#1: “Stepping into Tomorow”-Madlib (2003)
Did I ever mention how I absolutely eulogize Madlib for his abilities as a hip-hop producer? If not, I need to do some more writing. I think everyone who even remotely enjoys hip-hop needs to approach Madlib, shake his hand and say “Job well done.” Madlib is a hip-hop producing god. That’s all.
In an era where the origins of hip-hop have been almost lost in the tapestry of music, it’s incredibly refreshing to tune into the song “Stepping into Tomorrow,” a track off of Madlib’s “Shades of Blue.” Madlib dipped into the archives of jazz label Blue Note Records and decided to fashion the most workable of the selections into beats. “Stepping into Tomorrow” is the peak of these efforts.
The track gets its jazz feel from the addictive snare drum rolls, high-pitched vocals and a complementing bass line. But contrary to traditional jazz is this song’s particular formulaic style, stemming from Madlib’s experience as a producer. Madlib loops each of the elements of the track, making it a fast-paced and invigorating track. Well done, Madlib.
#2: “Fake Plastic Trees”-Radiohead (1995)
Widely regarded as one of the greatest Alternative Rock songs of all time, “Fake Plastic Trees” was the dagger that catapulted Radiohead from being just another pop-alt band to legends in the making. It’s as if someone were to take the song “Creep,” minimize the amount of lyrics, stuff them with references to industrialization and changing the format of the song into a crescendo. In other words, Radiohead literally improved on all of their past efforts with just this one song, and we can rest easy knowing that “Fake Plastic Trees” was the precursor for some of Radiohead’s eventual run of incredible albums. Not much to say other than that this song is a classic and well deserving of that title.
#3: “I Feel It Coming”-The Weeknd (2016)
I didn’t think that I was going to end up reviewing anything from this album other than “Starboy,” if I’m being honest. But there’s something about this track that makes you feel so nostalgic and even long for the days when music sounded like this. That something is Daft Punk whose help in writing and producing this track makes me wonder what took them so long to collaborate with the Weeknd.
Abel Tesfaye’s immaculate vocals are a literal perfect match for Daft Punk’s 80’s inspired instrumentations exhibited throughout their 2013 “Random Access Memories” project, making this one of my favorite songs by him and one of my favorite performances from the 2017 Grammys. The Weeknd is like some twisted resurrection of Michael Jackson with far more obvious sexual advances. As much as I may not have enjoyed the full album “Starboy,” “I Feel It Coming” is a breath of fresh air from an artist whose previous albums I’ve enjoyed far more than his recent work. This only makes me more hopeful for more to come from both The Weeknd and Daft Punk.