Record Radar: Christian Rich v. Mick Jenkins

Music columnist Kennedy Simone takes on retro beats and alternative hip-hop for this week’s edition of Record Radar.

By Kennedy Simone | Sept. 2, 2015

Tags: Music Reviews

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2015 seems to be the year of the producer, as music producers who were once behind the scenes seem to all have come to the foreground, using their creative genius to make music for their personal works.

Though most people haven’t heard of Christian Rich, the duo has produced for well-known artists such as Drake, Earl Sweatshirt, Childish Gambino and J. Cole. One would easily expect “FW14,” their recently released album, to be a reflection of their hip-hop filled portfolio.

Plot twist: This album is undefinable.

Like a fine-tuned machine, every track has a unique element and sound that makes this album work together as a whole. Tracks like “Forever Ever” fuse together R&B and trap beats with sweetly mellow vocals from female vocalist Jack Davey. Fast forward a few songs and reach “Better To,” an electronic/funk track featuring up-and-coming indie pop group DWNTWN.

From track to track, “FW14” has amazing consistency. Ever listened to an album with one amazing song and the next is absolute garbage? Yeah, you won’t find that here. Every song isn’t my favorite, but all should be appreciated for great quality.

On to our next artist, up-and-coming rapper Mick Jenkins. If you’re a well-seasoned hip-hop junkie, you probably already know who he is. If not, just know that he was featured on Complex’s “20 Best Rappers in their 20s (Right Now)” list and was a Lollapalooza 2015 performer. Undoubtedly, he’s a name to know in the music scene. Listen to his newly released album “Wave[s]” and you’ll definitely understand why.

Discovering Mick Jenkins’ music last year, I was almost instantly infatuated with his debut album “The Water[s].” I can safely say that “Wave[s]” is proof that Mick Jenkins isn’t just evolving as a rapper but as an artist.

Opening track “Alchemy” is a perfect example of Mick Jenkins in his purest form: metaphor-laced raw delivery lyrics served over minimal production. Fast forward to “Your Love.” Funk-influenced, the track exemplifies Mick Jenkins’ ability to step outside of the box without falling into desperation … just like water, Mick Jenkins’ sound flows smoothly throughout the album while still experimenting with a new sound.

So why am I reviewing Christian Rich’s “FW14” against Mick Jenkins’ “Wave[s]” for this week’s edition of Record Radar? “FW14” is essentially an experimental electronic album while “Wave[s]” is alternative hip-hop.

For most music fanatics, there’s nothing worse than hearing that same song play on the radio again and again and again and again. (Imagine how I feel every time a Taylor Swift album drops.) It’s almost worse when you get that feeling of incessant monotony from an album, a collective work of art that’s supposed to give an artist room for creative freedom and experimentation. On their newly released albums, both Christian Rich and Mick Jenkins did what most music artists are terrified of … they experimented with sound. And it ultimately resulted in something genius.

“FW14” and “Wave[s]” are both fantastic albums, so choosing this week’s Record Radar winner was a tough task, but after submerging myself into both works I’ve reached my decision. The award most definitely goes to … Mick Jenkins! In a world of wannabe Kanyes and Commons, “Wave[s]” brings something new to the hip-hop table. It’s fresh, fun, unique and has substance: everything needed to keep us hitting replay again and again.

Bonus Play:

Song: “In Time” Artist: FKA twigs

Sensuality, anger, love, pain, desperation. Welcome to the world of FKA twigs, where it’s not enough to make you feel just one emotion. She wants you to feel them all. With a beat that loops and creeps, FKA twigs sticks to her true self and other-worldliness vibe, but brings an almost aggressive boldness that isn’t usually present in her music. If you want to hear something that can’t be beaten in the soundwaves department, bless your ears with the gift of FKA twigs. You can thank me later.

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