April 14, 2010 Times have not been kind to the hip-hop industry. Philadelphia rapper Freeway and Seattle producer Jake One have come up with a novel response, especially in the era of digital music. Their new collaboration, The Stimulus Package, comes with some of the most elaborate packaging ever designed for a hip-hop album.
April 8, 2010 The entire album is dressed with a classic romanticism; excepting a few studio-room outtakes/interludes, New Amerykah Part 2 is all love songs — or, better put, falling-in-and-out-of-and-back-into-love songs, forming a complex of conflicted emotions over love's charms and harms.
February 24, 2010 The fifth-grade MCs in 3 Titans aren't exactly baby Jay-Zs, as far as flow is concerned, but there's charming cleverness to their ode to the importance of higher education. You'd have to have a cold, cynical heart not to be at least slightly moved by Khalil Jackson, Jorden Plaines and Dallas Ifill's optimism.
February 18, 2010 With its sparse but powerful percussive push and chanting chorus, "Shacalao" strips Fela Kuti's more groove-laden song "Shakara" down to rhythmic studs, pushing it forward with the two-step beat that lies at the heart of cumbia. Yet, while Cumbia Moderna de Soledad remakes Fela, it also gestures to the deep tradition that bonds eastern Colombia with western Africa.
February 17, 2010 The compilation provides an impressive and compelling introduction to Africa's embrace of Latin music. Its songs are simultaneously global and local, offering up a twist on "world fusion" without the associations with toothless tropical music.
January 29, 2010 More so than other genres, R&B seems to only have room for one reigning queen at a time. Don't expect 2010 to be much different as Beyonce's well-kept coif has likely already been measured for this year's Grammy crown.
January 25, 2010 Part of what makes the producer and DJ's obsessive effort so remarkable is that, if you try to reverse-engineer what he's doing at any given moment, this is the cut-and-paste equivalent of a great violin solo. But he executes so seamlessly and effortlessly that he never calls attention to the parts, only the sum.
January 21, 2010 In a vintage photo, a solitary man with a Cab Calloway mustache grabs his hat with two hands and lets out a yell. Off the page and across 30 years, you can still hear the holler. Oliver Wang reviews a collection of music and photos from Chicago's 1970s soul scene.
November 18, 2009 Retro-soul's popularity raises any number of intriguing thoughts and questions about nostalgia, race and American pop cycles.
September 24, 2009 This multi-talented vibraphonist, bandleader, producer and label owner was a prominent figure in New York's Latin music scene. But when he retired from active recording in the mid-'70s, his legacy was largely forgotten. Now, he's re-entering the spotlight, thanks to a new anthology which samples some of his strongest works in Latin soul, rock and salsa.
September 16, 2009 Among those who find today's soul throwbacks too mired in the past, Hawthorne's A Strange Arrangement is unlikely to change many minds. Yet the album suggests a promising future for the artist.
September 9, 2009 The Blueprint 3 is the latest release by rapper Jay-Z; it's the second sequel to one of his best-known releases, 2001's The Blueprint. It's also Jay-Z's 11th solo album in 13 years, making him one of hip-hop's most prolific artists. Reviewer Oliver Wang suggests that, even this far into his career, the rapper is still finding ways to stay on top.