Kenyan-Canadian MC Shad’s latest release is a concept album in the vein of To Pimp a Butterfly, complete with recurring poetic interludes and phrases. The album’s story focuses on a (semi)fictional world in a constant state of war, and the various factions within, but it isn’t necessary to understand the overarching story in order to enjoy the record, as the lyrics and metaphors are directly tied into our real world. The lyrics on this record are intensely political, taking on racism, violence, oppression, and other serious issues of the moment. Shad’s flow on this record is very diverse, and his lyrics use a mix of clever metaphor and bitingly direct statements which preach harsh truths without being excessively preachy. The beatwork typically resides in the jazz-rap realm, with darker electronic beats used on tracks such as “The Stone Throwers,” “Magic” (which has a haunting chorus vocal from Lido Pimienta), and “Peace/War.” The most upbeat cut on the record is “The Fool, Pt. 1,” a lush, hooky, piano-centric track with a guitar riff straight out of Spandau Ballet’s “True” (or P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss,” if you prefer). “Sniper Interlude,” despite its title, is actually a fully-fledged (if short) r&b track with Frank Ocean-esque vocals. Superstar producer Kaytranada adds his trademark electro-soul stylings to “The Fool, Pt. 3 (Frame of Mind).” Album closer “All I Need” sounds like it could be straight off an early Kanye record, with its soul vocal hooks and blasting horn riffs. This album is really worth listening to from start to end at least once, but with the exception of two 30-second spoken interludes (tracks 4 and 6), every track can stand on its own for radio play. And perhaps most importantly, the album is totally clean! How rare is that in modern hip-hop?

Label: Secret City Records

Start with: 2,5,11,13

RIYL: Kendrick Lamar, Kaytranada, Anderson .Paak, Run the Jewels

FCC: Clean

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