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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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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The Breakdown: Malibu, by Anderson .Paak

 

Micah: I’ve been very excited about the release of this album for a while now. Like a lot of people, I discovered .Paak when he was featured all over Dr. Dre’s Compton. I fell in love with hiscollaboration with Knxwledge on “Suede”. He reminds me of a raspier, more prolific Frank Ocean-Andre 3000 hybrid who croons more than he raps. Malibu is warm, blissful, groove-dominated and smooth as hell. It’s enthralling the entire way with no filler and no sound out of place. I will be very surprised if this album does not make the top 10 for this year.

In Rotation: The Bird, Heart Don’t Stand a Chance, The Waters, The Season/Carry Me, Put Me Thru, Am I Wrong, Parking Lot, Room in Here, Come Down, The Dreamer

Henry: I picked up Cover Art a few years back off of Hellfyre Club’s bandcamp, and it’s been a pleasure watching Anderson .Paak come up since then. Pretty much everything the dude touches is fire. What strikes me most about Malibu is its timelessness. .Paak’s voice weaves through a spectrum of genres and periods to capture an aesthetic that is unmistakably Californian in its sunny optimism. Even in the dark places it manages to be bright, hot, gleaming like candy paint on a vintage low rider that has been kept alive since the mid-sixties with equal parts love and elbow grease. There’s something for everybody in Malibu.

In Rotation: The whole album. I think this project flows very well from start to finish, and should be listened to that way. I’ve pretty much had it on repeat since it dropped.

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Keepsake. Doors. Dudes & Guitars. A conversation with Shohei Kobayashi

There is a strange door in the soul which only opens in the presence of one voice and one guitar. It can be another instrument, but it’s usually a guitar. Usually acoustic. The door is old. Many have sat outside it, idly strumming, hoping one day it might open for them, too.

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American Exceptionalism is Boring: 2015 in film.

At the end of The Martian, Matt Damon’s stranded astronaut turned dapper professor gives an inspiringly light hearted speech to a group of young astronauts who are about to begin their training for the next manned mission to mars. He says something like this:

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