Recent album releases leave rap fans excited
Albums released in November by Action Bronson, Vince Staples and Smino have given rap fans a lot to be excited about.
Queens rapper Ariyan Arslani, also known as Action Bronson, released his fourth studio album, “White Bronco,” Thursday, Nov. 1. Following his split from Atlantic Records earlier this year, “White Bronco” is first independently released album since 2011.
The 26-minute album kicks off with funky guitar and a laid-back beat over “Dr. Kimble.” I was surprised but not disappointed with Bronson’s Otis Redding sample on the track “Irishman Freestyle.” The songs “White Bronco” and “Prince Charming” feature dreamy melodies and jazz instrumentals that merge well with Bronson’s raspy, gangster rap style. Bronson dives into his newfound fixation on love in “Prince Charming,” but shortly reverts back to the normal topics he raps about – somewhat disappointing because he didn’t talk about anything new or lyrically important throughout the entire album.
One highlight features Knxledge’s soulful production in the song, “Picasso’s Ear.” These tracks flow together instrumentally, carrying a more contemporary jazz and soul theme with dense but simple energy that compliments Bronson’s style. The outro, however, reaches into a more electronic and futuristic vibe with trap-like beats on “Swerve on ’Em,” featuring A$AP Rocky.
Overall, the album’s production was a new and impressive approach for Bronson’s style, but the lyricism throughout “White Bronco” was ultimately underwhelming.
Vince Staples surprised fans with his unexpected release of “FM!” also on Thursday, Nov. 1. This album puts the listener into a radio simulation that conveys summer vibes in Long Beach, California. “FM!” is portrayed as an excerpt from Los Angeles radio personality Big Boy’s radio show, “Big Boy’s Neighborhood.”
Although this all seems light-hearted, Staples’ rap style has always expressed very dark lyrics alluding to street life, police brutality and injustice toward African Americans. Staples’ originality stems from his experimentally electronic and fast tempo beats that compliment his rhythm and dark lyricism.
“FM!” dives right into “Feels Like Summer,” depicting summer in Long Beach with a catchy hook and chorus featuring Ty Dolla $ign. Right off the bat, Staples raps: “Summertime in the LB wild, we gon party ‘til the sun or the guns come out,” immediately setting the tone for the song – and the album. A lot of the songs are catchy and noisy, which is something that Staples masters. In addition, it was a very nice surprise to hear rapper Earl Sweatshirt in his own 23-second interlude that gave Sweatshirt fans a glimpse of hope for an update on his highly-anticipated album.
The only problem that I had with this album was how short and open-ended it was, considering the last song, “Tweakin,” left me wanting more. I think the album itself is definitely satisfying for Staples fans. From the perspective of a big fan of Staples’ work, it was just what I was looking for, following his successful second debut album “Big Fish Theory” last spring.
A week following the release of these two albums brought the release of Chicago rapper Smino’s album, “NOIR.” Smino expresses a trip-hop and chill sound that compliments his unorthodox wordplay and laid-back, slinky vocals. His sound is complex and polyphonic, but appealable to a wide range of music tastes within hip-hop.
In terms of “NOIR,” I could definitely say that Smino has exponentially grown in terms of his flow. The vibe of this album is different from his 2017 release “blkswn” in that it’s not as warm and mellow. “NOIR” doesn’t follow a continuous theme, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The song “KRUSHED ICE” is very different from the rest of the album, not to mention from his style in general. The thick 808-driven beat carries his rhythm in a rather strange way, including a feature from rapper Valee.
As a whole, this album was ultimately underwhelming when compared with “blkswn.” Similar to movies, the sequel will never be as good as the original.