Towkio narrates his existential coming of age story on debut album ‘WWW.’ [Album Review]

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Remember the first time a kid from Chicago really challenged hip-hop’s status quo? He showed us how swapping 808s for chopped soul samples might actually be cool and that skinny jeans and neon Polos could be just as hip-hop as football jerseys and Cartier. He ushered in a new era of hip-hop by allowing himself to be weird and detailing his journey through the come up across three coming-of-age themed albums that have since cemented their places in the hightest echelons of modern hip-hop history. That kid was Kanye West, and nearly two decades after his emergence, his influence has shaped three of the genre’s brightest new torch carriers: Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, and now undisputedly, Towkio.

Each of these three young forward-thinkers are now pushing hip-hop into the future on those same principles, and at times, experimental appeal — though now Towkio is officially planting his flag with his debut LP, WWW. One listen through the new album, and it becomes clear that Towkio’s definition of hip-hop not only sets him apart from most of his contemporaries’, but also that it doesn’t necessarily adhere to current hip-hop conventions either; he doesn’t seem phased in the slightest.

Conceived between the journey from an emerging Chicago rapper to lamping at Rick Rubin’s mythical Malibu recording sanctuary Shangri La, Towkio sets the narrative in WWW.‘s first bars on “Swim,”

“New chapter, new page, made some money off the first mixtape. Now I’m living, good chillin by a beach that’s not a lake. Said the earth controls the moon so we control the waves.”

Relying heavily on these ideas of perspective, frequency and resonant connectivity, the foundational motifs go beyond just the track titles and lyrics. They are weaved into the record’s eclectic complexion of genres, roping together dreamy psychedelic intros, footworking breaks, funk, trap, R&B, and a healthy dose of his throaty vocal hopskotch. Creating the album took the “Drift” rapper to pyramids in Mexico, winding Hawaiian hills, and ultimately 92,000 feet into the atmosphere to quite literally drop his album from a visual vantage point that only a microscoping group of humans in history have ever witnessed.

Sonically, the record plays upon hip-hop’s new wave versatility, with a welcomed serving of pop appeal on tracks like “Hot S**t,” the Teddy Jackson-assisted “Symphony,” and a cheeky breakbeat cut on “Disco.” Louis The Child‘s contribution to the album, “Loose,” opens like it’s the much needed mid-record breather, before quickly tightening down and breaking into a rambunctious collection of bombastic kicks and tenacious spits.

The real respite, however, comes as one of the album’s final additions — a sleepy R&B piece alongside Grammy-nominated SZA called “Morning View.” Throughout its 13-track span, celestial trains of thought play a key aesthetic role in WWW.‘s compilation, culminating on pieces like “Alone” and “2 Da Moon.” Such a theme is not unlike the early outputs of fellow unconventionals like Kanye and Kid Cudi.


photo credit: Lenny Gilmore

Towkio showcases his inextricable acceptance of weirdness, and unapologetically declares it cool in his own way as well. It isn’t cookie-cutter rap music, and it wouldn’t be true to Towkio if it was. If still not skeptical about the Yeezy coming-of-age parallels, listen to him and Vic Mensa go in with brilliant, youthful defiance on “Forever” and tell me it doesn’t sound like the logically matured progression to West’s seminal classic, “We Don’t Care.”

On paper, WWW. is built by a team of sharp industry power players, with Lido behind the console raking in substantial writing and producing credits with Knox Fortune and frequent SZA songwriter Carter Lang, all beneath the legendary Rick Rubin’s watchful eye. Together, a seemingly motley crew of differently-wired creators have come together to aid in the delivery of Towkio’s triumphant longform debut — a relatable narrative of introspection and simultaneous emergence, all wrapped up in the underlying concept of the “overview effect” and how we relate to the daily risks we all take living on this big blue rock with one another.

Nowadays, the burgeoning rapper keeps his head in the stars, his feet in the California sand, and he’s survived a plummet from space that would humble anyone. Towkio has officially staked his claim in his corner of the ever-growing hip-hop empire, and in two more decades from now, who knows how WWW. will inspire an entirely new generation of rappers?


Towkio & SZA – “Morning View”

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Chicagoan Towkio teamed up with SZA for a song on his new album WWW., which is out now. The rapper literally “dropped” the album from 100,000 feet earlier this week. How did he do it? He literally got into a helium balloon and then parachuted down with the LP in tow. That’s dedication. More »

Alice Merton Is Ruling Rock Radio. Is A Pop Crossover Next?

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Do you remember where you first heard “Royals”? Almost any guess could be correct — and not just because the song achieved the sort of ubiquity you’d expect from a #1 hit. More »

Kendrick Lamar & SZA Sued Over “All The Stars” Video

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Kendrick Lamar and SZA are being sued over their music video for the Black Panther soundtrack cut “All The Stars,” TMZ reports. British-Liberian Artist Lina Iris Viktor is claiming that her “Constellations” series of paintings is used in the video without permission. In the suit, she says that representatives for … More »

Stream Black Panther: The Album

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Both Black Panther and its soundtrack have been shaping up to be blockbusters. The movie’s not out for another week, but as of tonight the album has arrived in full. Curated by Kendrick Lamar and his label head Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, it features a wealth of new Kendrick music plus appearances from SZA, ScHoolboy … More »

Kendrick Lamar & SZA – “All The Stars” Video

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Our first taste of the TDE-curated Black Panther soundtrack was “All The Stars,” a collaboration between the label’s two biggest stars, Kendrick Lamar and SZA. The song gets a video today from Dave Meyers — who previously worked with Kendrick on “HUMBLE.” and “LOYALTY.” — and “the little homies” (aka Kendrick himself). It’s … More »

Louis Futon flips SZA & Travis Scott’s ‘Love Galore’

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Louis Futon has released his latest Beat Challenge video, this time taking on SZA‘s single “Love Galore.” In the video series, the LA-based producer records himself building a flip from the ground up based of his cuts of the original. This time around, Futon flips bolsters his flip with sounds from his new sample pack, “Pretty Cool Sounds Vol. 1,” available now via Splice.
In the video, Louis Futon breaks down his sound design into its smaller selections as he adds in custom synths, drums, glitched out vocal chops c/o SZA, and, finally, some zany guitar riffs.

