February was a strong month for new releases. We really struggled choosing which projects would be left off the best albums list. The big news was Future dropped two albums – but both of them were bloated and could’ve been trimmed down to form an exceptional single project. Thievery Corporation, Anna Wise, Saga & Thelonious Martin, Thundercat, Dirty Projectors, Big Sean, Fat Joe & Remy Ma all dropped better albums each worth listening to.
By months end there was so much music that artists such as Stormzy and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizzard didn’t get the necessary spins for a proper evaluation. Maybe they’ll make the cut next month. This month’s list is R&B heavy. It was easily one of the best months in recent memory when it comes to that particular genre.
Here are The Man Guide’s 5 Best Albums for February 2017.
Sampha – Process
(Album Of The Month)
Sampha’s name has surged the past few years after collaborating with big name artists like Kanye, Drake, Solange and Frank Ocean. Process is the British singer’s long awaited debut album. Spoiler alert..don’t be surprised if you see it mentioned in a ton of “Best Of” lists at the end of 2017. Production wise, the album is as solid as it gets. From the simple beauty of Like The Piano to the more complex electro R&B sound palette of Plastic 100°C, the album really pulls the listener in from it’s first note.
Where the album truly shines is in it’s lyrical aspect. Process is the work of a man who is finding himself both artistically and personally after suffering a great loss. Sampha lost his mother in 2015 and her spirit beautifully haunts his songwriting. In Kora Sings he pleads “You’ve been with me since the cradle/ You’ve been with me, you’re my angel/ Please don’t you disappear.” This sentiment continues on Like The Piano where once again he references the love of his mother at her time of sickness: “An angel by her side, all of the times I knew we couldn’t cope/ They said that it’s her time, no tears in sight, I kept the feelings close/ And you took hold of me and never, never, never let me go.” This is that type of songwriting that leaves you with a knot in your throat. To top it off, the video pays tribute to her as her spirit surrounds him while he plays the piano.
This will be one of the best albums by year’s end and I expect Sampha to, at the very least, be nominated for multiple awards and accolades. Process is one of the most impressive R&B debut albums in recent memory and without a doubt one of the best albums this month.
Stand out tracks: Plastic 100°C, Like The Piano, Blood On Me
Oddisee – The Iceberg
Due to the recent political climate and xenophobia, Oddisee’s subject matter seems more relevant than ever. As a devout Muslim and son of a Sudanese immigrant, Oddisee brings first hand experience dealing with racism, religion, fear and equality through out The Iceberg. As always, Oddisee’s production is one of the best in hip hop as a whole and he provides varied landscapes for his bars. In addition to synths, pianos and horns, it’s the live drums and fantastic bass lines that stand out throughout the entire album.
The album is filled with moments of retrospect and maturity but Oddisee shines more than ever on his story telling ability. On You Grew Up, he tells two stories that contrast each other but mirror the results in similar ways. The first of a white childhood friend who, after blaming the loss of his father’s job on immigrants, grew up to be a racist cop and ended up murdering an unarmed black man. He recently told NPR the second verse is loosely based off a story he came across in the UK, about a muslim kid who grew up in a good home. The racism he encountered outside of his home drove him to the other side, ultimately becoming an ISIS member.
These type of stories (and his ability to tell them) separates Oddisee from the rest. Even on tracks which aren’t political, such as Rain Dance, he still speaks about self growth in ways that every grown man can relate. The Iceberg proves that Oddisee remains one of the premiere lyricists in hip hop and one of the most consistent musicians today.
Stand out tracks: Built By Pictures, You Grew Up, Rain Dance
SYD – Fin
SYD is known as one of the founding members of Odd Future and lead singer of the grammy nominated R&B band, The Internet. After last year’s breakthrough album, Ego Death, members of The Internet decide to focus on solo projects. Three of them being released this month. SYD’s Fin, however, is light years above the others. SYD’s sultry neo-soul vibes carry the LP in a slightly different way than as a member of The Internet. Fin has more spacey alternative R&B production than any album from The Internet, and that is immediately showcased in the first single All About Me. The album’s second track, Know, sounds like a late 90s R&B hit with it’s Timbaland style percussion and SYD’s sensual vocals.
SYD holds most of the album down solo, with only two features near the end of the album such as the break up anthem Over, with upcoming R&B/Rapper 6LACK. Insecurities closes the album with an ode to toxic relationships and low self esteem and she tells her lover “You can thank my insecurities for keeping me around you babe/ I’d pack my bags but never leave cuz it’s so hard to walk away/ You know I love you girl way more than I love myself/ But in a perfect world I’d be with somebody else.” With her solo debut SYD shows she’s capable of getting her own success in a bloated world full of R&B singers.
Stand out tracks: All About Me, Over, Know
Jidenna – The Chief
If I’m being perfectly honest, I did not expect myself to enjoy Jidenna’s debut album as much as I did. After first hearing Classic Man, I knew he could craft commercial hits but that’s really all I got from him. My perception changed after listening to both his Chief themed singles, Long Live The Chief and Chief Don’t Run. Both are hard hitting tracks with different production types, yet both are equally torn apart by Jidenna’s energetic delivery. The diversity and genre-hopping of The Chief is it’s strongest suit. It’s also the reason why some people may ween from it. The album is a completely unlike his Classic Man track that gained him so much momentum. He still manages to make pop radio singles such as Little Bit More and Some Kind Of Way. Other tracks such as Helicopters and Bambi show off varying styles and range.
Although he’s a great singer his best tracks show off how talented he is at rapping. The opening track A Bull’s Tale is a vivid story of his return to Nigeria to bury his father. While in the controversial White Niggas, Jidenna plays role reversal with the hardships of black and white folk, “The law had you in crosshair/ Stop and frisk your kids playing street hockey in lacrosse gear/ Son was barely even selling, but when he returns the whole suburb would brand him as a felon.” These are not your average bars from an R&B singer trying to rap. Jidenna’s debut album took me by surprise. This seems like the beginning of not only a quality entertainer but also a brilliant artist.
Stand out tracks: Chief Don’t Run, Helicopters, White Niggas
THEY. – Nu Religion: Hyena
As much as I enjoy some moody minimalist R&B every now and then, there’s enough of it from Drake, PartyNextDoor, and all their clones to put you to sleep for the next few years. In steps THEY., the LA duo composed of Dante Jones and Drew Love. Their aim is to put some much needed multi-faceted energy in the game. Influenced by everyone from Babyface to Kurt Cobain, THEY. mix their own sound while creating a stand out and entertaining debut project, Nu Religion: Hyena.
U- RITE is a club banger and the hypest track on the album with a blaring horn and some hard ass drums while Dante & Drew take turns with infectious flows and hook. THEY. aren’t all about catchy club music, Say When takes an aggressive stand against police brutality. Nu Religion: Hyena has 13 tracks (plus an intro) and there’s not a single track I skipped. I have no doubt in my mind that these kids are going to blow the fuck up, and I will be here to watch THEY. become stars.
Stand out tracks: U-RITE, Say When, Motley Crew
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