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A$AP Twelvyy, Daniel Caesar and more — here are all the standout debuts of this year... part five that is. Don't forget to check out part four.
A$AP Twelvyy: '12'
Release date: August 4
After much delay, almost ten years that is, A$AP Twelvyy finally dropped his debut project, 12. There’s a cockiness about it, while still remaining humble and true to his roots. This is that New York sound that is not easy to imitate. 12 is real and raw. Twelvyy took those years to hone in on his craft and, let’s not forget, mourn the loss of ASAP Mob leader A$AP Yams. He carries the pain of that loss in the album: “Not for nothing, I been hoping for a brighter day / Cuz ever since we lost a big homie I've been feeling like I'm 'bout to fade."
12 is about life, the hardships and darkness we go through while still remaining hopeful and persistent on obtaining his dreams. Paying homage to the gritty sound of old school New York, A$AP Twelvyy does not disappoint. Music doesn’t get any more raw and honest than this. Long waited, but 12 was worth the wait. Good job.
In an interview with XXL’s Sidney Madden, A$AP Twelvyy sheds light on the album’s delay and the work put into it. He had this to say to his fans:
"That no matter how long something takes, don’t give up. There’s no reason to give up. It might take you 10 years, it might take you 15 years, never give up. … We put work in this, love this forever. This wasn’t no overnight thing, this was 10 years in the making. My next project’s not going to take that long [laughs] but I just been grinding that long so I picked up stuff on the way.”
Dave East: 'Paranoia: A True Story'
Release date: August 18
Dave East tells his story on his debut EP, Paranoia: A True Story. Yes, it’s not his actual debut studio album, but Paranoia is serving as a prelude and it deserves a spot on here. When he’ll make his official debut, time will only tell. Hopefully, it’s soon because we are waiting and clearly he's been living in the studio. While his fans, including me, got excited about a hot minute, his newest project, Karma, is only a mixtape. There are still dope East-bars on there, check it out.
Now to Paranoia.
The Harlem spitter has always been able to tell a good story, remain conscious, while putting out those "EastMix" bangers. All of that could be on one album, not making it too cohesive. Paranoia presents a more focused East. He’s been honing in on his craft and perfecting it before he released his actual album. While the album isn’t too cohesive, the overall theme of paranoia presents itself throughout some of the project. It’s that paranoia that someone will come after him. The paranoia of everyone smiling in his face and hating behind his back. The paranoia that he’ll lose his place in Hip Hop, something he’s put his blood, sweat, and tears into. It’s that paranoia that drives his grind. East is known for living in the studio, and the grind of a perfectionist never ends.
With each release, East gets better and better. The 13-track mixtape has the usual variety of tracks that aim to different audiences, but it’s the tracks about himself and his "paranoia" that does it for me. You can hear it in his voice he's fighting for his top spot. Isn't that what Hip Hop is all about? What I’d really like from Dave East, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, is a cohesive conceptual album. With Nas as his boss and mentor, it’s not impossible. His pen game and storytelling is already up there. Paranoia and Karma work as introductions to his official debut album, but will he drop it? 2018, East - we’re waiting.
Daniel Caesar: 'Freudian'
Release date: August 25
A theory that explores the importance of sexuality in human behavior, Freudian runs parallel as it reveals the importance of love in human behavior — specifically that of Daniel Caesar.
2017 was a good year for barefoot music, including Daniel Caesar who came out of nowhere and stunned us all with his highly-acclaimed 2015 mixtape Pilgrim Paradise. The 22-year-old Canadian delivers an intimate debut album. Daniel soulfully sings about love — chasing it, winning it, and losing it. Reminiscent of D’Angelo and Brian McKnight, Freudian is out of place yet perfectly placed in this new era. A flawless mix of R&B, neo-soul, gospel, a bit of rock — the different styles tie together beautifully with calm yet gripping vocals.
"I’ve never been as proud about anything I’ve created in my whole life. This body of work is about examining my most complex feelings and thoughts more directly. I’m more exposed than ever on this album. It’s like I’m in therapy, but it’s on display. And I got to make this with my friends. It’s just us, no label, so it makes it that much more special.”
Daniel has put his all into this project, as he told The FADER above. It was a risk that paid off well with even more public attention and two Grammy-nominations, one for “Best R&B Album.” Yes, he received two Grammy-noms just after three months of the album’s release. Whether he walks away with an award or not, Daniel Caesar is still a winner.
Watch the complex visual for the title track above. Directed by Kevin Yazdani and Sean Brown, the video is in two parts revealing how past relationships have controlled Daniel as well as his gaining control over them.
