Serious Klein Returns On “Boy Boy”

Serious Klein style of rap is electric—his Summer ’03 Problems project stayed in heavy rotation following its release back in 2016. Since then, the occasional singles have kept listeners interested and engaged in Klein’s trajectory. Ahead of his new project expected to drop this summer, Seri is back with new music. Teaming again with preferred producer Rascal, Klein drops off “Boy Boy,” a calling card and quintessential track from the German born rapper.

Klein’s multi-lingual, multi-national background gave him an incredibly broad exposure to musical styles; in various interviews he has highlighted artists ranging from 2Pac to Luther Vandross as stylistic influences. Cosigned by Mick JenkinsDenzel Curry, and The Underachievers, Seri’s eclectic and variable approaches have made each new release better than the last.

“Boy Boy” is a warning shot to everyone. Klein’s first verse catches listeners up with where he’s been, “burning down the scene, muma I been burning down stacks, Dubai with the team,” and builds into the hook, referring to himself with his favorite moniker: Seri the King. He doesn’t mince words, spazzing on the hook before launching into his second verse, a terse warning to “fugazi ass rappers” and their “counterfriends.”

“Boy Boy” is an typically sharp, direct Serious Klein track. Catchy, hard-hitting, and indefatigable, it’s hopefully a sign of things to come from the overseas rapper. Stream “Boy Boy” on Spotify below.

Don’t Miss Rejjie Snow’s Debut ‘Dear Annie’

Rejjie Snow finally brings his debut studio album to listeners. The long-awaited project is preceded by popular tapes such as Rejovich and The Moon & You, stellar and cohesive EPs that garnered the Dubliner a passionate following. Dear Annie is Snow’s attempt at something more expansive. The album is uniquely variable; outstanding production top to bottom allows Rejjie to experiment stylistically, lyrically, and conceptually. Features from superstar contemporaries including Jesse Boykins III, Cam O’bi, and Aminé underline what is an incredibly rich project that encompasses a number of powerfully relatable themes

Dear Annie is as much a letter from Rejjie to himself as it is to us. Raised in Ireland, Snow has spoken repeatedly on the struggles he faced. Snow continues to grapple with his personal and artistic identity. Songs like “Rainbows” and “Greatness” touch on being black, his influences, past, and future.

Romance is a particularly evocative theme across the album. Snow has a distinctly multi-dimensional perspective on love, and attacks it from a number of different directions. On “Mon Amor,” Rejjie joins Milena Leblanc over production from Lewis Ofman, delivering French vocals and two detached verses that speak to his addiction to pain of love: “Fuck love, its ugly.” “Spaceships” touches on lust and idealism. Perhaps the most eye catching track on the album, “Egyptian Luvr,” produced by Kaytranada and featuring Dana Williams and Aminé, is written about the last moments between lovers:

“Tomorrow isn’t promised and we learn this the hard way. The last moments with your lover. In this song I was […] telling my girl how much I love her and thanking her for this journey we rode.”

Rejjie brings a calculated emotional complexity to his album. Love is a beginning and ending point for this intricacy. Transient and ephemeral, love is tied closely to death on the album, influencing Snow and dictating what drives him. As powerful as love is to him, it’s also a catalyst for the growth of his emotional intelligence: “I hate love but in a crazy way,” he raps on “23”; later on “Désolé” he emphasizes “love is just a fucking sin.”

“My album has lots of different feelings if you care to listen to it. I wanted it to feel like you’re slowing dying and losing your mind throughout.”

From Rejovich to The Moon & You, it’s been difficult to pin down a distinct characterization of Snow’s style. Seemingly as adept a rapper as he is a singer, Snow has adopted different styles and approaches to his albums over the recent years. On Dear Annie, it is similarly difficult to pinpoint any one cadence as Snow’s trademark sound. The variety of producers on the album is mirrored by a dearth of features ranging in genre and style. Snow gives nod to collaborator Rahki for pushing himself out of his comfort zone on songs like “Annie.” The titular track combines a faster paced instrumental and resonant vocals from Jesse Boykins, bringing a looser style out of Rejjie distinct from much of his previous work.

