"Our Spilt Milk" shares our favorite things this week--new Schoolboy Q, Lucy Dacus in concert, and Jidenna on video.
Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron catered to the lowest common denominator, dressing up run-of-the-mill bro rap with high-quality production. (Regardless of what some people might tell you, "titty-ass hands in the air" is not that profound of a statement.) These criticisms do not hold true, however, for Q's latest album, Blank Face, which came out Friday. The production is sparser, less danceable, giving Q room to show off his lyrical finesse and serving as a backdrop for him to spell out a worldview that's notably bleaker—more mature?—than on his last album. One-liners such as "I ain't been right since out the cervix" ("TorcH") abound, but this time they feel more organic and less like soundbites.
Long-time friend and collaborator Kendrick Lamar is notably absent from the album’s impressive list of features (Jadakiss, E-40, Kanye West, Anderson .Paak to name a few) signaling Q's desire to step out from Kendrick's shadow and find his own voice. Schoolboy Q is far and away the most successful member of the Black Hippie crew other than Kendrick, so there will no doubt be comparisons drawn between Blank Face and To Pimp a Butterfly. Blank Face has very little to do with TPAB or with Kendrick's new political direction, though. Q is not Kendrick, and as the past 25 years have proven, hip-hop doesn't need to be conscious to be good. Blank Face is a dark, intense project that somehow manages to be more dynamic and more cohesive than its predecessor at the same time. It's not revolutionary by any means, but for Q, it's certainly a success and a step in the right direction. (Raphael Helfand)
Lucy Dacus loves her dad. During her opening set for Lord Huron, she played a cover of “Dancing in the Dark” by his favorite artist, Bruce Springsteen. Dacus proved her own songwriting chops too, playing songs off her new album No Burden. Her song "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore” showcases her clever songwriting ability, and focuses on her issues with personal identity. The song centers on the artist’s struggle to shake loose an identity (the “funny girl”) and how hard it is to change how others see you. Dacus might not want to be the funny girl anymore, but I hope she doesn't lose it entirely. Her laid back demeanor is what makes her stand out and helps her songs hold more weight.
Behind the relaxed chick lie relatable issues. Her friendly presence makes her songs seem more real, as if they are exposing something behind the persona. She isn’t acting like someone else onstage. Watching her is like watching close friends. You see them having fun, but you also pick up on their insecurities, can hear changes in their tone others might not. Despite Dacus’ trouble, she isn’t too embarrassed to serenade her dad in front of hundreds of people. Bruce would approve. (Jessie Rubini)
As I’ve written elsewhere, I walked away from this year’s Essence Festival hooked on Jidenna. While looking for his “Classic Man” video on YouTube, I ran across a series titled “The Makings of a Classic Man” that used the video as a way to explore his—and by extension, Janelle Monae’s Wondaland Arts Society’s—notion of manliness. In his video, Jidenna presents himself as a Black Panther--a revolutionary figure in wingtips and a three-piece suit. Someone profoundly rooted in his culture and its survival in the streets, in the halls of academia, and the runways of Fashion Week. “The Makings of a Classic Man” videos are mini-documentaries on other creative African-American men who present real-life touchstones for Jidenna’s video.
For me, those videos had dueling contexts. Jidenna seemed like an artist a hit or two away from Essence’s main stage because conceptually, he’s magazine’s ideal man. He’s also someone critics of #blacklivesmatter will never understand. How could a well-dressed, accomplished man march in the streets and block freeways? Why would he do such a thing? Critics struggle to see past the stereotypes of protesters as the 2016 equivalent of dirty hippie anti-war protesters and fail to notice the broad swath of community—black and white—marching. Of course, they still can’t get past the now-deadly stereotype of black males as physical supermen, ones who according to Baton Rouge police might still be able to pull a gun and get the drop on them despite being face down on the ground with their arms restrained. Notice that that’s not a trait Jidenna or any of the other classic men in the videos claim. (Alex Rawls)
What's your favorite thing this week? If you've got something you want to turn people on to, write me at email@example.com and let's get your thoughts on My Spilt Milk.