CD Reviews

Nostalgia, Ultra, ReturnOf4Eva and Family Sign

Progressive R&B

Frank Ultra Nostalgia, Ultra Self-Released


Although most are familiar with Cali collective Odd Future because of their aggressive rhymes, it may be the soothing sounds of singer/songwriter Christopher Francis Ocean that becomes the highlight of the group. Ocean, who has languished on Island Def Jam since 2009 as a songwriter for Justin Bieber, John Legend and Beyoncé, steps out as an artist with Nostalgia, Ultra and impresses with a brilliant collection of original tunes (“Lovecrimes”) and rehashes of Coldplay and MGMT (“Strawberry Swing” and “Electric Feel,” respectively). The title says it all, it’s a blast from the past presented in the future, and each and every moment is owned by Ocean. “American Wedding” rehashes The Eagles classic “Hotel California” and modernizes it with lyrics pertaining to the downfall of marriages in the United States. “Swim Good” stuns as Ocean weaves a brooding narrative that ends with the 23-year-old crashing his Lincoln Town Car into the Pacific Ocean. It’s the dawn of a new era with Ocean; the only drawback is that Def Jam has held him back for so long. ★★★★☆

Soulful Southern Hip-Hop

Big K.R.I.T. ReturnOf4Eva Self-Released


Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. burst on the hip-hop scene last year with his mixtape K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and went from being just another Southern rapper to one of the hottest prospects in the industry. After inking a deal with Island Def Jam and landing on the cover of XXL magazine as one of their lauded freshman of the year, K.R.I.T. releases ReturnOf4Eva to whet the appetites of those waiting for his major label debut to drop. If ReturnOf4Eva is any indication of what’s in store, it’s safe to say that a classic may be coming our way soon. Produced entirely by K.R.I.T., his latest project is a case study in artist evolution that is full of soul and lyrically potent. He shifts from being introspective (“The Vent”) to playing the ladies man (“Players Ballad”) effortlessly, while maintaining his Southern roots. In the end, ReturnOf4Eva is a listening experience that should not be missed. ★★★☆☆

Heavy-Hearted Emo Rap

Atmosphere Family Sign Rhymesayers


Indie champion Atmosphere have spent over a decade creating music that is a soul-bearing journey through the mind of Slug. A cult following has been built thanks to intensely personal narratives and an incredibly consistent discography. Their seventh album, Family Sign, peels back yet another layer of Slug. It focuses on the dynamic of relationships within a family. Whether these are Slug’s experiences or ones he concocted is unknown, but they’re a testament to the underrated MC’s undeniable ability to paint a picture with words. The production of Ant is a moody mix of guitars and dark keys, which fit that album’s aesthetic perfectly. Songs such as “The Last to Say” find Slug spinning a gut-wrenching tale of spousal abuse that is as chilling as it is powerful. “Your Name Here” re-creates the awkwardness of bumping into a friend-turned-enemy in stellar fashion. Although the content is heavy, Family Sign is unique in its execution and serves as a fiction diary set to music, as only Atmosphere can pull off. ★★★☆☆