The Breakdown, Damn. by Kendrick Lamar

Micah: It’s been two years since To Pimp a Butterfly dropped and expectations couldn’t be higher for Kendrick Lamar. In the six years he’s been releasing albums, he’s vaulted himself into the highest echelons of the rap game, and has made a strong case for the title of greatest rapper ever. He says it himself: “I feel like debating on who the greatest can stop it / I am legend”. While it felt premature to make such claims with the last album, if Damn. stands the test of time in the same way that Section.80, good kid, m.A.A.d city, and TPAB have, I’m confident he’ll make his way into my personal all-time top five. With more great albums under his belt than The Notorious B.I.G. and a more consistent opening run of albums than Nas, Jay-Z or Kanye West, you have to at the very least put him in the conversation.
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Micah’s Picks, King Kendrick Vol. 2

After untitled, unmastered dropped, I put out a collection of my favorite tracks in Kendrick’s discography. Since then, I’ve continued to dig into his work. Now that we’ve had the opportunity to fully digest it’s time for the second volume of King Kendrick, showcasing music from all eras of Kendrick’s discography leading up to the new album.
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The Breakdown, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ by Joey Bada$$

 

Joey Bada$$ has emerged as one of the the strongest voices in the current generation of hip hop. His seminal 1999 mixtape is a throwback to the golden-era of New York boom bap, channeled by the promising young rapper and his tight-knit Pro Era crew. While the other members showed some promise, after the death of Capital Steez it was clear that Joey would emerge as the most influential and successful out of the Pro Era camp.

His commercial debut, B4.DA.$$ capitalized on his hype and departed from his gritty throwback aesthetic, adopting elements of modern trap to create a new New York sound that hit just as hard as his early material while incorporating elements of southern rhythms and west coast production gloss. Joey’s flow and vocal performance also matured as he starting singing more and rapping more aggressively. It was proof that he is determined to create his own sound and not to drown in his influences. With this next album, I was curious to see if he would continue to carve out the lane he created for himself or to continue to mature and grow by developing new styles and approaches to his music.
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The Breakdown, Drunk by Thundercat

Micah: There is a Jazz/R&B renaissance happening on the West Coast and much of it is centered around Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder record label. Founded almost a decade ago, Brainfeeder has a lot of similarities to Peanut Butter Wolf’s legendary label, Stones Throw. They’re both independent and determined to push boundaries, taking chances on strange and experimental music that usually wouldn’t get backed. This approach has been incredibly fruitful for Brainfeeder. With a little help from his friends, including Thundercat, bandleader and saxophonist Kamasi Washington put out one of the best albums of 2015, and releases from other Brainfeeder signees The Gaslamp Killer, Jon Hopkins, Daedelus, and Lapalux have gotten a lot of attention.

Drunk is the latest album from Brainfeeder and it might be the best in Thundercat’s discography. Flying Lotus, who has played a huge part not only in putting Thundercat on, also has his hands in the creation of almost all of his music, shows up all over this new record. Whether he’s acting as an engineer, producer or mixer, the kinds of rhythms and changes found on Lotus’ You’re Dead have seeped into this album, and paired with Thundercat’s improved songwriting, singing, and one-of-a-kind basslines, making for a strange blend of heady and soulful.
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Beats from the Throne Age: A Conversation with Blacktop Megaphone

Andrew Saltzman isn’t slouching in his throne. In January, he released an instrumental album, Tape Lonely Boy, under his production alias, Blacktop Megaphone, and he hasn’t stopped there. February saw him spearheading a benefit project for Planned Parenthood–a series of singles put out by Throne Age, the label he co-founded with his brother (stage name: dug., who also released an instrumental tape in January). They aren’t slowing down, either. I caught up with Saltzman to talk tapes, beats, and the artist’s relationship with loneliness, and to get a taste of what Throne Age has in store for the rest of the year.

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2016, A Year In Review

Exactly one year ago, we launched The What, reviving our Lewis & Clark College KLC Radio show, in website form. Our goal at the start was simply to create an outlet for us to write and for you to read about music, pop culture, art, and whatever else we happen find compelling. There are, of course, countless websites doing essentially the same thing, all of us filling up the digital ethers with opinions, commentaries and counter-commentaries, words upon words upon words.

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The Breakdown: 4 Your Eyez Only, by J. Cole

I slept on J. Cole for a long time. I wasn’t bumping 2014 Forest Hills Drive when it came out and it took about six months of critical acclaim for me to realize that his music was undeniable. He’s not a complicated rapper, but his writing style is a demonstration of the value of being clear and direct. You know exactly what Cole is talking about when he raps. You don’t have to print out the lyrics and bust out a red sharpie, a dictionary and an encyclopedia (or more realistically, just check Rap Genius) to figure out what he’s trying to tell you. Cole makes it easy for his audience to understand his flaws and insecurities in the stories he tells.

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Hip-Hop is Not There

What does it take to turn culture to myth? How do we in 2016 enshrine a way of living, speaking, being? This year, The Get Down, on Netflix, and Atlanta, on FX, took on the ancient project of mythologizing, both looking at hip-hop episodically, through the lens of a television camera. But though the center of their focus is the same, their approaches are remarkable in their nearly diametric opposition to one another.

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