Several tracks, however, rise above the others and demand individual attention. “Mon Amour,” “Room 27,” and “Désolé” all share production from Lewis Ofman, with instrumentals heavy on synths and organ that create an airy, dreamlike tone that contrasts Snow’s verses examining themes of, death, isolation, and more. “Room 27” makes direct reference to the infamous 27 Club, which, for Snow, represents a symptom of the personal difficulties that come with modern music. “Désolé” examines Rejjie’s personal relationship with love, regret, and insecurity.  This trio of tracks in many ways the most understated yet revelatory tracks on the album. They are stripped down and at the same incredibly complex, and all the more beautiful for it.

At the end, however, Rejjie reminds us that these feelings are just part of the human condition. Dear Annie does not pretend to be anything it is not: an eclectic mix of songs, emotions, styles, and intrigues. The album picks up pace towards the end, ushered out by  bouncy tracks including “LMFAO” and “Bye Polar,” reminders not to take yourself too seriously, and to enjoy all the good in life.

Take a moment to listen to Dear Annie on Spotify and keep an eye out for Snow’s tour dates below.

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IDK & Denzel Curry Team Up For “NO_WAVE”

Still hot from the release of IWASVERYBADMaryland’s IDK is hoping to make 2018 an even bigger year for himself. Dropping off “Hello Pt. 3” at the beginning of January, 2018 XXL Freshman candidate IDK also alluded to a new project currently in the works as a well as teasing an exciting link up with XXL alum and renegade rapper Denzel Curry. The two will join ASAP Ferg on tour this year, but it seems that they have been hitting the studio together ahead of the first show in February.

After a very public exchange on Twitter that built anticipation for the single, the two finally released “NO_WAVE” this morning, a crazy, piano-driven track that sees both feed off each other in an exciting and energetic collaboration.

IDK and Curry come together over production from Razjah, who also took the reigns on IDK’s “Baby Scale.” “NO_WAVE” is another warning shot from IDK, whose intent in 2018 becomes clearer with every bar. IDK fashions himself one step ahead, switching the wave up on people who just figured it out; he snaps at his critics and anyone who pretends to run in the same lane as him, bringing a nasty edge to his bars that we’ve heard from him before on projects like Subtrap.

Denzel comes in with a massive verse, catching IDK’s hook and running double time over the instrumental. Speaking with XXL, IDK says that Curry “fit the beat,” enabling both of them to relax and enjoy themselves. The Floridian brings his trademark verve to lines like,”For the new wave, I started it, like a durag when you open up the starter kit,” unleashing bar after bar until he allows IDK’s hook run the track out.

IDK spoke about the chemistry between himself and Denzel, noting that the song is not the only product of what appeared to be a productive studio session. There’s more to come from both this year, hopefully both together and independently.

Catch “NO_WAVE” on Soundcloud below.

Artist Interview // MIKNNA On Their Breakout Year

Coming to the end of their first headlining tour, Mike B. and Ken Nana are still full of energy and ideas. The duo, united under the neon-lit name MIKNNA, has had a landmark year since dropping their debut album 50/50 (Side A) back in 2016. Since the release, Mike and Ken have embarked on a tour sprawling from their hometown of Los Angeles all the way to Stockholm and Berlin.

In between international flights, the two have carved out enough studio time to cook up “Mona Lisa,” “Cues,” and “MPH,” all of which received major attention following their release as singles. Industrious and dedicated, Mike and Ken haven’t looked back since their chance encounter on the street brought them together in the studio. From the outside, MIKNNA comes off streamlined and natural. However, the duo faced a massive uphill challenge growing MIKNNA from the ground up. At its core, Mike, Ken, and their group of friends and family behind the curtain have grafted since coming together to define what MIKNNA means to them and what it should mean to listeners.

