This month’s list features analog obsessives, R&B misfits, virtuosic jazz heads, and leaders of the future-funk vanguard.
What was once a short-term campaign to supplement the incomes of working-class musicians is now Bandcamp‘s cornerstone policy. Until further notice, the indie-friendly streamer is waiving its cut of sales every first Friday of the month, offering artists a reliable and unmitigated stream of funds at a time when touring profits have been reduced to how many tips you can land in a livestream on Twitch.
Now, given the breadth and expanse of Bandcamp’s catalog(s,) and the ongoing absence of a playlisting feature, parsing through the work may be a bit overwhelming. But that’s why we’re here, of course. And we’ll be doing the heavy lifting on R&D until the world resumes or a new one emerges. To aid independent black artists disproportionately stunned by the economic and creative shitstorm that is COVID-19 (and merely breathing in 2020,) we’re committed to compiling a long scroll of dispatches from the Bandcamp wormhole on each and every first Friday.
This month’s list features analog obsessives, R&B misfits, virtuosic jazz heads, leaders of the future-funk vanguard, and damn near everything in between. Dive in below and check back next month for a fresh haul.
If You Want Bars
Fly Anakin and the Mutant Academy collective are a force of blunted bars and face-screwing beats clearing space for Richmond on hip-hop’s map of satellite institutions. His 2017 album people like us. is an oldie but goodie.
With a penchant for dusty soul samples and heavy-swung drums, lojii has firmly established himself in the top-tier of beat selectors in his generation of rappers. And he’s quietly sitting on one of the year’s best projects in lo&behold.
A central figure in NYC’s great rap revival, Nappy Nina is an ace writer with a shifty cadence capable of excavating even the densest of suites. Check out 30 Bag which dropped earlier this year.
With a burly drawl and an ear for glitched-out soul loops, MAVI’s unlocked a new future of Charlotte rappers not named DaBaby. His debut album Let the Sun Talk is a modern-day rap classic.
If You Want Beats
Another Mutant Academy misfit, BSTFRND has been shaping the sounds of two cities, respectively, over the last few years. His latest tape, Quaranting, features contributions from MIKE and keiyaA.
iblss is nothing short of a backbone to New York City’s rap renaissance. His 2019 project, Infinity, is blessed with performances from Pink Siifu, AKAI SOLO, and Theravada.
An analog fiend, DJ Harrison warmly warps funk and soul standards into entirely new configurations. Check out Tape Machine Fiend Pt.1 a great collection of “rarities, throwbacks, and mishaps.”
An SP-404 champion, DøøF bends and breaks jazz loops like few others. Released last year, Houseshoes Blocked You! is a good place to start.
No stranger to these pages, Denitia has shape-shifted more than once in the near-decade since she began releasing music. The current form is a master of earworming hooks and post-disco pop. Touch of the Sky, from last year, is a must listen.
An enigmatic yet deceptively influential presence in NYC’s R&B circuit, James Tillman knows how to layer. On his latest project, VM2, Tillman stacks a smokey baritone over minimalistic arrangements of low and high fidelity.
Over the last five years, Joyce Wrice has put together one of R&B’s deepest catalog of features, lending a confident trill to the hooks of songs from Westside Gunn, Ivan Ave, Devin Morrison, Mndsgn, and The Free Nationals. But her debut EP, Stay Around, is still one of the best, abbreviated sets this side of Anderson .Paak’s Breezy Lovejoy phase.
The resumé isn’t a deep one, but Bathe’s debut project, I’ll Miss You, is a gorgeous summer-ready seven-track anchored by washed-out guitars and sleek, breeze-blasted harmonies.
If You Want Experimental
Though he’s self-described as “post-funk,” the Mothership is never too far out of sight for Baba Ali. Check out his fire Rethinking Sensual Pleasure project from June.
Another masterful and malleable melody-crafter, Diggs Dukes borrows as much from Sly Stone as Arthur Russell. But on his 2016 project, Gravity, the Harrisburg songwriter leans into a lush and dark fold of R&B. Think Van Hunt backed by RH Factor.
Impossible to categorize — by his own design — MonoNeon is a virtuosic and utterly absurdist one-man band whose rapid-fire licks and studious adherence to the Purple Code made him uniquely qualified to serve as Prince’s low-end theorist for a short stint before the icon’s death. Toxic Wasteland 2 The Hills is a fun project to check out.
Blurring the line between country, R&B, and southern-stewed soul, Yves Jarvis doesn’t drop albums as much as mountains of music that require attentive listening to scale. The Same But By Different Means is an epic project he dropped last year.
If You Want Jazz
Quickly establishing themselves as one of the UK’s premier jazz units, Ezra Collective is a lean and limber crew that flips from straight-ahead to afrobeat to pocket-locked hip-hop and back again with little effort. If unfamiliar, You Can’t Steal My Joy is a good starting point.
Accompanied by giants of a generational range, sax stunner, Lakecia Benjamin, reaches for the gold standard of improvisation set by jazz’s royal family on her star-studded 2020 album, Pursuance: The Coltranes, featuring Gary Bartz, Ron Carter, Brandee Younger, Meshel Ndegeocello, and more.
UK composer and producer Alfa Mist trades the baby grand for a slick rhodes piano and strikes a slew of distinctively J Dilla notes on Epoch, a neck-aching and hyper-swung collaborative project with vocalist Emmavie.
You can’t really discuss the current state of jazz without heavy mention of Makaya McCraven. The Paris-born drummer and composer broke out in 2018 with his critically-adored album, Universal Beings. This year alone, he’s already released a sequel (below) and been trusted with remixing Gil Scott-Heron’s final dispatch, Nothing New. Both projects demand big ears and countless reruns.