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  • Writer's pictureEvan

Listens for the Week #20: Lil Yachty, Sade, Gang Starr

Updated: May 14, 2023

Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. This week, I’ve been diving into Jay-Z’s catalogue, but in between projects I’ve made space for some exciting new releases and a few soul classics.

Something New

Lil Yachty – Let’s Start Here. (2023) [Psychedelic Rock]

Lil Yachty has always been full of ideas, and Let’s Start Here is his most daring and exciting release yet. He completely disregards the head-bopping trap sound he’s become known for in favour of a lush, densely-produced psychedelic rock experience. The instrumentation is so rich in detail but Yachty never feels drowned out in the sound, with his distinct vocal style standing out and adding a soothing quality to the album’s soundscape. From Diana Gordon to Steve Lacy, the guests littered throughout the project make it even more exciting and add strength to Yachty’s voice. For many people, the appeal of this album comes from the mere novelty of it – a trap artist turning to psych rock – but there is so much more to Let’s Start Here than the surprise that Yachty tried something new. The vocals are heartfelt, the writing is distinctly his, and the instrumentation supports him well. While his presence may sound jarring to some, I love his performance on the album, and he sounds surprisingly comfortable over such a different sound. His lyricism is profound on some songs and meandering on others, but it rarely distracts from the beauty of the music itself. Whether this is the start of a new chapter for Lil Yachty or merely a short detour, Let’s Start Here is a brilliant addition to his discography I will be returning to often.

Something Classic

Sade – Promise (1985) [Sophisti-Pop, Neo-Soul]

Aside from Love Deluxe, Sade’s catalogue doesn’t get half the praise it deserves. Promise is almost on the same level as their magnum opus. Sade Adu’s vocals are gorgeous as expected, with some of the strongest vocal performances of her career appearing on Promise. The cinematic crescendo of “Is It a Crime” – with Sade’s voice building with the rising horns – makes for an unforgettable opener which sets the tone for the album perfectly. The more accessible and catchy moments are delightful, with the choruses on “The Sweetest Taboo” and “Never as Good as the First Time” looping in my head hours after the album is finished. Instrumentally, the album sounds like a compromise between the ambience of Love Deluxe and the ‘80s pop glamour of Diamond Life, with a perfect balance of dramatic balladry and irresistible grooves. From the bass to the sax to the keyboards, all the instruments coalesce into a lavish haze of jazz and soul. This is one of the band’s most consistent efforts and its sound is timeless.

Something I Love

Gang Starr – Moment of Truth (1998) [Hip Hop]

There aren’t enough words to describe the excellence of Moment of Truth. On this album, Guru and DJ Premier perfected the sound of boom bap and cemented themselves as the greatest duo to ever grace hip hop. Premier’s production sounds almost mathematical with its neatly-chopped samples and ever-looping beats, but it never feels monotonous, with Guru and a host of exciting guests spitting animated verses which keep each song fresh. From Guru’s deep introspection on “Moment of Truth” to the hardcore explosion of MCs on “The Militia” and “B.I. vs Friendship”, the album explores so many styles and topics, but the constant boom bap influence keeps it cohesive and satisfying. From M.O.P. to Scarface to Inspectah Deck, there’s not a subpar guest verse to be heard, but it’s Guru himself who steals the show. Some call his delivery monotone, but I would describe it as focussed – he spits his wisdom with such clarity and confidence that he dominates any song, despite not exuding the most energy compared to the other MCs featured. With Guru’s bars and Preemo’s beats, Gang Starr were an unstoppable duo, and Moment of Truth will forever be their masterpiece.

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