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Born parallel to the 2016 US presidential election in response to xenophobic declarations and actions against Latin immigrants, Tulengua identify themselves as “a bilingual hip hop supergroup from both sides of the most crossed border in the world”. Tulengua seeks to demonstrate how Mexicans and North-Americans, Spanish and English speakers, can be combined through the universal language of music to reflect the beauty of the neighbouring countries and dissolve political, geographical, linguistic and racial boundaries.
All the profits from their latest record ‘Baja Funk’ were donated to an immigrant rights organisation. With lyrics denoting awakening and conscience, the protest tone is evident, yet they maintain a message of hope and positivity; the band’s aim is to recover the humanity that unites people instead of dividing them, using music as medicine to heal the world of hatred and excessive division.
Today we take a look back 18 years, to recall a jewel from legendary Mexican duo Plastilina Mosh. Founded in 1996 by Jonas González and Alejandro Rosso, the band released their second album “Juan Manuel” in 2000; a 13-track masterpiece, the album features a diverse range of sounds that make it almost impossible to classify by genre, mood or language whatsoever, with lyrics in English, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese.
The journey begins with “Nordic Laser”, an entirely instrumental krautrock piece, perhaps the simplest piece of the album before the madness is unleashed; the grooves of “Boombox Baby” and “Bareta 87” give the album a retro dancefloor sensation, drawing on Giorgio Moroder-esque richness, while “Shampoo” and “Aropador” are subtle and seductive and the likes of “International Stereo (Bassass)” and “Let The Speaker Speak” demonstrate a raw aggressive energy.
A classic record that is powerful, unpredictable, and truly timeless.
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Claire Mortifee’s debut album “Medicines” possesses several gems and her collaborative track “No Rollies” with David Morin is one of the smoothest. The combination of Mortifee’s songwriting and Morin’s sweet vocals make for a timeless cut, with all the softness of old school R&B melodies, as harmony stacks and the suspense of a standout bridge bump against a warm fat bassline and shamelessly sassy snare hits. Active in her hometown community of Toronto, Mortifee pops up often in California for her uniquely dynamic live shows, displaying her depth of lyrical delivery and showcasing the physicality of her music as she snakes across the stage in metallic spandex with an endless smile and powerfully natural magnetism.
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La Garfield emerged five years ago in the Mexican city of Guadalajara as the victors of a high school band contest project. The 8-piece group were originally focused on jazz, but have been adding elements of funk rock, pop and disco as their sound has progressed over their three released albums to date. The intention of the band is to spread positive and loving sensations through their music; grooving basslines, rhythmic percussion and melodic wind sections provide the idyllic bohemian sound to La Garfield’s latest release “Todo Lo Rico”, while the soulful voice of lead singer Sofia contributes latin flavour and pure uplifting vibes.
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Dead Wicks is a self proclaimed “psycho-delic grunge-hop” group of New York-grown artists wielding a unique talent for re-working motown songs. Their recently released debut EP ‘Curses’ gifts its listeners a pandora’s box of irreverent genre-bending anthems filled with unusual chord progressions and twisted guitars through alt-pop craftsmanship and poetically chaotic lyricism. The first track on the EP, entitled “Glyph Trip”, kicks things off with a hard electro funk bass line and breathy staccato vocals, before flipping into sitar sounds echoing in a void of synth breakdowns and soulful wails.
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Chicago emcee Elton makes a profound and soulful introduction with his debut EP, “Elevated”. Sitting at 6-tracks deep, the breakout project is packed with soulful jazz-infused production and introspective lyricism, with the young newcomer’s powerful versatility making it one of 2018’s most impressive new hip-hop offerings. Featuring a slew of his peers in fellow Chicago artists Phoelix, Akenya, Blake Davis and Luke Titus, with this effort Elton has created an impressive foundation for his inevitable ascension.
