November 11th 2016- A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It From Here…Thank You

With impeccable timing given certain election results and tinged with sadness this week saw the release of the final album by A Tribe Called Quest. We Got It From Here…Thank You was confirmed for release as the final Tribe Called Quest album after the sad and untimely passing of Phife Dawg. Given the current political climate the tragedy of this loss is even greater, as we need groups like A Tribe Called Quest more now than ever.

On We Got It From Here…Thank You A Tribe Called Quest tackle some of the most difficult and yet tragically ever present subjects of current American and Global socio-political life: gun violence, police brutality, economic disparity, war, migration, the rise of the right wing political elite the list is almost endless. They show no fear in tackling these toughest of subjects with a wise new age sensibility for which they have become famed.

Closing track The Donald takes aim at well…you know who. Other tracks such as We The People reference the current crisis surrounding police brutality and the disproportionate treatment of the USA’s African-American populations.  We the People also takes on the subject of discrimination faced by Mexicans during the recent Trump election triumph. The Tribe often provide a simple answer to many of these issues, we all just need to be closer together on this one Earth, as we are all one and the same. It’s a mantra they have repeated throughout their career, though one which is as far away from being realised today as during the George Bush senior days of the group’s formation.

Whilst this may sound heavy going, the album is full of A Tribe Called Quests’ typical human touch and also a good dose of wit. Humour appears often in the use of samples, such as interludes from Willy Wonka. They may on their last album be tackling dark subject matter but they do this in a way, which only A Tribe Called Quest can.

The album is built around unsurprisingly brilliant golden-age era East Coast beats, which are sample heavy and often reference a period in hip hop’s history now sadly forgot. We Got It From Here…Thank You is also a guest heavy album featuring subtle appearances from Elton John and Jack White. Whilst more prominent appearances are made by Kendrick Lamar (perhaps the long term successor to the group’s crown) and long-time friends and collaborators Talib Kwali and Busta Rhymes. Busta has over the years grown into an almost some time member of A Tribe Called Quest and his appearances here on various tracks feels the most natural and fitting out of all guests.

Everything on We Got It From Here…Thank You is near-on perfect as a hip-hop album goes. The beats are exceptional (though at odds with the current scene), the subject matter poignant and the flow of each member is…well….why even bother you all know there’s few out there who can stand to toe to toe with the Tribe, when it comes to delivery.

Much has been made of both the gap between their last release and this and the fact that there will be no more new material from A Tribe Called Quest. However when it comes to We Got It From Here…Thank You, it is best not to call it a come-back, a send-off or a tribute, this is just A Tribe Called Quest doing what they do best.

August 19th 2016- Frank Ocean- Blond

I think it’s safe to say the world can agree very little good came out of Hurricane Katrina, lives were lost, a city and its culture decimated and we all learned that, as Kanye West put it, George Bush doesn’t care about black people. This tragedy is made all the worse by the fact that, from what has happened in Baton Rogue in 2016, lessons weren’t learned. Despite all the immense sadness of Hurricane Katrina one small ray of light came from that disaster that light is the career of one Frank Ocean.

In 2008 Christopher Francis Ocean was a freshly enrolled student about to start university in New Orleans, after Katrina hit, Christopher’s accommodation, university and home studio were all under water. The tragedy prompted a re-think and a move to L.A to start a music career. A chance meeting with Tyler the Creator helped further fuel Ocean’s fire and from all of this the award winning and globally acclaimed debut album Channel Orange was born.

Then, after all of this…nothing. Fans were kept waiting, fans were often trolled, zero media was given, many false rumours were overheard, deadlines were missed, a visual album arrived, which felt like a marketing stunt. Then, finally on August 20th 2016, after a lot of nothing, the world got a new Frank Ocean album; Blond.

The album opens with new single Nikes. It’s a perfect album opener kicking off with auto-tuned, high pitched almost un-intelligible vocals, until around half way through the song, when Frank’s voice kicks in. And what a voice it remains, soulful, mournful and rich it hits the listener like a tsunami of honey.

The production on Nikes is slightly weird and darker than anything on Channel Orange and goes some way to highlight the overall feel of the album itself. Sure the Beach Boys and Beatles influences are still present in Ocean’s vocal harmonies but beats wise this is a darker beast and certainly a product of its influences and contributors. Who Ocean claims includes: Jamie XX, Arca and SebastiAN.

