Tag Archives: hip-hop

The 16 Best Bay Area Albums of 2016

By Adrian Spinelli

Despite what some people might lead you to believe, 2016 was NOT a “shitty year” for Bay Area Music. On the contrary, it was a brilliant one, that showcased a slew of talented artists who are finding ways to make music that pushes boundaries and doesn’t sound like it came from anywhere else in the country, besides the Bay.

The Bay Area music community came together  —again and again —in the wake of the tragic Oakland Ghost Ship fire that claimed 36 lives, to show support for each other regardless of what clique or subregion of the Bay they were from. Benefit shows for victims of the Ghost Ship Fire continue to be held (I recommend this upcoming show) and it’s a sign of this community’s unwavering support and care for each other and our art.  At the start of the APE/Noise Pop/Paradigm Ghost Ship benefit show at the Fox Theater, Geographer’s Mike Deni, who has seemingly been laying low, said it best: “There’s a reason I haven’t moved to Brooklyn or LA….because when something like this happens, this community is here for me and for us.” Preach.  This mixtape honors the artists who lost their lives in the Ghost Ship fire. Please listen to it. It’s beautiful.

I love living in the Bay and I love our local music scene. I love that there are just as many talented women making music in the Bay as men (my list reflects this big time.) I love that our artist-base is diverse (even if our SF crowds at shows aren’t always.) I couldn’t tell you how many times I felt proud to be a part of everything, even as a person who merely documents, reports and amplifies what local artists are creating.

With that, these are the sixteen Bay Area releases that moved me the most in 2016. One love.

Full Spotify playlist of all albums at the bottom of this post. 

15. E-40 – The D-Boy Diary Book 1& 2

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Dude is relentless….not one, but TWO albums?! “I played my position and delivered a bangin’ ass album that slaps,” Earl told me earlier this year. These 42 tracks do exactly that and E-40 keeps giving back to the Bay featuring a slew of local up and comers and well-established artists all over this record.

14. Con Brio – Paradise

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This is a soul record at it’s core, and the band fronted by vibrant singer Ziek McCarter really hit their stride this year. The SFers have been touring around the world, but still make time to play the Bay on the regular and totally put it down at Outside Lands this year. 

13. Fantastic Negrito – The Last Days of Oakland

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Fantastic Negrito is worth every bit of hype that he’s gotten since winning NPR’s Tiny Desk contest two years ago. Xavier Dphrepaulezz bleeds Oakland and is one of the most unique talents to come out of the Bay in years (and is now Grammy nominated!)

12. Rexx Life Raj – Father Figure

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Pay attention to this Berkeley MC if you haven’t yet. Dude is a solid rapper and pulled-in a feature from Nef The Pharoah and a crop of local producers for the fully-formed Father Figure. “Handheld GPS” was one of the year’s best tracks and the Mikos da Gawd & Julia Lewis remix is a fucking revelation.

11. Rituals of Mine – Devoted

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Formerly known as Sister Crayon, the duo of Terra Lopez and Dani Fernandez laid their roots back in their hometown of Sacramento and delivered an incredible trip-hop album. They opened for Tricky at the Indy earlier this year, which is a helluva co-sign and the Warner signees can be filed under the most slept-on local acts of the year.

10. Tycho – Epoch

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Shouts out to Scott Hansen and Tycho for their Best Electronic Album Grammy nomination. This is such a coup for the Bay and a testament to a well-established career for Hansen. Epoch doesn’t stray too far off the formula he built on Dive and Awake, but it doesn’t need to. We come to Tycho to chill-out and Epoch is perfect for that.

9. IAMSU – Kilt 3

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IAMSU has crafted the blueprint for making it as a Bay Area rapper. He dropped countless mixtapes, but saved the best for his albums and Kilt 3 is some serious shit. The Trackademics produced “iPhone & a G-Mail” is a serious banger as is “Aura” produced by Mike Zombie. Local producer Cal-A and SU himself claim a couple production credits and the HBK CJ beat on “Up All Night” was one of the most recognizable Bay Area jams of the year.  After launching his own label Su recently announced that he’s moving to Atlanta, but says he’ll be splitting time in the Bay too. Get after it!

