It’s hard to be in great spirits when the sky is orange, there is no part of my house that doesn’t at least slightly smell like ash, and the world seemingly is facing the brunt of all of its imperialist and ecological destruction at once. But for me, the way I’ve gotten through and continue to navigate whatever I’m working on is through music. And no, that doesn’t mean protest music or any sort of faux march music that dumbs down the work that is being done (you know what artists I’m talking about). I mean music that just really is just fun, energetic, and honest about whatever an artist is going through. So this week, I thought amidst everything going on to just share some of my soundtrack to this eventful summer.
You cannot say pop and forget the smoke. But truthfully, no artist has been in the rotation all summer long like Pop Smoke. It’s still heartbreaking to not just know his life was tragically ended this year, but to see how positive and excited he was about making music that makes this so devastating for hip hop. 80% of this first (and presumably last) album was done before he was killed, and fortunately, it sounds like that. Some of my favorites on the album, from “Gangstas” to the 50 Cent interpolated “Got It On Me”, are a testament to his passion for telling his story. There are so many other standouts, including on the deluxe like the “Enjoy Yourself” remix with Burna Boy, that are reminders to just make the most of the circumstances we’re all in and breathe a bit. Pop Smoke was destined to take over this summer, and although he isn’t with us anymore, his voice and spirit will forever be remembered.
I don’t act like my taste is particularly nuanced or deep because frankly, it isn’t. I have some smaller artists that I like to listen to and find through Spotify Discover Weekly, but for the most part, yeah I would generally say that most of my taste is fairly mainstream. An artist I discovered this summer through Cautious Clay was Remi Wolf, a pop artist that gave an incredible few lines on the song “Cheesin’” with Still Woozy. It sort of led me down a labyrinth of listening throughout her whole discography, and I can confidently say I’m a new fan. “Shawty,” “Doctor,” and all of the I’m Allergic to Dogs! EP are great places to get into her music. A late drive with some cold brew and Remi has been such a cathartic way to relax with a pandemic going on.
If there was an album that I felt like spoke more to my own experiences and stories, it’d be Aminé’s Limbo. The Habesha connection is mad strong throughout the album, with lines about balegé (being disrespectful) and “Eritrea Ethiopia, Habesha utopia.” The absolute banger “Woodlawn” is the song where I just pretend it’s about Woodlawn in Chicago and I envision walking back around campus again. I didn’t have many clear contenders for my favorite albums of the year, but I knew instantly after the first listen that this was the project for me. I don’t skip any songs on the album, even the short Kobe interlude. Aminé’s switch in flows, constant witty lyricism, all on dynamic production that fits his vocals so well creates an album everyone should listen to.
There are plenty of other artists I still want to dive into this summer, from Chika to LCD Soundsystem. But then again, given the circumstances, going back to my favorites like Anderson .Paak and Jorja Smith, people that I’m comfortable and mellowed out with, is just the type of feeling I want when listening to music in these times. I’ll link my year playlist and my profile if anyone wants to see some music I’ve been listening to. In short, I know that this summer and continuing to learn and grow would not be possible without the music that has given me the escape and reprieve necessary. It simply would not have been the same without these artists mentioned.
Being Noah Tesfaye #145: My Soundtrack to this Tumultuous Summer
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