Summer music releases

Summer+music+releases

Rohan Haarmann, Culture Editor: Online

The turn of the seasons was marked by a bevy of new releases from many of hip-hop’s most popular artists. June opened with Kanye West’s Ye and Kids See Ghosts, followed by Drake’s Scorpion at the end of the month and Travis Scott’s Astroworld in August. It was a summer filled with anticipation and passionate discussion over the latest projects from many of hip-hop’s greatests.

Patrick Kennedy (’20) describes artist Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s collaborative project, Kids See Ghosts, as his favorite album from the summer. “West and Cudi have both been through traumatic times concerning mental health. The main concept of looking your ghosts straight in the eyes and accepting who you are is very thoughtful and powerful at the same time,” he said. Kennedy feels as though West’s rap on the song Reborn from the album demonstrates that West “wants all the pain that comes with his mental problems because he can take it all now that he has learned to live with it.”

Regarding Kanye’s second release this summer, Ye, Kennedy was slightly less enthusiastic. “I believe Ye also has incredible production, but the rapping, entirely based around his life, is a little half-baked at times,” he said. Kennedy cites the album’s coverage of a May incident, during which Kanye claimed that “slavery was a choice” during a TMZ interview, as an example. “He hints at his reasons for saying it but does not really go in depth and that was something I wanted because I still don’t know why he said that,” Kennedy said.

A third major release this summer was Travis Scott’s Astroworld, an album which, within the first 24 hours of its release, garnered 64.5 million streams on Spotify alone. “I think Astroworld was incredible…  it explores new sounds for Scott and features the kinds of artists that you don’t usually here on trap music these days, including Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Frank Ocean and Pharrell Williams,” Kennedy said. He felt that the absence of repetitive choruses targeted at radio helped to make a highly progressive album filled with “new, interesting sounds that were unpredictable.”

Malakai Spencer (’21) also described himself as a “huge” fan of Astroworld. Similar to Kennedy, Spencer also loved the album’s featured artists, noting rapper Swae Lee in particular. He commended the rapper’s exploration of a new, more dramatic sound, saying, “Travis rapped more than he sang, which was very refreshing.”

Astaria Menzies’ (’19) had similar views regarding Astroworld. “The features were very carefully chosen, creating many unique sounding tracks such as SICKO MODE and COFFEE BEAN,” she said. Menzies felt that Scott retained his distinctive style whilst also adding some creativity to its production. “You can tell it’s a Travis [Scott] album just by listening to a couple of tracks, but the features allow him to keep evolving,” she said.

Spencer’s favorite album of the summer, however, was Drake’s Scorpion. After much anticipation, Drake’s latest was released in June, supplanting itself as one of the highest streamed albums of the summer. Spencer describes himself as having been a Drake fan since some of his earliest releases. “Scorpion made me even more sure of Drake’s ability to constantly put out great new music that you can listen to in any situation,” he said. “It was a long album, but the quality never dropped.”

Menzies, however, described Scorpion as “a big step-down” for Drake. “It’s been a very bad year for [Drake] and I feel like he’s kind of gone off the deep end,” she said. “It feels like there was a real lack of personality overall in the album.”

These releases mark only a select few of the major albums that have arrived this year, but the amount of attention they received supplant hip-hop as an ever-growing genre. Kanye West, Drake, and Travis are continuing to innovate alongside many other popular and emerging artists.