Allow me to begin this week’s column by paying a visit to hip-hop’s favorite cousin, R&B. In the past few years, the genre has been making a comeback. Not since the days of “Let It Burn” have I been this excited about love songs and soulful crooning. But today’s R&B is far removed from the sounds of the early Aughts, defined by folks like Usher and Brandy Norwood. Today’s sound is forward-looking, combining elements of European club music (garage, dub, EDM, etc.) with American hip-hop and soul. And the more commercially successful artists like Drake and The Weeknd become, the more these formerly distinct lines become a murky blur of sound.
Well, there’s a new Nashville act looking to further muddy the waters of nouveau-R&B: BASECAMP. The brainchild of singer-producer Aaron Miller (aka Boss of Nova) and producing duo Aaron C. Harmon and Jordan Reyes (aka Boy Genius), BASECAMP originally made some noise with “Emmanuel,” an impressive track that the Internet received quite enthusiastically. So on the heels of that enthusiasm comes BASECAMP’s debut EP, a self-titled offering released early last week. This isn’t your average PBR&B (my favorite term to come out of the hipstersphere thus far). So much of today’s “bloggable” R&B is indistinguishable, with scores of melancholic bedroom producers releasing predictably forgettable tracks, before fading back into obscurity. BASECAMP, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air.
Every song on this EP is bursting with life. Aaron Miller’s vocals project a level of soul that’s rarely seen in modern R&B, and the production matches him every step of the way. The results are seductive yet contemplative and dripping with soul.
*Be sure to download BASECAMP’s free new EP. Recommended for people who like Frank Ocean, James Blake and heart-melting melodies and vocals.
Starlito knows he’s not for everybody. He tells you so on “Ain’t for Everybody” from July’s Cold Turkey. Though he may already be a local legend, he’s still one of the most underrated rappers in the game. He knows this. Maybe that’s why his voice is increasingly becoming more tired and beleaguered, more coarse and crumbly. Cold Turkey is Starlito at some of his most introspective, which makes the release of his Cold Turkey mini-documentary even more meaningful. Watch it below.
In the mini-doc, Starlito breaks down many of the tracks on his latest release, a cool opportunity to see the creative process and hear some of the stories behind the record. If you haven’t heard Cold Turkey yet, I don’t know what to tell you. Other than this: Whatever you were going to do after reading this column isn’t as important, and you should purchase the mixtape immediately.
Nashville’s All-Star Prince may be in a lane of his own, but he still builds a serious repertoire with the guest stars on Cold Turkey. Don Trip shines, of course. But so does Petty, who on “One Long Day” delivers one of the best verses on the record. Interesting story behind how that happened too. (Watch the documentary.) But Lito’s greatest foil on the album is rising Baton Rouge star Kevin Gates, who makes “Sumn Serious” and “Luca Brasi Speaks” two of the most memorable tracks on the album. Ultimately it leaves me hoping we see a full-length collaboration between Lito and Gates, a la Stepbrothers.