and beautifully worded. I really enjoyed this album, especially the songs “Cranes in the Sky”, “Don’t Touch My Hair”, “F.U.B.U.”, and “Junie”. A powerful and elegant effort, I have to give Solange props on this album and those four songs will definitely be in my rotation for the next few months.

Score: 8.4/10

Banks – The Altar

The human mind is a curious and fascinating thing. It’s a labyrinth filled with thoughts and an endless stream of ideas. At times, it can seem difficult if not impossible to communicate these thoughts to others. However, that doesn’t seem to be an issue for singer Jillian Rose Banks, better known by her stage name Banks.

With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Banks often explores themes of relationships, love, and self-discovery. Her music is bare and raw as her lyrics are an open book to her mind. By her appearance, you wouldn’t expect her to be as honest as she is in her songs. Banks is usually very quiet and composed when giving interviews and her social media pages are run by her manager because she does not have much of an interest for it. While she tends to have more of a serious persona, she comes alive when performing her music. The Altar, the artist’s sophomore album, is an extensive look into Banks’ most private thoughts.

The Altar opens up with “Gemini Feed,” a song about one of Banks’ previous emotionally manipulative relationships. In it, she tells the story of how she deeply cared about a man who would always put her down and try to convince her that she needed him. Albeit genuinely loving him, she has grown strong and shows it by singing “And to think you would get me to the altar/Like I’d follow you around like a dog that needs water/But admit it, you just wanted me smaller/If you would’ve let me grow, you could’ve kept my love.”

“Judas” is a track dripping with heavy hip-hop influences. It features Banks’ signature disjointed coons as she unabashedly compares one of her ex’s to the Apostle Judas. Her vocals are dark and delicate as she recalls how her ex did her wrong. The song has a certain attitude to it as she points how well she is doing now without him.

Banks holds nothing back on this album. Unlike her first album Goddess, she comes in stronger and powerful. She no longer sounds like the girl lost in love, but rather an empowered woman who will no longer put up with nonsense. When she uses expletives in her songs, they’re not just there as random placeholders but rather a perfect representation of how she’s truly feeling. Although The Altar exemplifies Banks’ growth as a musical artist and person, nothing on this album really stands out to me. The whole album sounds a bit inconsistent. It is a mixture of very high energy songs oddly combined with soft ballad like melodies. While it is not my favorite album, I can respect Banks on her courage to be completely vulnerable to the public through her music.