8. Young God – …but he who causes darkness

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While atmospheric hip-hop/electronic production duo Blue Sky Black Death’s storied career is likely over, Oakland’s Young God (neé Ian Taggert; one half of BSBD) has been quietly releasing solo music on the regular. His Greenova South project with Main Attrakionz’s Squadda B and rapper Pepperboy was cool, but it’s  …but he who causes darkness — “a loose collection of beats and songs…”  — that channeled the magic  he created with BSBD for a decade. It’s an album to zone out to blissfully in the bedroom, on a plane or anywhere in your headphones. Here’s to Young God continuing a low-key prolific run in the Bay.

7. Xiomara – Seven Nineteen

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This is some straight “Where the hell did this come from?!” shit. San Francisco’s Xiomara is an R&B songstress, whose Seven Nineteen — co-produced by SF’s Brycon and Xiomara— was one of the most complete local records of the year. She’s funky, but elegant. She’s emotional, but sharp-toothed. This is can’t miss stuff.

(Note – Shamelessly plugging a show I’m putting on at Rickshaw Stop on January 24th, with Xiomara opening for the wonderful Bells Atlas and a DJ set from Anthony Ferraro  of astronauts, etc. — The man behind my #1 Bay Area album of 2015. Full details here. Come hang!)

6. Elujay – Jentrify

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The word “phenom” comes to mind when thinking about 20-year old Oakland rapper Elujay. I love this dude cause he can fucking sing. He’s clearly studied up on the R&B/hip-hop crossover classics and I see the same star rising in Elujay that I saw in Caleborate two years ago. “Google Maps” is velvety smooth and flat-out beautiful. Elujay will be the next big Bay Area hip-hop artist. I believe that shit with everything I got. Mark it down.

5. The EP’s – Rayana Jay – Sorry About Last Night/Day Wave – Hard To Read

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Two for one  on this entry: First off, Rayana Jay’s excellent concept EP featured impeccable production from Mikos Da Gawd and showed Jay to be a controlled force on the mic. “Sleepy Brown” might be the Bay Area’s song of the year and there’s a bright future ahead here..

Day Wave’s Hard To Read is merely the precursor to Jackson Phillips’ upcoming album, due out in 2017 on Harvest Records. But he followed up on last year’s Headcase EP with 5 new tracks that build on his library of unique daydream-pop that’s soaring worldwide.

4. Jay Som – Turn Into

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Melina Duterte is the auteur behind Jay Som and with Turn Into, she became a critical darling following its re-issue on Polyvinyl Records. The album harkens back to some of my favorite female-fronted 90’s acts like Mazzy Star, shades of Tonya Donnelly and beyond. Duterte is a clever songwriter and there’s a radiant flow to Turn Into that rallied a lot of people behind this record. More importantly, Jay Som is one of the acts who’s helping define the Bay Area’s transitional sound in the post-garage rock era.

3. Caleborate – 1993

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I’m proud of this dude. Straight up. When I first met Caleborate two years ago, he had a distinct vision for his music and his career and he’s stuck to his word to a fucking tee. What’s always defined him for me, is what he continues to do, and that’s surrounding himself with talent that helps the whole succeed. 1993 is easily his most polished work to date and features production from some of the Bay’s best producers in The Julia Lewis, P-Lo, Cal-A and Mikos Da Gawd, Ian McKee and more. “Options” with Pell and Sylvan Lacue is fun as hell and one of my favorite songs of the year. On it, he sings: “Had to call my Pops and let him know his son’s about to blow.” True. Wishin’ Caleborate nothing but the best as his star deservedly continues to rise.

