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Queer nightlife fixture Cae Monāe opens for her synergistic collaborators in darkwave trio Pixel Grip

Cae Monāe’s existence is her art. Whether she’s taking over an Instagram square with her face abstracted by embellishments and makeup or adorning herself in a custom outfit and commanding a stage with iPhone beats, she demands consideration. And why shouldn’t she? She’s a Black trans woman, so invisibility isn’t an option for her. It’d […]

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Powerhouse punk-pop rapper Rico Nasty brings her innovative energy to Radius

On her 2020 debut album, Nightmare Vacation (Atlantic), punk-pop rapper Rico Nasty introduced her versatility to new listeners while showing longtime fans that signing to a major label wouldn’t jeopardize the playful mix of genres and vocal approaches she’s flaunted since she hit the music scene in 2014. Songs such as 2016’s nursery-rhyme-like “Hey Arnold” […]

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Wiki and Navy Blue conjure their hometown New York through hypnotic hip-hop

New York is an ever-present character on Wiki’s latest full-length, Half God. The rapper’s third studio album offers rich vignettes from his life set against the backdrop of his hometown and its narrative: snapshots of the nascent stages of a new romance, scenes from his Lower East Side neighborhood, observations of the gentrifiers who threaten […]

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Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins points out the Elephant in the Room

On “Stiff Arm,” three songs into Mick Jenkins’s new Elephant in the Room (Free Nation/Cinematic Music Group), Chicago performer and activist Ayinde Cartman delivers a scorching rumination that doubles as thesis statement for the album, identifying a key paradox of Black life in America. “Our existence is the elephant in every boardroom,” Cartman declares. “How […]

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LOWERLIPDRIP’s brief catalog packs a lot of experimental hip-hop power

Experimental Chicago hip-hop duo LOWERLIPDRIP released four digital singles between 2019 and May 2020, each consisting of two tracks that overflow with freewheeling glee and unpredictable stylistic shifts. Those singles not only helped establish LLD as a local force to watch but also caught the attention of b4, a recently established imprint of venerable UK […]

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Brooklyn, not the Bronx

Ronald Lawrence and Hassan Pore take aim at hip hop’s Bronx creation story, making the case for Grandmaster Flowers, “the original grandmaster” and his colleagues as the originators of hip hop in the parks and nightclubs of Brooklyn and Queens starting in 1968. Lawrence and Pore’s documentary Founding Fathers is the opening film of The […]