Black Atlass, Johnny Cinco & Sicko Mobb: Free Music Roundup
This week's free music includes molten R&B from Montreal's Black Atlass, bracing hip-hop from Atlanta's Johnny Cinco and a frantic, fluorescent release from Chicago's Sicko Mobb.
Black Atlass, Jade
The emotional centerpiece of Action Bronson's recent Mr. Wonderful album is "The Light in the Addict," a bluesy track glued together by a relatively unknown singer, Black Atlass. This young Montreal-based artist, real name Alexander Fleming, just put out Jade, an exploration of modern soul. The means are old -- electric guitar, falsetto -- but the production is crisp and unerringly modern in tone and spacing. At times, Fleming reaches back to sensitive male R&B acts of the late '90s and early '00s, men unafraid to melt slowly over bluesy riffs and hip-hop beats. On "Blonde," Fleming strikes out in a different direction, intoning the hook to Jay Z and Beyonce's "03 Bonnie & Clyde" like a mantra.
This is not a revivalist project though: Black Atlass sits easily next to acts like How to Dress Well (without the silly talk about the demise of modern pop) or the Weeknd (minus the never-ending darkness-and-ennui routine). Jade's crunchiest track is "Young West Coast," an ode to love. But the distant shouts running in the background also nod to the dominant mode of production in West Coast hip-hop, refracted by thousands of miles and transplanted into the world of a crooner.
Johnny Cinco, Trap Religious
On Cinco's new mixtape, the rapper displays a pleasing way of trailing off before he finishes pronouncing a word. He expels soft, mumbly streams of blurred syllables. Cinco is signed to Atlanta label, Quality Control, known as the home of Migos and OG Maco. Cinco has a taste for strange, appealing beats. "Trap Religious" lumbers in, quavering and bleepy. "Virtual Trapping" works with bass that feels warped, as if it's bleeding through the walls from two apartments away, and a distorted, repeating noise that sounds like swampy SONAR. Guests include Pee Wee Longway and Shy Glizzy, but Ca$h Out, another ATLien, steals the show: he shows up in the middle of "Livin' Luxury," a track buoyed by surprising, off-beat whoops, to deliver an engaging, double-time verse. It's tight and energetic in all the ways that Cinco is loose and languid.
Sicko Mobb, Super Saiyan Vol. 2
The Chicago duo Sicko Mobb paints in vivid, jittery colors on Super Saiyan Vol. 2. The first installment of Super Saiyan came out at the end of 2013, attracting enough attention to earn Lil Trav and Lil Ceno a spot as featured vocalists on Future Brown's self-titled debut album. (Future Brown is a forward-looking, open-eared production collective.) The Sicko Mobb sound is insistent and gleaming from every angle, full of held notes that twist and turn around barrages of drums. Even when these two are hard-charging to the point of breathlessness ("Rollin Stone"), they never sacrifice melody. "Kool Aid" borrows the sturdy architecture of an '80s pop ballad and the manic hookiness of dancehall, with robotic moans buried in the mix like chocolate-filled Easter eggs. This tape suggests T-Pain chopped up in an industrial-strength blender and shot into space.