What We’re Listening to This Week 04/27/17

“Monsoon” by Hippo Campus


“Monsoon” is the second single off of Hippo Campus’ recent debut album Landmark, and it’s dedicated to band member Nathan Stocker’s older sister, who died in a car crash. It’s both celestial and haunting - the type of song you’d want to play on repeat as you walk by Lake Michigan on a brisk day. In fact, it almost sounds like a Bon Iver song, which makes sense because landmark was recorded by BJ Burton, the co-producer of 22, A Million. The ethereal sound is complimented by soft and mellifluous vocals, which make the three minute song seem like it lasts a blissful eternity. However, the true power of the song comes from the lyrics and their ability to stir up emotions deep inside oneself. The verses feature beautiful lines of poetry, like “Unlike a sky copious with death / Precipitation of heart and head,” with the refrain serving to juxtapose those rich lines with the heavy repetition of the line “It should’ve been me.” The death of a loved one is a horrible, gut-wrenching thing that invokes the worst of emotions, but Hippo Campus created a sweet and beautiful vessel to deliver those feelings. And in a beautiful way, that vessel makes “Monsoon” serve as a celebration of the,“joy in the life that had been lived, instead of regret for what could’ve been.” -Peter Pribyl Pierdinock


“Don’t” by Bryson Tiller


Just a little over two years ago Bryson Tiller was working at a Papa John’s and couldn’t pay his bills. Then TRAPSOUL dropped, went platinum with no features, and pushed Young Tiller into the spotlight. I distinctly remember watching his show at Lollapalooza last year, and him saying that a friend told him “it only takes one song to change your life.” One song certainly did. It’s safe to say that “Don’t”, the album’s lead single, was the main catalyst that jump started Bryson Tiller’s career. It was actually originally released on SoundCloud, where it got a lot of attention and put Young Tiller on the radar. The track’s slow jam vibe and moody tone convey the thoughts of a young man looking at a girl who is in an unhappy relationship with another man, wishing that she could see how she should be with him instead. The best part about seeing a this track performed live is that no one can ever nail the timing of the word “don’t” at around 2:40 when singing along (Tiller even looks at his watch to count the seconds in his live show). Bryson Tiller is paving a new path between R&B singing and rapping, and I’m so stoked to see what he’s done on his second album, True to Self, which is confirmed to be completed but whose relase date is unknown. In preparation you definitely should revisit TRAPSOUL, and more specifically “Don’t.” -Kevin Chan


“I Am Her” by Sa-Roc


Imagine Alicia Keys rapping, with the hard sound of Young M.A., and the socially-relevant lyrics of Solange. Now listen to Sa-Roc. A divergence from the common rap narrative that examines female sex appeal, lyrics like “You won’t ever see us back away/Til we make the world see that we ain’t come to play/This is so lil girls dream bigger than they sposed to/I am her” upend a predominantly male art with unashamed feminine strength. Name-dropping the likes of Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks and Maya Angelou, Sa-Roc self-describes as a “goddess” — she raps through her spiritual evolution and understanding of empowerment. Opening with a brassy sax sound and a classic drum step, Sa-Roc’s lyrics step in, punctuating the sound with a definitive anger: “Hundreds of years of forced silence got a lot on my chest/ I’ll rock a head wrap and bulletproof vest/Just so we’re clear on who governs reproductive requests.” With a chorus of claps and a softer, jazz-inspired loop running through her words, Sa-Roc’s lyrics touch on a poignant truth: she speaks her feminine truth in an upheaval of society’s male lense. She spits rampantly feminist rhymes without losing the enjoyment of the old-school hip hop and Afro-fusion beats. “I Am Her” speaks an agenda but remains conscious of its sound, something only Solange with “Cranes in the Sky” has been able to do. With Sa-Roc, we “watch the future reimagined by the hand of the feminine.” We are all her. -Audrey Valbuena