Music Lists

5 Relaxing Rap Albums to Get You Out of Your Head

Stay calm in post-election season with these transporting albums

Music impacts us differently these days.

The albums we usually listened to on our daily commutes suddenly bring us pangs of bitter nostalgia now that there's nowhere to go. Bright optimistic tunes suddenly sound hollow, and we can't help but feel especially resentful towards songs that make us wanna dance and party.

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Music Features

Interview: Medhane's Moment Has Finally Arrived

The alternative rapper is finally seeing his work pay off, just don't try to box him in


Medhane prides himself on being a Hip-Hop antithesis.

Full Circle, the rapper's enigmatic new EP, is produced entirely by him, and the project's dense 15 minutes offer little breathing room. As the polymath sips on a Chai latte in a crowded cafe in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, he explains to me that his stream of consciousness raps are purposefully devoid of certain contexts. "It's open to your perception. It's just art," he said. "You don't look at a painting and say, "Oh this painting is about this." Like a painter, Medhane's music ebbs and flows moment to moment and portrays an artist unabashedly present in the art he's creating. I asked if he would describe his music that way, like a painting. "Kinda, but like not really. It is, but it's not, it's just expression." When I asked him who Dan Freeman was, he told me that he was the protagonist of Spook Sat by the Door, a profound 1964 novel about a black CIA agent trying to overthrow the white establishment. When I asked him why he named Full Circle's opening track "DAN FREEMAN," he smiled. "I don't know, that's just what I thought it should be."

As a Brooklyn native, Medhane was raised on the sounds of Soca and Reggae, along with acts like Nas and Indie.Arie. But when he was 11, he admits, he was mostly into screamo. "I forget the name of this band but they had a song called "Daddy's Fallen Angel," he said with a laugh, "and I just thought that was the hardest sh*t ever." After getting in trouble at school, Medhane's father took him to D.C. for the weekend to experience President Obama's inauguration. While they were in town, they also went to see Notorious, a buzzing new biopic about the late Biggie Smalls. "I just went fully down the rabbit hole after that." He started making freestyle videos on his phone, and by his senior year in high school (he graduated when he was 16 after skipping a grade) he was incredibly committed to the genre. But his mom insisted he get a college education, so he reluctantly applied and was accepted into Carnegie Mellon's civil engineering program. As he dragged his heels academically, his music started to buzz, and he recalls flying to London to perform at a sold-out show with Lex Records, only to fly back and return, nameless, to his classes. "That sh*t f*cked me up."

His free form art thrives on unpredictability, so as a result, Medhane can't stand when the press, myself included, tries to decipher it. His lyrical meandering is often boxed in with that of Earl Sweatshirt. The comparison is often intended as a compliment, but all of it just frustrates him. "They always try to be like, "This is about depression," or, "On this song [Medhane] recalls a three-day bender." He scoffed. "There was no 3-day bender that ever occurred in my life." He refers me to a lyric from "I WAS JUST IN THE MARA." "Still speaking in code, I know how them riddles go? That's kinda what that means."

Did you see things start to change after Pitchfork reviewed Ba Suba, Ak Jamm?

"Kinda, but not really. After that project, I went back to school and...I was just going through it. I stopped putting out music, I dropped "Sky," but I was just so stressed that I went ghost. No tweets, no music for like six or seven months."

What was that experience like? What did you do to take care of yourself?

"I ghosted a lot of my friends. I was just overwhelmed. I watched a lot of Blacklist, and that show sucks. I was watching bad TV, bro, when I should be making beats. I was on some self-doubt s*it. That's what I was doing."

When did all that start to change for you?

"I graduated and got back in touch with MIKE and Caleb [Giles] and just kinda started making tracks again. I also took a family trip to Kenya, and it restored me somehow. Just coolin' with my family really brought me back. When I got back from [that trip] it was go time."

Then you dropped Own Pace?

