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You can tell it’s Smino from the start

Whether he sounds like Mac Miller, Outkast, or Danny Brown

I hate PR people. Or at least people who bulk email me about an artist’s latest single. I didn’t ask for that. I don’t want this. I can find it on my own. I’ve been so scarred by it that I don’t trust most people with recommendations, but that’s exactly how I found out about Smino.

I went to Blurry Vision, a first year Oakland hip hop festival, where Smino was supposed to play. A coworker said that I should see him. That was the only reason she was going, along with NxWorries’ first festival show. Smino didn’t end up showing, it happens, but I did listen to him all the way through on SoundCloud. Now he’s my #1 person to see live. Well, behind Bill Withers and a few others.

He has some serious amount of music. He reminds me of a few different rappers from a few different songs. Mac Miller on “Ruby Red”, Outkast vibes on a few, and even Danny Brown in “Home Invaders.” Whatever he sounds like, like Dre said about Anderson .Paak, you can tell it’s him from his first word on a song.

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Lion Babe’s Mane Thang

The venue is as important as the act

1015 Folsom is the worst venue in San Francisco. Well, it’s probably not the worst, but considering the caliber of talent it gets compared to how poorly it’s set up for live performances, it’s the worst. The sound is shit and you can barely fit in for decent viewing. It should be remodeled or turned back into a nightclub, exclusively.

In mid April, my girlfriend decided to drag me to the Lion Babe show at 1015. I would’ve wanted to go if it wasn’t for the venue. I did love hearing her voice live. The way she uses it with her producer, Lucas Goodman, makes for some timeless music. It’s AlunaGeorge consistent. But everything else at the show, from the sound to the setup, felt shoddy. Although as my girlfriend pointed out, the costume changes and dance numbers made for a fun performance.

Lion Babe played Coachella the next weekend, but I decided to see THEY instead. They had given a great show at South by in 2017, but I kinda wish I saw Lion Babe instead. It is the main thing that sets musicians apart, besides the actual music. And she’s got plenty, almost as much as THEY.

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Jacob Banks Makes Louis The Child Sound Good

One of the most surprising collaborations of the year

I rarely post a single anymore. Usually I save it for a playlist, but if I dive into the artist’s music and come up with a handful then it’s worth featuring alone.

I’ve already featured Jacob Banks when I saw him at Outside Lands – which was one of the best performances of the year, as well as his show at The Independent – but his single with Louis The Child is one of his best and unexpected at that.

Not from Banks, I expect his music to get better with time, but Louis The Child. Not only have they never worked with a singer so good, but they’ve got his sound down. Better than I’ve ever seen it before.

I swear I’ve heard ‘Ditty Bop’ at a Jacob Banks show, but something that sounds so familiar from the start is a good indicator of a track’s longevity.

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Kali Uchis

Breaking music barriers

I saw Kali Uchis late 2017 at The New Parish and my first thought was my girlfriend would love her. I wanted to surprise her with tickets to her show at The Fox just after Valentine’s Day, but it seems like she needs more convincing on how good she is.

I haven’t seen a catalog this deep on SoundCloud ever (Duckwrth is second best). One song after the other, even the shittiest recordings had that whisper in her voice that makes her sound so special. She’s the first artist that’s ever made me appreciate someone singing another language so much.

I think that’s what more Americans need to start appreciating other languages being sung. Bi-lingual singers to show there’s no language line with good music.

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with Soul

There's nothing better than singers with soul

As this bitch of a year comes to a close, there isn’t anything better than soulful singers to give it some grace. I haven’t put together a soul singers playlist for about a year, so there’s a lot of musicians to cover (72!)

In our last Lip Service playlist, it had soul, but no women. I think it’s as important as ever to show appreciation to the women you love, and I love these musician. Or I’m sure I would if I knew them.

This one’s for the woman I do, Lizzzz.

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Moods.

Practice makes perfect

I see a lot of producers go through three stages of music production: beat making, remixing, and collaborating. It takes time gaining expertise and forming relationships to work with talented vocalists, but there is no beat that can top a great song.

I was first introduced to Moods from his beat, “Love is Real,” but it took a few years later to find my obsession of his. His remix of “Homie. Lover. Friend.” takes some of the sexiest vocals & lyrics and puts it together better to sing and dance to. It was one of my favorite dance tracks of 2016, but his latest collaboration is topping that, titled Truth.

I don’t take many lyrics to heart, but I love how and what Beau Nox sings on Truth. He sounds like Anderson .Paak, but not as a cheap knockoff. It’s well produced, well spoken, and well sung. It’s teetering on perfection. It might be my favorite song of the year.

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Daniel Caesar with Snoh Aalegra

His fans were as impressive as him

Three days before Daniel Caesar’s show at The New Parish in Oakland, I went to Jacob Banks at The Independent in San Francisco. Banks was the first show that ever brought me to tears, so I had high expectations for Caesar.

I got to The New Parish thirty minutes after doors opened to make sure I got a good spot for Caesar’s opener, Snoh Aalegra. It was extremely sold out, as in prices on StubHub were going for $200, so I probably should’ve got there earlier. By the time I did, the place was packed, but eventually I found a view of her from just behind the soundcheck. Not only does she have a voice, but she knew how to use it, especially live. Like Jacob Banks, she can get a crowd going, but Caesar has something more with his crowd. They were working with him.

When I heard all this hoopla about Daniel Caesar, I didn’t understand why Jacob Banks wasn’t getting the same. After hearing Caesar live, I do now. Caesar’s lyrics are more accessible. It’s pleasant to sing, even for the worst of us singers. And once your brain gets it stuck up in your head, all you wanna do is sing it with Caesar. Something most of his audience did. Something I don’t think most of the audience for Jacob Banks could pull off.

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Jordan Rakei

Soul from down under

The first time I heard about Jordan Rakei was through singer Madelyn Grant. The two at the time were recently featured on FKJ’s EP, Take Off. I wasn’t a big fan of his song “Learn to Fly,” especially compared to Madelyn Grant’s “Waiting,” but it gave me my first look into his songwriting skills.

Since then Jordan has been featured on Diclosure’s “Masterpiece,” as well as worked with a handful of other talented producers, but I know of him primarily through his podcast with Tom Misch, Alpha Mist & Barney Artist: Are We Live Podcast. These guys are a powerhouse in the UK music scene, even though Jordan is originally from New Zealand, and their podcast is good insight into their world.

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Outside Lands 2017: The Jacob Banks Show

with other acts Lee Fields, Khruangbin, and Solange

I went to Outside Lands for its 10th anniversary to see the Gorillaz, but I ended up getting too drunk and ruining it for my girlfriend. Fortunately, I turned it around day two and three, so that’s good. Especially day three.

For most long weekend festivals, one day usually has the best performances, often more than the others combined. We started off the last day of Outside Lands with Lee Fields & The Expressions, Khruangbin in the afternoon, and Solange at night, but nothing mattered that day more than Jacob Banks. It was his weekend.

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Leven Kali · Breaking Soul

When someone pops up in the places you love

Leven Kali has three strikes going for him. One, with his single that introduced me, ‘Mine.’ Second, a few months later he performed ‘Joy’ on Colors Berlin – a collective that hosts musicians to record a live set of a song against a clean colored background. In Kali’s case pink. Which repped him well. The final nail of approval was a tweet praising him from Ebro, a host on HOT 97 and Beats 1.

I went through Kali’s catalogue after his name popped up a third time, which is usually what it takes, and his music is starting to stack up. Although there’s a lot of collaborations with shit rappers crowding his sound. It’s good for exposure though, but he soon won’t need it.

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