There's a load of music about, sure, but why not try something that isn't your 'songs I listened to when I was 16' playlist for a change? Nothing wrong with them, of course, just you know... no harm in venturing out now and then.
Black To The Future, Sons of Kemet
The London-based jazz group have entered their tenth year, and people are continually waking up to just how great they are. If you're new to this band, they're known and acclaimed for their unique and experimental sound, based in jazz but not afraid to look at other genres too.
This is their fourth album, it's quite rap heavy and demonstrates the afrobeat-jazz mix Sons of Kemet excel at. Featuring artists include Kojey Radical and Lianne La Havas, this album is rich and soulful, the thematic content (hinted at in the name) focusses on the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
Be Right Back, Jorja Smith
Jorja Smith's first album skyrocketed her into the spotlight in 2018, bagging her general acclaim and a Critic's Choice BRIT Award. The second album from Smith is an eight-track album, clocking in at just under 26 minutes long. It's tight, packed full of ideas that branch out a little further than the modern soul and r&b of her first album, while maintaining the warm vocals that made the 23 year old a house hold name. It's an interesting direction, and the album title perhaps hints there's more to come soon.
Beam Me Up Scotty, Nicki Minaj
Minaj is back, out of nowhere, with a huge 23-track mixtape featuring a ridiculous list of artists. The anticipation is matched by the quality of the songs. You might just know Minaj from the pop-forward tracks she released around ten years ago ('Starships', 'Super Bass'), but actually those in the know are well aware that Minaj is a hip-hop artist at the core, and one of the best rappers, maybe ever. This record shows off her talent in that area. Minaj fans and hip-hop heads will also know that, technically, this is a re-release of the mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty (same name) from 2009. There are a few major changes though, three of the tracks are new, and they feature verses from the likes of Lil Wayne and Drake. Whether you're new to the release or re-listening, it's a bit of an epic, with the tracks that put her on the map and others that show she's as good as ever. It's well worth a listen. Also, the new album cover, what a vibe.
The Off-Season, J Cole
New J Cole. That's enough to make many people's Friday. Add to that how ten days ago the rapper tweeted "Just know this was years in the making", and this album has a valid claim to be one of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year. It has very 'e d g y' song titles (you'll see), but that aside it's getting very positive reaction so far. There's more producers on the album than there are tracks, and vocal cameos come from huge artists such as 21 Savage, Lil Baby, and Cam’ron, which suggests the album is not short on ambition. If you want to be on the forefront of hip-hop, you can't miss this drop.
Singles (45s for you record buyers) are just as popular as album drops in the streaming era. So there's a few standouts from this week here too.
Name a more iconic hip-hop trio than Atalanta's Migos. You can't. Their first actual release of 2021 (they did also feature on a DJ Khaled track) is some straight-up southern USA hip-hop. It's full of repetitive, catchy lines and bouncy drill beats. It'll also likely feature on their next album Culture III (the name could change but probably won't) which every Migos fan is impatiently waiting for. So if you want to jump on the Migos hype train, this isn't a bad place to start.
'It's a sin', Elton John and Years & Years
The Pet Shop Boys banger, yeah that's the one. Elton John and Years & Years have covered it as a charity record. It isn't unlike the original, but is more grand and dramatic. Plus it features a great duo of vocalists in Olly Alexander and Elton John. They performed a version of it at the BRITs earlier this week too. Proceeds from the single will go to the Elton John AIDS foundation.
Still bored? Listen to our playlist of songs about boredom
Missing live music? Us too, here's what we know about when music venues will reopen in London