Jay-Z, Beyonce, Nas, Kanye, Kid Cudi, Black Thought (with Drake technically sneaking in on the month too). Any other time, the names on this list would only be compiled for a best of the year post. A massive, historical eclipse came last summer, but maybe this June represented the hip-hop version. So many of hip-hop’s biggest, most respected names released projects in a 30-day span, setting the summer off with a standard that probably won’t be reached in July or August — or maybe ever again.
From The Carters’ long-awaited collaborative album to the GOOD extravaganza, to the first ever Black Thought solo, there were several long-awaited albums that could’ve held a whole month of discussion down on their own. Those big-ticket albums were bolstered by veterans artists with cult fanbases like Freeway, Jay Rock, and Freddie Gibbs, as well as impressive newcomers like 03 Greedo and Tierra Whack. Here’s the best of the busy month of June.
The Carters, Everything Is Love
Speaking of beloved duos releasing long-awaited albums, Beyonce and Jay-Z finally dropped their long-rumored collaboration project. Arriving like a surprise cyclone on a seemingly random Saturday, the nine-track album shows the two collectively celebrating, defending and exploring the nature of their union after their intimate 4:44 and Lemonade albums. Despite how some of Beyonce’s fans feel about it, the couple is still standing strong.
The album is anchored by their frenetic “Apesh*t” single, but the rest of the album is a well-crafted exhibition of soulful, trap-leaning production by a who’s who of gifted producers such as Pharell, Cool and Dre, and Illmind. Aside from occasional gripes about Tidal detractors and other artists (cough cough Drake), the two are having fun on the project, which fans on their On The Run tour will appreciate.
Kanye And Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts
Kanye had a lot of redeeming to do this summer, and his slapped-together solo album Ye didn’t do much to help his cause. Luckily for him though, the next week he got with longtime collaborator and friend Kid Cudi and found some focus. The result is Kids See Ghosts, a masterfully curated, devoutly pensive album. Kanye’s soulful soundscapes were ideal for the two to both dish out their stresses and contextualize them. Kanye and Cudi fans have been waiting on the project since last New Year’s Eve, and the two delivered. Combining Kid Cudi’s melodic, introspective musings with Kanye’s production expertise and startling transparency was a formula for a canonical work.
Few people believed Kanye would follow through on a Nas album when he announced it, given both artist’s eternal flakiness. But Nasir actually dropped, and the results were mostly good. Nasir seems like another project that was rushed to meet a deadline, with Kanye delivering expert chops but pretty bland drums in most spots. Nas also sounds a bit plodding at times flow-wise, which is a development that may speak to the expedited creation as much as any attrition.
The album aims to present a portrait of Nas as a venerable hip-hop OG who delivers wisdom and respectable insights even as he misfires with theories on Fox News and J. Edgar Hoover. That said, his lack of candor on Kelis’ abuse allegations leave the album feeling omissive and mars its credibility. It’s not Nas’ best work by any stretch, but a pretty good Nas is still better than most lyricists at their best.
Jay Rock, Redemption
LA veteran Jay Rock has at times been looked at as an ancillary member of the TDE juggernaut, as Kendrick Lamar, SZA, and Schoolboy Q have taken home the lion’s share of accolades. That’s only been the case, however, because Jay Rock hasn’t actually dropped an album in years. Redemption is the perfect name for his full-length return to music, as it not only represents his place in the rap game but what the street vet is seeking as a man. Songs like “OSOM” and “ES Tales” quickly remind those in the know that Jay Rock was the original flagship TDE artist, and his gritty, narrative-driven artistic approach may have given Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy creative direction as they developed their craft.