The album does feel claustrophobic but intentionally so, with the subject of many of the tracks turning inwards onto Ocean himself. There is however still room for plenty of Ocean-isms like Seigfried’s: “I’m living an idea, an idea from another man’s mind” or the same track’s reflection on: “Two kids and a swimming pool”. Ocean’s world remains one of constant self-questioning.

Stand out track and surely second single White Ferrari has all the hallmarks of being a huge hit. Lyrically it has a similar vibe to tracks like American Wedding, forbidden relationships. It’s a subject, which Frank frequently returns to and one which is prominent again on Blond.

If there is a criticism of Blond it is that Ocean’s subject matter is all too often same-y and self-reflective. Given everything that has happened in America in the last 4 years, it would have been nice to see Frank offer his voice on the subject. Instead any social commentary is reserved to a handful of segments mostly on opening track Nikes with its references to Trayvon Martin.

Blond is dotted with interludes, which set out to make a grand point about either drug use or relationships. However the most enjoyable element of these interludes is the looped backing track, which is itself beautiful. It feels a shame that its melody is wasted behind pseudo-social rambling.

Closing track Futura-Free is another stand out at 9 minutes it may feel long but much like Pyramids the track is broken into segments and there is a lot taking place, so the listener is never bored. The production on Futura Free is also open and allows the track to breathe more, giving the album a positive though still self-reflective close. The track ends with distorted elements of what sounds like vox-popped interviews on life’s big questions such as; what was your first memory? This is all looped over a beautiful melody. The answers given are childlike and joyous contributing to the overall positivity of the track. Futura Free might be the most complex track on here but it is also one of the most beautiful. And that description really does sum up Blond (and Mr Ocean himself) beautiful but complex.

-apple music exclusive so follow the link below for the video to nikes, cheers steve jobs.

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/post/idsa.06571398-669c-11e6-9b66-283cdffd1e01

 

 

 

 

July 15th- Clams Casino- 32 Levels (the instrumentals)

Clams Casino’s 32 Levels is a well-rounded enjoyable hip hop and Alt R&B album, which has impressed critics. However, it is not that album I am recommending to you. Rather I am recommending you go out and buy the deluxe edition, which comes with the added bonus of having all the original instrumentals of each track on 32 Levels.

In recent years Clams Casino has thrilled with a selection of free downloadable Eps made up of instrumentals, which have gone on to be used by some of the biggest names in hip hop and Alt RnB today, such as Kelela. And again on his debut album, whilst the vocals are enjoyable and sometimes great, it is inevitably the beats which stand out.

Clams Casino’s sound is at first strange to the ear consisting of Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin style synths coupled with fractured and half time hip hop and trap beats. However it is a sound that is not only unique but works to brilliant effect. The strangeness of the sound becoming the artists’ trademark.

Unlike most hip hop producers Clams Casino is a big fan of subtlety, less is more, or in the case of the instrumentals less is beautiful. I say this as one of the stand out elements of 32 levels is the beauty which is darkly conveyed throughout, but particularly in opening track Level 1. This sense of shadowy beauty is further enhanced by Clams Casinos’ use of pitched up vocal samples, as heard on the track 32 Levels, the use of such production trickery really does create a sound that at times verges on disturbing whilst still successfully remaining within the realms of beauty.

The instrumental version of 32 Levels is short and with such multi-faceted tracks that often abruptly change direction the listener is always engaged and kept interested. If you pick up a copy of this, you will return to it again and again both to engage with its melancholic beauty but also to allow your ears to pick apart the album’s complexity.

The full version of 32 Levels has been a critical success and is sure to be a commercial one too. However, for fans of engaging and interesting music, grab the deluxe edition and enjoy the hauntingly beautiful instrumental talents of one of hip hops most unique producers.

 

 

 

July 8th- the Avalanches- Wildflower

Leaving gigantic gaps between your albums, in the case of the Avalanches 16 years, can go either 1 of 2 ways. Either everyone is reminded how much they loved and missed you, Portishead’s Third is a great example, or everyone is reminded of how dreadful you and the remnants of your band have become, Guns N Roses I am talking about you. Understandably therefore fans of the Avalanches have awaited their second album with a sense of trepidation. However, they need not fear Wildflower is exactly what those who loved the Avalanches at first sight would and could have hoped for.

Some critics have seen the material on Wildflower as pointless nostalgia from act they found irritating in the first place (ahem the NME). Such criticism is itself pointless 1. Why review an act you hate 2. Nostalgia really isn’t a negative but is rather a beautiful tool, which allows for reflection and often a flush of joy at past innocence.

