Jhene Aiko Sail Out EP (Def Jam)
California songstress Jhene Aiko has been building a strong buzz since she released Sailing Soul(s) in 2011. She has even collaborated regularly with hip-hop heavyweights Kendrick Lamar and Drake. With her Def Jam debut on the horizon, Sail Out EP blends splendid soul with some rap collaborations. “The Worst” brings out her best as she rinses her soul of an ex-boyfriend over moody production. Although not as solid an effort as Sailing Souls, Sail Out is a solid primer to gear us up for her major-label debut. ★★★☆☆
Various Artists Saint Heron (Def Jam/G.O.O.D. Music)
Solange Knowles may be Beyoncé’s little sister, but she’s the antithesis to Beyoncé’s pop royalty with her alternative brand of soul music. Saint Heron harnesses a litany of talent. Deep bass lines and electro fizzle accompany artists ranging from Cassie to Sampha to deliver a brilliantly paced project. Highlights include Kingdom’s ’90s grinder “Bank Head” and Starchild’s new wave “Relax.” But it’s Solange’s minimalist arrangement of “Cash In” that bubbles to the top. Beyoncé may run the world, but Solange’s self-built kingdom is nothing to be ashamed of. ★★★★☆
Troy Ave New York City: The Album (BSB Recordings)
Trinidad James recently suggested that New York is going through an identity crisis musically and lacks the authenticity that made it the mecca of hip-hop. Troy Ave’s debut album, New York City: The Album, doesn’t fall into that category. It has a certain Gotham authenticity stuck to it, and the grittiness permeates the 17 tracks. Obsessed with money and the street hustle, Troy Ave scatters his street poetry to celebrate all things New York over rugged production. Although not complex, his chest-thumping delivery on songs such as “Cigar Smoke” and the dream-chasing “Me Against the World” serve as a reminder that New York hip-hop is still relevant. ★★★☆☆
Upcoming albums on Andreas’ radar …
DEC. 10: Donald Glover discards his acting hat to release his new album as Childish Gambino, titled Because the Internet. It will be interesting to see if he made the right move to pursue rapping full time. DEC. 17: B.o.B. returns with his third studio album, Underground Luxury, which will feature the likes of Future, Chris Brown, 2 Chainz, T.I. and Juicy J. Safe to say that expectations are high.