"Yeah, and that album did numbers. That was kinda me explaining what I had gone through during that time, and people really related to it."

So what's different now with Full Circle?

"It's totally self-produced, and it's just getting more in-depth. More in-depth with certain topics. I'm just exploring that time more and exploring what really happened.

Creatively, Full Circle is a lot denser than your previous work. What inspired you all to head in this alternative direction?

"I don't know, bro. I just try to mix everything I f*ck with. I feel like out of all the homies I'm the most versatile. I could play you five songs of mine that all sound different, that all slap, and I'm not switching my style on none of them. I listen to all types of sh*t.

What's next for you?

I'm tryna run it up this year. I'm 23, I gotta be on my Jordan s*it. I'm putting out three projects this year.

It seems like things are really changing for you.

"It seems like it. I don't know. There's always that skepticism that comes with life when good s*it starts to happen to you. But everybody just keeps telling me like just keep going, which is kinda what I'm doing. We not falling off no time soon, ever."


Follow Medhane on Twitter, Instagram and Bandcamp

Tyler, the Creator on Gay Rappers, Profanity, and His Artistic Idiosyncrasies | SEASON 2

Today, March 6, 2020, Tyler Okonma—best known as Tyler, the Creator—turns 29 years old.

The polymathic rapper first rose to prominence as a founding member of the alternative hip-hop collective, Odd Future, whose debut album was released in 2012. And although multiple members of the now-inactive group have experienced fruitful solo careers—Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt among them—Tyler, the Creator's has arguably left the most recognizable influence. With five studio albums, a clothing line, a music festival, and much more on his resume, Tyler has been cited as a major inspiration to Gen Z icons like Billie Eilish and BROCKHAMPTON's Kevin Abstract.

Occasionally controversial but always a brilliant artist, Tyler has made himself known as not only a masterful musician, but a filterless class clown of the real world. Below, here are nine of Tyler, the Creator's most iconic moments.

A Walking Paradox

With just a cockroach, a noose, and a perspective control lens, Tyler introduced his solo rap career with one of the most unforgettable music videos of the decade (self-directed under his alter ego, Wolf Haley).

Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times

It's hard for anyone to match the star power of Frank Ocean—even Drake.

When Tyler, the Creator promised a surprise headliner Sunday night at Camp Flog Gnaw, rumors spread that Ocean would take the stage. But when it was time to reveal the guest of honor, Drake appeared, and was promptly welcomed by a sea of boos and chants of "We want Frank." "If you want to keep going, I will keep going tonight," Drake said about 20 minutes into his performance, although the majority of the crowd was dismissive. "I love y'all. I go by the name of Drake. Thank y'all for having me," he said as he exited, clearly dejected.

What does it mean for the state of music fandom today that Drake, inarguably one of the decade's most successful artists, can get booed off stage at a hip-hop festival? Have listeners grown bored and underwhelmed by Drizzy in the same way Kanye West's most recent projects have failed to pique lasting general interest? Of course, Drake and West differ in many ways—one is considerably more problematic—but their places in the rap canon also boast a few parallels: Both grew massively popular on similar timelines, and it's safe to say the peaks of both of their careers have come and gone. In terms of hip-hop, younger fans tend to turn to artists like Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, and even Brockhampton—artists who, like pop experimentalist Charli XCX, exist in the overlap between mainstream popularity and left-field stylistic approaches.

It makes sense that, especially at a festival so integral to Tyler, the Creator's personal brand of alternative rap, fans would plead for Ocean over Drake. Even in his notably reclusive fame, Ocean still maintains a degree of relatability that Drake's stardom has stripped him of. Another factor is how often Ocean performs (or, rather, how rarely he does); name a festival, and Drake has likely headlined it before, while Ocean has become somewhat infamous for cancelling tours and festival appearances.