2. Kamaiyah – A Good Night In The Ghetto

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Queen of the Bay. If there was ever any doubt, her second  set at the quasi-disastrous Treasure Island Music Festival in the pouring rain was the most powerful performance by a Bay Area artist in 2016. Her feature on YG’s “Why You Always Hatin” along with Drake raised Kamaiyah’s profile immensely and A Good Night In The Ghetto did a fine job of staying true to The Bay (“How Does It Feel” will be a Bay Area anthem for a loooong ass time) as well as it did showing an artist who’s ready for nationwide recognition. The Trackademics produced “Freaky Freaks” is a G-Funk era throwback, tailor made for Oakland’s post-hyphy era and shows that no matter how far Kamaiyah’s promising career goes, she’ll always be from the Bay.

Number One: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down- A Man Alive

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What could easily be my overall album of the year, A Man Alive saw Thao opening herself up to her past and the intense emotions that came with living a life in the shadow of her estranged father. I had the pleasure of reviewing A Man Alive for Paste Mag earlier this year and it gave me an opportunity to dig into what I feel is the best lyrical album of the year. I remember on my final listen before I started writing, I lost my shit three times: On “Guts,” “Millionaire” and then “Hand To God.” These types of powerful music moments don’t come around too often and when they do, you’re probably staring an Album of The Year candidate in the face.

On Thao’s best record to date, she’s joined by producer Merrill Garbus of tune-yards, who helped Thao explore deep self-reflection and make music that spans far beyond her folk-leaning roots. I love this album, because it poked through the Bay, when hip-hop is really dominating the area for me in terms of quality and showed how good rock and roll can still be made here. It showed what an incredibly talented songwriter Thao is, who is still expanding her musical boundaries. But most of all, it showed how a San Francisco artist (Thao) and an Oakland artist (Garbus) can come together to create the best local album of the year, and it’s a microcosm for what we can all accomplish together if we bridge both sides of the Bay. This was the record that drove the point home of how we’re much stronger artistically if we look for ways to merge the creative hub that Oakland has become, with the inspirational beauty, infrastructure and musical history of San Francisco.

Can’t wait for 2017 y’all…much love and Bay Area stand up!!!

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New Playlist for 2016: Jubilation

Another year means a new progressive playlist (one that’s constantly updated with new tracks.) You might remember last year’s Everything Ecstatic playlist, Indian Summer or 2014’s Random Musings. And now for the last couple months, I’ve been adding tracks to Jubilation.

Peep Jubilation below and subscribe to it on Spotify to be updated whenever tracks get added (usually a handful a week or so.) You can expect Jubilation to be a mix of everything from indie rock, chilled out electronica, conscious hip-hop, some timely classics, etc… Artists like Taylor McFerrin, Jessy Lanza, White Lung, Kendrick Lamar and more.

Enjoy y’all!

AS

Jay Stone and Monster Rally Drop Video for “Recollection”

One of our favorite hip-hop projects of 2015 has been Oakland rapper Jay Stone’s & LA producer Monster Rally’s Foreign Pedestrians EP. Stone’s complex and zany rhymes pair smoothly with Monster Rally’s psych-tropical beats, that at their core, are still forged in hip-hop.

Continue reading Jay Stone and Monster Rally Drop Video for “Recollection”

The Best Albums of 2014 – First Batch (31-21)

If there’s a staple to what Everything Ecstatic has done over the years, it’s undoubtedly the Best of the Year Albums List (since 2006!). For the last two years, it’s evolved into a daily featured album for 3 weeks, with the “Best of The Rest” post kicking it off. So here we are, with numbers 31 thru 21.

There are albums that didn’t make it on the final chopping block and there are hundreds of other ones that never even made the initial long list. But I can assure you, these are the 31 best records that marked the year in music across all genres. It’s scientifically proven (sorta.) There’ll be a spotify playlist of each album below the entry and after this post, all posts will focus squarely on ONE album per day until we arrive at the #1 Album of 2014.

Follow @EcstaticBlog on Twitter  and like the Facebook page as well for updates on when each new album is announced. Enough babble here’s the list:

31. Beck – Morning Phase

Man…Beck? Still got it. Morning Phase seemingly picks up where Sea Change left off. In fact, Beck himself calls it “a companion piece of sorts.” I turned to this record and it’s guitar-driven ballads and melancholy on slow moving afternoons.

