CD Reviews

Soul Music

Frank Ocean Channel Orange (Def Jam)

Forget that Frank Ocean is one of the first R&B singers to come out as a bisexual man at the peak of his career. That’s secondary to the artistic brilliance of his full-length debut, Channel Orange. The 24-year-old is mature beyond his years musically. He keeps his subject matter current and downright bold with the drug-addiction struggles of “Pilot Jones” and the Prince-influenced taxicab confessional, “Bad Religion.” Even with the lyrical radiance of usual show-stealer Andre 3000 on “Pink Matter,” it’s Ocean’s vocal talent and ability to think outside of the box that deserve a standing ovation. He’s crafted an instant classic that will force his peers to reconsider their approach to music. ★★★★☆

New York Hip-Hop

Nas Life Is Good (Def Jam)

With Kelis’ green wedding dress draped over Nas’ knee on the album cover of Life Is Good, it’s apparent that he views life through a different lens. As evidenced on “Daughters,” Nas displays maturity and an understanding that he’s no longer the 20-year-old kicking rhymes on Illmatic. Don’t get it confused, his poetry still dwarfs 90 percent of the industry as he whirls lyrical imagery on “Loco-Motive” and thumps the streets with the bass-heavy “The Don.” However, it’s his reminiscing on his failed marriage on “Bye Baby” that allows us to see Nas at his most vulnerable. Unlike most rappers, Nas isn’t afraid to say he’s grown up. ★★★☆☆

What We’re Buying

1. Nas, Life is Good
2. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
3. Baroness, Yellow & Green
4. Hellyeah, Band of Brothers
5. Pierce the Veil, Collide With the Sky
6. Old Crow Medicine Show, Carry Me Back
7. Aesop Rock, Skelethon
8. Jimmy Cliff, Rebirth
9. Smashing Pumpkins, Pisces Iscariot
10. Matisyahu, Spark Seeker

According to sales at Zia Record Exchange on 4225 S. Eastern Ave., July 16-23.

Intelligent rap

Childish Gambino Royalty (Self-Released)

You can stop calling Donald Glover a rapping actor now. Under the moniker “Childish Gambino” he’s established himself as a noteworthy MC, and his Royalty mixtape further proves his value. But rather than continue to be a quirky punchline rapper, Gambino drifts into other lanes with a lengthy guest list. He bounces with ScHoolBoy Q and Ab Soul on the trash-talking “Unnecessary” and rocks over the new-wave production with Bun B on “R.I.P.” Although the guests sometimes steal the show, Childish Gambino proves that he’s got the chops to be respected among his peers. ★★★☆☆

Upcoming Releases

What albums are on Andreas’ radar …

AUG. 21: Brother Ali returns to his lyrical pulpit on what could be one of the best albums of 2012 with Mourning in America & Dreaming in Color. AUG. 28: It’s about damn time that the four-headed monster of Royce Da 5’9,” Joe Budden, Crooked I and Joell Ortiz drop their album Welcome to: Our House. It’ll be interesting to see if they can tone down their super lyrical approach to capture the masses without betraying their core audience. SEPT. 4: T.I.’s eighth studio album, Troubleman, will likely be the measuring stick to see if Clifford Harris still has “it,” or if the game, and all the youngsters hogging the spotlight, has passed him by.

Suggested Next Read

Aretha Franklin

Concert Review

Aretha Franklin

By Sean DeFrank

That voice. Powerful and passionate, it remains one of the great forces of nature, as expansive as it is expressive. Despite health issues in recent years, the 70-year-old Queen of Soul showed why Rolling Stone named her the “greatest singer of all time,” displaying a range and command that can still send shivers down your spine. Supported firmly by a 20-piece band that included 10 horn players, three backup singers and her son Teddy on guitar, Franklin appeared fit as she opened with the Jackie Wilson classic “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.”