Released on Valentine’s Day, Ups & Downs of Love is a new mixtape from a Buffalo, NY based hip hop artist going by the name Conscious. As the title suggests, the songs thematically alternate between the high, euphoric aspects of love and the downtrodden episodes of heartbreak and depression. The production quality here is pretty good, though I prefer the vocal effects on some tracks more than others. Let Me In particularly stands out as one of the best tracks on here, with the vocals coming through smoothly and crisply and not tinkered with very much. That’s the point in listening to this where I felt like, “Wow, this guy really has something here.”
As far as the instrumental backing, the final track You & Me is my favorite. It features a bouncy, dreamlike synth beat, reminiscent of video game music. This mixtape fuses elements of hip hop, R&B and pop. Conscious seems like he’s on the right track with this mixtape. Artistically, creating a themed album in which the songs act as components within an overall structure which itself is part of the art, is a good move. It adds a dimension of vision and thoughtfulness that you don’t often see in any plain old mixtape.
Originally from Pittsburgh, and having walked away from a career in engineering, Matt Westin would have seemed to be an rather unlikely prospect for country music artist. Yet here he is. Admittedly I was expecting something rather cliche when I came upon his new single Our Redneck of the Woods, (from his debut album, Legacy) but while it does contain some familiar country music tropes about what rednecks like, the song and lyrics are much more detailed and actually pretty epic. With choice lines like “If a politician came out here right now, we might hook his ass up to a plow,” this track has potential to be a hit. It is just one of those songs where you listen and could imagine it being played everywhere, due to the catchy zingers. Musically speaking, the guitar work here is very good, as it is on most country albums, with lots of delightful twang and note bending. Westin is a capable singer, his relatively deep and authoritative voice matching the confident tone of the song. This is a worthwhile country song with highly entertaining lyrics.
Wilmington, Delaware based gospel and R&B singer Dan Kenneth’s latest song, From the Heart is aptly titled work of passion. Kenneth really does sing as if he means it, and you can feel the emotion in every note. With the vocals out front up against a minimalistic piano backing, he doesn’t hide anything in this mix. He lays it all out there for you. Like most gospel singers, this guy has a great voice and uses it to its maximum potential. What’s really refreshing about this release though is that there are no gimmicks, no fake attitude and no posturing. From the Heart has a genuine quality about it that’s missing in so much of today’s music.
Motivation is the product of former pro basketball player Ugonna Onyekwe, who is now “releasing music with his sister under the name SYBS.” It’s a high quality R&B/pop song, with elements of hip hop as well. The video features Coss Marte, a former inmate who developed a prison style workout, which he now performs in an NYC gym and livestreams the sessions. Reese Scott also appears in the video. She was a Creative Director for a publishing company to start Women’s World of Boxing ten years ago, in order “to offer women a safe, comfortable and uplifting environment.”
As you can tell, the song Motivation deals with individuals struggling with doubts or a troubled past, who seek and eventually find motivation to improve their life and pursue their dreams. The track transitions effortlessly between several cultural styles of music. If you just skipped to a random part of it, you might think it’s a completely different musical genre. The transitions are done extremely well. The female vocalist is particularly impressive, absolutely nailing her vocal parts and elevating the song to another level. All in all, this is a very cohesive release, and the video is shot professionally. I feel like this song could actually motivate people.
Roadtrip is a new single from award winning country singer, TJ Leonard. He’s Swedish, but I swear you’d never guess that from hearing this song, as it sounds as authentically American country as you can get. Roadtrip chronicles in detail a trip throughout the southeastern United States, and I do mean in detail, with play by play lyrics like We bought a gift for my mother in law at a place called Quilt Connection.
The production on this track is excellent, and Leonard is a real pro performer. His voice is easy on the ears and his overall vocal presence carries the song well. Roadtrip is a solid single by an artist with major label potential.
Band of the Hawk is back with another impressive jam and great example of collaboration done effectively. Dunno Wut To Believe In is a politically charged song which deals loosely with the current political climate and some of the hot button social issues of our time that never quite seem to go away. Setting aside the song’s message, these are all very skilled rappers. There are multiple artists affiliated with this song, so it’s tough to tell who’s who to give proper shoutouts and recognition, but what’s interesting is that they each have distinctive delivery styles, and even the tone of voice is substantially different…which adds something to the song. My favorite section is probably the middle one which features lyrics like Livin’ in the screenshot culture, snakes and vultures. The rapper in this segment is particularly crisp in his timing and diction. These guys all work well together though, and each adds a component to the track giving it another dimension.
Crooner Steven Chera’s new album, The Classic Standards, features him performing classic songs from the early part of the 20th century. Inspired by Sinatra, Martin and the rest, Chera keeps the spirit of the Rat Pack alive. One can almost wonder if he is being channeled by Old Blue Eyes himself. Both musically and aesthetically he successfully captures the style and ambiance of this era with these songs. He does not merely mimic or emulate these legendary artists though, but rather he incorporates his own personality into the tracks, giving them a bit of personal flair. The result is that the album does not come off as overly derivative. This is a high quality production by an artist who has clearly spent quite a bit of time and effort in mastering this genre.
Multi-talented entertainment personality, Keldamuzik (AKA Diva,) thrives as a recording artist, actress, TV Show Host and producer. Her music is animated and exuberant. It combines her lively personality with some pretty catchy beats. One of my favorite jams of hers is That’s Why which has a musical backing track that’s reminiscent of video game “chip tune” music but which features Keldamuzik’s epic lyrics such as:
“up top, I’m blessed with a c cup, down there I keep a lil’ peach fuzz”
These are enhanced by her delivery and “matter of fact” tone. It should be said also, that Keldamuzik isn’t all attitude. She’s also a decent singer and her single Queen For A Night showcases her vocal abilities and reveals a side of tender sincerity. Keldamuzik comes across as an ambitious and more than capable performer.
Miami based artist Artdayn new single “Home Movie” combines a wide range of genres to produce a unique sound. Artdayn is well known for being a “singing Uber driver” and demonstrates his versatility on this track. There are elements of hip hop, pop, rock, R&B and even EDM here. He’s also a genuinely good singer, who doesn’t rely on a lot of sound manipulation or processing. One gets the sense that he could go full acapella, and it would still be worth listening to. Home Movie deals with themes of lust, being high and sexuality. On his website, he declares he “loves women,” and this song makes no secret of that. This guy has a lot of vocal talent, and it will be interesting to see how his music progresses.
“Kickin’ Shit”(ft. CityBoyNarley and Produced by AdamOnTheTrack) is the opening track off CityBoySizzle’s EP, Just a City Boy. It’s a very creative and esoteric jam that begins as a kind of sample collage and then slowly transforms into a more straightforward hip hop song. The backing beat has a hypnotic chime to it. CityBoySizzle has a great sense of timing, and the interplay with the backing vocals is well done, giving the song another dimension of complexity. “Kickin Shit” is laid back, mellow and pleasant to listen to. It still has enough of a kick that you can dance to it.