2019 in Projects (So Far...)

 Evan Dale // July 5, 2019 

So far, 2019 has proven itself a year of undeniable range. From all corners of the music sphere's epochal and stylistic realms, artists have come forth to release defining and redefining projects that will change music for generations to come. From the classic and traditional displays built on the foundations of music's past to the experimental projects that are making music an ever-more transcendent space where the building blocks of genre are crumbling, music in 2019 is more wide-ranging than it has ever been before. And though countless projects have left their mark, these 25 represent the most stylistically broad and experimental in terms of their ability to set the stage not only for the rest of the year, but for years to come.

Jan 18, YGTUT, IOU

IOU is his thesis. Undeniably hard-hitting bass and bouncy Southern production provide the backdrop for YGTUT to do what he does best, doubling as a talented rapper and entertaining choral vocalist. Certainly highlighted by IOU’s two leading singles, Get Itand Mind Ya Business, the rest of the project has no trouble living up to the height of its early expectation. Coming in at only seven tracks, there is no wasted space and TUT makes the most of it all. 

Jan 25, Jay Prince, Wonder

Less than a year after the release of his acclaimed EP, CHERISH, Jay Prince returns with another project by the name WONDER. in accordance with the rest of his catalogue, the album is short – coming in at only seven tracks – but is strewn with vibrant high-fidelity displays that grant his musicality a different grip on its own direction without losing any innovative or individualistic qualities that have come to define his career. It's exactly what fans want from their favorite artists.

Jan 31, Clairmont the Second, Do You Drive?

Clairmont The Second’s follow-up project to his 2017 Lil Mont from The Ave feels aesthetically like a meticulously crafted masterpiece from the late-2000’s mixtape era. The thing about a hip-hop album that we’ve come to forget is the idea that it should come to sound something like a perfected mixtape. But, somewhere along the way to our experimental moment of hip-hop transcendence, we lost the texture and the dynamism of the mixtape.

Feb 15, Tourist, Everyday

Everyday is anything but what its title makes it out to be. It’s the kind of album that, like the recent string of projects from a collective of electronic artists who ran the world’s music scene just a half-decade ago, reminds us all why the rose so quickly, and why they might just do it again. The Dreamwave era which found itself carefully balanced between the ambient and the intense ends of the spectrum, elicited emotion and encompassed, well… the everyday.

March 1, Dijon, Sci Fi 1

Sometimes the most influential and era-encompassing artists are not those who get the mainstream recognition. Perhaps the statement is obvious, but what seems equally obvious to say is that Dijon’s influence over modern music – R&B, mellow pop, acoustic, and their middle ground coalescence – is edging on absolute. And, with the release of his debut solo project, Sci Fi 1, it’s obvious as to why his impact is being so widely felt and his music so widely acclaimed. 

March 22, Christian Scott,

Ancestral Recall

In tune with the current widespread, cultural exploration of Afro-futurism, where it came from, and where it’s bound to take us all, his new album, Ancestral Recall, breaks down and rebuilds to his liking the ways that African rhythm, African American tradition, and the long-underappreciated influence of the world’s underrepresented communities have not only affected, but driven music’s greater course throughout time.

April 5, McClenney,

I'm Not Here

The project is tied together first with McClenney’s vocal ability rivaling anyone else in R&B and neo-soul; Second, with an inspirational preference for the myriad of instruments he plays leaving I’m Not Here bubbling over with sexy guitar riffs and sensitive keys; Third, with an ability to enter the scene of hyper-experimental artists; And fourth, by his classic knack for instilling emotion, lust, love, and loss at each and every turn.

April 5, Kaleem Taylor, Surface

Towards his new EP, Surface, London’s Kaleem Taylor has proven himself priceless in his knack for merging the retro nuances of the late 90’s with the boundlessness and clean genius of the modern scene. His powerful vocal approach is something yet to be seen at any point in the last decade, shifting between wavering lows and shattering explosions of falsetto without ever losing his severe emotional evocativeness.

April 10, Omar Apollo, Friends

Between the beginning and the end of Friends, it’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to get lost in the courage of each guitar riff; in each productive risk; in each nod to music’s past; in every poetic lyric; in every perfectly struck vocal. It just feels easy to get lost in the project’s eclecticism. One artist with the capabilities presented by the modern music scene, inspired by artists from James Brown to James Taylor to Michael Jackson, takes just 22 minutes to prove that genre has died and the boundlessness is in full swing. 

April 12, Anderson .Paak, Ventura

With his fourth career solo album (fifth when considering Yes Lawd!), Anderson .Paak has successfully bridged another entirely revolutionary auditory aesthetic. Ventura is a study of Motown, classic soul, funk, and the ways those movements have come to influence music in modern times. It’s a thesis on the foundations of R&B, neo-soul, hip-hop, and experimental funk, without ever committing to any lane old or new. 

April 19, Pivot Gang, 

You Can't Sit With Us

Amidst a wave of modern Chicago artists – many of whom are included in the project – keeping the tradition of conscious hip-hop alive You Can’t Sit With Us is in no way an unexpected step. But it’s still a very unexpected project. Its direction is dark, certainly owing its tint to the creative brothers at the helm who throughout their lives working with one another, have developed very different but very complimentary sounds.

May 3, Queen Herby, EP 6

EP6 is no exception to the power, but in true Qveen Herby form, is undoubtedly exceptional nonetheless. Like all of her collections since the shift from poppy but inspired Karmin – a two-piece group made up of Qveen’s previous personal chapter collaborating with her producer boyfriend, Jedii Nick – EP 6 is a five-track experimental project exploring the boundlessness of modern hip-hop, vocals, and of course, confidence. 

