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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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: 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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