This May was about breaking ground. Megan The Stallion’s Fever proved that she was here to stay, with an invigorated subversive album full of bangers. Tyler, The Creator seemingly pushed through into the next plateau of his artistry with IGOR, a genre-bending exploration of fractured relationships. New York’s Beast Coast collective cemented themselves in history with their Escape From New York album, while Flying Lotus’ Flamagra shows the LA-based producer continuing to push the boundaries of hip-hop production. DJ Khaled’s Father Of Asahd on its own merit isn’t a groundbreaking album, but Khaled has undoubtedly made a lane for himself as a music curator throughout the years. Hip-hop celebrated innovation this month, as well as some tried and true work by artists like Mozzy, YG, Wu-Tang, Young Nudy, and Pi’erre Bourne:
Tyler, The Creator, Igor
Music fandom has made the “era” of an artist a preeminent talking point online, and Tyler, The Creator embraced that concept with Igor, a project that will forever be visually defined by the blonde bob wig that he’s donned for this album cycle. Musically, the album belies Tyler’s social media reputation as a sardonic troll as he gets candid about love — but doesn’t completely lose his dark sense of humor — over a versatile, genre-bending soundscape.
He explores the airy, beseeching components of 90’s R&B on album standout “EARFQUAKE.” He fuses progressive rock with experimental hip-hop on the lovelorn “PUPPET.” He also channels his hero Kanye West’s soul sample ethos on the lush, lovelorn “a boy is a gun*.” The album explores a range of sounds and genres, but it’s all impeccably produced. Igor marks a new creative plateau for Tyler, as the disturbing tone of his earliest work has been replaced by a subject matter that reflects maturity — and a trip through the wringer of the disappointing relationships that can mark adulthood.
Megan Thee Stallion, Fever
Fever is the perfect title for Megan Thee Stallion’s debut album. The Houston rapper has been red hot for the past year or so, and her carefree project will keep the flames lit. If you’re familiar with why she’s become a favorite to so many of the women in your life, then you knew exactly what to expect from Fever: body positive, woman-empowering anthems delivered with considerably more lyricism and precision than her male detractors would ever want to admit. The project is an exercise in subverting the misogyny that pervades hip-hop, as Megan takes ownership of her volition and on songs like “Realer” and the Juicy J-assisted, DJ Paul-sampling “Simon Says.”
On “Best You Ever Had,” she rhymes, “p*ssy keep him knocked out like a painkiller / and if a n—a bag me, you know he a winner,” a quintessential set of bars that affirms her sexual prowess and lets it be known that she does the choosing when it comes to romance. The project, which is chockful of surging, thumping production, came at the perfect time, as the summer is here and hearts are ripe to be broken with Megan as the backdrop.
DJ Khaled, Father Of Asahd
The next time someone around you asks “what does DJ Khaled do,” play them Father Of Asahd and ask them if they can curate a better collection of bangers. He exercises his DJ background in the truest sense throughout the project, piecing together a who’s who of rap on tracks that sample classic hip-hop moments. He knows who works well together sonically and thematically, which is undoubtedly a gift.
“Higher” emanates an eerie tragedy of Nipsey Hussle rhyming lovingly about his lineage in between John Legend’s powerful chorus, which synthesizes the pain that many feel while mourning Nip. Cardi B and 21 Savage get braggadocious on the thumping “Wish Wish,” while a slew of artists make a bid for song of the summer on “You Stay.” Khaled also leaves open solo spots for several artists, especially SZA who shines on the empowering “Just Us.” Khaled is a new school master of the posse cut, and his decade-plus refined prowess shines on Father Of Asahd.
Flying Lotus, Flamagra
Flying Lotus knows how to take listeners on a sonic journey like few others, and his latest album Flamagra is the latest example of his brilliance. Lotus’ sixth album is a 27-track exhibition that spans the range of influence, from the sunny vibes of “Post Requisite” to the funky, whirling sonics of “Pilgrim Side Eyes.” Elements of hip-hop, jazz, soul, and funk are melded in lush fashion throughout the sonic journey, which also invites a slew of talented co-pilots.
On “Yellow Belly,” Tierra Whack gets busy over a wacky production ideally tailored for her, while Denzel Curry pontificates on life in fiery fashion on “Black Balloons Reprise.” Solange’s hushed vocals coat the sweet soundscape of the perfectly titled “Land Of Honey,” while George Clinton offers his one of a kind presence to the funky, swinging “Burning Down The House.”
Flying Lotus’ compositions are emotive enough to induce bars out of the most part-time of rappers and impassioned vocals from a wide range of singers, but they’re also majestic enough for listeners to enjoy on their own. That’s truly the mark of a top-tier producer.
Beast Coast, Escape From New York
New York’s beast coast collective is the millennial answer to crews like the Native Tongues. It’s a supergroup combining Joey Badass’ PRO ERA crew, Flatbush Zombies, and The Underachievers. Instead of releasing their Escape From New York collaboration at the outset of their respective rises in the early 2010s, they’ve met at the top so to speak. That’s evident on tracks like “Coast/Clear,” where Joey Badass celebrates being “first class sippin’ on mimosas.”