30. Bear In Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old

Bear in Heaven is a prolific rock band from Brooklyn that infuses tribal drums and electronics into their sound. This is their 4th LP and it’s the kind of album that wins you over twice. It finishes as strongly as it comes in and there’s more than a handful of memorable tracks on this one. Everything comes together on tracks like “Demon” and “If I Were To Lie”, led by singer Jon Philpot’s wonderful voice.

29. Souls Of Mischief – There Is Only Now

Oakland represent! 20 years after the release of the iconic 93 ’til Infinity, the East Bay kings of hip-hop put out their 6th studio album. There Is Only Now succeeds largely on the effort of producer Adrian Younge, who is flat out one of the best producers in the game. Part of me just wants to talk about how much I love Younge’s instrumentals of this record…Seriously, dude is like J-Dilla good and drops classic soul samples throughout. But A-Plus, Tajai, Opio and Phesto step to the mic with conscious rhymes, tackling relevant themes like police brutality and the justice system with multiple appearances from Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg. This is a money hip-hop release and on the real, def bump the deluxe version of the record with 2nd disc of instrumentals (linked below.)

28. Allah-Las – Worship The Sun

Continue reading The Best Albums of 2014 – First Batch (31-21)

10 Questions with San Francisco MC Frak

Kickin off our 10 Questions series with an up and coming MC from San Francisco, the homie Frak. Dude just dropped his Bagels mixtape, which has garnered over 30,000 spins online and he’s now living in Spain for the next 6 months. He was killin it on the MC Olympics circuit this past summer, opened for Shad and Earth Wind and Fire?!!?! So we sat down to get to the bottom of this and wax about Bagels and tapas.

“Am I a lab rat?”  he asked me as we were about to start the first of Everything Ecstatic’s 10 Questions pieces. “Nah…you’re more of a guinea pig.” Here we go:

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EE: I bumped Bagels a bunch of times…30,000 spins? That’s awesome. Tell me about it.

Frak: Yeah…I wanted Bagels to be an experiment in style, to try on all the sounds and flavors in hip-hop and see where I fit. That’s why it’s a baker’s dozen, 13 tracks with a different vibe every time around…So throughout my little rap career, a lot my fans have been my friends…my social circle, but my goal with Bagels was to transcend that circle. Thats what I’ve been doing all summer. the internet game is its own thing, but this summer i tried to put myself out there…do as many opening shows as i can and do as many gigs. It worked. I made it to the final round of the MC Olympics in Philly, Bagels got featured on Lupe Fiasco’s blog, reddit was huge…I opened for Shad and Earth Wind and Fire.

EE: Earth Wind and Fire?!

Frak:  Haha…yeah, my school had them there for the 50th anniversary party and the president of the college had heard my song “Date With A Feminist” that was getting passed around and she personally e-mailed me and asked me if I wanted to open for Earth, Wind and Fire…and I was like “Are you kidding me? Of course!”

EE: That’s incredible man…So staying with the theme of the record…Talk about the intro, “A Dozen Cosigns.” You got Percee P, Denizen Kane from Typical Cats, Shad, Watsky…All of them were featured on that shout-out to kick-off the album. Talk about how you got in touch with those peeps and then talk about your relationship with Watsky. 

Frak: With all the MC olympics, traveling, competing I was meeting a bunch of awesome MC’s that are inspiring to me and I wanted to utilize them to get more people to listen. Shad was watching me as i opened for him and sat me down and said “keep doing this man. keep doing this shit and happy to do a co-sign.”

I met Percee P at Rock the Bells, he had just hopped off stage with J5…Kills the set then he’s just walking around the festival and handing out CD’s…and all these peeps were there to see Macklemore and shit and didn’t respect this dude’s legacy, didn’t recognize him so I was all “Percee fucking P! You just killed it out there man.” He comes up to me and says “You look like an MC man” and I was like…what gave it away, the blue eyes and jewish nose? So i spit 32 bars for him and asked him if he wanted to do a co-sign for my record.

