Bangers: Miguel, RP Boo, Vince Staples
Music is hard to talk about, it seems, in part because almost all conversation has to do with the personalities behind it, or the most recent controversy, or anything but the actual music. But there are amazing releases coming from all over and they deserve to be highlighted properly. This column is a place where the stuff I’ve been bumping lately can hopefully get some credit for the sounds contained therein, not for context or thinkpiece nonsense. This is all going to be music that I find worth my time, not slams of things I didn’t care for or a place to talk about what everyone else might be. Because at the end of the day, the most important thing is what comes out of your speakers.
Miguel – Wildheart
From the four-part harmonies laid over grunge guitar on opener “a beautiful exit” to the no-regrets power-ballad of closer “damned”, Wildheart serves as both Miguel’s best release and his entry to the pantheon of modern R&B. Songwriting that was once too prone to cliché now strikes a perfect balance between the familiar and the inventive. Miguel’s instrumental building blocks for Wildheart are as varied as his melodies. Notice how the rhythm guitar in “DEAL” seems to end its riff with a note that seems just so slightly wrong, how on every groove the drums lock into you when you’re not looking and take you away unaware like a riptide. There’s that keen sense of how to make every component work its magic without crowding out the rest at work again. The whole package is absolutely sensual music, but Miguel keeps it from getting lecherous. Wildheart’s biggest strength is staying firmly planted in the present despite the seemingly retro overlay.
RP Boo – Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints
RP Boo doesn’t feel like the elder statesman of Chicago footwork so much as a ghost. Despite serving a critical role to the genre’s establishment and experiencing a recent late-career renaissance in recent years, his output is still spoken of in hushed tones. The recognition that should be going to a living icon seems to be insincere, especially among the hardcore music fans who . But RP Boo is alive and well, and if Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints is anything to go by he’s not content merely rehashing the history he helped create. Which is not to say there’s no sense of context or heritage; the best dance music is always respectful of its foundations and these fourteen songs are no different. But nobody ever programmed polyrhythms quite like RP Boo, and nobody else really got the importance of negative space either. While other producers would build up densely layered tracks these samples and beats have the floor to themselves, snarling at anyone who thinks the godfather of footwork went anywhere.
Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
Hip-hop when employed as a storytelling vector is capable of forging truly remarkable connections. Vince Staples doesn’t want to reassure you, though. He’s fashioned a platform out of menacing No I.D. beats and starkly real lyrics to tell it like it is, and the scenes he puts on aren’t pretty. Summertime ’06 draws its power from that unblinking focus on telling one person’s truth. Across twenty tracks making up an hour of the most direct and intense hip-hop in recent memory Vince Staples comes into his own as a rapper. And it’s really something to behold every time, his storytelling abilities effectively doing the heavy lifting on Summertime ’06. It’s a testament to rap’s ability to paint a picture with vivid words and a sharp ear for rhythm. Luckily Vince Staples has both in spades.
Peter McCracken is a student, tech support drone, and music aficionado from Milwaukee.