With June (finally) ending, it's time to assess the slew of releases from Dallas' best and brightest for the first half of 2014. Although news has been majorly slow on the scene so far, Dallas' rappers have been diligent in releasing quality material across the internet. This list is a result of that, charting five albums released in 2014 so far that make the rest of the years seem so damn exciting.
Brandon Eugene Smith: Life Gets Better Released: May 2014 "I hope society thinks I'm talented if I learn how to sing/'Cause if you're only a rapper, then they don't see a thing," sneers Brandon Smith in "B.Smith2"; not even puncturing the second half, the song is only a taste of Smith's matter-of-fact ethos. In truth, Life Gets Better is intrinsically that honest, from Smith's half-mumbled lyrics on rocky relationships and depression ("Juliet's Intro") to placid observations on race and individuality ("Lo Que Sera Sera"). It might feel uncomfortable to hear Smith pause to ask, "Why am I depressed?" on "Some Day, My Peace Will Come?" but, conceptually, it's the album's charm: that often-messy, no-bullshit process of figuring one's self out, of having to truly look one's self and his surroundings in the mirror. In a genre still celebrating the tough braggadocio of rappers, Smith's spit-fire vulnerability makes for a great sign of potential.
Braeden Bailey: Most Days Released: March 2014 It goes without saying that Dallas is a hub for plenty of producers, and Bailey's smooth, satisfying beats are perfect proof of that. With a whiplash mix of hip-hop and electronic music, Bailey employs whispering 808s and rolling synths to keep you entertained from beginning to end on Most Days. The album effectively avoids "beat tape drag" by constantly striving for a bigger and better sound with each track. As the artist's first complete work, Most Days is a much-needed hint on the still-untapped talent of Dallas' producers.
Buffalo Black: RedPiLLwondrland Part 1 Released: May 2014 Buffalo Black's well known for his descriptive lyricism and affinity for the unknown, so RedPiLL is neither surprising nor out-of-bounds for the rapper-producer. What is new, however, is found in RedPiLL's wondrous, ambient production, which fits in well with Black's themes of exploration and discovery. Black's self-sufficient approach to creation shines bright as he sings, produces, raps and arranges, but in no way is the album lacking in great guest work, thanks to appearances from local producers like Thinnen and Great Dane. Black has since confirmed a follow-up for the project that will likely appear sometime late this year.
While not exactly an album,#BEASTMODETUESDAYS
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contains a great selection of releases from Tunk (Kevin Arradondo). Arrandondo's versatility shines bright over his mix of new original releases ("WTR," "LSG," "Bass Check") and freestyles ("Shabba," "Vato"). As one of Dallas' most exciting names in the scene, Tunk has consistently shown his city that he is truly about his work, and#BEASTMODE
is another great reminder of what exactly the rapper can do with a little time and imagination. No word if Arrandondo intends to continue the series currently, but hopefully it speaks to new releases in the future.
Kris Minor: Krisaveli Released: June 2014 Clocking in at fifteen songs, Krisaveli is definitely the largest project on this list. To its credit, it balances its weight well with a great mix of introspective lyrics and dark, bubbling beats. What Minor lacks in experience, he makes up for with a clear interests to produce great work, and an ear for new, experimental sounds. Krisaveli may not always charm on every song, but it's just enough to keep us interested in what the fledgling rapper will do next.