EE: Hell yeah! Dude is a legend. 

Frak: Word…and Denizen Kane works with Youth Speaks and he’s a mentor now out of the rap game for me. I knew him for years and didn’t even know he was in Typical Cats when I first met him.

Continue reading 10 Questions with San Francisco MC Frak

Top 18 Albums of 2012: #1 Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

This is the pimpest shit i’ve heard since Voodoo changed the way everyone made love 10 years ago. This is an elegant hip-hop/R&B crossover album, without the flamboyance we’ve come to expect from some singers. Frank Ocean is a smooth and classy dude and channel ORANGE is Exhibit A.

How do we value expressions of love? What about loss? What about the accompanying nostalgia? From where i rank this album, you can surmise my valuation of the previous questions. A lot of music is about amorous expressions and the mastery of capturing these emotions…To be able to do so as vividly as Frank Ocean is sublime. This is an album for everyone’s love…Doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what you stand for. He speaks to the love, loss and games that every one of us knows all too well.

The album’s opening track and single is, ‘Thinkin Bout You’:

Tell me that shit doesn’t make you tingle? Tell me it doesn’t make you wanna think about whoever is on YOUR mind right now? Human beings are passionate lovers by their very nature and Ocean knows how to appeal to our carnal desires.

He shows off his whimsy in ‘Super Rich Kids’ w/ Earl Sweatshirt. Waxing about the ritzy-titzy well-to-dos and their careless extravagant ways:

Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends
Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends

and dropping triple entendres like it’s nothing:

The market’s down like 60 stories
And some don’t end the way they should

My silver spoon has fed me good
A million one, a million cash
Close my eyes and feel the crash

While it’s important to note Ocean’s versatility of being more than just another R&B artist, i ultimately digress. Where channel ORANGE makes it’s lasting mark, is on the back to back to back tracks, Crack Rock’ to ‘Pyramids’ to ‘Lost.’ One of the best three song streaks i’ve ever heard on an album.

‘Crack Rock’  starts off with a beat that creeps and makes you move the second it drops:

Ocean’s beautiful voice straddling the line between baritone and tenor guides us through a desolate tale of addiction and the subliminal question of what the “fix” is.

The album climaxes on ‘Pyramids’ where Ocean starts by giving us a history lesson of Egyptian proportions. Painting the picture of his “Cleopatra” who is the subject of this song:

Much like the Queen, Ocean’s Cleopatra is tragic and her beauty is corrupt.

“What good is a jewel that ain’t still precious?”

She’s taken a turn and fallen into the trap of the pyramids…and Ocean takes us through the mystique of these pyramids, personifying them as the palace of sin and she is trapped inside. Lyrically, this dude is amazing. He confidently articulates his disdain for this beautiful woman and what she’s become, a stripper….But she still gets to him and still rattles his cage…And he’s helpless against the sexual siren…

Finally, ‘Lost’ completes the trifecta and Ocean sings about how fleeting love is within the movement of the lives of its moving parts, people. Truly my favorite song on this record and this absolutely stunning video of ‘Lost’ played over a montage of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited will blow your mind:

“Got on my buttercream… silk shirt and it’s Versace”

For real? That’s the moneyest line i’ve ever heard. Makes me wanna go buy designer clothes, just to feel the high-end slik.

As if he couldn’t be money enough, he employs Outkast’s Andre 3000 for ‘Pink Matter,’ and i love Big Boi too, but damnit if Andre isn’t the pimpest dude in that duo. John Mayer makes appearances as a guitarist (say what you will about his singing, dude destroys the guitar.) There are so many other epic moments on this album that i’ve glossed over too. It’s a complete work that you gotta hear.

Ocean’s conceptual everyman audience hit a peak the day before channel ORANGE came out…when he made a stunning announcement in an open letter on his tumblr page (beautifully captured in this piece by the SF Bay Guardian’s Daniel Alvarez). It was the biggest leap of faith one could take in hip-hop/R&B… genres shrouded in misogyny and alpha-males. It crumbled a wall, called out the fabric of humanity and what we’re willing to accept.