I caught up with Mike and Ken before their show in Berkeley to chat about what the path leading up to their solo headlining tour, what they’ve learned since hitting the road, and where their group is headed:

“We linked up two years ago. I came out of work for a break and Ken was just skating down the street. The chances were so random, and at the moment we were like ‘we need to get into the studio and do some work ASAP.'”

Ken and Mike found an instant chemistry after hitting the studio together. Ken found in Mike the type of complimentary and consistent vocalist he had long been looking for. In Ken, Mike was able to link up with a versatile and experienced producer whose musical style just as capable as solo work as it used underneath Mike’s vocals.  The difference, however, between linking up for a few songs and committing to each other as a duo is huge. Mike and Ken had their work cut out for them cultivating the chemistry and balance that MIKNNA boasted on its debut album. Ken emphasizes the importance they put on cementing this chemistry before anything else.

“Before we started making music we sat down and had a long conversation about our styles, our backgrounds, and what pushes us to make music. We really took that time to get to know each other and feel it out to find that balance.”

The time and work put into crafting MIKNNA shows through. As a group, they have an incredibly salient conceptual drive. From the music to videos to press photos, MIKNNA is a shadowy, neon-lit fusion of classic R&B and neo/electro-soul aesthetics. Outside of the group, Mike and Ken work with their team to create their collective Nana Lifestyle, another conceptually driven creative brand born out of the coming together of minds from different backgrounds and influences. As Ken describes, “the whole package” is evidently important to the entire team. Mike places a similar importance on connecting the minutiae of their work to the broader elements.

“A lot of it comes down to our taste level and what we want to do aesthetically and sonically—it all needs to be complimentary or it doesn’t work.”

The balance between Mike and Ken has racked them up millions of listens on leading singles such as “Trinity Ave” and “302,” as well as over half a million streams on their most recent release, “MPH.”  With the numbers to back them, Mike and Ken took the next step in translating their studio chops to the stage on their tour.

“You really have to be on your game all the time. There’s no lower gear you can be in when you’re performing, but it’s a challenge that helps to motivate. Really we just try to take it one day at a time. Work as a team trying to think about how we can just elevate and move forward. That’s the fun part! Figuring it out.”

On the stage in Berkeley, MIKNNA look as comfortable as anyone. Ken, vibing and stationary at his drum pad and mixer cuts a distinct silhouette opposite Mike, who bounces around the stage with verve and enthusiasm. Playing through 50/50 (Side A), MIKNNA boast the same intimacy live that their studio work benefits from. The duo make it a point to engage the audience, creating an atmosphere that buoyed and was buoyed by the performance. Mike and Ken are up on stage to enjoy themselves and their music over anything else. At one point even taking and audience request to play “Mona Lisa,” they both came off relaxed and positive, relishing the moment and how far they had come. With shows on November 29 and 30 in LA and San Diego respectively, MIKNNA look to finish off 2017 and their tour strongly.

“What’s next? Just working to finish up the next project and a lot of new music. Think of it like an evolution of everything that we’ve gone through over the last year, building and working out the kinks. And hopefully we can keep up with our consistency. We’ve been grinding, but consistency keeps us all on the same page so everything can keep moving. We’re excited.”

Coyly describing the upcoming project, Mike and Ken can’t seem to stay away from the word “fun.” Mike characterizes their work as a “sonic vacation.” At their most simple, the musicians behind MIKNNA are music fans. Their technique and style helped them cultivate a unique and eye-catching sound, but it’s also an entertaining endeavor for two super musicians. Evolution, coalescence, fusion—however you characterize MIKNNA, what is undeniable is the pure enjoyment that drives the group. From top to bottom, the MIKNNA team’s appreciation for and ability in their trade is evident on stage or over headphones.

2018 looks set to be a big year for MIKNNA. Before then, catch MIKNNA’s closing shows in Los Angeles and San Diego here, and revisit 50/50 (Side A) below.

