Our music staff has returned with their third round of Music Streaming Suggestions! We have another diverse lineup this week, headlined by the likes of Joey Badass, Kali Uchis, The Weeknd, and Childish Gambino. As usual, we added our new suggestions to our weekly-updated Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.
1999 (2012) - Joey Badass
When you think of our generation’s most talented and impactful lyricists, Joey Badass is one of the first names that comes to mind. When you think of debut projects from the artists of Joey’s caliber, few are as formidable as 1999—one of the crown jewels of the “mixtape era” that took the early-to-mid 2010s by storm.
I’m not saying this as a slight to Joey in any way, but it says something when your debut mixtape is arguably still your most revered project nearly nine years later. Despite having well-polished projects such as B4.DA.$$ and All-Amerikkkan Badass under his belt, 1999 has (overwhelmingly) held its position as the fan-favorite. The mixtape provides an intimate look at a young Joey Badass as an artist and a person; 1999 showcases Joey’s early knack for poetry and soul, and it also proves that he has never shied away from speaking his mind—tackling politically-charged topics has long been Joey’s trademark.
One of 1999’s unique characteristics is that while Joey solidified himself as a star, 1999 also functions as a posse tape for Joey’s Pro Era collective. About half of the tape contains features, coming on the behalf of Pro Era associates such as Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution, CJ Fly, Chuck Strangers, and most notably, the late legend Capital STEEZ, who passed away just six months after the tape’s release. In addition to Pro Era’s lyrical prowess, the production of 1999 is another major highlight; Joey repurposed a handful of MF DOOM and J Dilla beats, on top of additional production from the likes of Statik Selektah, Lord Finesse, and Knxwledge.
In short: 1999 is a sonic haven for anyone who appreciates pensive, poetic lyricism and robust, soulful production. -Evan Linden
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Waves,” “World Domination,” and “Survival Tactics” (feat. Capital STEEZ)
STN MTN (2014) - Childish Gambino
When people debate what project of the multitalented Donald Glover's is his very best, the populous typically gravitates towards his most popular work: Because the Internet, the infamous Royalty mixtape, or his critically acclaimed television show Atlanta. To me, it doesn't matter which project is your favorite, but it's blasphemous to leave STN MTN—the mixtape that exists as the degenerate younger brother to his pop album Kauai—out of the conversation.
STN MTN doesn't feature the typical intellectual, handsome, but nerdy Childish Gambino that we as his listeners grew accustomed to. It instead features what Gambino would've been if he had pursued the trap genre as his primary mode of creativity. "I had a dream I ran Atlanta / And I was on every radio station... I reopen SciTrek, strippers will get Mother's Day off / And I'd have my own Gangsta Grillz mixtape," Gambino recites on the mixtape's genesis, "Dream / Southern Hospitality / Partna Dem."
This is the mixtape where his dreams come true. The album doesn't have a single thoughtful track on it—each one is dedicated to operating as a body-moving banger that produces an irremovable stank face on its listener with tracks like the remix to "GO DJ," and "Move That Dope." It's the closest that Glover ever comes to impersonating Lil Wayne, and he does a damn good job at it.
The project isn't available on streaming and is only available via outlets such as SoundCloud and DatPiff, but I promise the download time is well worth the wait. - Ralph James Compiano
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: "Dream / Southern Hospitality / Partna Dem," "Move That Dope," and "GO DJ"
TO FEEL ALIVE (2020) - Kali Uchis
In the early days of 2020, Kali Uchis dropped a little tape that surprised me. The short EP is just a pinch over 10 minutes at four songs. As the tracks are said to be demos, I refuse to label these as demo quality. Each track is compacted with self-confidence, lush melodies, and Colombian flare. Kali brings her classic pitch-perfect voice on top of soft and cloudy instrumentals that make your eyes tear up. Even though this project might consist of Kali’s throwaways, my ears didn’t hear it that way. If you got 10 minutes to kill waiting for your friends to pick you up, throw this on to get you to feel some type of way before the party.
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: "honey baby" and "angel"
Nothing Gold Can Stay (2021) - Jimi Somewhere
Jimi Somewhere’s debut album released Thursday at midnight, and to say my body was riddled with endless, euphoric energy afterward is the epitome of an understatement.
Beginning with the opening prelude, Somewhere descriptively emphasized the thematic tone that encompasses the album: You are encouraged to revel in your most alluring, endearing moments; just don’t get lost in them to the point where you lose yourself. As I emphasized in the first week of “Burbs Streaming Suggestions,” Somewhere’s musical magic can only be performed with the complementing mastery of his producer, Milo Orchis. The duo continued their beautiful work within the realms of rejuvenating synthesizers and heavily, yet smoothly mixed vocal progressions. I look forward to seeing where the duo can rise from here; their latest delivery heavily surpassed the peak of my expectations.
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: “Golden,” “The World,” and “Confidence”
House of Balloons (2011) - The Weeknd
Ahead of his Super Bowl halftime performance, Abel Tesfaye has cemented himself as a world-renowned megastar. Though we now know him as the creative force that is The Weeknd, I find it important to revisit the project that started it all, House of Balloons. Released in 2011, the then-anonymous Tesfaye dropped a collection of dark R&B ballads that took his affinities for drugs, women, and fame and transformed them into lustful serenades that drew vocal comparisons to Michael Jackson.
Before After Hours, House of Balloons was widely regarded as The Weeknd’s most thorough and well-rounded project. The mixtape tells a story; you’re dragged through the highest of Tesfaye’s highs and the very lowest of his lows as he proudly delves into a world of narcissistic cynicism. Which isn’t a knock on Tesfaye; he was 20 when HOB was recorded. House of Balloons is a necessary chapter in the evolution of not only The Weekend as a character, but Tesfaye himself.
The middle of the mixtape features a four-song stretch composed of classics that is, dare I say, possibly unparalleled: “House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls,” “The Morning,” “Wicked Games,” and “The Party & The After Party.” The Weeknd is my favorite artist, and while I find it difficult to construct a firm ranking of his discography, “The Party & The After Party” will forever reign as my favorite of his songs. While House of Balloons might not find its way onto a pregame playlist like Tesfaye’s later projects (if you’re lame, you’re lying if you claim there’s no room for “HOB / GTG”), it remains his definitive project. No project better exceeds at turning melodies of excess pill-popping and regrettable one-night stands into tracks that, as the great Adam Sandler puts it, make you feel sexy when you’re alone. I swear he said that; I’m not that big of a freak, here’s proof. - Jack Martin
HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: "The Party & The After Party," "The Morning," and "Loft Music"