In the wake of the “we back outside” era that this summer has manifested into, a litany of artists across the board have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to reignite quality Hip-Hop and R&B music.
With the vast amount of concerts and festivals that have revived their reigns (Rolling Loud, Lollapalooza, Hot 97’s Summer Jam, A Day In Vegas, etc.), it has evidently motivated musicians to remain hungry and bring their A-game to the “new normal” landscape. Based on the high standard of what’s come out this unique summer season, myriad artists have answered the call with poise and sheer execution. To honor this outpour of rhythmic magic, The Knockturnal breaks down some of the finest Hip-Hop and R&B records to come out of this summer. Without any further delay, let’s hop into it.
Call Me If You Get Lost – Tyler, The Creator
On his sixth studio album, Tyler somehow finds another way to reinvent his sound and brand, offering yet another refreshing, never-before-seen iteration of the Grammy award-winning rap star. Fulfilling his teenage dream of teaming up with legendary hip-hop DJ: DJ Drama, who provides mini bites of comical relief across this project, Tyler mainly sticks to the agenda of getting back to his Hip-Hop roots but touches on other genres as well: jazz, pop, soul and reggae. Contrary to the uniformity of his previous effort: IGOR, this project is a bit more sonically diverse. Plagued by the discord of being a global pandemic, the record harps on tropes of loss, self-love and romantic yearning. Fluctuating between the hard-nosed grittiness of tracks like CORSO, LUMBERJACK, and MANIFESTO to more serene, sentimental cuts like SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED YOU DANCE and WUSYANAME, Tyler executes on producing a well-rounded listening experience. Undergirded by a consistent fleet of edgy, bombastic instrumentals, this record is frenetic from top to bottom. Given its sublime nature and it’s raving reviews, it is easily a top contender for one of the best records to come out of 2021 already.
Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies – Snoh Aalegra
Relative to the familiar feel of her last and second studio project: “Ugh, Those Feels Again” (2019), the Swedish songstress embraces more of an eclectic take this time around. Fully indulging in the perks of the meteoric clout she’s gained from her breakthrough smash track: “Whoa,”Aalegra enlists an all-star team of artists, songwriters and producers to help sculpt her new soundscape: The Neptunes, James Fauntleroy, Tyler, The Creator and more. Slightly veering away from her penchant for slow, soothing love-induced ballads, the 33-year old experiments with more lively, up-tempo, party-like production. With this being said, she doesn’t fully dissent from the essence of who she is. For a solid portion of this record, Aalegra illustrates that she is still a certified purveyor of bittersweet romance. Nonetheless, this record demonstrates that Snoh is multidimensional and isn’t afraid to challenge herself in new and exciting ways. All and all, shoutout to Ms. Aalegra for making an earnest contribution to contemporary R&B. Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies is definitely a mainstay for some time to come.
King’s Disease II – Nas
After just releasing a full-fledged project a little less than a year ago: “King’s Disease” (2020), which won him his first Grammy ever, Hip-Hop prodigal son doubles down with the release of its sequel. Seemingly driven by the momentum of his previous effort, Mr. Jones teams up with leading producer Hit-Boy once again to craft another set of classic tracks that have the potential to stand the test of time. Sticking to the blueprint he set from KD, Nas continues the trend of mixing elements of his era of rap with the best and brightest of today’s Hip-Hop ecosystem. When it comes to his lyrical prowess, the Queensbridge phenom seems to only get better with time, proving that he hasn’t lost a step whatsoever. Oftentimes meandering between reflections of the past and present, his frequent meditations come off as introspective and sage. Sonically, Hit-Boy maintains his signature style while meeting Nas wherever he wants to go. Quite honestly, it isn’t far fetched to say that they’re one of the best one-two punches in Hip-Hop today. On another note, the features are pretty assorted and all pretty much slap. Some of his collabs include A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, YG, Charlie Wilson, Eminem and Blxst with an extremely rare, yet remarkable appearance from legendary MC: Ms. Lauryn Hill. Overall, “King’s Disease II” reaffirms the alchemy of one of the greatest MCs of all time and only reminds listeners of his longevity and how long he’s been exceptional. Nasir Jones is forever.
Back Of My Mind – H.E.R.
Highly acclaimed for her versatility as a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and poet, it is a fine work of art how the Vallejo, CA native continues to push the bandwidth of her sound. As astounding as this feat is, she makes it happen on this record. At just under an hour and a half of playtime, H.E.R. bears hold of a vast range of motifs, some of which include examining the various phases that come with love and self-realization. As she has put in the work to become a premier force in R&B, with over 13 Grammy nominations, four Grammy wins, and one Oscar under her belt, she finally takes a step back to acknowledge her arrival to superstardom with glee and gratitude. On this record, she freely embraces collaboration. Some of the features on here include Lil’ Baby, Ty Dolla $ign, Chris Brown, Cordae, and more. Instead of sticking to the ballad-driven formula that has characterized a great deal of her former projects, she dabbles in a combination of smooth, laid-back, R&B-oriented tracks and hi-tempo, commercial-friendly tracks. In the grand context of her discography, Back Of My Mind is a bit more experimental but it still holds true to her signature essence. In any case, the RCA soul star doesn’t disappoint with this record.
HOFFA – Dave East & Harry Fraud
Channeling that nostalgic, real raw 90s feel of bar-centric hip-hop in seamless fashion, Queens rapper Dave East and renowned NYC producer Harry Fraud team up to deliver some much-needed heat for the streets this summer. Despite technically being a mixtape, its sheer quality makes it worthy of being on this list. Over 14 incisive tracks, East’s gritty, aspirational lyrics, and Fraud’s decadent, low-fi instrumentals collide to cultivate a vibe reminiscent of the days when top-notch lyricism was an absolute requirement in Hip-Hop. If you’re into gimmicks, mumble rap, or anything of the sort, this isn’t the record for you. On this project, East takes a no-frills, straightforward approach to the street-life content he spits about. Teaming up with a bevy of legit heavy hitters in modern-day rap, some of which include Jim Jones, Benny The Butcher, G Herbo, and more, the Mass Appeal all-star reminds us that he can easily hang with the best Hip-Hop has to offer today.
The House Is Burning – Isaiah Rashad
Since it’s been five years since the release of his last complete project: “The Sun’s Tirade,” which is largely considered a classic by Hip-Hop purists, TDE’s southern star knew he had to come correct. Based on his track record, this is a normal habit but very seldom does Chattanooga’s finest disappoint. Despite undergoing real-life issues such as borderline homelessness and a stint of time in rehab, Rashad reveals on this record that his talent and love for the craft hasn’t waned. Instead of embracing a core theme, this collection of tracks is more of a loose amalgamation of reflective vignettes over laid-back, chill instrumentation. Its ambiance feels like a home-cooked stew versus a rushed throwing together of content, which is logical with how long it took to drop. Nonetheless, “The House Is Burning” is a cohesive, solidly arranged body of work. Needless to say, it easily ranks as one of the best records to drop this summer.