Hip-Hop Artists hone their sound


Contact Zac Younkins at [email protected].

Zac Younkins

Cleveland rapper Kid Cudi released his latest album, “Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon” this past Tuesday. The album, originally an EP, works as a prequel to the upcoming third installment on his landmark “Man on The Moon” series. Cudi has been recording sober since his 2010 album, “Man on the Moon 2,” but you wouldn’t know it based on the newest album.

While 2013’s “Indicud” was mainly all alternative hip-hop heavy on features from artists such as RZA of Wu-Tang Clan, Michael Bolton, Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky, “Satellite Flight” is heavily experimental — half instrumental and half lyrical. “Satellite Flight” sounds like David Bowie’s “Low,” with its instrumental content and even in the catchy but off-kilter raps and vocal tracks. The album is similar to his 2011 “WZRD” alternative rock/hip-hop fusion album.

One thing is certain: His post-“WZRD” sound is definitely much more complex than what he was producing with Kanye West on “G.O.O.D. Music.”

Entrepreneur and rapper Rick Ross dropped his new album, “Mastermind,” this week to commercial and critical acclaim. Much better than 2012’s “God Forgives, I Don’t,” “Mastermind” features potential commercial singles with “French Montana,” “Nobody” and “What A Shame.”

Ross drew influence from old school gangsta rap, evident in his sample of Wu-Tang’s “Shame on a N****” and soul sample in the hit, “Devil is a Lie” featuring Jay-Z and “Sanctified” with Kanye West, as well as his feature with Scarface of Geto Boys. Ross even turns out a good feature song with Lil Wayne entitled “Thug Cry.” If Rick Ross’s past as a parole officer doesn’t show his underlying talent to manage people, this album certainly does. The production is high budget, smooth and sonically solid. Ross’s mastery of lyricism is what makes this one of his better albums.

Though it’s actually pop and funk-rooted, Pharrell released “G I R L,” his second solo album Tuesday. Though he lost at the Academy Awards and contributed an off-key attempt at the joyous single “Happy,” he comes back strong with his album. “Brand New” featuring Justin Timberlake and “Come Get It Bae” featuring Miley Cyrus are prime radio single material, while other singles like “Gush,” “Lost Queen” and “Hunter” explore an alternative to his normal pop sound with heavy funk influences reminiscent of the Skateboard P’s work with Daft Punk.

“G I R L” is on par with recent pop classics like “The 20/20 Experience,” though Pharrell opts for a much more pop-oriented, conventional sound than his previous alternative hip-hop album, “In My Mind,” from 2006.

Contact Zac Younkins at [email protected]