Much of art, music, and culture at large becomes unnecessarily categorized. It’s the fault of journalism — of which we are undoubtedly a part of — to put effort towards defining the kind of indefinable qualities that make humans human — that make the arts art. Expression of the human — of the construct that is objective reality through experience — breeds myriad reflections and portrayals of an inner, deeper self more easily communicated and ultimately understood through art, through music, through culture as a whole, than it is through the simplicity of the written word or the tidiness of…


A sun-soaked reminiscence has always tethered the auditory aesthetic of California soulstress, Joyce Wrice not only to the Golden State, but to the Golden Era. It’s not to say that she’s not a figment of Neo-Soul modernity — having been a collaborative name and a standalone artist on the rise for something like half-a-decade — yet, her music could have ornamented the wavy birthstones of R&B as we know it, and no listener would dare question its placement in the 90’s or early 00’s. It’s her era of influence, after all. A young talent with the immeasurable grace and grip…


From the very beginning, it’s obvious that Kota — as he so fervently addresses in his opening lines — is in a different place — ‘ain’t the Kota that you first met’ — compared to the one we’ve come to know through his prolific last four years. Yet, through a listen, it’s also obvious that — even different — he’s still a Kota whose immersive poetics we’ll quickly come to love and relate to. To Kill A Sunrise is still Kota — but the album is also Kota by the way of acclaimed and established East Coast producer — maybe…


There is an undeniable discourse to the framework of Chicago’s hip-hop history. And more than any other nuance towards the past, present, and future of Windy City rap is a nod to what has long been described as conscious. Rap for social causes; rap for movements; rap with an inspiring edge rooted in an uncomfortable truth: that underrepresented communities — that the most underrepresented communities of color in particular that have crafted most of the modern culture we know — are often those that utilize culture to make a statement in the first place. …


Four years. It’s an inherently long time for anything in art to remain paramount and keystone, unless of course, that thing happens to be a classic. Visual art often comes and goes from the limelight, but remains in the fine art circuit in perpetuity if it merits so; as for movies, a more streamlined new-to-old factory floor rolls out, though we all return to our favorites through time; and music… well, music is more prolific than just about anything else, save for the blogs that write about music. In a musical realm like hip-hop especially, the rate of creation helps…


Like the corner cypher on the New York corner that birthed his rhymes in the first place, Kota the Friend’s Lyrics to GO series is a timeless exploration of rap at its most innate self. There is nothing going on but jazz-oriented beats, dynamic bars, and relatable storytelling that come in tow with his freestyle sessions, turned YouTube playlist, eventually turned blooming EP series; and there never needs to be anything added to the mix. It’s rap perfection from one of rap’s most lyrically gifted modern names. …


2020 was a lot of things. But fuck all of the negativity. So much of the good in 2020 belonged to Nashville. A cultural renaissance in the Music City revolving around a few arenas of art and music turned the Ville into the world’s emerging creative capital to watch. Hip-hop, Neo-Soul and R&B — all of which have strong roots not only in the South, but in Nashville, too — paved the way for their orbiting cultural spheres — fashion, videography, photography, and social statement — to likewise thrive at a communal scale. …


Prior to this year, there was a certain expectation that came with a lot of things in music: that you could go to a concert just for fun on a whim; that good music didn’t really require a strong underlying meaning; and that Trinidad James put out absolute bangers. One of those things is still true, but Trinidad James, alongside the rest of music is evolving — and evolving for the better and more well-rounded (even if he’s still dropping party anthems left and right). …


2020 was a year of challenges: a pandemic, racial reckoning, protests, and isolation. But, it was also a year of response to those challenges. Music, as it always is, was there through it all — there to reflect but also to push for change and growth. The best projects of 2020 pushed boundaries musically and socially. Some even reinvented the construct of crafting an album during times of quarantined isolation. And all of the year’s best projects helped define what 2020 ultimately was — a year of coming to terms with our realities; a year of overcoming. This list is…

RINGLEADER Magazine

RNGLDR Magazine is a small, independent online blog focusing on the creative worlds of music, fashion, art, design, and photography. For more: www.rngldr.com

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