The 13-track project features a hodgepodge of the collective’s artists trading creative boasts and sexual yearnings on any given track, from the trap-leaning “Left Hand” to the piano-driven “Distance” and the West Indian-influenced “Snow In The Stadium.” The album may not completely satisfy fans looking for an onslaught of ruckus, traditionalist-appeasing hip-hop, but it works well in its lane.
YG, 4REAL 4REAL
YG’s 4REAL 4REAL was respectfully delayed a month in the wake of his LA peer Nipsey Hussle’s tragic death. It was supposed to be a surprise project, but that didn’t quite work out — though the surprise could be the Compton MC’s artistic direction on the followup to 2018’s Stay Dangerous. While his previous album, much like most of his catalog, was predominantly a treacherous crawl through the dark blocks of Compton, 4REAL 4REAL is more of a mixed bag.
YG anchors party tracks like “Go Loko,” “Hard Bottoms & White Socks,” and “Do Ya Dance” next to introspective songs like “I Was On The Block” with Boogie, the Meek Mill-assisted “Heart To Heart,” and his heartfelt “My Last Words” tribute to Nipsey Hussle,” where he airs out his feelings toward his LA comrade. YG executed the duality to solid results, and the May release was right on time, as the spate of bangers on the album will be banging all summer — just like him.
Wu-Tang Clan, Mics And Men EP
The Wu-Tang Clan had a busy May. They got a street named for them in the crew’s home base of Staten Island, New York — AKA Shaolin. They had a Wu-Tang Museum popup in New York. And they celebrated their 25-year-old legacy with Of Mics And Men, a four-part Showtime docuseries. But their output wasn’t all nostalgia — they released a Mics And Men EP in conjunction with the documentary. All the living Wu-Tang Clan members didn’t make the album, but RZA, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, GZA, Masta Killa and Cappadonna did.
The project, their first since 2017’s The Saga Continues compilation, takes cues from the documentary and their rich history. For instance, “On That Sht Again” employs a vocal clip from 36 Chambers’ “Bring Da Ruckus” single. The project is dominated by production that harkens to their brightest moments, with menacing key loops and layered synths such as the RZA solo “Do The Same As My Brother Do.” The project shows that 25 years later, the Wu’s swords are still as sharp as ever, and they are still lyricists to be reckoned with.
Mozzy, Internal Affairs
Fresh off the heels of 2018’s Gangland Landlord, Mozzy dropped Internal Affairs and fulfilled the album’s title with a 13-song collection of gritty tracks that reflect the toll that poverty — and the ensuing step off the porch — have taken on the 31-year-old. Even as he rhymes, “the sun out, baby, I don’t see the rain no more,” on “Pot To Piss,” he shortly follows that up with a disheartening reminder that “I took this bitch up out my chest and put my heart on the shelf.”
It’s Mozzy’s inability to dust off the lingering existential residue of being in the streets that makes Mozzy one of the chief purveyors of so-called pain rap. But on Internal Affairs, there aren’t many qualms or incisive moments such as ”Seasons,” moreso menacing bangers like “Slide,” “Firearm On Me” and “Killdrummy,” where he lays out a hell of a line in the sand by rhyming, “never trust a n—a that ain’t never did no time / that bounty, that don’t count, it ain’t nothin’ like mainline.”
Young Nudy & Pi’erre Bourne, Sli’merre
Atlanta’s Young Nudy got himself out of a jam on Super Bowl weekend and got back to what he does best: crafting bangers. He collaborated with fellow upstart producer Pi’erre Bourne for Sli’merre, a fun, uptempo project that will be thumping in a car near you for the foreseeable future. Nudy has a unique, jovial vocal presence that adds life to Bourne’s thumping earworms, rendering him more than a mere passenger on an 808 rollercoaster.
Nudy has enough charisma to carry songs like ”Long Ride” and “Hot Wings,” but he also demonstrated that he’s going to be a lasting voice in the trap world on songs with some of rap’s most personalities.
He held his own with his guy 21 Savage on “Mister” and the red-hot Megan Thee Stallion on the equally red-hot “Shotta.” He also harmonized along with Uzi Vert on the string-dominated “Extendo,” and traded braggadocious bars with DaBaby on “Dispatch.“ Hip-hop has become many things, but at it’s still fundamentally about memorable rhymes over dope beats. Thanks to Pi’erre and Nudy locking in and sticking to what they do best, Sli’merre serves that up and then some.
Blu & Exile, True and Liivin
12 years after their classic Below The Heavens, Blu and Exile are back in a serious way. The rapper-producer pair released the True & Livin EP this May. The six-track EP, which is actually three songs, shows Blu locked in over a trio of soulful, jazzy productions. Where Below The Heavens was a coming of age narrative, True & Livin shows Blu in a later stage of life offering his razor-sharp lyricism to themes of pro-Blackness and self-empowerment. The project is perhaps anchored by “Power To The People,” a track Blu has framed as a “call for the people to unite.” He united a lot of members of his Dirty Science Crew on the track, as Choosey, Johaz, Cashus King, Aloe Blacc, Fashawn & Blame One made their voices heard.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.