Innocence is a theme the Avalanches often seek to replicate in their sound and Wildflower like their debut is littered with attempts to achieve this. Many of the melodies are almost nursery rhyme like. Whilst interludes between tracks are dotted with samples of children’s voices. During these dark times, a sense of innocence is a welcome relief from watching all our lives fall head-first down the crapper.

First single Frankie Sinatra is a bit of a marmite track, you are either going to love it or loathe it. Coming across all calypso samples and hip hop bass, it has been a turn off for some fans and a ramble rousing return for others. From my perspective Frankie Sinatra is a fun track that makes great use of a Sound of Music sample and allows Danny Brown to flex his bizarre scatter shot rapping style to full effect. On top of that the chorus is a real ear worm that you’ll be singing for weeks after hearing it. However, Frankie Sinatra, is an anomaly on an album of mostly chilled summer tracks.

There is beauty to be found all over Wildflower.  It’s locked within the psych-hop vibes of Sunshine and the title track and stashed by the bag load in the chilled summer evening beats which accompany nearly every track. 16 years away has not seen the Avalanches uncanny ability for making a beautiful beat fade.

As With Since I left You, Wildflower has a real sense of fun to it, there is humour in many of the samples and in the interludes between tracks. Such use of light relief is welcome in an era where hip hop and electronica have often lost the playfulness of their infant years, in-favour of masculine aggression and petty street boastfulness. The Avalanches make no attempt at either of these and are all the better for it.

Unlike Since I Left You, Wildflower is full of guest spots, however, unlike some lesser producers those tracks where a guest appears, such as Colours or Because I’m Me, never result in a sense of the Avalanches taking a back seat to their vocalist. Their style and sound remains at the forefront of the tracks. Such skill is a real credit to the strength of their production abilities and helps to mark the Avalanches out among their contemporaries.

The world has changed a hell of a lot in the last 16 years and whilst the Avalanches may have remained very similar, despite the introduction of folk and psychedelia to their sound (the Beach Boys have been a clear influence), the fact they have stood still has worked tremendously in the group’s favour. The Avalanches’ sound is one which is unique and alien to almost anything else in existence, standing still rather than re-inventing the wheel was just what the Avalanches needed to do. And on Wildflower they do this successfully.

Fans and geeks alike will also be delighted to note that the duo’s sampling remains as eclectic and brilliant as ever. If you are seeking to use this album as a tip-off to find new tracks you won’t be disappointed. Neither will you be disappointed if you are picking up a copy to witness the art of sampling done well, because the Avalanches do sampling very well.

And that’s really the key to Wildflower, the Avalanches do what they do and they do it very well. The return of the Avalanches much like the arrival of the Avalanches is a joy. Let’s just hope fans don’t have to wait another 16 years for their next joyous antipodean ear worm.

 

July 1st- Blood Orange- Freetown Sound

Dev Hynes is an unpredictable and accomplished song writer willing to turn his hand to almost any genre or style. From Hardcore Punk (as Test Icicles) to folk (as Lightspeed Champion) and soul and R&B (as Blood Orange). Hynes is willing to try it all but it is as Blood Orange that Hynes has started to make waves outside of cult acclaim.

Freetown Sound Hynes’ latest effort plays a lot like a mixtape. And Dev has been quoted as saying that he took influence from the Beastie Boys classic Paul’s Boutique, the flow of the album and use of sampling certainly supports that influence. It also feels as if Hynes took some influence from another great New York inspired mixtape album; David Holmes’ Let’s Get Killed. Freetown Sound is littered with vocal samples and recordings, which feel very similar to those now infamous recordings of New Yorkians, which Holmes made.

Despite the above influences the sound of Hynes’ latest effort is very different from the Beastie Boys or Holmes and takes in the alternative R&B, soul, funk and hip hop similar to the previous Blood Orange efforts. Everything sounds subtle and soft yet effective, rather than send you to sleep Freetown Sound strokes you gently into engaging with Hynes’ world and views.

Vocally Hynes’ voice is at its most polished and lush on Freetown Sound and frequently reaches impossibly high pitches. There is a strong recollection to 80s Prince about his vocal stylings this is most apparent on the gorgeous But You. Alongside But You there are several other tracks, which if there were justice in the world would be huge singles the most obvious of these is the tropical house inflected Best to You.

Hynes’ has always shown an adept ability to write a heart break anthem (see Solange’s Hynes’ penned Losing You) and Best to You has all these qualities. It is both catchy and cathartic with an almost subtle yet sing along chorus.