‘Koopa-Cabras’ is a unpredictable celebration of monsters and folklore. The latest release of Tropa Mágica, the musical project of brothers Rene and David Pacheco, the track stars modern mythological creature Koopa merged with a more cryptic Latin-American character in The Chupacabras, who’s name comes from the beast’s reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock.
The track starts with synth arpeggios that mark the “arcade videogame ultimate villain feeling”, before suspensive percussion appears followed by a bassline and surf style guitars that creates the tropical punk mood characteristic of the Pacheco Brothers. The siblings, based in Los Angeles but of Mexican roots, collaborated in this occasion with two other Latin artists: Fredo Ortiz and César Mejía.
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Ninth Child’s ethereal voice is etched delicately into the soulful edges of her heavy drops with a psychedelic style that provides a sonic refuge for listeners. With a fiercely feminine energy that is welcome in the growing festival scene, her audiences bathe in the reverberated echoes of her emotional lyrics and adventurous electronic soundscapes, which she writes, produces and visually embodies herself through her own creative and artistic direction. Her “LOVERS” EP dropped early in 2018 to a positive reception, alongside her intense high-energy shows, featuring projections, free-form dance and unique costume design.
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Following in the lineage of the city’s rich modern musical history, Detroit has introduced another talented mind in Choker. Last year, his self-produced debut album ‘Peak’ received acclaim for uncannily evoking sounds of Frank Ocean, yet still crafting his own individual sound. His follow-up project ‘Honeybloom’ released this month, creates a unique ethereal atmosphere through its experimental approach and depth, with beautifully expressive vocals driving unpredictable, unconventional melodies. Choker is a truly multi-faceted artist dedicated to pushing boundaries while still remaining accessible through his meaningful lyricism.
Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins announced his new album by sharing powerful new banger ‘Bruce Banner’. The 27-year-old flexes his lyrical muscle as he unleashes his inner Hulk, channeling his aggression into a dense, intricate flow spat over a menacing instrumental from producers NEZ and RIO. A track packed with endless quotable bars, his declaration that “honestly, can’t nobody come for me except Kendrick” has already created a significant buzz, and will only heighten the anticipation for the release of his sophomore LP ‘Pieces Of Man’ this coming autumn.
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In 2016 Mercedes Nasta, former vocalist of Mexican electronic rock band Disco Ruido, undertook her solo adventure. Creating her own downtempo, hypnotic brand of cumbia (the carribean-infused folk music of northern Latin America), Nasta took the reins of the project as she developed her production skills; this, combined with her deep poetry, soft voice and the collaboration of gifted musicians under her direction produced a masterful project inspired by basalt, the form of cold lava from which the album takes its name. ‘Basalto’ is a experiment, record with a soulful, psychedelic touch that whispers a nostalgic and mystical lullaby, exploring a range of themes including architecture, internal transformations and pre-hispanic art.
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Innanet James has been keeping things lowkey for a minute now. Following the breakout success of his 2016 debut project ‘Quebec Place’ and its hit single ‘Summer’, the Maryland rapper has taken his time to perfect his follow-up record, and the 22-year-old does not disappoint with his long-awaited return. ‘Bag’ is an undeniable banger from the first kick drum, as James flows effortlessly over soulful keys and a playful trap percussion infused with a bossa nova rhythm, serving to build the excitement for his forthcoming EP slated to feature the likes of Pusha T, Rexx Life Raj and Mac Ayres.
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Atlanta native Father makes a powerful return with his first drop of 2018. The alternative trap artist and founder of independent label Awful Records has been off screen for minute now, but revives the energy that catapulted him to notoriety with two brand new tracks that will only build anticipation for his forthcoming album. Alongside ‘Lotto’, a collaborative effort with ABRA, ‘We Had A Deal’ is a stripped-back, direct trap anthem with an undeniable slap to it, as Father showcases his distinctive left-field delivery over fat, bass-driven production.
Mexican producers YOGUI and Dan Solo, members of the band Technicolor Fabrics, collaborated to give rise to a more dramatic sound in ’16: 20′. Released back in 2014, the single is characterised by a marching rhythm, imposing guitars and grooving synths, accompanied by lyrics describing breathless vertigo.
