Listens for the Week #13 & #14: SZA, Metro Boomin, Michael Jackson, Organized Konfusion, Da Cleaver
Updated: May 14
Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. However, since I missed last week's installment, this week I'll be providing two albums per category to give you a busy week for incredible music. The past fortnight, I've been trying to catch up on some 2022 albums for my year-end list, but between those listens I've made time for some classic hip hop and disco.
1. SZA - SOS (2022)
After a five year wait, SZA has finally made her return to music with a lengthy twenty-three track album. SOS shares a lot of similarities with SZA's previous album, Ctrl, with the same luscious production, unapologetic and personal lyricism, and strong vocal performances. Some tracks deviate from her typical sound, with elements of rock and pop injected here and there, but overall, it's just more quality SZA, and if you enjoyed Ctrl, I see no reason why you wouldn't like this album. Despite its consistency overall, SOS does feel lengthy. While there are gorgeous highlights like "Gone Girl" and "Good Days", between those moments are stretches of songs which, while good, did not resonate with me in the same way. Therefore, while SOS has its moments of grandeur, I don't think there are enough of them to justify such a length.
2. Metro Boomin - HEROES AND VILLAINS (2022)
Trap isn't a genre I listen to often, but nonetheless, I had high expectations for HEROES AND VILLAINS. While it isn't a perfect album, I'm happy to say I was not disappointed. The range of features - while nothing new for a trap album - all deliver, from Young Thug to Future to John Legend. Don Toliver and 21 Savage were the greatest highlights, flowing so comfortably over Metro's fusion of dark and melodic sounds. While Travis Scott played his part well, his performance was somewhat derivative, and left me wanting more. The opposite can be said for Don Toliver, whose music I'm usually not a fan of, but who blew me away with his fast-paced and energetic verses. But of course, without Metro's quality production, the album would be nowhere near as compelling. His use of heavy bass, bubbling synths, and other dark sounds fully immersed me in the world of the album.
1. Michael Jackson - Off the Wall (1979)
For a long time, I've been confident that Thriller was Michael Jackson's best album, but after my latest listen to Off the Wall, my mind is changed. The disco production on this album is phenomenal, with such groovy basslines, busy percussion, and strings which give the album a triumphant sound. Michael's singing is perfect, capturing so much passion for only ten tracks. Hits like "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" deserve all the recognition they get, but it's in the deep cuts where this album's quality truly shows. "Get on the Floor", "I Can't Help It", and "Burn This Disco Out" are all contenders for Michael's best song ever.
2. Organized Konfusion - Stress: The Extinction Agenda (1994)
Stress doesn't sound like the work of humans. Pharaohe Monch and Prince Po are a strong duo, with some of the most animated flows and charismatic deliveries I have ever heard in hip hop. Their sharp rhyming ability, coupled with the swiftness of their flows and the passion in their voices, culminates into a level of rapping that is simply too impressive to be of this world. Match that with the dark jazz rap production, and this is one of the greatest albums to ever grace hip hop.
Something I Love
1. Da Cleaver & Skip the Kid - Jewelz Infinite EP (2022)
This is one of my favourite EPs of 2022 and one that deserves far more appreciation. Da Cleaver is a ferocious MC who delivers on every verse here with slick flows and sharp wordplay. Skip, who usually thrives making dark and grimy beats, switches up his style here, offering a range of busy, futuristic sounds. The fluttering synths, crashing drums and bass all complement each other so well, creating a fresh soundscape unlike any other hip hop I've heard this year.
2. Black Le'more - Free in the Wild (2022)
This is a dark and gloomy hip hop album contrasted by an often animated rapping performance from Black Le'more. The production is understated, with slow tempos, gentle percussion and deep bass. The atmosphere the album creates makes for such a cohesive experience, though some tracks stand out more than others. The best track on the album is "FISSION", one of the more abrasive tracks with passionate verses and wild vocal inflections in the hook. The album has such a hypnotic sound, fully immersing the listener in the dark world of Free in the Wild.