Carved out with years of dedication and keen-eyed teamwork (and a hell of production lineup to boot), Portugal. The Man’s 2017 release, Woodstock is one to be reckoned with as a powerhouse release and catalog standout. With flavors spanning from hip-hop and pop to wheelhouse PTM, it certainly kicks it up a notch for a progressive endeavor while never turning face from the carefree, joyous sound that got them here. No bones about it, Woodstock is the most pop-rock-focussed effort by the Pacific Northwest outfit-“Live In The Moment” certainly attests to that, but songs like “Rich Friends” and “Easy Tiger” are as classic PTM as 2011’s In the Mountain in the Cloud (just with a contemporary twist). The hit single “Feel It Still” really bolsters mainstream appeal (let alone, it’s a tidbit out of left field) and falls right in line of a more radio-friendly effort with a heavy dosage of dance. With bouncy horns, catchy hooks, and an Austin Powers-like quirk, “Feel It Still” goes miles for shaking hips and bobbing heads beyond preceding highlights like 2013’s “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” and 2009’s “People Say”. And in true PTM form, the band swaps in their traditional instruments for the good ol’ beat machine to kick off the record with the Danger Mouse-produced “Number One”, which features samples from Richie Havens’ “Freedom” (counter culture anyone?). Winding down the second half of the record, the group morphs into a full-fledged hip-hop group with tracks like the slow-grooving “So Young”, the beat-centric “Tidal Wave” and “Mr. Lonely” (featuring The Pharcyde’s Fat Lip), and the resistance anthem in “Noise Pollution” (produced by The Beastie Boys’ Mike D).
For PTM fans both new and old, Woodstock contains all the good ingredients of the past while mixing in dashes of newer, poppier nuances. It’s a different band that put out 2008’s Censored Colors, and with that some find nostalgia (note: they have a truly astonishing catalog). Woodstock is a fresh reminder that music can be contemporary without abandoning the past.
After 2015’s release of To Pimp a Butterfly, you may have asked yourself ‘Why would Kendrick Lamar need to release anything ever again?’, ‘Can anything be this good?’ or ‘Why even try?’ And the resounding answer is ‘Yes, here’s Damn.’ It goes without saying that Kendrick Lamar didn’t owe the universe anything in 2017—actually, Kendrick may not anything to the universe ever again, but he defied logic once again, and Damn is a one amongst a cast of classics and monumental releases. And in classic Kendrick form (as if he didn’t do this already), Damn contains his most expansive and ranging works to-date while maintaining the classic Kendrick and hip-hop sound all together. With gracing touches from producers Dr. Dre, Greg Kurstin, BadBadNotGood, and The Alchemist accompanied by samples ranging from Wu-Tang Clan and Jay-Z to Rick James and James Brown, Damn is neither shy on the cast of characters nor leaves a stone unturned (did someone say featuring U2?). Quick suggestion: don’t start to ask yourself if he will be able to match or beat Damn, because there’s a very high likelihood that will happen. In fact, chances are he’s already well on his way on that road. All we can do is sit and wait. And enjoy Damn, because it was masterfully dubbed. Damn.
The baddest duo in hip-hop know a thing or two about the inner workings of the world, both artistically and socially. They don’t mess with things that don’t need to be messed with, they don’t speak when things don’t need to be spoken, and they only shine a light when a light needs to be shone. And amidst times of such oppression and social strife (or bigotry?), it couldn’t be more symbolic to have a mouthpiece like Run The Jewels in the limelight of hip-hop and society. Creating great art is one thing, but socially significant and great art? That’s something else entirely, and it’s a mountain Run the Jewels has climbed time and time again (three times to be precise). And in classic RTJ fashion, enlisting a fantastic cast from Danny Brown and Danger Mouse to Matt Sweeney, Zach de la Rocha, and Boots adds the cherry on top to spotlighting social injustices and out-performing themselves again on Run The Jewels 3. As Killa Mike raps on “Talk to Me”, ‘my job is to fight for survival in spite of these all lives matter ass white folk…. I told ya suckers, I told you on RTJ1, then I told you again on RT2, and you still ain’t believe me, so here we go, RTJ3’.