Atlanta’s Summer Walker has long been one of the hallmark voices in R&B. Depicting the complex realities of Black romance, her sound walks a tightrope between sensuality and grim toxicity. She released her last studio album, Still Over It, back in 2021 to critical and commercial success. The project takes the listener through a complicated relationship, featuring production from The Neptunes and vocals from SZA. Essentially, Summer Walker has mastered the process of converting her pain and drama into a luscious sound over the course of her career.
However, Clear 2: Soft Life isn’t necessarily focused on that pain and trauma. Summer Walker is finally in a spot of mental clarity and contentedness, which can be heard throughout the EP. “I’m really loving life right now, enjoying this new outlook on life, loving the new me, loving my kids, and not letting life pass me by anymore,” she told Apple Music. She may still be a work in progress (aren’t all of us?), but she’s embracing the process on Clear 2: Soft Life.
Clear 2: Soft Life is eyebrow-raising before the EP even begins. The sequel to Clear features a star-studded list of contributors, including J. Cole and Childish Gambino. The Gambino feature is especially notable, considering his lack of presence in the music world over the past half-decade. However, it speaks volumes to Summer Walker’s notoriety in music spaces beyond R&B. J. Cole states, “I’m sendin’ you, SZA and Ari my love / Y’all holdin’ us down, y’all holdin’ the crowns.” The co-sign from J. Cole is in direct reference to Still Over It, which featured all three of the female artists he references. In addition, Clear 2: Soft Life gets support on the production end from Steve Lacy and Solange Knowles.
Clear 2: Soft Life Features J. Cole and Childish Gambino
Clear 2: Soft Life is at its best when Summer Walker is stretching her vocal harmonies to the max, which is in on full display with tracks such as “How Does It Feel?” and “Pull Up.” Pleasantly enough, the EP isn’t a redundant copy-and-paste effort of her past albums. Summer Walker attacks new sonic territory. Throughout the project, she opts for sensual, subdued guitar strings rather than the heavily produced nature of her previous projects. The move lets her tranquil vocals take the forefront to an even greater extent than in the past. To mirror this sound, we even get live vocals such as on the glowing “Mind Yo Mouth.” In essence, the sonic experience of Clear 2: Soft Life feels like a warm hug. As a result, the EP has already garnered comparisons to the likes of Erykah Badu.
Kaytraminé is a 7.7
In 2014, the 20-year-old Aminé was just another college dropout with a mixtape, trawling for beats on SoundCloud. But rapping over Kaytranada’s single “At All,” his nimble flow served as the perfect foil to the Montreal producer’s funky, uptempo take on neo-soul. Kaytra—in the process of assembling his debut EP for XL—heard his remix “Not at All” and reached out to offer the beats that would go on to highlight Aminé’s 2015 mixtape Calling Brio. Despite their clear chemistry, their only other collaboration would come on Rejjie Snow’s 2018 single “Egyptian Luvr.” Then, in 2021, the pair rented a luxe beach house in Malibu and got to work. After two weeks of recording, they debuted the results to a party full of friends.
Enter Kaytraminé, the duo’s self-titled collaborative album. The 11-track LP—featuring heavy hitters like Pharrell, Snoop Dogg, and the ascendant Ghanaian singer Amaarae—is a buoyant summer jaunt that artfully meshes the two artists’ styles and sensibilities. As a producer, Kaytranada is a svengali of samples, stacking tracks like building blocks to craft fresh beats with a vintage feel. Aminé—not unlike Anderson .Paak, another Kaytra collaborator—is a goofy yet technically proficient MC with singing chops who doesn’t shy away from a twerk-friendly dance record or a crude joke.
Kaytranada’s first two albums flowed like seamless mixes, his house-adjacent style bending and shifting to suit the personalities of the guest vocalists. But his production discography is evidence of his innate ability to adapt to other artists’ styles, whether it’s Kelela, Cadence Weapon, or Freddie Gibbs. The funk-influenced tropical house of Kaytraminé wouldn’t feel out of place on Bubba or 99.9%. But there are tonal shifts that seem designed to showcase Aminé’s range as a singer and a rapper, like the strings swirling around his stop-and-go flow on “Westside” or the sparse arrangement of the latest entry in his series of “STFU” tracks.
Aminé’s two most recent solo albums balanced wistful optimism with sneering swagger, presenting him as a party boy who occasionally paused for self-reflection or a critique of consumer capitalism. That Aminé appears long gone, giving way to a hedonist whose favorite boast is his Delta Medallion status. As a party record, Kaytraminé has no skips—provided that party is loud enough to camouflage some of the cornier lyrics. Aminé’s oral (sex) fixation gets old fast, and a few lines are groan-worthy enough to distract from the fun (“Just popped an X bitch I feel like I’m Malcolm,” he raps on “Who He Iz”).
Roddy Ricch “Feed Tha Streets 3” Review
On December 17, 2021, Compton’s own Roddy Ricch released his sophomore studio album, LIVE LIFE FAST. Although it dropped shortly after the two-year anniversary of his lauded 2019 debut, LLF wasn’t able to connect with many listeners in the same way that Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial did. Blame it on the lack of a worthy “The Box” successor,” or blame it on the execution of the album’s theme. Regardless of which issue you deem paramount, the lackluster fan reception to LLF dominated Hip-Hop discourse for months following its release. Since then, Roddy Ricch has been on a year-long mission to remind fans of his musical capabilities. As a result, the Grammy-winning artist is already back with a new project, less than a full year removed from LLF.
Roddy Ricch’s latest effort — titled Feed Tha Streets 3 — is the third installment of his fan-favorite mixtape series and his first new addition to the series since 2018. Interestingly enough, Roddy originally teased it as the highly anticipated follow-up to PEMFBA at the beginning of 2021. As fate would have it, fans received LLF first. Now, Feed Tha Streets 3 has become positioned as somewhat of a comeback project for the 24-year-old artist. Although it boasts 15 songs on its tracklist, Roddy’s latest release clocks in at a runtime of under 39 minutes. FTS3’s length makes for a surprisingly quick listen, and it also gives the project a more upbeat, mixtape feel. That being said, the manner in which you weigh albums versus mixtapes will affect how you feel about Feed That Streets 3.
As an album, Roddy’s latest release is arguably less energetic, interesting, and cohesive than his sophomore effort. When considering it as a mixtape, however, FTS3 is actually pretty impressive.
Shoreline Mafia is a Los Angeles-based hip-hop collective that formed in 2016. The group consists of four members, OhGeesy, Rob Vicious, Fenix Flexin, and Master Kato. OhGeesy and Fenix met in 2012 after bonding over their mutual love for graffiti art, and they later brought on Rob and Kato. Kato was born and raised in Chicago, which made him the only member who was not a California native. The group emerged with a refreshing take on west coast hip hop, shown through their hit single, “Musty.” The track gained them the attention of record labels and millions of listeners.
“Nun Major” and 15 other tracks made up the group’s first mixtape, ShorelineDoThatShit, which was released in late 2017. The group signed to Atlantic Records the following year and re-released ShorelineDoThatShit under the label. They followed that release with mixtapes, Traplantic, OTXmas, and Party Pack. Vol 2.
In April 2020, Fenix Flexin announced on Twitter that the next Shoreline Mafia release would be his last because he wanted to focus on his solo career. Following Fenix’s decision, the rest of the group would also split up. OhGeesy and Fenix claimed that the lack of unity in the group’s creative vision led to their decision to split. In July 2020, the collective released their only official studio album, Mafia Bidness, followed by a deluxe edition. The album featured Future, Wiz Khalifa, YG, and more. All members of the group have since gone on to pursue solo careers.