"It's an introspective look into why Daniel is the way he is, and the relationships in his life that are responsible for such. The second half of the video was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Danny instructing the drill line as the sergeant is him finally taking control of all the relationships he’s experienced. Leading, as opposed to being lead. At the end of the day, the reason the visual is so obscure, is so the viewer can interpret it as feels right to them. Subjective shit." - Yazdani
A Boogie: 'The Bigger Artist'
Release date: September 29
When I first heard of A Boogie with da Hoodie, I thought, “What in the hell — what type of stage name is that?” But then when I first listened to A Boogie wit da Hoodie — well, my first impression didn’t matter at all. The 22-year-old is talented. There’s something about his style that allows him to stand out among his peers. Melodic yet gritty, it’s his style that catapulted him into performing for sold-out shows. Even Drake brought him out while performing in New York, not a headline needed. After just dropping his debut mixtape, Artist, A Boogie got his foot in the door. Now with his debut album, The Bigger Artist, A Boogie has for sure cemented his place in Hip Hop.
Born Artist Dubose, The Bigger Artist balances on that fine line between the person and the persona. Right in the beginning, we see into Artist’s innermost thoughts with the pensive opening track. A touch of vulnerability, “No Promises” explores Artist's regret of getting caught up in the fame and letting it affect his relationships. A twinge of guilt in just the first few bars while mentioning Savannah, the fan who was killed at his concert in Louisville. A sense of remorse for being too busy to make promises. When the grind took over, and then the fame struck, his relationships suffered. Throughout the album, Artist appears to disclose the introspective side of the person. The Bronx-native reveals his upbringing and how it compares to the present, being launched into the celebrity that comes with the game. His persona, A Boogie, is alive and well in the project. He counterparts the introspective side with a braggadocios tone: “I’m like, can I get some company? / I’m like, damn I’m really undefeated.” This kid is definitely from New York.
The Bigger Artist is a perfect balance of the pensive Artist, and the shit talker A Boogie. And he’s only 22! The piano is a major component throughout the project. Melodramatic, it aids to his style and has become his signature. The debut album is worth a listen. It’s a solid project from a solid Artist who stands out among the rest. Let’s hope the sophomore album can follow up.
Lute: 'West 1996, Pt.2'
Release date: September 29
And another one for Dreamville!
Lute, who signed back in 2015, released his debut album that serves as the sequel to his 2012 debut mixtape West 1996. West 1996 Pt. 2 also serves the label’s second debut album this year, following J.I.D’s The Never Story.
Lute struggled with balancing making music and supporting his newborn daughter. Dreams versus reality, an inner-battle far too many can relate to. The North Carolina-native was fully prepared for West 1996 Pt. 2 to be his last project. Then in comes J. Cole with an “S” on his chest to save the dreams of the dreamers. Two years later, Lute delivers one of the realest projects released this year. It appears J. Cole has a type, and I’m loving it. This is music you can vibe out to — an old school Hip Hop feel laced with present-time lyrics. I dare you to do a complete listen and not nod your head to the beat. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Fuck this rap facade
Let’s talk about real life
Luckily, Lute was discovered before he called it quits — Amen to that. Intricate yet methodical lyrics laid over hypnotic yet gripping beats — Lute is a lyricist indeed. Each song encompasses real life shit. Each bar encompasses in the moment emotions as he wrote them. Many can relate to being called in early for a job you hate, and only going because you have bills and a family to take care of: “My conscious like ‘chill, you have a baby now.'” Dreaming of the future yet being held in the present, how does one move past that?
I wanna cry sometimes, living this life under pressure
I wanna die sometimes, I gotta keep it together
This is what the album is all about. It’s pain music. It’s about Lute’s struggle of balancing the want to achieve his dreams and the need to support his family. It’s about sacrifice. The album dives into Lute’s life, but really it could be about anybody. It’s for those whose dreams disintegrated before their eyes because priorities and sacrifices had to be made for others. In a press release, Lute had this to say about his debut album.
"This project is an accumulation of chapters and events leading up to Dreamville signing me. It’s a window into the last five years of my life…the obstacles, the challenges, the changes. It’s also motivation to not let people or circumstances define who you are. My only competition is the person I was yesterday. I’ve been patient and very appreciative of this platform and now its time to show what I’m capable of.”
West 1996 Pt. 2 is a time capsule that holds all of those painful memories and decisions from before things started looking up for the kid. They say when you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere else to go but up. Well, this project reveals those innermost thoughts of someone at rock bottom with no ladder in sight: "Gotta be another way.” But soon enough a ladder appears, and it’s up to you to climb it before it disappears. It’s up to you to keep fighting for your dreams and your priorities, one day it will all work out. You will struggle on your way up but it’s that fight that makes it all worth it. Keep your head up, that's all Lute is saying. Okay, well what he actually said was, "Nigga, just get off your ass and hustle." Eh, I was close enough.
But five years in the making, damn! Of course, the project had to undergo some changes here and there to keep it relevant, but all of those emotions are present. Those same emotions he felt when originally writing these songs before he joined Dreamville. From heart and mind to pen and paper — this is real life. I, for one, am interested to see the change in content for Lute's sophomore album. Please, let it not be another five years. This is the kind of Hip Hop we need in this new era.
Wait! There's more!
Stick around for part six to find out more of 2017's standout debuts. And may I dare say, it is the last installment of "Recapping 2017: Standout Debuts." Stay tuned in.