CD Reviews

New York Hip-Hop

Torae Heart Failure (Internal Affairs Entertainment)


Both lyrical and grimy, Torae represents everything that New York hip-hop is supposed to be. But his latest release showcases a softer side of the MC. Set for a Valentine’s Day release, Heart Failure finds Tor kicking rhymes about relationships from a male perspective rather than putting on a lyrical exhibition. It’s because of this approach that this project might be his most widely accepted to date. Songs such as “Love Is War” find Torae peeling off a layer of toughness to explain to his lady that gaining trust can be a ridiculously difficult task for an artist. But the crown jewel on the album is the brilliant “Love You” and Torae professing his love for a special lady. In the end, Torae proves that it’s OK for even the toughest man to let his guard down on Valentine’s Day. ★★★★☆

Conscious Rap

Talib Kweli Gutter Rainbows (Blacksmith Music)


After Warner Bros. failed to promote the Reflection Eternal album to his liking, Talib Kweli has decided to offer his fans a treat with Gutter Rainbows—and he made sure that he personally promoted the hell out of it on every social media network around. The superlative lyricist does what he does best—provide social commentary over beats—and scores another one in the win column. The title track sees Kweli at his lyrical peak as he rips through rumbling bassline and daunting strings. Elsewhere, Kweli takes on the role of an ex-soldier who is disillusioned with life after war on the gloomy “Tater Tot.” The saxophone by Maurice Brown on “Self Savior” featuring Chace Infinite is easily the standout track here with its self-conscious and buttery smooth production. It may not be as great as his earlier work, but Kweli fans will be happy with this release. ★★★★☆

Chicago Juke Rap

Kid Sister Kiss, Kiss, Kiss (Self-Released)


Back in 2008, Chicago rapper Kid Sister released the party anthem “Pro Nails” alongside Kanye West and released her debut album, Ultraviolet, to favorable reviews before vanishing from the scene. But now the Chicago MC returns to inject another dosage of her brand of hip-hop party music fused with electro on the project Kiss, Kiss, Kiss. Those who are familiar with Kid Sister know exactly what to expect: a mixtape stuffed with music that can kick-start any house party. All that’s needed is a strobe light and a basement to get the full effect. Anyone familiar with the Chicago juke scene will be right at home when hearing songs such as “Work Them” and “Green Velvet,” which ooze of the house music for which the Windy City is known. Kid Sister effectively rides each beat without getting in the way of the album’s groove as evidenced on the closer “Jo-DE-Ci,” which flips Jodeci’s “Forever My Lady” before transitioning into a bouncy Juke jam. If it’s fun you’re looking for, Kid Sister has the correct dosage to for you. ★★★★☆

Suggested Next Read

Revealing A Life Shrouded in Secrecy

Book Jacket

Revealing A Life Shrouded in Secrecy

By M. Scott Krause

Kenneth Slawenski’s J.D. Salinger: A Life (Random House, $27) is a reverent and carefully researched biography of the celebrated author of The Catcher in the Rye, but after 400 pages I’m not sure I know much more about J.D. Salinger than when I started. If there’s anyone to blame for the book’s shortcomings, it’s Salinger himself, who spent close to 60 years of his life avoiding the spotlight.