Released by Universal Motown
Between thick layers of glossy production, Kid Cudi delves into matters of the psyche untouched by mainstream rap. One can draw a comparison to Eminem’s recent work in terms of rapping about drug addiction, but Cudi explores facets of insecurity and vulnerability that are more familiar to the underground hip-hop scene. Further bridging this gap is the inclusion of Def Jux veteran and former psychiatric patient Cage on “Maniac.” It’s one of the album’s high-water marks, anchored by St. Vincent’s lovely siren call of “paint a black hole blacker.”
Released by Def Jux / Fat Possum
The indie rap world lost one of its brightest young talents when Camu Tao succumbed to lung cancer in 2008. From his early days with the Columbus-based MHz crew to his work with Def Jux, Camu’s dynamic charisma and vocal range were undeniable. But after years of collective and group records (e.g. Nighthawks and S.A. Smash), the general public never got the chance to hear Camu Tao all by his lonesome over a full-length.
King of Hearts showcases the myriad manifestos of an artist equally prone to playful party anthems and heartfelt contemplations. Fans of his earlier work may be surprised to find Camu opted to eschew rap almost entirely on the record in favor of a funky, Cody Chesnuttesque delivery. On “Death,” a man facing his own mortality wails away, “Death, where have you been all my life?” over a rambling, circus fun house beat. It is a raw and powerful credo that stands in direct contrast to the infectious, upbeat swagger of “Plot A Little.” That and lo-fi tracks such as “Get At You” display the ease with which Camu could transition between singing and rapping, even mid-verse on occasion. It’s a tool more and more emcees are employing these days, but few this side of k-os and Dessa pull off successfully.