Listens for the Week #3: Rina Sawayama, Big Pun, Blu
Updated: May 14
Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. Each one of these projects is excellent, and I recommend you try each one out. This week I've being enjoying a lot of classic hip hop, as well as some newer releases that deserve the spotlight.
Rina Sawayama - Hold the Girl (2022)
The new pop album from Rina Sawayama is better than I could have hoped for. It's an energetic and loud pop album with so much personality and colour. The singles for this album took some time to grow on me -- especially lead single, 'This Hell' -- but having gotten used to the direction Rina was taking this album, I went into Hold the Girl with the right expectations and came out satisfied. Rina has a phenomenal voice, using it to its fullest potential on each and every track. The production leans more towards dance music than her last release, SAWAYAMA, leading to so many catchy and powerful moments. While it may not be as eccentric and strange as what she has made before, Hold the Girl is still another consistent release and proves Sawayama is a driving force in modern pop music.
Big Pun - Capital Punishment (1998)
Capital Punishment is an album I was impressed by when I first heard it, but it's only recently that I've come to see why it is held in such high regard. It's a fantastic East Coast hip hop album, spanning twenty-four tracks but never dragging. Pun has such a smooth and confident delivery, utilising so many different flows which keep the tracks fresh and exciting. The boom bap production is fantastic, with enough variety to keep the track-list interesting and a host of features who work so well with Pun's style. A great example is 'Super Lyrical', where Pun and Black Thought go back and forth for the best verse. Capital Punishment is a melancholy listen as well, knowing the incredible potential Pun had, and that he passed away too young to use it long.
Something I Love
Blu - The Color Blu(e) (2021)
This is yet another hip hop album I enjoyed on first listen but didn't see the magic in until recently. The Color Blu(e) is such a charming and creative record, with Blu handling a range of different themes and ideas, exploring every meaning of the word 'blue' as each track uses different samples of the word. The concept of using all these different samples seems as though it would get monotonous for a whole album, but it never does. Blu is such an articulate and engaging lyricist, finding new ways to explore the meaning and keep the listener engaged as his writing is so full of ideas. The jazzy production is excellent as well, handled chiefly by friends of Blu, Sirplus and Exile.