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Omar Banos, better known as Cuco, is a teenage prodigy. In May, the 19-year-old chicano producer already delivered his third album: ‘Chiquito’, a record that floats through the movements of summer love. With uniquely calibrated synths and lyrics sung in both English and Spanish, his deft mixture of R&B, hip-hop and psychedelic pop has won him the support of Kali Uchis, Kevin Abstract and Steve Lacy, not to mention his loyal band of fans known as “Cuco Puffs”, who have turned him into something of a modern day dream-pop icon.
G.O.O.D. Music have had one hell of a month. After five consecutive weeks of dominating the hip-hop agenda with the releases of 7-song albums from hip-hop legends Pusha T, Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Nas, last weekend the label’s run finally reached its climax with Teyana Taylor’s sophomore record ‘K.T.S.E.’ (standing for Keep That Same Energy). Despite being perhaps the least hyped up of the five releases, the Harlem-born singer takes her moment in the spotlight with relish, delivering a record of slick, timeless RnB jams. Smooth soulful production comes courtesy of West and Mike Dean, who for the most part leave aside the more abrasive electronic experimentation that they have explored on the previous records, opting instead for a palette of warm keys and classic soul samples allowing Taylor to showcase her powerful vocals, exemplified on the album’s standout track ‘Rose in Harlem’.
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LA record label Top Dawg Entertainment has produced some of contemporary US hip-hop’s biggest new stars in the last few years, developing the likes of Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Isaiah Rashad and SiR. Amongst such a wealth of fresh talent, west-coast rap veteran Jay Rock has at times perhaps been overlooked; despite being one of the label’s earliest signees way back in 2005, he has thus far struggled to emulate the same level of international commercial success as his label-mates. However this is due to change with the release of his third album ‘Redemption’, a powerful, direct record that expertly fuses Rock’s roots in classic hip-hop sensibilities with the trappier contemporary sounds of the modern-day scene. In the midst of a host of stellar guest appearances from hip-hop royalty like Lamar, J. Cole, Future and Jeremih, the 33-year old Rock more than holds his own, showcasing his arsenal of slick flows and imposing delivery over a diverse range of styles, tied together by a consistent dark energy. Touching on a range of themes including religion, race and gang life in Los Angeles, ‘Redemption’ is a truly enjoyable rap album that is due to elevate Jay Rock to the status that he has perhaps long deserved.
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Ethiopian-American artist Kelela’s first entrance came in 2013 with her mixtape ‘Cut 4 Me’; since then, hundreds of thousands of listeners have gravitated towards her masterful ability to fuse pop and RnB with elements of modern cinematic sounds and neo-soul. Take Me Apart, her 2017 debut studio album, received critical acclaim for its original sound and refreshing energy; standout track ‘Frontline’ demonstrates the breadth of Kelela’s range, with choppy raps acting as a powerful contrast amongst airy, effortless vocals. Since her youth, Kelela’s Ethiopian roots and perspective on music and freedom of movement has influenced her nomadic style and unique approach.
After the success of his 2017 debut album ‘blkswn’, St. Louis rapper Smino returns with his first single of 2018. The track sees him delivering his distinctive melodic falsetto vocals and trading slick verses with Chicago’s Mick Jenkins over a slow, bumping groove produced in collaboration with with THEMpeople. The contrast between the two lyricists style is a lethal combination, Jenkins’ smooth, laidback flow serving as the perfect complement to Smino’s unorthodox, staccato energy, skipping across pockets in the distorted beat as the infectious bassline keep the listener’s head knocking.
Grammy-nominated producer Gwen Bunn takes an official step out all on her own with her debut solo project ‘Safe Travels’. Incorporating rich jazz and funk influences, ‘Yours’ is the the stand out track on the eight-track EP, a soulful affair filled with sultry vocal tenderness exploring themes of desire and commitment.