Throughout Freetown Sound Hynes’ asks and tackles some big questions such as: What is blackness? What is feminism? What does it mean to be a black women? What is sexuality? They are huge questions, which aren’t always answered; but then can they ever really be answered? What is commendable is not only the attempt to engage the listener in these subjects but to so it in a way, which is not Bono preachy or overly introverted. Hynes achieves both and on songs like Hands Up sends his statements and questions out openly into the world with all pretensions set aside.

Whilst Freetown Sound contains stand-alone tracks with anthemic brilliance the albums is also an engaging listen as a whole and makes much more sense heard this way. It would not be a stretch of the imagination or a surprise if Blood Orange were to receive a Mercury Music Prize nomination from this effort, it has that feel about it.

Dev Hynes’ is a brilliant and prolific song writer who when he is at his best (Falling off the Lavender Bridge, True EP, For Screening Purposes Only) is peerless. Freetown Sound is a further addition to his diverse and wonderful cannon of work.

June 3rd- Gold Panda- Good Luck and Do Your Best

At the dawn of this millennium there was a rise in the popularity of groups making downtempo, chilled out hip hop, dub and drum and bass inspired music. Groups like Royksopp, the Avalanches, Aim, DJ Shadow and UNKLE to name just a few. It is very apparent from the first few seconds of Good Luck and Do Your Best that Gold Panda was listening intently to those artists.

Gold Panda’s latest release takes downtempo inspiration, plenty of sampling and adds a modern twist to provide something which feels both as if it has one ear in the past and one in the future.

Production throughout is lush with In My Car feeling particularly beautiful with its swooping Oriental strings and sampled almost unintelligible vocal. Equally as lovely is Pink and Green, which contains a chilled house vibe but again uses samples and loops of orchestral instrumentation to great effect.

Aside from downtempo and hip hop the influence of other genres is hugely apparent. Chiba Nights especially contains a chilled house vibe which could easily close out a set by any of the current crop of house renaissance DJs.

Good Luck and Do Your Best is kept incredibly short and nothing over stays its welcome coupled with the variety of samples and styles on show here the album is an attention grabber in a genre which has often been accused of failing to keep the full attention of its listeners over the course of an album.

Gold Panda’s stock was already rising prior to the release of this album and based on the quality of material on show here expect his stock to only grow from strength to strength, a cult following similar to Four Tet’s beckons.

April 15th- J Dilla- The Diary

In 2006 Hip-hop lost one of its true innovators. J Dilla’s productions took a cut and paste approach to fracturing old school soul with a modern hip hop twist, the resulting productions were near perfect and inspired everyone from Kanye to Kendrick. However, things could have been very different Dilla had submitted to his label and intended his first release to be an album of him rapping over other people’s beats. The album, the Diary, was rejected by his label and Dilla went off to California to become the underground cult figure hip hop fell in love with.

After his death J Dilla’s mum has taken over the management of his estate, setting up in his memory the J Dilla Foundation. The trust works to tackle lupus, the condition which took Dilla’s life, most of the profits from these posthumous releases are ploughed back into the foundation. This nobility comes despite the Yancey family’s relative poverty (they still live in the Detroit ghetto, his mum is still a health care assistant and his daughters live on welfare). The words Mothers’ Pride therefore best describe how Dilla’s estate has been managed. Care has been taken to release recordings as he would have wanted them and not to be seen to be riding the Tupac train to wealth and fame.

From the outset of The Diary the care taken to get this right is obvious. The release itself was delayed on many occasions. Things sound as you would expect from a Dilla rap release and that is of great relief to many, but is simply preserving a legacy enough?

The album’s opening track The Introduction is a strong opener first premiered by Zane Lowe and made track of the week by Pitchfork. This was clearly with good reason as it stands out as one of the best moments on The Diary.

Fuck The Police Dilla’s classic track originally released in 2001 appears here and is as incendiary and brilliant as when first heard. After receiving a lack of airplay due to the events of September 11th and then going out of print. It is a welcome appearance for this track, one which fans will fall in love with again and will grab newcomers’ ears.

Several of the tracks on The Diary have been previously leaked this includes stand out Diamonds, however despite audiences having heard them before these tracks appear stronger and even more exhilarating in a polished and finished form. And perhaps this is one thing worth noting, compared to his own productions Dilla’s The Diary is much more polished and clean in sound. This, however isn’t a criticism as The Diary was always intended to be a big budget hip hop release with big name producers instead of Dilla himself working on each track. The fact The Diary pulls off its big budget sound whilst retaining underground credentials is a credit to everyone involved in the project.

