In­spired state of mind

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Jay-Z 4:44 Uni­ver­sal

DID I sign up for Ti­dal just to lis­ten to Z’s lat­est al­bum? You bet I did. And it was worth it.

Bey­once’s crit­i­cally-ac­claimed Lemon­ade in 2016 hinted at Jay-Z’s al­leged in­fi­delity, and much of the spec­u­la­tion was built around the nar­ra­tive of un­cer­tainty in the Carter-Knowles house­hold.

Fast for­ward to 2017 and Jay-Z has dropped his lat­est al­bum 4:44, just weeks after the birth of his twins (ru­moured to be named Rumi and Sir).

The al­bum seems to pro­vide an ex­ten­sion to the Lemon­ade story. The ti­tle track opens with a sam­ple of Han­nah Wil­liams’ har­row­ing Late Nights & Heart­breaks and Jay-Z saying... sorry (“I apol­o­gise, of­ten wom­an­ise...”).

The rest of this bril­liant track is filled with re­veal­ing notes on re­gret and fa­ther­hood and it ends on a fear­ful note that one day his chil­dren will not think kindly of his past (“My heart breaks for the day I had to ex­plain my mis­takes...”). It seems that the rap­per re­ally hopes people would re­con­sider their per­cep­tion of his pub­lic per­sona.

On the self-diss­ing track Kill Jay Z, he asks if he truly de­serves his fame and loy­alty (“[ex­ple­tive] Jay Z, I mean you shot your own brother/ how can we know if we can trust Jay Z?”). Then there’s an­other nod to Lemon­ade where he rep­ri­mands him­self for al­most let­ting “the bad­dest girl in the world get away”.

4:44 is more than just a re­sponse to Lemon­ade. In songs like The Story Of O.J. and Moonlight, Jay-Z high­lights the prob­lems within his racial com­mu­nity. He drops the hard truth about how the lack of aware­ness on mat­ters like fi­nance and the mu­sic in­dus­try have con­stantly failed his people.

It’s on these songs that Jay-Z brings back his swag­ger and brags about how his in­vest­ments has paid off for him. He pro­vides wis­dom (“You know what’s more im­por­tant than drop­pin’ money at a strip club? Credit...”) with a num­ber of mic-drop­ping wor­thy lines that makes other rap songs about ex­cess and wealth pale in com­par­i­son.

4:44 is a noteworthy al­bum where a man drops his ego and is up­front about his flaws. Along with all the mouth­wa­ter­ing reve­la­tions that may or may not be about his per­sonal life, 4:44 is a stun­ning, re­lat­able piece of work that is hon­est, in­spi­ra­tional and en­gag­ing at the same time. Nev­er­mind that he is one-half of a bil­lion­aire cou­ple with one of the most fa­mous women on earth. – An­gelin Yeoh

DJ Khaled Grate­ful Sony

THIS is one al­bum for all the imag­i­nary over-the-top house par­ties in your head. Yes, the one that in­cludes A-list stars like Bey­once, Jay-Z, Ri­hanna, Justin Bieber, Drake, Chance The Rap­per, Ali­cia Keys and more.

DJ Khaled’s star-stud­ded 10th stu­dio al­bum is a mam­moth of­fer­ing with 23 songs in­spired by his ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer son.

His first child Asahd was born last Oc­to­ber and it seems he has built Grate­ful around his happy new ad­di­tion in life. The en­thu­si­asm is ev­i­dent on the cel­e­bra­tory num­ber I Love You So Much fea­tur­ing Chance The Rap­per. Now is this the kind of par­ent­ing song that any kid would be #blessed to hear as DJ Khaled re­peat­edly goes “You’re my son/You’re a mogul”.

This zest for life is con­ta­gious and it’s high­lighted in songs like Shin­ing and the anti-hater an­them No­body.

There are other catchy num­bers like I’mTheOne fea­tur­ing Bieber, which will have you danc­ing along in no time, and the sexy Wild Thoughts fea­tur­ing Ri­hanna, which sam­ples San­tana’s Maria Maria.

Grate­ful ends with the sound of Asahd’s laugh­ing as his fa­ther says thank you to him for ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ing the al­bum... If that is some­thing that puts a smile on your face then Grate­ful is the one for you. But if you just want to have a good time, hey, this al­bum has got you cov­ered as well. – AY

Skits But No In­de­pen­dent

A lit­tle knowl­edge can be dan­ger­ous, but that’s not a fear Skits needs to con­tend with. Its de­but, But No, ex­em­pli­fies the ca­pac­ity of a quar­tet of well-heeled mu­si­cians firmly clued in to their cho­sen mu­si­cal pur­suit — at­mo­spheric in­stru­men­tal — to dish out what it does best.

Skits has worked hard to re­main on the right side of the tracks, and the suc­cess it achieves on But No is a tes­ta­ment to hard graft and worldly ex­pe­ri­ence. With mem­bers com­pris­ing of now-de­funct units like Free De­sert­ers and Cit­i­zens Of Ice Cream, dues have been thor­oughly paid within this four­some.

The 10-song ex­cur­sion is a thrilling ride into a sonic won­der­land, visit­ing a va­ri­ety of shades and moods on its way. Sub­tle, lead off track, Day In Day Out ,is­not.

Main man and gui­tar player Bren­dan Teh sets the tone with grat­ing gui­tars on pretty much the open­ing salvo. A charm­ing sense of naivete per­me­ates the synth lines, which in­con­gru­ously cra­dles the edgy tunes. But Nar­ra­tive bucks that trend ... and the Alice In Won­der­land nar­ra­tion on it is sim­ply hi­lar­i­ous.

In fact, al­most the en­tire al­bum is punc­tu­ated with his­toric au­dio sam­ples ex­tracted from a va­ri­ety of lo­cal and for­eign sources. Short­changed’s surfy foun­da­tion dove­tails neatly with an ex­cerpt of clas­sic P. Ram­lee movie Ibu Mer­tu­aku, given the era they both come from.

Math Ga­gal touches on Barry Gold­wa­ter, the right-wing Ari­zona se­na­tor who pledged to em­brace ex­trem­ism and re­ject mod­er­a­tion in the 1960s, a time when nu­clear war was cal­lously bandied about. How this short tune segues into Barang Sam­pah is a work of art in it­self. There is no sub­sti­tute for gen­uine imag­i­na­tion that comes chock­ful of colour­ful chords and catchy melodies.

But No says a lot with very few words ... al­most like a silent scream, or an un­der­wa­ter in­ferno. This is a pretty ex­plo­sive lis­ten. — N. Rama Lo­han

Photo: Filepic

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