Single Review – Kendrick Lamar – The Heart Part 4

Kendrick Lamar is set to release another album (his fourth) this year and goes on to be a creative force, manufacturing an album’s worth of hard hitting, uncompromising yet musically fluid Rap and Hip Hop year after year. He has breathed new life into these genres as they grew stale with materialism and predictability as the last decade went on. His new single ‘The Heart Part 4’ still rings home those pin point social commentaries, but this single seems to have a greater personal dimension. He’s gone out of his way to make a point of some of his contemporaries and the most powerful person in the states in Donald Trump. Musically it has shades of the West Coast Rap of two decades with easy, softened beats and instrumentation, but in this case it is warped and hazy. This is played against a heavy, vibrating beat which whilst a little more typical of ‘Diss’ tracks, it does offer up a clear light and shade within the track with greater depth the end product. Lamar’s style is as slick and effortless as ever with any word rolled off with ease. This is certainly more abrasive and its personal in more ways that one, perhaps that makes people feel uncomfortable as a form of entertainment. The thing is with Lamar is that entertainment is a secondary aim. He has a message and whether it’s about the hollow nature of certain Rappers or the intense domestic and geo-political tensions surrounding his nation, you can guarantee Kendrick Lamar is rapping about it. Rapping about it with a style and sound that is easily accessible and more than an afterthought. That’s why he’s the best rapper in the world right now and why it doesn’t sound unusual to hear him say so.

Owen Riddle 

Sampha – Process Review 


Sampha is not just another producer turned musician. Sure, there’s plenty of them roaming about on this island, but the South London artist may well be the real deal. Having offered vocals for SBTRKT in 2011, he’s since worked with Drake, Kanye and most recently work extensively on Solange’s album last year, he has the CV like many of these producers do. What seems different about is Sampha is a real feel for songwriting and an ear for imaginative and innovative methods of delivering tracks. In many ways, there is little pressure on him; he’s already proved himself behind the scenes, but stepping into the centre of the stage is a bold move nonetheless. It seems like a move that Sampha will take in his stride though, for he is undeniably talented, more so than most of the people he’s worked with. So what does one of Britain’s brightest emerging talents have to offer?

‘Blood On Me’ was one of the lead singles in the lead up to the album and on the face of it, there’s not a great deal significant about it. With popping beats and drawn out piano chords, it is aesthetically not too different from SOHN’s work for example. What is different about this is that Sampha generates a greater flow to this sound and it is seamlessly tied to his vocals which are understated, yet still carry the song. He has an ability to generate a narrative too, with a tense content echoing around the track. Any gaps in the sound are often filled with even the smallest synth chord or sample and this attention to detail becomes much more noticeable across the whole track. ‘Kora Sings’ is a celebration of his roots in Sierra Leone. It is here that he demonstrates his versatility more directly. The instrumentation is made of several instricate riffs, tapping beats and shuffling percussion before opening out into a rhythmic track with a strong, sharp percussion. The swift change in tone is masterfully read by Sampha who gently alters his vocal between the soulful delivery of the verse and the hushed, distant sound of the chorus which engages in a call and response with his genuine vocals. A well throught out and balanced track which packs a kick without overstretching itself. 

‘Reverse Faults’ opens in a simple, minimalist way with deep, whirring beats, but these are slowly joined by a wonderfully arranged sample of falling, meandering beats and sounds which brilliantly serve as the rhythm section of the song. From here, the song goes on effortlessly to collapse into the chorus on a trap drop into a series of plunging beats that are tinged with distortion with repetitious popping beats above them. Throughout the shifts Sampha’s breathy tones are unmoved by the collage of sound around him. A coolly delivered track made from a masterful arrangement and instrumentation. ‘Incomplete Kisses’ is made up from of wiry and pitch shifted, resonant electronica with vibrating beats and glistening chords. Again, there is a hint of distortion at the edge of each heavy beat to give a greater impact to the sound without overwhelming it. He is also able to pull these sounds to leave just his more powerful vocals and some sparse piano chords. The ballad of the album comes in the form of ‘(No One Knows Me) Like My Piano’. Aptly, it is a piano ballad that is a personal track that reflects on his youth and his mothers death in 2015. His effortless, yet rich sounding vocals are on centre stage here with only a subtle addition to add more space to the track. ‘Plastic 100C’ a series of intricate sample of plucked strings Form the foundation for a much greater sound supplemented a rolling production. ‘Under’ makes use of vocal samples set around a slow, hip hop beat. 