Stefan Ponce Picks Up Speed Ahead Of Upcoming Album

Whether or not they are aware, most people have heard Stefan Ponce‘s prolific influence as a producer and composer within the last few years. As a Grammy-nominated collaborator with fellow Chicagoans Vic Mensa, BBU, and Chance the Rapper, Ponce has also added his touch on releases by Logic and Childish Gambino over the last four years alone. Stefan’s understated musical nous has allowed other artists to flourish with his aid. Now, the Chicagoan finally steps into the spotlight in preparation for his debut studio album releasing two star-studded tracks that promise only good things for The Boy Who Fell From Earth

Ponce’s first release hit the internet back at the tail end of August. “Super Star,” a bouncy and vibe heavy joint to close out the summer season featured theMINDJulian BellMicah Freeman, and KYLE. “Super Star” is a testament to three things. First, the groovy track shows Ponce’s potential to be a key member of the new school funk revival. Second, “Super Star” demonstrates not only Ponce’s connections in the music industry, but also warrants the respect he commands given his ability recruit and connect the right personnel for the benefit of the song. Finally, Stefan showcases the dimension to his trade, piecing together themes of love, infatuation, and idealism in a coherent and catchy single.

Early October saw Ponce’s most recent release, “For A Girl,” featuring Rejjie SnowMoxie Raia, and the returning Julian Bell. “For A Girl” is more withdrawn than “Super Star,” and spanning give and take between the four. Building buzz for The Boy Who Fell From Earth, “For A Girl” revisits themes of love and self-discovery. Ponce described the process by which the song came to life as more hands off, with Rejjie Snow bringing many of the threads to the forefront.

While there is still no firm deadline for The Boy Who Fell From Earth, it can be expected within the coming few months. Don’t sleep on what could be a potential classic.

Little Simz Hops On Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s “Bombo Fabrika” Remix

A collaboration that few saw coming but all will relish, London’s Little Simz and Brooklyn’s Gabriel Garzón-Montano linked up on a remix of “Bombo Fabrika,” originally a centerpiece of Montano’s 2017 Jardín. An eclectic pair, Gabriel and Simbi linked up at a festival in Japan and began to cook up the collaboration. With styles that many wouldn’t put together right away, the two fit seamlessly with Simz adding her verve to the dazed instrumental that Montano cooked up.

Per Stones Throw Records, Montano and Simz were blown away by each other after both headlining at Taicoclub 2017. The two are as similar as they are dissimilar. Their quality in the studio is matched by a commanding stage presence and incredible live chops. Both boast a masterful musical IQ that speaks through their projects in different ways. Garzón’s work is immaculate and poised, created with a succinct simplicity that is implicit of his innate understanding of music composition. In comparison, Simz’s strength is her lyrical dexterity. She knows her way around instrumentals as well as any other MC, which allows her to incorporate herself into the track uniquely, and create the raw sound that made projects like Stillness in Wonderland so popular.

The combination of Simz and Montano on the track is potent. The swelling instrumental builds around Simz, who adds her own voice to the background at the end of her first verse. Simbi brings the heat she has become known for, gleefully creating complex lyrical schemes to the subtle rework of “Bombo Fabrika.” The duo merge their voices into one at the tail end, layering Simz’s “ain’t so pretty as it seems” refrain over Montano’s original vocals. The two combine in a way that few other artists can; whether it is due to their stylistic similarities or differences, the raw art of the piece cannot be understated.

The rare quality of the collaboration would could trick listeners into believing the duo have worked extensively with each other in the past. We can only hope that, as Montano promises, he and Simz aren’t done working together. Tune in to the “Bombo Fabrika” remix below.

