Curtis Mayfield’s 1970 album Curtis is a top-shelf example of brown liquor music.

A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

Aaron Allen, Reader digital reporting intern

The politics of brown liquor music One of the joys of adulting is rediscovering things from childhood and experiencing them through a matured lens. Of course brown liquor music hits differently when you’re returning home as a seasoned, over-21 college grad, but its explicit political overtones also move me much more now that I’ve lived through the Black Lives Matter era. One of my favorite examples is the 1970 album Curtis by Chicago’s own Curtis Mayfield, which drips with every bit of fly and city-slicker swagger as Super Fly but also features beautiful ballads for the people, such as the somber “We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue.”

Little Brother, May the Lord Watch Little Brother’s first project in almost a decade is phenomenal. And as I find myself saying every time Phonte drops “new Tigallo,” the man is a monster. From the jump, he implores us to tell him “how to get back to the feel again,” but it doesn’t feel like Little Brother has missed a step at all. May the Lord Watch is a tribute to rekindled friendship, wising up with age, and of course Blackness.

NxWorries, Yes Lawd! I feel like I’m cheating with this one, because it’s been in my rotation since it dropped in October 2016. But speaking of brown liquor music, the duo of Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge brought the feeling back in full force on this undeniable classic. This is the perfect soundtrack for a date night, a long late-summer car ride, a lazy Sunday, or unwinding however you unwind after one of those days.

Aaron is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

Baby Keem
Baby KeemCredit: Photo by Bryan Blue

Jay Wood, rapper in the Freesole collective

Kanye West, “Say You Will” I recently had a conversation about how people listen to music. Somebody said they really only play music for background noise. But “Say You Will” can’t just “be heard” in the background. You feel it thoroughly; it wakes up emotions that you were hiding or maybe didn’t even know you had. From a technical standpoint, the percussion, strings, and chord structure are sound, but it’s Kanye’s relatability and tone that make the song what it is. I keep this in my rotation to appreciate its genius and soak up what I can from it like a sponge.

Baby Keem, Die for My Bitch It’s not really a question at this point: Baby Keem has delivery perfected. In a rap scene where clout and bravado are watering down the market, you’d think Die for My Bitch would be another hyped project to be forgotten for the next big thing. But Keem provides the kind of energy needed to push the narrative in hip-hop. I’ve certainly been taking notes for the music I’m working on, and I feel like the industry should follow suit. Baby Keem is super raw.

Michael Jackson, “I Wanna Be Where You Are” Maybe it was all those Saturdays cleaning the house to Michael Jackson with my mom, or maybe it’s just great music. Either way, this 1972 hit absolutely does it for me. The instrumentation, the vocals, and the lyrics (“Did I leave your mind when I was gone?”) all come together to make the perfect song. Whether I need to tap in to get focused and put my heart into my music or just clean the crib, this one is definitely in the queue.

Jay is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

YebbaCredit: Shervin Lainez

S.O.S, singer and songwriter in the Freesole collective

Yebba, “Where Do You Go” At the beginning of August, Yebba unveiled her newest single, “Where Do You Go.” This song has been in my rotation ever since it released, for multiple reasons. If you know who she is, you know what this Arkansas-born singer can do with her voice. Before listening, I expected this song to be energetic and whimsical, showcasing her vocal abilities. Yebba’s approach is the exact opposite of my expectations: her delivery is extremely gentle and elegant, which is fitting, since she wrote “Where Do You Go” about her mom who passed away.

Ajanee, Fond Her name may not sound familiar, but you’ve probably heard this New York-based vocalist singing background for R&B artist H.E.R. Ajanee recently released her debut project, Fond, and it beautifully tells a story of her experience with a man she refers to as Black. As an R&B singer myself, I appreciate her ability to incorporate electric hip-hop sounds while remaining consistent with her soulful tone.

Anderson .Paak, “Winners Circle” If you ever visit Chicago, this is the song that you want to play while driving down Lake Shore Drive. It feels sort of like something that Musiq Soulchild would’ve released during his prime. “Winners Circle” is definitely a timeless track that my future kids will be required to know.  v