May 5, TOBi, STILL

The album reads like a complex run of diary entries. Recounting his past and looking towards his future results in undeniable, thought-provoking, art. And it feels like a very necessary emotional release for its creator. Duality plays a leading role in TOBi’s explorations. Torn between his Nigerian and Canadian roots, between style at large, and between the struggles of such conflicted background, the entirety of STILL is meant to be listened to consciously.

May 10, Leven Kali, Low Tide

A staple of smooth and sensual future R&B, of experimental and bold neo-soul, and of their poppy, digestible middle ground, Leven Kali has become a household name across an impossibly wide reach of music’s modernist scope. An undeniable wave of groovy musicality directs the flow of his entire canon, and at last that canon can call home to a proper debut album. Low Tide is a project brimming with whirlwinds of emotion and summertime vibes.

May 11, Aftertheparty, 

Resonance

It’s hard to think of any musician that you could fit in the same stylistic delineation. In a transcendent moment in music, the best have to be able to not only uncover a unique sound, but then take ownership of it. What makes resonance great isn’t just that it seems like a fresh new take that exists between things we’ve heard before. It’s because it confirms everything we already suspected about Aftertheparty’s unique sonic signature.

May 15, Kota the Friend, FOTO

If any current lyricist is poised in their position as the next lyrically masterful storyteller in a long and pristine lineage at such an inclement time in history, it’s Kota the Friend. His new album FOTO is the proof. It’s not his debut album, but neither was K-Dot’s Good Kid M.A.A.D. City or Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive. And like the immeasurable importance that those two classics will forever hold not only for their respective creators but also on music at a grand scale, Kota the Friend’s FOTO is much bigger than we’re all yet to realize. 

May 17, Santi, Mandy & The Jungle

Santi is the golden child of the Alté movement and Mandy & The Jungle is his thesis not only on Nigerian Alté, but on West Africa’s Cultural Renaissance, on Caribbean parallelism, on European and North American subsequence, and all of their grand implications on the future of global pop culture and afrofuturism in music. The album is unendingly inventive in all directions, never adhering to Alté in particular.

May 24, Steve Lacy, Apollo XXl

Pure, unadulterated creativity is, after thousands of years of human art, a difficult thing to come by. With so much happening around us all the time, it’s hard to truly look inward into what makes us us in the first place, and how to express it uniquely in the second. But take a second, or 2580 of them to listen to Steve Lacy’s debut album and openly expressive individual introduction to this world, Apollo XXl.

May 24, YG, 4REAL 4REAL

Five YG projects in as many years have defined the modern West Coast hip-hop aesthetic, only paralleled in his prolific canon by Dom Kennedy. My Krazy Life introduced his mean-mugging, bouncy wave to the world, Still Brazy perfected his delivery, and Stay Dangerous solidified YG’s place Returning to the Hip-Hop Album Chart’s upper echelon for the fourth time in his career with the release of 4REAL 4REAL, YG explores and redefines the West Coast aesthetic in a post-Nipsy Hussle world. 

May 27, Raveena, Lucid

Self-love, feminine strength, sexuality, and spirituality delineate not only the direction of New York soulstress Raveena’s long-awaited debut album, Lucid, but also define the modern moment of neo-soul / R&B transcendentalism helping to usher in a new era of music and its role within sociocultural progression. And though nothing is quite surface level with Raveena’s music, even a shallow look into her artistry reveals astonishing creativity and flourishing expressionism. 

June 7, Dave B., Bleu

Dave B.’s Bleu is a perfected exhibition of prolific poet’s ability to release something altogether new, experimental, and vibrant, even on the heels of so many unincluded single releases. It’s also an exhibition of so much more. Between lyrical endowment, stylistic transcendence, modern indefinability, and brash uniqueness, Dave B. delivers Bleu, an unprecedented collection 10 tracks deep that, in the shadow of seven single releases, brings an additional eight unheard songs into the emerging Seattle’s superstar’s canon.

June 7, Casey Veggies, 

Organic

For more than a decade (check his opening lines about uploading his music to Myspace), West Coast golden child, Casey Veggies has been working towards something as natural, as fluid, as whole, and as expected as Organic. It’s not to say it’s predictable. Even for Veggies whose spoon-fed, meditative cadence is nearly omnipresent, Organic is the kind of vibrant expression that fans have always wanted, but have never quite gotten.

June 12, GoldLink, 

Diaspora

Diaspora, aided by the power of GoldLink's effort to change hip-hop from the ground up, granted insane expectation by the acclaim of At What Cost, and spurred by the timing of mainstream hip-hop’s coalescence with the sounds he invented, has a lot riding on its experimentation, risk taking, and scale as an influential blueprint for years to come. And even underneath that absurd expectation, it doesn’t disappoint. 

June 14, Marco McKinnis, E'Merse

In the spirit of an R&B epoch come and gone, Marco McKinnis has explored his musicality amongst the merged worlds of contemporary risk taking and nostalgia for R&B's golden eras. Where last summer he delivered his debut project, Underground, his newest project, E’merse breathes of its title, immersing listeners in a deeper, more refined exploration while allowing him to emerge further from his underground roots. 

June 26, Daniel Caesar, CASE STUDY 01

The truth about Caesar’s much-anticipated follow-up to 2017’s  Freudian is that by the hand of just about any other artist in music, CASE STUDY 01 wouldn’t feel grimy or experimental. Caesar’s vocal delivery alone makes sure of that. But held against the light of Freudian which is still shining as one of the most key R&B projects of the modern cloth, CASE STUDY 01 is a brash change of pace without sacrifice to its quality.