Martini Rox: Top it off with musicWritten by Martini Rox | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There is always plenty of press about music released during the holiday season. This year, chart toppers like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Keyshia Cole add a unique sound to today’s musical melting pot. The aforementioned are enjoying well-deserved spotlights, but what about the less commercialized yet critically acclaimed releases? Listed below are a few of my choice music releases for this holiday season.
Kendrick Lamar, “good kid, m.A.A.d city”
The West Coast made a comeback this year when Kendrick Lamar released this summer’s radio mainstay single, “The Recipe.” Producer Dr. Dre transported listeners back to 1992 when slow, heavy bass-driven gangsta rap dominated the airwaves. Lamar’s lyrical prowess is laid-back but his quick flow is unique and familiar all at once, making him one of hip-hop’s most talked about newcomers. If you loved early OutKast and Goodie Mob, do yourself a favor and grab this hip-hop album with soul and a message. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see who Dr. Dre endorses next.
’Tis the season for mashups! “The Heist” is one of four collaboration/mashups (along with Murs & 9th Wonder “The Final Adventure,” Wu-Tang Clan & D-Block’s “WuBlock” and Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson’s “Dice Game”). I’m recommending it for the hip-hop lover who has every mainstream release, but appreciates musical substance and lyricism as opposed to hard-hitting beats with little content.
Seattle’s Macklemore & Ryan Lewis deliver on their second collaboration, “The Heist.” Macklemore is a beloved underground rapper on the West Coast and DJ Ryan Lewis is the multitalented visionary behind Macklemore’s music and videos. Standout hits include the singles “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love.” Socially conscious and entertaining, “The Heist” deserves to be snatched up this holiday.
The Weeknd, “Trilogy”
Canada has managed to give us some of the music industry’s biggest stars, like Drake and Justin Bieber, and now the R&B artist and producer The Weeknd. Releasing a three-disc album may seem a bit audacious for a relative newcomer, but after building a YouTube buzz and releasing three mixtapes in 2011, The Weeknd seems to be all about his business. Young, fresh, but not always suitable for work, “Trilogy” is contemporary R&B that consists of music from his previously released mixtapes and several new tracks. His voice is light with a clear tone and even though The Weeknd is all about the high life, the depth is in his sound and delivery.
Miguel, “Kaleidoscope Dream”
They say to save the best for last, but you can always tell an album is spectacular when the first single (“Adorn”) is also the first track. R&B’s Miguel does not disappoint as he gives his all on every sexy track on “Kaleidoscope Dream.” Much like on his first album “All I Want Is You” (which appeared on my music gift list in 2010), Miguel’s vocal ability and arrangements are as unique as his style, which is reminiscent of 1980s Prince. Not a copycat, but a chip off the musical influence block, “Kaleidoscope Dream” is sexy, fun and beautiful.
Elle Varner, “Perfectly Imperfect”
Another album with the first track (“Only Wanna Give It To You”) as the first single released. Exceeding my expectations from the start, “Perfectly Imperfect” fills the void in soul music offerings from African-American artists. It has been a while since an artist has achieved blending R&B, neo-soul and hip-hop into something that can be played on the adult contemporary, hip-hop and R&B stations. From the moment she hit the scene in late summer with “Refill,” Elle Varner has impressed R&B audiences with the soul in her voice and the innovation of her musical sound. A breath of fresh air that will leave you wanting more, “Perfectly Imperfect” is simply perfect.
As we continue on …