The Breakdown: Coloring Book, by Chance the Rapper

Micah: I have been waiting for this album for a long time. Acid Rap came out three years ago, and Surf felt more like a Social Experiment album featuring Chance than the other way around. I’ve been missing that positive, bouncy, gospel-tinged raps from the fiercely independent Chance the Rapper. Since he got on the map, Chance has reinvested his momentum back into the musicians that helped him create his music, the city he lived in, and his sonic foundation.

Read more The Breakdown: Coloring Book, by Chance the Rapper

The Breakdown: The Colour in Anything, by James Blake


Henry: I haven’t listened to much James Blake to be honest, though I’ve heard his music around and generally liked it. That being said, I have to be in a certain kind of mood to listen to him. His slow, atmospheric style has a kind of pensive melancholy to it, which can either be nice or sorta depressing. I do like how smooth this whole album is, almost entirely devoid of sharp, high frequencies, save for rim-shot snares and crisp hi-hats here and there, which cut through the swelling harmonies to carry this thing along.

Read more The Breakdown: The Colour in Anything, by James Blake

Things We Did Ask For: A Conversation with Doc ILLingsworth


“I didn’t ask for this!” growls a hysterical Andrew Lincoln in a monologue sampled on the intro of Doc ILLingsworth’s latest release, which takes its name from the line in question. In the original context, Lincoln plays Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead. The lines are from a pivotal scene where he outright takes control of the group of survivors. “Let’s get one thing straight,” he says, his tone now grim. “You’re staying? This isn’t a democracy anymore.”

Read more Things We Did Ask For: A Conversation with Doc ILLingsworth

The Breakdown: Views, by Drake

Micah: I used to hate Drake. A lot. I’m a total bandwagon Drake fan. I used to hate Drake in the same way I hated Lil’ Wayne when he was in everyone’s face ten years ago. At the time Wayne was dropping endless mixtapes and features and it was way too much for me. Later when I heard he had signed a Canadian singer who was writing for him and making songs like “The Motto” I was not stoked.

Read more The Breakdown: Views, by Drake

The Breakdown: The Diary by J Dilla

Henry: It’s tough working with a dead person’s art. How can we know if we’ve stayed true to their vision? The obvious answer is that, well, we can’t. Posthumous releases will necessarily be a projection of what we thought the artist would have wanted, and the degree of the projection depends on the completeness of the work as it has been left to us, and the extent to which the creator gave instructions for how they wanted their legacy to be fulfilled.

Read more The Breakdown: The Diary by J Dilla

Wandering through the Garden: A Conversation with Matt Takiff


Talking to Matt Takiff, you get the feeling that every word he says is true, or is a truth, or is not a lie, even if he made it up. The difference between those three things is subtle, but that difference lies at the heart of good songwriting, which could also be called something like emotional honesty.

Read more Wandering through the Garden: A Conversation with Matt Takiff

The Breakdown: Velvet Portraits, by Terrace Martin

Henry: There’s a distinct personality in the tone of every great horn player, a character that comes not from the instrument but from the sheer physicality of the embouchure, the strength of the lungs and the lips and the patterns that the fingers come to know. Timbre is derived in a very literal way from the body, such that when played correctly, the horn transcends its status as instrument to become voice itself.

Read more The Breakdown: Velvet Portraits, by Terrace Martin

The Breakdown: Untitled Unmastered, by Kendrick Lamar

Micah: Out of nowhere, Kendrick Lamar dropped a collection of tracks that fell to the cutting room floor while work was being done on To Pimp a Butterfly. Allegedly Lebron James had something to do with motivating Top Dawg to put this out. If that is the case, then I cannot thank Lebron enough. Kendrick is arguably the best rapper doing it right now and anything he releases deserves a listen. Let’s go.

Henry: The fact that this collection of outtakes plays better than most rappers feature LPs speaks to Kendrick’s talents as a musician, but even more to his talents as an editor. Making the decision to cut these admittedly good songs from the final album in the interests of creating a tighter, more narratively cohesive piece is impressive, and indicates a level of intentionality that is seems to get overlooked all too often.

 

Read more The Breakdown: Untitled Unmastered, by Kendrick Lamar

The Breakdown: In My Mind, by BJ the Chicago Kid

Micah: BJ The Chicago Kid has been on my radar for a while now, and I have been eagerly awaiting this release. It’s not often that you seen a modern artist releasing under the Motown label and collaborating with the likes of Kendrick, Anderson .Paak and Bilal. I don’t know what it is about 2016, but everybody is feeling the gospel spirit, and I’m so into it. Please keep it coming.

Henry: Agreed. I love just about every feature I’ve ever heard BJ do, and I liked Pineapple Now and Laters quite a bit. In My Mind seems like more of a throwback, perhaps inspired by the recent work of some of the collaborators you mentioned. Let’s get into the album.

Read more The Breakdown: In My Mind, by BJ the Chicago Kid

The Breakdown: The Life of Pablo, by Kanye West

Micah: There’s a lot being said about this album and the marketing surrounding it. Let’s just focus on the music.

Henry: I agree, although part of Ye’s aesthetic is, I think, that he demands us to consider his entire persona as a sort of addendum to his music, which is somewhere between a theme and a marketing strategy that has become more pronounced with each successive album. I’ll also say that I’ve liked each successive album less than the last one, until now. But enough generalizing. let’s get into it.

Read more The Breakdown: The Life of Pablo, by Kanye West