Best projects of March 2018

No more false starts, no more pump fakes, no more hesitation. The end of the 1st Quarter of the year proved to be a convincing sign that music has gone through its warmup drills and is now ready to enter the game. A strong month of March was capped off by frenzied music Friday on the next to last day before the calendar changed.

Because of the amount of content, it was tough to pick and choose which projects to listen to first. A justified consensus first spin went to The Weeknd, who dominated the conversation for the day, but there were other great CDs and singles worthy of consideration from that day too. March provided us with some fresh new music to help soundtrack the beginning of Spring properly.

Just JT and Eyeless of The Barber's Chair are here to give you their favorite projects of the month and some other notables that should be on your radar.

The Weeknd - My Dear Melancholy

Eyeless: Abel took a descent from Starboy back into the depths of darkness with My Dear Melancholy,. On this aptly titled 6-track EP, The Weeknd presumably pens letters to his most recent public exes through an honest and depressing filter. The desolate landscape, created by Frank Dukes, Mike WiLL, Skrillex, and end of the world enthusiast Gesaffelstein (not confirmed but I mean, have you ever heard the beats for "Send It Up" and "I'm In It" by Kanye?) provides the right setting for The Weeknd's bleak soliloquies.

I said I didn't feel nothing, baby, but I lied
I almost cut a piece of myself for your life
Guess I was just another pit stop'Til you made up your mind
You just wasted my time

Abel, are you okay...

And I'ma fuck the pain away, and I know I'll be okay
They said our love is just a game, I don't care what they say
But I'ma drink the pain away, I'll be back to my old ways
And I got two red pills to take the blues away, oh

...he's not. But as he's done with music from the past, he'll use the energy of the pain and will channel the hurt towards new content. Notice the "," in the album title. The comma is also included in the album artwork so it can't be a typo. The question isn't "does he have more to say?" The question is "when does it drop?" Until then...

Just JT: I wasn’t even planning on putting The Weeknd’s EP in my top until the EP was released for the world to hear, but I just can't deny My Dear Melancholy, man. For me personally, I haven't always been a big Weeknd fan from his early stages with House of Balloons. It didn't take me until Beauty Behind the Madness for me to start really rocking with his music forreal. His new project, you’ll see that he decides to take it back to the essence of 2011 Abel throughout the whole EP. Usually, he drops music in the Fall but he decided to switch it up on us and drop in the Springtime. It’s crazy how heartbreak plays a huge role in the being the reason why an album, EP or mixtape can be so amazing and relatable.

My Personal favorite record on here is Try Me. I would also like to also inform listeners when you play Wasted Times that you play that record with caution because it may bring up feelings that you thought you didn’t have before.I had seen someone say on twitter if Abel would go back to the House of Balloons style and drop a trilogy of EPs. I wouldn’t be mad if he was to take the approach at all. I would say if he does do this to drop the EP in the middle of the summer and the last one right when Fall begins. That would be a perfect move for Abel. But one can only dream. Let’s enjoy the moment and enjoy this music.

DJ Esco - Kolor Blind

Just JT: When you hear that DJ Esco is releasing new project it can only mean one thing: brand new music from Future. And they did not come to disappoint. To me, as long as Future is able to drop a couple of sermons on these mixtapes, then as far as I’m concerned the project overall is alright in my book. Esco started off the Color Blind announcement with the visual for "Code of Honor" with Future & Schoolboy Q, which he set the tone for how the project was going to be. I don't know about y’all but I can already see myself blasting "Code of Honor" during the Summer days.

Next up he released "Walk Thru" with Future & Nas. I know everybody is not too fond of most the older rappers trying to rap on trap like beats but Nasir Jones managed to do his thing on there. The storytelling on there was strong and Future presence on the hook wasn’t heavy. What's so great about Future's music is one minute you could hear a new record and say “oh this is just decent” and then next minute you would have played the same record about 5 more times and end up rapping or singing the hook without realizing it. Either way it goes, Kolor Blind is a good set up of teaser music to us hold us over until it’s time for Future to drop his new album.

03 Greedo - The Wolf of Grape Street

Eyeless: Labeling 03 Greedo simply as Trap music is a lazy analysis. The Watts, California rapper has a multitude of different styles, all of which are on display in his latest, The Wolf of Grape Street. It might not be all the way accurate to just credit him solely as a rapper; artist is a better descriptor. I've seen his name float around on the net in the past and dug his collab with Maxo Kream "ATW" but never listened to a full project before this. Needless to say, it was a proper introduction into the mind of a versatile creative.

Over the thrilling course of 18 tracks, 03 establishes an authentic foundation of West Coast sound then smashes all traces of conventional. One minute he could hit the listener with a breathless 16 then unexpectedly wail autotune cries for the next 8 bars. Chaotic? Yes. Sloppy? It's not neat, but it's straight. Undisciplined? Not in the slightest. The varying melodies that Greedo experiments with are a breath of fresh air. He's breaking the boundaries of what a regular structure is typically viewed as. The cold open in "Run for Your Life" (I been sleeping with your girlfriend, same time you're doing time) is just a sample of how frigid his pen can get.