What are the larger implications of The Grammys steep ratings drop? [OP-ED]

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By most accounts, the Grammy Awards in 2018 was a big swing, and a big miss. The ceremony’s ratings plummeted by nearly 25% according to Nielsen Media, dropping from last year’s 32.9 million viewers down to 19.8 million for its most recent iteration. While the evening’s results have come under under considerable scrutiny following the event, Bruno Mars’ sweep of all the major categories isn’t the sole reason that The Grammys effectively tanked in what should have been a memorable year for the Recording Academy. We can examine the ceremony’s numerous blunders, but it is also worth noting that the ways we consume media, and the ways we relate to and access our artists in 2018 have changed drastically — and The Grammys need to figure out how to keep from regressing.

First, let’s start at the tip of the iceberg, examining an advertisement-bloated three and a half hour industry circle-jerk. In an age where on-demand content is at our fingertips 24 hours a day, slimming this thing down is going to be necessary for it’s survival. HQ Trivia posted record numbers of nearly 1.6 million players 90 minutes into the award ceremony. If that’s not a testament to how our attention spans are directed in 2018, perhaps nothing is.

A noticeable lack of the usual headline makers this year — including Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber — also likely contributed to viewers’ even further numbed attention spans. But stuffy award shows across the board are suffering, and The Grammys aren’t immune. The Oscars, Golden Globes, and MTV Video Music Awards are all struggling with fluctuating viewership drop offs each year too, but the Recording Academy was uniquely poised this year to give some of the most important cultural figureheads of the moment the proper platforms and recognition they deserve in the divisive, tumultuous socio-political climate we’re currently a part of… and they fell flat on their face. 

Setting Jay Z and Kendrick‘s snubs aside (we’ll get back to those), how is it conceivably possible that “Despacito” did not win one of the three major awards it was nominated for? Simply put, the track is, for better or worse, one of the most consumed pieces of content in human history. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s record-shattering collaboration head and shoulders outsold and out-streamed any remote competitors last year in 50 countries, amassing a whopping 4 billion YouTube views, an RIAA diamond certification, and snagged a record 16 weeks atop the Billboard charts. So, beyond the incontrovertible numbers, an objective look at “Despacito” begs the question, why didn’t it win any Grammys? Perhaps the Recording Academy isn’t ready to recognize Latin pop in the ceremony’s top three major award categories like the rest of us clearly did?

Carlos Santana’s “Smooth,” released in 1999 followed by Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” in 2000 were the last two comparable comparisons, and both are of course in English. Nearly two decades later, the average American music and television consumer has switched things up significantly; and while The Grammys is clearly slow to catch up to the times, we’ve long been ready for something different.

Back to Kendrick Lamar and Jay Z. It has been 20 years since there were no white males nominated for Album of the Year. In a year when the American people were gifted with two thoughtfully created concepts of black excellence and deeply personal storytelling, Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic wins Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. It’s also worth noting that Mars’ album, for what it was, was terrific. That’s not in dispute. But was 24K Magic‘s quasi-Motown, mass appeal wedding reception fare worthy of drowning out two of the most impactful hip-hop albums in recent memory? No, definitely not. That simply doesn’t seem like the progress everyone wants to see.

Look at the Best New Artist category. Alessia Cara has been signed to Def Jam Records since 2014, SZA has been releasing music since 2012. Perhaps a designation like “breakthrough artists” would be more accurate. That fact that both of these immensely talented young women are just now being recognized comes off as painfully tone deaf. Is the Recording Academy voting innocuously — most likely. But the 2018 awards ceremony highlighted the fact that the Grammy Awards are unfortunately stuck way behind the times, and the effects undoubtedly showed.

Last year, Chance The Rapper challenged the status quo earning a grip of Gramophones for an album that technically didn’t sell a single unit. Now that’s progress. He changed the game — and viewership reflected it with the ceremony raking in it’s highest numbers in half a decade. We’re going to need more than Hillary Clinton reading a snippet of Fire and Fury next year; the audiences, consumers, and fans deserve it. If The Grammys want to continue to claim to be music’s real cultural barometer, make it for the people, not additional vanity for the music industry. Consider and recognize the music that truly deserves it most, represent social progress where possible, and try stepping out of the comfort zone — at the end of the day, that’s what really moves people.

Grammys 2018: Performances From Worst To Best

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Before this year’s Grammys, news broke that Lorde would not be performing at the ceremony, since the producers wouldn’t let her sing one of her own songs — an invitation extended to all four other Album Of The Year nominees, all of whom were men. So in looking at this year’s performances, of which … More »

Grammys 2018: Watch SZA Perform “Broken Clocks”

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Best New Artist nominee SZA picked up five Grammy nominations in total this year for her first proper full-length, Ctrl. Tonight, she made her debut on the Grammy stage to perform “Broken Clocks” from her debut, and you can watch the performance below. More »