June 2018: The Greatest Month of Music of All Time

This month saw new albums from Pusha T, Kanye West, TDE’s Jay Rock, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, Nas, and Teyana Taylor, as well as collaborative albums from Kanye West & Kid Cudi, and Beyoncé & Jay-Z.

Pusha T — “Daytona” +”The Story of Adidon”

Daytona was technically released in late-May, but it had to be included due to it being the first of five G.O.O.D. Music releases, and also because of the beef with Drake that carried into June. Pusha threw a feint jab at Drake on Daytona’s “Infrared”, baited Drake into responding, which he did with “Duppy Freestyle”, and then Pusha dropped “The Story of Adidon”, a standalone haymaker of a diss-track with an added layer of investigative journalism.

“Drug dealin’ aside, ghostwritin’ aside; let’s have a heart-to-heart about your pride”, he raps on the first verse. Drake’s complicated relationship with race is a theme Pusha homes in on. The story is told to us over Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.” and also dives into Drake’s familial relationships — particularly the parading of his absentee black father as a credit to his “blackness” — and the biggest reveal of all: Adonis, a son Drake allegedly had with Sophie Brussaux, a porn star-turned painter, and has hidden and left unsupported.

All beef aside, Daytona is Pusha T at his truest self. It’s concise and serrated. Pusha is well-known for rapping about drug dealin’, something Drake has targeted and called BS on, and this album, his third, is yet another exercise in the increasingly-shrinking pocket Pusha has claimed. The most exciting part: we may hear more from Pusha this summer. As he tells us on “The Story of Adidon”, “It’s about to be a surgical summer.”

Gateway Track: “The Story of Adidon”

Kanye West — “ye”

2018 Kanye West is not the same as “George Bush does not care about black people” Kanye West. His music is increasingly self-centered, as is the case with ye. Leading up to this album, Kanye had himself a…complicated May, between his glowing endorsement of Donald Trump and his “Slavery was a choice” comments on TMZ. Some held out hope that it was all just a misguided attempt to draw attention to this album; others mourned the loss of Kanye to the Sunken Place.

Needless to say, we wanted to hear the album. If it even so much as scratched the level of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he’d probably be forgiven, but ye is not on that level. It’s not bad. It’s just not that memorable, particularly when sandwiched between his production on Daytona and his joint album with Kid Cudi (see below). Even the production on ye is more interesting than rhymes like “ I could have Naomi Campbell and still might want me a Stormy Daniels.” At least we got a new meme out of it, though.

Gateway Track: “I Thought About Killing You”

Kids See Ghosts — “Kids See Ghosts”

Joint albums are always intriguing. How will the artists’ individual styles be balanced? Will it be your-turn-my-turn, or will they come together to make an entirely new sound? Kids See Ghosts, a self-titled joint venture between Kanye West and Kid Cudi, is the best of both worlds. The production sounds like a continuation from ye, with more elements of Cudi (who also made several appearances on ye) mixed in.

Kids See Ghosts comes after a very-publicized “beef” (I use air-quotes because calling it a real beef seems inaccurate in light of Pusha T vs. Drake). This album essentially is a “We’re good” statement by the former-collaborators. Both artists have also spoken publically about mental health, which is perhaps the biggest theme of this album. As Pitchfork notes: “This is an album about brokenness — thoughts fragmented, relationships ended, societal ties cut.” This is an album that sounds like Cudi, and sounds like Kanye.

Gateway Track: “Feel The Love”, feat. Pusha T

Jay Rock — “Redemption”

Jay Rock is so underrated. As one of the original four members of Top Dawg Entertainment, and the eldest, Jay Rock has consistently delivered. 90059, his previous and second album, was one of the best Hip-Hop albums of 2015, and Redemption picks up right where it left off. Jay Rock’s in-your-face, brute force style has always been amplified by his gravelly voice, and the the result is music that sounds and feels forceful.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on “WIN”, the first single and concluding track of the album. It’s a braggadocious anthem fit for Jay Rock, and really for T.D.E. as a whole, coming off the label’s Championship Tour. “Knock It Off”, “OSOM”, and “Redemption” (feat. SZA) are the standouts, and the album also includes an alternative version of “King’s Dead”, from the Black Panther soundtrack. Let it rock, Jay.