With Process Sampha demonstrates his sublime talents as a producer and arranger. He’s also well rounded to produce clever and emotional lyrical content delivered with a mature and wonderfully simple vocal performance. His attention to detail in most areas adds so much to his songs as they run their course. He can do from a simple foundation, but can also turn this on its head by making the core sound of track complex and multi-layered too. It’s undoubtedly one of the highlights of this year and I can say this safely in February. 

Sampha – Process = 9/10 

Owen Riddle 

Kanye West – Life of Pablo Review

There is no greater enigma on this planet right now, than Kanye West. Recently he has been treading the fine line between genius and stupidity and I for one have no idea which side he’ll stumble. If this wasn’t a music review site I’d give the album 0 just for being exclusively on TIDAL. Such devices only serve to alienate and make music even less accessible. It is no solution for allowing fledging artists to flourish either as quite simply no one wants or needs to listen to TIDAL. It has been a well publicised flop. It almost seems that this album has became all bout saving TIDAL rather than being about Kanye himself. That is the real tragedy here as Kanye is at his best when he is self-indulgent. The complete improvisation of the finishing and release of this album is a little troubling and it feels like the fans have been the last priority in this saga. Nevertheless, comments on his debts and mental health should be left outside of any conversation about his album. Lets just hear Kanye.

‘FACTS’ is primarily a teasing of Drake and the song itself is not too dissimilar from him. With an opening of soulful and cinematic quality, the song quickly gets into the low beats and percussion samples. He boldly spouts “Yeezey Just Jumped Over Jumpman” as well as attacking Nike and running the 2020 election. Lyrically the track is full of recent relevancies and just sheer aloofness. His delivery ranges from more sustained half-notes and more rapid-fire deliveries. This song hints that Kendrick Lamar isn’t about to overshadow him yet and that Kanye still has it. Speaking of Lamar, he features on ‘No More Parties in L.A’. The track plays off the more casual style of Lamar against the louder, shouting style of West. Musically it is more evocative of West’s earlier work and that of Lamar last year with the use of smooth Jazz and Soul. Lyrically it deals with West’s disillusionment of the celebrity lifestyle of Los Angeles and the attitudes of other Rap stars in general. These are set against his own biographical accounts of the very celebrity lifestyle he complains about. ‘Real Friends’ features soft, muted synths and echoed beats. This brings the focus upon Kanye’s clear and isolated vocals and the lyrics they provide. It is a little more melodic and tuneful than other singles from the album, and offers up a change of pace from other tracks from the album.

’30 Hours’ is musically chilled with soft beats and rhythms along with warped backing vocals. This offers up a perfect foundation for West to fire off his lyrics with his typical meandering approach. ‘Waves’ with Chris Brown on lead vocals is stark in its lack of quality against the aforementioned tracks. Nothing makes it stand out from any other hip-hop inspired pop hit and there is no substance or flair to any of it. It just sounds like a Chris Brown track and there is nothing good about that. ‘Father Stretch my Hands’ from part 1 to 2 sees spaced out and pitch-shifted vocals at one end and sharp, chopping beats on the other which at the more garage end of hip hop. Tracks such as ‘Famous’ or ‘Highlights’ are a little lazy and unoriginal for Kanye’s standard and hint alternatively that Lamar is the more relevant artist for this generation. ‘Wolves’ temper this feeling amongst the core album tracks with shifts of imaginative instrumentation from rumbling beats to vocal instrumentation. The album on the whole is truly mixed. It is split between the brilliant and the mundane with some tracks acting as deadweight to accommodate some poor collaborations. It is still an album worth your attention, but Kanye, for all the talk could do better than this.

 

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo = 7.5/10

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995