Some of the verses such as those by Snoop on Gangsta Boogie have been added after Dilla’s passing, however, unlike releases by Biggie et al, these verses do not feel jarring and out of place. If you can think of a better guest rapper for the G Funk inspired Gangsta Boogie than Snoop please let me know. That is perhaps the strongest compliment which can be paid to The Diary everything feels just right, for a release Dilla had wanted to put out himself, his mum and friends have got things spot on.

Despite its many highlights The Diary is not however Donuts (Dilla’s modern classic and cult album) but it does act as a fitting tribute to his legacy. Not only that but a fitting tribute, which may grab some new fans and throw some spotlight on Yancey’s often forgotten lyrical skills. Legacy preserved? And then some.

 

If you feel like checking out a great cause because it’s not all about music:

http://jdillafoundation.org/

February 4th- Kendrick Lamar-

 

You’re all prepared to recommend Lapsley’s new release for your blog then the night before release day one of, if not the, most important artist in the world at the moment drops a surprise release and your recommendation changes overnight. This highlights the importance of Kendrick Lamar in the current cultural and political climate. Last year’s album To Pimp A Butterfly is likely to be regarded by future generations and critics as highly as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On and based on the quality on this follow up such praise is fully deserved.

The title of Kendrick’s new release implies offcuts from last year’s album and that is what we get. However, offcuts from Kendrick Lamar are about 100 times better than most artists’ albums proper. The quality on show here is stunning.

Beats wise the vibe remains very similar to last year’s album with the off-kilter jazz beats inspired by the Brainfeeder crew littering the album. They are stunning and refreshing in the face of the often mundane trap heavy current US Hip Hop scene. And it is encouraging to see Kendrick sticking to a vibe which made To Pimp A Butterfly stand out from releases by his peers.

As a lyricist Untitled Unmastered serves to further highlight just how far Kendrick Lamar has grown and continues to develop there are focuses on Eastern Philosophy, meditations on hopelessness and political insight, it’s a long way from the subject matter of Instagram, dick pics and bling that many lesser rappers focus on at the moment.

Unititled Unmastered also sees Kendrick working with a strong ensemble cast of musicians including Thundercat, from the previously mentioned Brainfeeder crew, who features on almost every track, Adrain Younge who continues to go from strength to strength and DJ Khalil, all three make vital and exciting contributions to the album. However, there is one downside in that Kendrick choose to work with unrepentant pervert and offender Cee-Lo Green, however, such is the strength of the body of work this can be overlooked.

The two strongest tracks on show here untitled 05 and untitled 08 they are both staggering and worthy of Kendrick Lamar picking up further Grammy awards next year. The later track carries with it a similar vibe to King Kunta which is certainly no bad thing. The fact the track is 8 minutes long only adds to the build-up, joy and excitement and even at that length it seems too short.

And here in is the only disappointment Untitled Unmastered is such a joy and such a great body of work that, it is a shame that it is only just over 30 minutes and 8 tracks long. That said if all Kendrick’s releases are this strong it is a disappointment we can all cope with.

 

 

February 19th- DJ Kicks Moodymann

 

The DJ Kicks series has been described as the Rolls Royce of mix series, this might be something of an exaggeration as such a claim over-looks the Fabric mix series, the Late Night Tale series and many others. However, to say it has produced some exceptional mixes would not be an exaggeration and to say two of last year’s DJ Kicks mixes by Actress and DJ Koze were understanding is nothing short of preaching the truth.

With such high praise Moodymann has a lot to do to make his a classic and to some extent he comes close.

Moodymann is an eclectic bugger his DJ sets take in disco, funk, hip hop, house, techno and everything in between and his acclaimed albums equally see him bounce between a multitude of styles. That approach style hopping is ever present hear. Moodymann takes in hip hop, soul, funk, house and even some folk. Everything is expertly mixed and so jarring is avoided. However that does mean things feel seamless to the listener often ones ears feel as if there is too much going on, too much being included and ideas are being flitted between.

There are some distinctly beautiful moments on this DJ Kicks mix and listening is an enjoyable experience.

However, if it was Moodymann’s desire to join the heights of great mixes in the series through his eclecticism, mixes such as DJ Koze, Actress, John Talabot and Kruder & Dorfmiester then he has slightly fallen short. That said it is still a very strong and well mixed effort, which is a joy to listen too.