Watch Jaden Smith’s Stylish Trailer For New Album

Jaden Smith continues to blossom at the tender age of 19. Already tested musically with the release of This Is The Album, the young artist has tried his hand in modeling, design, acting, television production, and entrepreneurship, seemingly going from strength to strength. Following the recent releases of singles “Batman” and “Watch Me,” Jaden and Ezra Koenig’s Netflix original Neo Yokio hit platforms, proving to be a surprisingly self-aware and tongue-in-cheek series that already has the shape of a cult classic. Back on the musical side of life, Smith recently dropped off a six-minute preview for his upcoming album, Syre, a vignette-style trailer that reads about as stylish as the man himself.

The trailer previews songs including “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” “Icon,” and “George Jefferson,” presenting an interesting spectrum of bop-heavy tracks, melodic musings, and introspective pieces. “Fallen,” released just under a year ago, will feature on Syre and features a noteworthy Kid Cudi cosign. “Batman” and “Watch Me” also appear on the tracklist. Three attention-grabbing tracks, these singles will bracket Jaden’s new work.

A short three weeks out from the release date, the album looks to be a comprehensive and self-analytical offering a la Tyler, The Creator’s Scum Fuck, Flower Boy, on which Jaden featured, delivering an underrated hook on “Pothole.” Two of the most young creative forces around at the moment, Jaden and Tyler among the best when it comes to bringing concept to life; the exchange of ideas and continued collaboration between the two bodes well for Jaden’s album just as it did for Tyler’s.

Knowing the middle Smith child, the project will be fiercely Jaden Smith. He has successfully shaken off the shackles of “Will Smith’s son” and continues to grow into his larger-than-life persona.

Stream the trailer for Syre below and look out for the full album on November 17.

Chuck II Drops Off “Murder Scene”

Chuck II continues to slowly but surely add his voice to a Bay Area music scene that is dripping with talent. While this influx of exciting artists means only good things for the future, it has created healthy competition to reach airwaves. Many fail to set themselves apart. Deuce is not one of them. Since his smash hit “Wass Hannin‘” dropped, Chuck’s voice and style has racked him thousands of listeners on Soundcloud alone. His latest release, “Murder Scene,” proves that he has more to offer listeners beyond what he brought on “Was Hannin’.”

“Murder Scene” features hard hitting production from No Luck, which hints back to the classic hyphy vibes that Deuce connected with on “Wass Hannin.'” Chuck thrives on his ability to bring his relaxed, new school flows over more nostalgic instrumentals without losing any punch in his bars. “Murder Scene” sets a pace from the start, knocking heavy up to the bridge that Chuck delivers with a composed determination and confidence. Linking up with W&V, Deuce described how he tries to lay himself out on in his bars.

“I started letting words out and it turned into me simultaneously flaunting and accepting my ego with the bravado of mob boss.”

The role that “Murder Scene” plays in a greater context will be fleshed out more when Chuck drops his full album. For now, sit back and bounce with Chuck’s laid back swagger that belies his young career.

IDK’s ‘IWASVERYBAD’ Exceeds The Hype

IDK recently culminated years of stellar mixtapes with his first major studio album, IWASVERYBAD. Never one to sugarcoat his story, IDK uses the album to reveal even more about himself than ever before. Backed by Adult Swim, the rapper finally had the support and resources to fully integrate the highly conceptual audio-visual experience he has incorporated into all of his projects. IDK’s talent on the mic and as a crafter of narrative is bolstered by an all-star supporting cast of DoomYung GleeshChief KeefSwizz Beatz, and more. The execution is immaculate. From his “episodic” releases of songs to the very content of the album, IWASVERYBAD is a reflection of the immense talent that is IDK.

IDK opens the album with “Mrs. Lynch, Your Son Is The Devil,” a self-analytic joint that opens with phone calls to his mother from teachers, community leaders, and police officers warning her that her son is a menace to society. The song follows suit, with IDK putting himself, his actions, and his drives in the spotlight. This type of gritty, stripped down tone is what drew listeners to IDK on his previous projects Subtrap and The Empty Bank, projects on which Jay turned his critical eye on the state of society, hip hop, and more. On IWASVERYBAD, it’s his turn on under the microscope. IDK raps “I’m trying to right my wrongs, but I’m sorry the same wrongs helped me write these songs.” This complex perspective is central to IDK’s message, which he took to social media to explain in more depth.