From the high octane and fast-paced opener "Drippin'" to the self-produced thumper of a closing track "Never Bend," 03 Greedo keeps his audience's attention by keeping them entertained with rotating new aged hip-hop/RnB influences. Pressing play on blazing records like "Bacc to Bacc" featuring SOBxRBE member Yhung T.O. will instantly transport you to a California State of Mind thanks to the production. Pressing play on "sobering" records like "Substance" will not only have you floatin' on a cloud, but will have you gain an appreciation for his versatility as an artist.

We woke up
Intoxicated off of all type of drugs
I'm never sober when I'm in love
I need some type of drugs
I need some type of substance
She keep sendin' me subs
I need some type of substance

You can feel the pain in the lyrics; you can hear the pain in his voice. Man, I gotta go back and listen to his old shit. I'm a fan.

Trouble x Mike Will Made it - Edgewood

Just JT: Mike Will Made it is what many consider to be the “cheat code” to all of this fire music we need in life. No matter what vibe you’re looking for, you’re guaranteed his production will match that exact musical feeling no matter what artist he’s with. Listening to Edgewood you can tell that rapper Trouble & Mike Will really make a great combo. Trouble has been around in rap since around 2011/2012 when he released records such as "Bussin," "You Don’t Deserve That," etc. He also helped Young Thug as well with "Thief in the Night." He released mixtapes as Skoobzilla, 16(A Collection), The Return of December 17th, etc but with Edgewood, it’s a reminder and a reintroduction to the world of who Trouble is and where he comes from.

What I love about this debut is the gritty trap production. The entire sound throughout the project can be best described a redefined trap music from back in 2009-2010. It sounds fresh new and not like most the other trap songs that have came out. When you’re sitting back and letting Edgewood play in your ears and digest in your brain, you can start seeing a motion picture playing in your head, from the songs to the interludes. It’s telling the story about the Atlanta trap world and it’s brutal realities that come with the territory. My favorite records on the project include Might Not, Pull Dat Cash Out, & Come Thru.I even love Bring It Back. I don’t know what it was but at first i just wasn’t into the record like that, but hearing in context with the album, the song sounds 10x harder than it did just standing alone. It’s In Your Hands is an interlude i always want to press play on. Just listening to Low Down Dirty Black say his prayers to God about what was going on and showing him asking God for guidance is powerful. This project will definitely become one of my favorite by the time the end of the year hits.

Bishop Nehru - Elevators: Act I & II (executively produced by DOOM & Kaytranada)

Eyeless: When "executively produced by DOOM & Kaytranada" is tagged onto anything music related, the expectations from the fans are gonna be ridiculous. The pressure facing the artist to not fuck up and waste that production credit is even higher than the unrealistic expectations set by fans. Young Bishy did not squander the opportunity and delivered one of the most well-rounded hip-hop projects of the month. Elevators: Act I & II is a backpack fan's best friend. Bishop Nehru is a 21-year-old lyricist with the stone cool demeanor of an older rapper. His composure comes from being a vet himself, logging in 5+ visible years in the underground circuit already. Bishop's humble approach and lyrical prowess have earned the respect of his elders in the game. Why would he be shook of a modern titan of production on the rise and a Metal Face underground legend on the mic and the MPC?

The 2014 NehruvianDOOM duo becomes a reimagined trio when Kaytranada makes an appearance. His distinct rattling bass thuds and eclectic sounds create island-influenced beats where the rapper can energetically flow with jabs and punches, like in "Get Away." On this album, DOOM's signature hyperactive drum snare loops (as heard in "Up Up, and Away"featuring the heavenly vocals of Lion Babe) are akin to the Trap hi-hats that dominate this era.  The horns, strings, and other jazzy elements incorporated in the production provided a sharp and less polluted and balanced space for Bishop Nehru to roam. Every syllable is enunciated with a purpose; either it acts as a channel to the next fluid bar or punctuates a punchline after a slight pause for effect.

Controlled, matured, spitter who's a patient storyteller with a good command of the English language. It's weird to see the so-called "hip-hop purists" not keep the same energy about praising such young great New York talent like Bishop Nehru as they do when shitting on rainbow-haired New York clown shows like [redacted]. Different topic for a different day. Today, listen to this 30-some minutes of quality raps and sound production. Hoping Acts III & IV come sooner rather than later.

