Over the weekend, music fans had a lot to consume through their eardrums. Leading the swath of projects was a posthumous release by Prince, Piano & A Microphone 1983.
Rap fans got to experience releases from youthfully titled artists such as Young Dolph, Young Thug and YoungBoy Never Broke Again. For those with more distinguished taste within the genre, Lupe Fiasco came out of hiding to drop the impressive DROGAS WAVE.
However, the only releases competing with the resting Minnesota legend come from rock-fluid powerhouse The Neighbourhood and furiously rising rap collective BROCKHAMPTON.
The Neighbourhood have always claimed remaining relevant is the key to success for rock bands like themselves. Staying relevant in the music industry today means not being afraid of trying something different. The concept makes sense after the quick extended play Ever Changing. Rap features come one, come all — lead singer Jesse Rutherford gathered some of the best since the impeccable 2014 experiment #000000 & #FFFFFF.
The project begins with Florida’s conscious-hype rapper Denzel Curry lending a verse for “Kill Us All.” The bars demand attention over a boom-bap instrumental from guitarist Zach Abels and drummer Brandon Fried. Curry goes in with, “Futurama, I hope you’re ready to fry/You expect me to talk, I expect you to die.” Though a little harsh, the message is conveyed. Rutherford sprinkles some average vocals, but the focus is on Curry and the beat supporting him.
The record steps back from anger as Rutherford blesses us by significantly altering his voice to sound like 13-year-old Michael Jackson for a soulful chorus on “Livin’ In a Dream.” The smooth record has a depressing edge when Rutherford preaches, “Movin’ at a mile a minute/Set the pace, I’m goin’ over the limit/Always wondered what I’ve been missin’/The checkered flag doesn’t mean that you’re finished.”
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The chorus chants a deeper message of a dream world where everyone loves you and becomes far too relatable. If it weren’t for gritty Nipsey Hussle waltzing in with his Puma suedes, you might not stop daydreaming. The rapper brings you back to reality while Rutherford’s seamless autotuned vocals over a dreamy beat continue to provide a vibe.
Wu-Tang Clan’s arguably greatest member, Ghostface Killah is featured in a song with a rock band. It really is 2018. “Beat Take 1” is something only to be heard from a legendary vault of music. Dark guitar strokes drop before the legend spits his first feature in over two years. The rapper reminisces on fellow Wu-Tang member Ol’ Dirty Bastard and the success the group had before his drug overdose back in 2004. “Five stars, rockstars, laughing with Dirt/Me and Osiris, son, putting in work.”
Rutherford steps back into the edgy beat with one of his best rap verses on Ever Changing that takes notice of our society for what it should be, yet its reality takes its toll on all of us. “No cell phones would vibrate … All B-F-F’s in MySpace, all VVS, my top eight.”
“Paradise” is the lone track without a feature, giving Rutherford his first opportunity to belt vocals to his full capacity. Being paralyzed in paradise might be what sums up Rutherford’s whole experience in The Neighbourhood. “Cause you never feel enough, it never fills you up/And if lyin’ on an island is the closest that you’ll come/Then run, go ahead, have fun, run.”
Moving to the rap group that was grabbing headlines before they accumulated controversy, BROCKHAMPTON’s release of Iridescence wasn’t what most were expecting to say the least.
Most fans might have anticipated listening to hard hitting, mosh inspiring beats that make you go crazy in a given moment. After multiple play-throughs, the new direction should be appreciated. The vibe is more calm and collected, yet still produces numerous opportunities to “go hard.”
“WEIGHT” carries plenty of beat switches that keep you guessing what the song is even meant to do. Staying on your toes throughout forces you to listen to the variety of musicians and vocalists the large rap collective have on their bench. A voice similar to Siri on iPhones breaks through with roughly a minute left on the track to ask a metaphorical question before the toughest beat drop on the album.
“Do you want to start the game again?”
The group won’t be the same without their former frontman — an abuser who will never be named by this publication. But Kevin Abstract and company don’t need him to continue into greatness.