This is an album that is highly respectful to modern themes and issues. He doesn’t neglect taboos and presents himself to be a real human being. Gay, straight, black, white, whatever….we all find ourselves and our instincts in the moments of carnal passions and impulses inspired by and within this album. This is the album that one day, many of our children will be conceived to…

Groundbreaking, provocative, powerful, daring, passionate, compassionate and a part of us. This makes up my #1 Album of 2012. An album that hopefully allows people to embrace who we are, who we want to be, who we want to be with, express ourselves and act on our most basic instincts. One love.

#1 Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

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Top 18 Albums of 2012: #3 Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

I’ve found that i didn’t need the immersion into Until The Quiet Comes that i go through on the day of writing about an album to know everything that makes it incredible; namely its auteur, LA’s Steven Ellison (more commonly known by his stage name, Flying Lotus.) FlyLo’s music has grown with me and i’ve grown with his music. FlyLo is a contemporary, in every sense of the word and his music straddles the line between music and contemporary art. His finger is on the pulse of all that is modern, trending and seemingly great in music. But he has a way of crafting it to become his own, never towing a line and always remaining unique.

You have to witness the art form that is Flying Lotus’s music. You have to hear it, you have to see it and you have to get a taste for the method to his madness. Once you see this all, you’ll understand how tirelessly FlyLo works to craft his art and create an experience that is unlike any other and a manifestation of his vision.

The first taste we got of Until The Quiet Comes was this short film (think of it as a 3 minute music video) by Kahlil Joseph for the album’s title track and its nothing short of a cinematographic masterpiece:

FlyLo is a master collaborator. He’s one of the few people to work with Thom Yorke, as he did on ‘And the Whole World Laughs With You…’ off of 2010’s Cosmogramma (My #12 Album of 2010). This time around, he features the gorgeous Erykah Badu on ‘See Thru to U’.

He worked with with Director David Lewandowski and actor Elijah Wood for this stunning video for ‘Tiny Tortures’:

The intricate bass loops and Wood’s mystifying expressions are impeccable. And the artist works…he continues to work. This video for ‘Putty Boy Strut’ directed by Cyriak Harris, is a robot’s story:

He’s careful to craft everything precisely the way he envisions it. To work with the right people to visually capture the feel of his sound. This guy is the fucking future. He takes visual and sonic elements that are prevalent, but put his own spin on them. Everything he does is unique and seemingly groundbreaking, but it’s like he’s not even trying. With his ear to ear grin plastered on his face, he keeps cranking out spin-off projects that complement his albums. Wanna know what he does for his live show? Surprise, it’s freaking original as hell too…He’s created an audiovisual arts concept (alongside visual artists Timeboy and Strangeloop) called ‘Layer 3,’ where he’s playing inside of a visual vortex, but you have to see it to believe it. Here’s a doc produced by the Red Bull Music Academy, where he talks about how he likes to “dabble in things that feel magical”:

My friend Dallas always says “Visualize: Manifest.” This is the embodiment of everything Flying Lotus does. Everything is possible for Steven Ellison. Somehow he even had time this year to virally launch a villainous alter-ego named Captain Murphy, in the spirit of notorious hip-hop villains like Quasimoto and Madvillain. He kept his true identity a mystery while garnering over 20,000 Twitter followers, before dropping the Duality EP (stream it or download it for free here) and revealing himself in front of an LA crowd at his first show in late November…

Flying Lotus blows my mind. His ideas have no limitations. He’s a highly creative person and somehow manages to articulate everything that’s on his mind through his music and art. This is the future of music. He’s had his finger on the button for years and it just keeps getting better and better. If the future of not only hip-hop and electronica, but of all music and art is in the hands of Flying Lotus, it’s a world that I want to live in.

#3 Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Come

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Note: Until The Quiet Comes is not on Spotify. I’ve communicated with FlyLo regarding when it’ll be up, and he said “soon bro.” While you wait, feel free to entertain yourselves with the above videos and tracks or check out his website for more cool shit: http://flying-lotus.com