Members from KZSC’s Hip Hop Department decided to write about hip-hop albums we loved from last year. From finding obscure samples to dissecting layers in instrumentation, we hope you enjoy our analysis of albums from artists we love. The following reviews come from DJ Soursoul, Jake Clarke, DJ Fodderstompf, and DJ 90. Blogs are edited by Hip-Hop Director DJ Lucky.
Photo by Krshna Airaudi
Written by DJ Soursoul
The Lo-Fis is Steve Lacy’s latest project released in December of 2020, an explosive collection of funky, psychedelic soul and R&B. Songs are truly seconds long, but each winds bass lines, riffs, and synth-y, loopy vocals into seamless standalone masterpieces. The Lo-Fis are certainly understated, something that critics wrote of unfavorably after the release of his first album, Apollo XXI. But at age 23, having produced for the likes of Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, and powered the acclaimed neo-soul band The Internet, The Lo-Fis allows itself to be short and sweet – while playful and simple, nothing short of unremarkable. “4real” is quick-paced and fresh, “Uuuu” funky and float-y, “Infrunami” as sultry and as introspective as it gets. It was almost too easy for these to be my most played songs of the year. “Thats No Fun,” my favorite song on the project, is what got me through 2021. It’s about changing when you feel like the world wants you to stay stuck. “I’m not gonna be the same Steve that you knew, that was five years ago … Why would I still be on the same s—?”
Favorite songs: That’s No Fun, Cocky Girl, 4real
Photo by Krshna Airaudi
CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST
Written by Jake Clarke
CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST is yet another sonic masterpiece from Los Angeles-based musician Tyler, The Creator. This project comes two years after the success of his Grammy-winning 2019 album IGOR, which was praised for its genre-bending performances and devastating story arc. This time around, Tyler loosens up this theme and returns to making a full rap project in mixtape format. He does this while still incorporating many of the R&B and Pop production techniques he utilized on IGOR, which we see in songs like SWEET and SAFARI. The album also incorporates a hefty feature list, with impressive verses from Lil Wayne, Pharrell Williams, Lil Uzi Vert, as well as incredible vocal performances from Fana Hues, Brent Faiyaz, and DAISY. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST includes both some of Tyler’s most braggadocious lyrics, as well as his most vulnerable. Tracks such as CORSO and RISE! are stand-outs, as they include some of his most technical bars to date, while WILSHIRE is nearly ten minutes of deeply personal story-telling that opens us up to a whole new view of Tyler’s mentality and thought processes as he navigates the emotional turmoil that comes with the frustrations of navigating a love-triangle. The production on the album is also leagues above Tyler’s previous work, with stacked vocal layers and instrumentals, masterful sample-flipping, and added DJ callouts from DJ Drama that firmly establish the mixtape-feel of the project. CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST has found itself very high in many “top albums of 2021” lists, and for a good reason. Tyler manages to maximize his potential, show off his versatility, and demonstrate just how far his creativity can take him in the formats that he thrives in.
Favorite songs: HOT WIND BLOWS, CORSO!, RISE!
Photo by NME
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
Written by DJ Fodderstompf
In 2021, rapper and actress Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, better known by her stage name Little Simz, dropped “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert”. After putting out “Gray Area” in 2019, which received both critical acclaim and awards, Simz had some big shoes to fill, and she did not disappoint. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (which spells out the acronym SIMBI, her nickname) is one of the more well-composed albums of the year, with Simz finding a perfect balance between light-heartedness on songs like “Woman” featuring Cleo Soul, and darker hard hitting beats and lyrics on songs like “I Love You, I Hate You”. Simz has shown a lot of growth with this project through a newfound utilization of background singers that brings a gospel feel to some tracks, while also honing in her ear for samples, as showcased on “Two Worlds Apart”. I loved her ability to return to previous parts of her career, as “Speed” sounds like a direct sequel to possibly her most popular song “Boss” from Gray Area, due to the song having similar synths and flows to its predecessor. Simz, of English and Nigerian descent, focuses on the struggle between her public and private life throughout the album, with an emphasis on her own privacy and how her listeners (and more specifically her critics) should appreciate her, but also need to give her space as well; “I don’t need your sympathy/Internal guidance/Is all that I seek/Don’t disturb my inner peace”, the UK rapper spits on Protect My Energy. From start to finish, this album keeps strong themes of confidence and poise, and I cannot wait to see her next move in an already budding career.
Favorite Songs: Woman, Two Worlds Apart, Point and Kill
Photo by Brooklyn Vegan
LP! + OFFLINE!
Written by DJ 90:
My favorite album of 2021 has to be LP! by Kaytranada. LP! is unpredictable in the best way, as the beats are their own without interrupting the flow of the album. From experimental lofi to rock and even a beatbox beat, the listener is treated at every turn. On REBOUND!, the combination of the beat and Peggy’s energy is nothing but contagious, which is why it’s my favorite on the album. Following that track, OG!, follows a late 80s/90s flow accompanied by a beatbox-like beat. By recently becoming an independent artist, Jpegmafia is now able to clear samples, which was a previous struggle due to issues with his label. Since then, he has been able to clear the tracks he wasn’t allowed to release and put them onto a project titled OFFLINE!. These tracks were initially only available on bandcamp, but now a wider audience can listen to the album through various streaming platforms. HAZARD DUTY PAY!, which samples Ain’t No Need to Worry by the Winans featuring Anita Baker, was standout for me because of how well the beat meshes with Peggy’s aggressiveness. Listening to LP! and OFFLINE! together is a must as they were made for the same project.
Favorite Songs: REBOUND!, OG!, HAZARD DUTY PAY!