Gateway Track: “OSOM”, feat. J. Cole & SiR

Mike Shinoda — “Post Traumatic”

The world mourned when we learned that Chester Bennington took his life last July. Few mourned like Mike Shinoda, Chester’s Linkin Park bandmate. Post Traumatic follows a 3-track EP of the same name Shinoda released in January and picks up where it left off. It’s therapy, through creation. It’s Mike going back to his Fort Minor roots, with the melancholic and emotional themes found throughout Linkin Park’s discography. Post Traumatic sounds very much like a B-Side to the pop-y, electronic-heavy, moody One More Light.

“Brooding” is a standout, and not just because it’s purely instrumental. “Promises I Can’t Keep” and “Crossing The Line” is when the album climaxes, before the second half takes a darker turn. The visuals, consisting of found-footage or Shinoda’s own paintings, add another layer. “Place To Start” is sung with Mike’s back turned to the glaring sunlight, turning him into a pseudo-shadow, like that on the One More Light album cover. “Nothing Makes Sense Anymore” is sung over footage of the haunting wildfires that devastated California last year. This is therapy though art. This is Mike living on.

Gateway Track: “Nothing Makes Sense Anymore”

Nas — “Nasir”

I’m not particularly well-verse in the Church of Nas, but the general consensus for this album, his first album in six years, is that it’s a little boring. He tackles a few relevant subjects, like police brutality, but it’s really more of a touch than a tackle. As Pitchfork notes: “Nas sounds less like a street preacher touting with conviction and urgency, and more like an online commenter shitposting in search of a jolt of entropy. It’s not quite trolling, but there’s an abandon to his claims, a lack of consideration.”

Judged in a vacuum, Nasir is decent. “Everything” is a seven and a half minute long track as good as any released this month. We get Kanye’s singing on the track, which I’ve always liked more than most, and it’s as close as we’ve gotten this year to the old, politically-conscious Kanye. “If I had everything, everything, I could change anything. If I changed anything, I mean anything. I would change everything”, he sings in the chorus. Nas then drops three strong verses, which are undoubtedly the highlights of the album.

Gateway Track: “Everything” (feat. The-Dream)

Beyoncé and Jay-Z — “Everything Is Love”

Just when you thought Kanye and G.O.O.D. Music were on their way to owning June, Beyoncé and Jay-Z drop a surprise joint album, Everything Is Love, together as The Carters. “Apeshit”, the lead single, is a power move in every sense of the world, with both Carters flexing about their lifestyles, riches, and statuses. The accompanying music video is doubly so, filmed entirely in the Louvre, in private, where shot after shot of art featuring white subjects are re-contextualized with the final shot of one of the lone works of art featuring a black subject.

Everything Is Love comes after an extended period of time where the marriage of Beyoncé and Jay-Z has been a big subject of public speculation, after the now-infamous elevator incident. Since then we’ve gotten an album from each of them, Lemonade and 4:44, in which both extended on the narrative of Jay-Z’s infidelity. Everything Is Love is a culmination. Similar to Kids See Ghosts, this is a “We’re good” message by two artists who have been in public semi-conflict. It’s then suitable that the album concludes with “Lovehappy”, a track that essentially brings a happy ending to the saga. It’s all love.

Gateway Track: “Lovehappy”

Teyana Taylor — “K.T.S.E.”

Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E. (Keep That Same Energy) is the 5th of G.O.O.D. Music’s five albums in five weeks, and while Teyana may be the least known of the five, this album is one of the best, showing off Teyana’s incredible voice backed with modernized production. Her last album was four years ago, which is a decent amount of time, made a little longer by K.T.S.E.’s clumsy release, and a rumored re-release due soon.

K.T.S.E. consists of 8 tracks, breaking from the 7-track structure of the previous four G.O.O.D. Music releases, and the first seven are the soft and soulful songs you’d expect from a singer who gets classified alongside Kehlani and SZA, which is what makes the concluding, rap-centric “WTP” (Work This Pussy) even more jarring, and bold, and perhaps the most interesting track of the album.

Gateway Track: “Gonna Love Me”

Overall, June has been a month filled with good music. A lot of it was brought to us by G.O.O.D. Music, and while the short 7-track structure of each of the albums may have been somewhat detrimental to the albums, the collective is to be applauded. Each release included at least one song that begs for repeat-listening. The non G.O.O.D. Music releases, however, felt more curated and complete, which is to be expected given the traditional release schedules. And this doesn’t even include Drake’s Scorpion, released at the tail end of the month. When we look back at the year’s best music, we will undoubtedly revisit this month, and as time passes, June 2018 may come to be remembered as a legendary month of good music, not necessarily because of the overwhelming quality, but because of the sheer quantity of the catalog.

I strive towards a career that ends up leaving me somewhere between Howard Beck and Howard Beale.

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