Welcome to The Rotation! Every week we drop a few albums that our writers have been bumping the most so that we can share our thoughts on stuff we might not get to review otherwise – Whether it be fresh drops, throwbacks, or underground gems.
Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers (Fresh)
You can’t talk hiphop right now without bringing up possibly the greatest artist of our generation. Kendrick Lamar’s new album might not be exactly what fans wanted, but its exactly what he – and the community – needed. Production is theatrical and light, often laced with pianos and progressions throughout every song. There are poppy moments as well, with Baby Keem’s influence shining through on some funny, catchy one liners. But Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers functions first and foremost as a therapy session in which Kendrick laments his fame, anointment as a savior in hiphop and black culture, infidelity, and tackles generational trauma and toxicity masterfully. This might not be the raw spitting and funk some expected, but the maturity and messages Kendrick displays are worth the wait.
Obongjayar – Some Nights I Dream of Doors (Fresh)
Best known for his hook work on Danny Brown’s uknowwhatI’msayin?, Obonjayar is one of the most unique and captivating acts in R&B today. While he has all of the sticky hooks and bellowing, commanding energy on the mic one could ask for, he also has such a cosmic, off kilter motif. Additionally, he blends smoother singing with a more stark, native African one masterfully; One could easily mistake this for a collab album with his seamless vocal range. The themes here, while occasionally tackling the standard R&B stuff, also take on a very vague and psychedelic vibe. This is a great entry point for Obonjayar which encapsulates everything that makes him such a great, unique act.
MF DOOM & Danger Mouse – The Mouse and The Mask (2005)
With the recent announcement of Black Thought and Danger Mouse’s impending collab album, this is a good chance to revisit some of his past production work. Alongside Gnarles Barkley, Danger Mouse’s work with MF DOOM – The Mouse & The Mask – is a standout in both discographies. DOOM’s raps on here are more punchline based than ever and bolstered by the Adult Swim marketing, giving him more absurd material than ever. Danger Mouse’s production, while firmly boombappy, traditional, and sample based, has a slightly modern and more polished feel than DOOM usually rides on. It makes for an unexpected, but absolutely classic listen that has us ready for Danger Mouse’s return.
G Herbo – Humble Beast (2017)
An absolutely essential artist of the 2010’s, G Herbo’s discography needs more love. Everybody acts like he fell off after Welcome to Fazoland, but he has remained consistent since. Humble Beast might be his next best project; Full of the straightforward, raw bangers that he helped to pioneer for Chicago drill, as well as his signature introspective cuts, this is just a well balanced project with major highlights and replayability. The softer soul samples mixed with such aggression make for a true Chicago listen and he shows off real maturity, versatility, and charisma.
J Stone – The Definition of Loyalty (2019)
With his new album The Definition of Sacrifice on the way, J Stone is an LA rapper who needs some more recognition. Best known as an affiliate of the late great Nipsey Hussle, J Stone is really carrying the torch. The Definition of Loyalty is notable for being a true love letter to west coast hiphop; With an absolutely stacked feature list and all of the G Funk staples one would expect (in the vein of Mozzy, YG, and Nipsey himself), it feels like he’s staking his claim to the throne. While he might not be the most technical MC, he is such a student of the game and carries a lot of wisdom and charisma.