 

February 12th- Kanye West- The Life of Pablo

To say Kanye West is a divisive figure is an understatement, he is a man who brings forth equal measures of both passion and hatred amongst millions. But also one who sells millions of records and has created some of the most unique and incredible hip hop records of the past 15 years. In my view Kanye West is a man who has knowingly turned his life into art, created a character and to some extent become that character. His life is a vortex of meta-narrative swirling ever faster and tighter with the distinctions between reality and story line growing ever more lost like Dorothy being whisked from Kansas to Oz.

As far as album launches go Kanye certainly played the showman: a fashion show, an album launch, twitter melt-downs, two days of delays and eventual exclusive release on Tidal. Mr West has been the ultimate hype man, but beneath and away from this how does the record hold up.

The Life of Pablo starts off slow and dark and introspective, words you often associate with Kanye West and not an unexpected start to a Yeezy album. Ultra Light Beam is the stand out of the first three tracks with soulful vocals, stretched bassy sythns and the repeated refrain of: “This is a God Dream” Chance the Rapper also contributes a stand out verse. It’s a great start and not that uncoventional, which given Kanye’s last two albums is a surprise. However, from here things get very weird.

Famous starts off as a traditional hip-pop song with Rihanna vocals and heavy bass kicking-in around the two min mark this is coupled with a Kanye rap .As soon Kanye has shouted his bars, the track breaks down with a sample of Bam Bam by Nina Simone taking up the remainder of the track in a thrilling way as grime style shout outs pop over the top.

Feedback starts unexpectedly with feedback before experimental beats kick in, the beats are some of the strongest on the album and feature a Sandy Rivera sample. This sample isn’t the first or last from a house legend on the album and it is very clear that Kanye has been taking in the history of Detroit and Chicago’s electronic music scenes prior to the release of the Life of Pablo. The track ends with West making his political statement on recent police shootings in the USA through a chant of: “The Police taught us hands up” which is repeated till close.

Lowlights and Highlights oddly feel incomplete both feature soulful samples but as soon as things get started on each track they are quickly closed out. Here in lies one of the downsides of the album, there are some great ideas on show but Kanye doesn’t allow all of them to fully develop. Much of this you feel is intentional to create an aggressive, jarring and confrontational experience for the listener, this is achieved much to the annoyance of some critics.

Freestyle 4 features dark strings, experimental beats and some of Kanye’s best rapping in a long time. Waves follows and is one of the tracks that has courted most controversy on the album seeing Kanye and Wiz Khalifa publicly fall out, this distraction is a shame because it is a strong track with brilliant production from Hudson Mohawke.

FML and Real Friends see a return to dark introspection with Yeezy looking into his own failings and also to those who have hurt him in the past. As tracks they provide insights into the character of Kanye although how much of that you can believe and distinguish as the truth is now almost impossible to know.

Wolves is one of the few tracks here to have already been released although the Life of Pablo version differs from that of the single and features and a guest spot from the increasingly illusive Frank Ocean it’s great stuff and Frank’s voice is as alluring as ever.

30 hours and No More Parties in L.A have  been up on Kanye’s soundcloud for awhile now as part of his Good Friday music project. The latter is the stronger and features some great verses from Kendrick Lamar who puts in perhaps the strongest rap performance on the record.

Facts again has previosuly appeared with its bizzare Bill Crosby reference, however look beyond this and the beats are stellar, head nodding and built to be blasted at full volume. There is real anger locked in Kanye’s flow as well and it is one of the most aggressive tracks on the album.

The clsoing track Fade however for me is the real stand out with brilliant house samples from Robert Owens and Louis Vega much of the feel of the track echoes the warehouse rave scenes of the 80s and 90s including samples, basslines and vocals, all of this produces a strong close to the album.

The Life of Pablo is a fractured sounding album which intentionally sets out to challenge and confront the listener. However, you are rewarded with repeated listening as samples, broken beats and vocal snaps become clearer. The list of samples, producers and guest vocalists is endless and one suspects will be a list that attracts much analysis over the next few months. Suffice to say on the producer front Hudson Mohawke, Cashmere Cat and DJ Dodger Stadium put in strong turns though you get the feeling that despite all the features and samples it is Kanye’s hand that guides and directs everything. This leves the impression that The Life of Pablo like the Life of Kanye is really his own personal art project. However with such strong and intriguing material this is no bad thing.