Tory Lanez came back strong with his sophomore effort Memories Don’t Die. It’s something about memories that just keeps us all going, whether its the good, bad, or ugly. And Tory is very adamant on this subject matter throughout the entire album, discussing situations in his past life, a misunderstanding between him and Travis Scott, a subtle snub at Eric Bellinger, and importantly, the death of his mother. Tory made it clear with this album that he’s focused on creating great bodies of work than making hit singles. We also get to hear Tory’s different styles of music whether he’s singing (4 Me, Skkrt Skkrt), spitting bars (Old Friends x New Foes, Benevolent, ), creating melodic trap records (Shooters, Real Thing, B.I.D), or telling stories (Pieces, Happiness x Don’t Die, Hate to Say). Tory is well versed is the many different styles of music that you never know what direction he’s going to take with the music. I’m glad to see that he was focused on creating more original work to show the people that he is serious about his craft. And even with the mishaps going on between accusations of stealing music, old footage leaking of him & Travis Scott, or the beef with Eric Bellinger, Tory is focused on creating memorable music and making his presence known at the shows.

Sango - In The Comfort Of

The long journey to an official debut studio album must be a difficult one. Last month, Nipsey Hussle released Victory Lap - a product of 10+ years of a genuine grind in the game. It was both parts surprising and not surprising that Victory Lap was considered his first debut. Surprising because of how prolific his back catalog was and the amount of years spent making and release music. After watching Nipsey's interview before the album drop, one could tell how careful and patient he was about it. Didn't drop a debut just to do it; it was cared for like a baby. First official impressions are important, especially in entertainment. The budget or value in attention towards the next project could diminish considerably if the first impression is off. Previous projects can be shrugged off as "just a mixtape" or "free release." That debut stamp makes a lasting imprint.

Sango, one of Soulection's very finest beat makers, dropped his well-produced debut album, In The Comfort Of. It's hard to say that fans have been desperate for new material; the 26-year old's 2017 produced a full-length project and several remixes and edits that can be found on his SoundCloud page. But the anticipation was still there to see how he would approach his debut's arrangement. One word can describe the approach: meticulous. In The Comfort Of has a sequencing that can be appreciated by all fans of music. Meaning, the pacing of this CD, similar to its journey, was not rushed, overloaded, or forced. It's a trip of electric relaxation through the South American and African continents, borrowing some traditional elements along the way to create a modern piece of art. Using Tribal percussion instruments mixed in with chopped up authentic Brazillian music and spoken Portuguese, Sango does a brilliant job of weaving these elements together to create a one of a kind groovy and laid back project. RnB, hip-hop, future bass, downtempo trap, gospel - the amount of identifiable elements contained In The Comfort Of makes it seem like a mess when listed out on paper.

A highly skilled producer like Sango can control and compose the wild elements in such an elegant and neat assortment. The smokey, sultry, and rich vocals of Jean Deaux; the eccentrically creative wordsmith Smino; the whiskey-filled, heartful and soulful presence of JMSN. Features are duets on this album. No one's here to outshine the other participant (s), a mood and sentiment that can be drawn from this record. Coexist. Chill the fuck out and slow things down from time to time. In The Comfort Of gets you to that laxed state of mind.

Wale - It’s Complicated EP

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from our good friend Wale Folarin in the music world. Hence why it felt refreshing hearing this surprise EP he dropped for the fans. Last time we heard from him was when he dropped his album Shine. Prior to the EP release, he released two records "All-Star Break Up" & "Staying Power."  Following the releases, news dropped that he and Atlantic records were parting ways. The way things are shaping up, it’s looking like the best decision he’s made in a while.

From the time he joined MMG to this point, it felt like he always had a chip on his shoulder when it came to creating music. It was almost like no matter what he would say, do, or rap, it just wasn’t enough for some members of the hip-hop fanbase. But listening to and marination with his new EP It’s Complicated, you can just sit back and sense how at ease Wale is with everything going on around him. He feels refreshed, inspired, and truly in his bag like before. And of course, he wrote a whole EP based off one of my generation’s favorite topics, Love.

He didn’t waste no time on It’s Complicated as he speaking good off on topic such as having hard time finding love, how women of today’s age that are preoccupied with social media clout, etc. Another thing too is that we really need an epic visual of "Black Bonnie" because I cannot tell you how flame that record is. It’s something about songs like that where I can sit back and just let my imagination run wild of what bae & I would be doing. Happy to see Wale pushing towards making this visual happen because it’s needed and it's important. If this EP is any indication of what’s to come in the future then I’m looking forward to the direction Wale is going. Usually, if he drops a project, EP or Mixtape, it’s usually followed by an album. I can’t wait to see where Wale is going to with his next full-length album. With him being away from Atlantic, he can be more in his creative glow with the music all while still dropping fire bars, love songs, etc.

Honorable Mentions

Just JT:
Valee - GOOD Job, You’ve Found Me
Rich Homie Quan - Rich as in Spirit
Tink - Pain & Pleasure EP
Lil Durk - Just Cause Y’all Waited

Eyeless:
Phonte - No News Is Good News
Doja Cat - Amala
Mozzy - Spiritual Conversations
Wale - It's Complicated EP
Chloe x Halle - The Kids Are Alright
Styles P - Nickel Bag EP


Check out Eyeless and JT's best projects for January and February