The Breakdown: Blank Face, by Schoolboy Q


Henry: Blank Face is hard to read. Schoolboy Q’s latest release has me staring, trying to read its expression. The problem with being on TDE is that the Kendrick comparisons are inevitable, and although he still isn’t winning those, Q has clearly been in the classroom, honing his craft alongside some of the best rappers in the game right now. His vocal delivery here is solid, varied, laid back yet energetic, and complimented by a host of producers who maintain a steady energy throughout. What the album lacks is a clear statement. The series of videos released for Blank Face tell a story of Q getting caught up in a robbery with his homies, but the songs only loosely correspond to the narrative in the visuals. Given just the music, it’s hard to discern any particular focus. Maybe this unreadability is the meaning of the title, an inscrutable facade, empty as a blank page.  Then again, maybe I’m reading too far into it…

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The Breakdown: Still Brazy, by YG


Micah: I tried writing a review for this album in our typical format, but it didn’t work. It was difficult expressing how much I liked it while repeating myself on every song. Still Brazy needs to be addressed as a whole because the songs are incredibly similar to each other, but work together towards a single end. The album is straight up hard hitting West Coast gangster rap that combines glossy production with grimy and guttural raps. YG is menacing yet soft spoken, and his delivery is blunt. It is very clear what YG wants to say. He does not want you coming to where he’s from, he’d very much like to know who shot him, he thinks  American politicians and the justice system are against people like him, and to be honest, he’s probably right. Read more The Breakdown: Still Brazy, by YG

The Breakdown: Stranger to Stranger, by Paul Simon


Micah: Paul Simon is my favorite songwriter of all time. From his folk work with Art in the 60’s, to his singer-songwriter rock and roll in the 70’s, to his explorations into foreign rhythms and sounds in the 80’s, to his missteps in the 90’s, and to his rebirth in 2006, Paul Simon has set a new standard for longevity amongst his contemporaries, a list which includes Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Neil Young.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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