“Most people lie about their past or make up stories to look like someone they ain’t…this story is the truth. The good the bad and the in between. From the dumb s**t I did trying to be cool and even the way I treated women including my own mom. This is the soundtrack to my life and what makes me who I am today. I hope you can feel this shit the way I did.”

IDK dives right back into this with “Pizza Shop Extended,” the story of his forays into gang life as told by himself, Doom, Yung Gleesh, and Del the Funky Homosapien. Yet another track where IDK pulls no punches, “Pizza Shop” examines why Jay took the path he did, his choices, regrets, and what he continues to learn from the experience. The overwhelming realism of the track is in no means a glorification of the violence – rather, IDK presents the facts as they are, not excusing himself but not turning a blind eye either.

This is the a driving theme of the album. Put best by the man himself, IWASVERYBAD is “soundtrack to my life and what makes me who I am today.” IDK writes himself into the album, which is as strong overall as it is song to song. As introspective and conceptually impressive as the album is, it’s also full of bangers top to bottom. IDK enlists Chief Keef on “17 Wit a 38,” but also shows he can do it by himself tracks like “Windows Up,” and the groovy hit “Birds & the Bees.” IDK is a master of variety. Each track on the album feels like it has its own purpose, as well as a function within the larger context of the album. The result is an incredibly cohesive album that is also noteworthy on the individual level as well.

IDK goes crazy on IWASVERYBAD. The album is an reintroduction to a rapper we thought we already knew and the quintessential example of how to bring a concept in to reality. Tune in on Spotify below.

Caleborate Lays Himself Bare On “Real Person”

Berkeley’s favorite son Caleborate has worked hard to put the city on over the last few years, dropping projects such as Hella Good and 1993 showcasing his ability on the mic and paying homage to his roots and supporters. Both projects looked toward the future as Caleb continues to build himself and grow into the Bay music scene overflowing with talent.

Caleborate’s latest release, Real Person, is a major departure from the previous two projects. Where Hella Good and 1993 offered hints of Caleb’s ability to wax introspective, Real Person is a project completely centered around authenticity and candor. His ability to lay himself bare over the track does not come at the cost of any content and results in his most comprehensive project to date.

Real Person sheds the ornaments that adorn the current wave of hip-hop. The project carries few features apart from 1-O.A.K.Donte Thomas, and MVCK, as well as guest vocals from Alexis Angulo. The instrumentals are laid back and cohesive, dropping multiple vocals layers and samples in favor of a more simplistic approach. It works. Real Person focuses on the essentials of production and songwriting, allowing Caleborate’s voice to reverberate throughout.

This would not be possible without the quality Caleb brings to his bars. He pens a eulogy for himself over fantastic production from names such as Lege Kale, Ian McKee, Willem ArduiDrew Banga, and a few others. Caleborate’s familiarity with his producers is another driving force of the project. Their ability to translate their visions into reality sustain what would be a daunting concept in others’ hands.

Caleborate talks living, legacy, mental state, drive, ambition and more on the project, even tackling the complexities of current politics on “Down.” Caleborate fleshes out the roots of his ambitions and traces his trajectory all the way back to his parent’s divorce on the standout track “Wanna Be.” His phenomenal singles “Soul” and “Bankrobber” also make an appearance on the project.

Real Person is a story of life, obstacles, anxieties and dreams. The multiplicity of topics that Caleb tackles over the course of the 10-track album coalesce into one concept: the real person. Caleborate strips himself down to create music on a human level that reflects the humility that has endeared him to so many fans.

Caleborate continues to push forward, already releasing visual content and hosting listening parties to celebrate the new project. Let him take you away with Real Person on SoundCloud below.