The last 12 months has been inordinately heavy in this country, and so have my creative pursuits. It’s been hard to write anything for the love of it. It’s been hard to write anything at all. But that changes today! As many of you know, music is very important to me so I thought I would give you an impetus to listen to some music you wouldn’t otherwise. These are the 4 best (rap) albums of the first quarter of 2021. Remember, this is solely my opinion, which means that every take from here on out will be unequivocally accurate.
4. Edna (Deluxe)- Headie One : Headie One is one of the most exciting talents that the UK has to offer at the moment. He’s been steadily making inroads into the international market after an impressive run the last few years. Edna, his most anticipated release yet, has a Drake feature. Regardless of our feelings about Aubrey, the cosign is almost an instant profile boost for any artist. The Drake song is also one of the least impressive on this project. He also has a Future collaboration which is unheard of for a British act that 9/10 US fans are unfamiliar with right now. Songs with other British heavyweights Skepta, Stormzy, AJ Tracey, and Young Adz serve as highlights for this incredibly long album. The deluxe edition is 28 songs long, but it is actually an enjoyable hour and a half. The issue with me getting you to listen to this project is the usual, “I can’t listen to those London rappers, I can’t understand them”. Come on, man. It took you 3 months to understand what Young Thug said on “Lifestyle”. That’s not an actual thing. You listen to Bad Bunny and stopped paying attention in Spanish 1. You can do it. Good music is good music. Headie is making incredible hip-hop. Luxurious production and genuine storytelling that is both fun and heavy from song to song. Listen to it. Standout tracks: Try Me, Mainstream, Ain’t it Different, Hung Jury, Siberia, Zodiac.
3. Teen X: Relapsed — Ken Car$on: This is the best tape under 10 minutes long that you’ll here this year. I’m sneaking it in because it’s really an EP, but it’s noteworthy because of how cutting edge it is sonically. At first I couldn’t understand how this guy beats this good. Then I found out that he signed to 808 Mafia 5 years ago, and allegedly signed to Playboi Carti’s new label “Opium”. Each of these 5 songs is incredibly well produced. The majority of production comes from Outtatown & Starboy, and this project sounds like a slightly more conventional version of Whole Lotta Red. Playboi Carti’s third effort turned many fans away because of the unconventional vocal approach Carti chose to go with, but the production on that album is undeniably groundbreaking. If you didn’t like WLR, you will like Teen X, and if you don’t like Teen X, then you have a taste level issue that you need to address. High as Sh!t is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long time. Go listen. Standout tracks: High as Sh!t, Butterfly, Teen X Babe.
2. 1996 — Chester Watson: Watson is a former POW Recordings signee out of Florida with an easygoing delivery and whip smart wordplay. This is a perfect artist for fans of Earl Sweatshirt’s deadpan who may have been turned off by his choice of production as of late. Chester has been steadily putting out music over the last few years, but this project is the most polished product he’s released yet. Every song is executed perfectly, and it’s a perfect introduction to both him as a person and as an artist for new fans. There’s also a Danny Brown verse on the tape, which is a welcome surprise for those of us who will never get enough Danny Brown. It’s a standout song, but the one that will leave you speechless is Genies (dreamwalker) feat. Kent Loon. The production on that song in particular stopped me in my tracks. It changed my entire day as soon as i heard the drums on this. Watson will win fans on this effort, cementing himself in my eyes as one of the top upcoming talents to watch for 2021 and beyond. Go listen to this immediately. Standout tracks: Genies (dreamwalker), Grim Reaper Low Tops, Sunbeam.
- TYRON — Slowthai: This album very well might end up my album of the year. For those of you unfamiliar, Slowthai is one of the most electrifying talents to come out of England in the last 5 years. He also might be one of the only British rappers to be capable of making the jump across the pond to widespread notoriety in America. I don’t know if he makes the type of music to ever become a household name anywhere, but he does make incredibly well executed, genuine music that translates feeling as well as any I’ve heard going back to his debut album “Nothing Great about Britain”. His music is energy channelled perfectly into sonic form. His delivery changes from song to song depending on what he’s trying to get across, and all of it is done expertly. Slowthai is capable of making an impact in this country in part due to his alliance with A$AP Rocky and the AWGE Label, as well as collaborator Kenny Beats. People also complain about Slowthai’s accent, but once again, grow up. You are missing out on incredible music. The sky is the limit for Slowthai in terms of potential, as this album is leaps and bounds ahead of his last effort sonically. It’s split into two halves, with Side A being much more aggressive and Side B being much more reflective. That’s why it’s so impressive honestly. He slides from anger to tenderness effortlessly, and it’ll keep you hooked for 35 quick minutes. Go listen to it right now. Standout tracks: CANCELLED, focus, PLAY WITH FIRE, i tried.