So, was the crowd at Camp Flog Gnaw overly optimistic for expecting Sunday night to bring a long-awaited appearance from the mastermind behind Blonde? Absolutely. But the fact that the crowd booed the holder of nearly every record on the Billboard Hot 100 speaks to just how distant Drake has grown from the next iteration of rap fandom.


MUSIC MONDAY | Chris Jobe gives us some "Love in the Morning"

MAY 21 | Where the water falls, the cars drive and music has a good vibe

Chris Jobe - "Love in the Morning" (Live at Mercy Lounge)

THE MIX | Waterfall Drive Vibes

by Chris Jobe

05.21.18 | This is my sunshine, windows down, driving to and from a waterfall in Tennessee playlist. There are about 4 or 5 big waterfalls around Nashville that are literally the best summer escapes and the drives to and from are always filled with sharing the aux chord.

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Kali Uchis' 'Isolation' Is Funky, Blissful, and Sugary

Kali Uchis' debut album 'Isolation' is a funky, blissful pop record.

'Isolation' Kali Uchis

Isolation is a vibe, a contemplative pop record that draws from a diverse range of genres, all of which exercise Uchis' impressive range as a writer and singer.

Kali Uchis has a voice that melts in the ear. Her songs are melancholic and lush, a type of romantic isolation she draws the listener into. Her debut album, aptly titled Isolation, feels like stepping into her world, a melting pot of genres that seamlessly blend the Columbian-American singer's sultry alto with bedroom pop and funk. The comparisons to Amy Winehouse still stand, of course, but only Kali Uchis knows how to find the sweet spots in songs that are indulgently sad, wistful, and hopelessly longing. This is sugary pop music, but Kali Uchis is no one's victim. She is vulnerable by choice.

Isolation finds Uchis playing with genres her voice naturally acclimates to: On "Your Teeth In My Neck" Uchis sings about cultural appropriation and "vampires" in the industry, her voice bouncing off Neptunes-esque production. On singles "Tyrant," "Nuestro Planeta," and "After the Storm," Uchis hits her stride, her silky voice morphing into Billie Holiday backed by West Coast soul and funk. Kali Uchis is still influenced by the same sounds Odd Future artists Tyler the Creator and Steve Lacy gravitate toward, but this time things are more refined and idiosyncratic. The lo-fi aesthetic of breakout EP Por Vida is present but less girl-in-bedroom and more performative. A self-proclaimed recluse, Uchis knows how to inhabit her songs like they are actual spaces, exercising a type of vocal restraint on slower, moodier pieces like "Miami" and tracks like "Feel Like a Fool," where Uchis is more lively.

The interludes provide a type of blissful respite from the reggaetón influences, where Uchis sinks into sultry R&B. "I know," she sings on "Coming Home," "stop holding me back, quit pushing me forward…I move at my own pace, just leave me alone." The interlude "Gotta Get Up" is a beautiful prelude to "Tomorrow" (produced by Kevin Parker), a psych-pop record where Uchis recites a stunning outro in Spanish. Comparing herself to a comet in the sky, Uchis is fascinated with her internal energy and is careful where she chooses to exhaust it, always discerning what's worth burning out for. Uchis is still self-contained and her music, as a result, casts a hypnotic spell on the listener—the same claustrophobic fuzziness heard on Por Vida.

And Isolation is hopelessly romantic, but the spaces Uchis navigates on this record are within reach, more palpable and less diaristic. Her writing has improved and she's become more of storyteller and seducer. Isolation feels powerful, an I-am-woman manifesto pumped with glitter, sugar, and honey—basking in the slowness of life. Kali Uchis is in no rush to prove anything instead, she's happy to rest in the moment and set the mood. Isolation is a vibe, a contemplative pop record that draws from a diverse range of genres, all of which exercise Uchis' impressive range as a writer and singer. She is well on her way to becoming a pop icon—if she's not already. Even Uchis knows when to wake up from her dreams and Isolation is her kaleidoscopic headspace fully-realized.

Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.

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