New Music | Friday Roll Out: Killer Mike, Kool Keith, Spoon, Waterbaby

Ok, has it been that long now? Has Spoon been around now since ’93? Did I just wake from a Matrix-like sleep to come to that realization? Yeah, the band released 10 full-length albums throughout its career, as well as a handful of Eps and this week Britt Daniels & company share its 3-song Memory Dust EP. It’s good to see the growth of the band as it delivers its richly full “Sugar Babies,” while also finding a southern twang within “She’s Fine, She’s Mine.” Spoon closes things out with the eerie keyboard-led “Silver Girl,” which falls along a Joe Jackson vein. Yes comparisons are cheap but this one may have been called for although it does follow Spoon’s penchant for fully realizing its songs leaving them richly textured. A bit of a different look for Spoon but it’s the evolution of the group’s sound, and it’s always best to evolve.


Who else gets excited? Well, not that excited but excited for a new release when news hits about it. Many of us do and it should be offered with a certainty that Black Elvis 2 (Mello Music Group), the full-length by Hip-Hop stalwart Kool Keith holds high hopes for many. Thankfully, the album begins sturdily enough with the self-titled Black Elvis 2 intro and its thick, sturdy beat, which thrives in a Boom-Bap space as Keith relishes within it. It continues into “MAX,” with an inviting beat around a floating bassline and Keith’s scattershot lyricism. From this point on, things seem a bit spotty.

This just might be the problem with latter-day Keith, although we can never deny that Keith is first and foremost a wordsmith that’s able to aptly deliver a heady & abstract lyricism mixed with humor. But the music’s appeal occasionally leaves us all wanting; beats & melodies without any real hooks. “E-L-V-I-S” gives us all such an example, meandering and heading nowhere. It’s unfortunate but the negative outweighs the drawing appeal of Keith’s words. You’ll be left wondering why “Kindergarten Adults” was included here, as he goes back and forth with Raaddr Van about Hip-Hop fans stuck in a time warp. Keith flows as if living in decades past, the 70s to be exact. While I understand it, it seems like a misstep. There’s redemption on “The Formula,” as Keith begins maneuvering darkly alongside Marc Live & Ice T). While there isn’t a hook here either, here, it doesn’t need one where rappers fire shots at those that can’t compete on their level. “Black Presley” has a melody so infectious you probably won’t even notice there isn’t a hook here either. Keith’s words move around ho-ish behavior and we get that clear and upfront. It’s tightly knitted with pro-athlete chasers, chasing as much as they can get with what they have.

Of course it’s the sex we usually find within Kool Keith’s music and we get some of that on “Without My Culture (feat. Dynamite).” His words are descriptive over a deep bassline that catapults his vocals to the surface. It’s that ho culture. But it’s “Feelin’ Me” that won’t have anyone feeling it. The spacey monotonous beat is fitted against Keith’s sung vocals but is only saved by his rhymes. It’s a double-edged sword dulled down to its nub.

It seems this is the thing with Kool Keith, beats don’t always fit his style but when it does, it’s magical. When it doesn’t, it makes everything else fall into mediocrity. I wish I could fall in love with Black Elvis 2 but no, I can’t fall in love with something that I can only bear as a whole.


Some people could be considered an anomaly, while others aren’t, and have based their music careers on talent, hard work, and grit. At this point, Killer Mike could be considered a household name, whether he’s appreciated or not. This is based on an illustrious career not only through Hip-Hop but also through film, television, as well as political commentary. Hate him or love him, Michael Santiago Render is that brother that will force conversation one way or another.

While Killer Mike has kept busy with Run The Jewels, his collaborative project with former Company Flow man EL-P, releasing four fiery albums, it’s been over a decade since Mike has released a solo album but it seems now is the perfect time for Michael (Loma Vista Recordings). It’s never too early to get ahead of oneself but, while this isn’t a straight-shot follow-up to 2012’S R.A.P., we definitely see growth surrounding his new full-length, rich with vibrant soul and thick beats, smothered in gorgeous melodies & backing harmonies.

The album could have stood alone just with Killer Mike’s talent for weaving together words but Michael is filled with an assortment of guest appearances, beginning with the bass-heavy 70s soulfulness of “Down By Law” which featured CeeLo Green where Mike’s positive force can’t be denied. Green’s voice is angelic and only adds to the beauty of the song. It gives listeners a deep look at southern Hip-Hop for 2023. Musically, “Shed Tears” takes us all back to church through Eryn Allen Kane’s swelling and swirling vocals as both Mike and Sacramento’s Mozzy float lyricism around parenthood, failure, mental health issues, survival, and more. Now while rumors of his retirement have been highly exaggerated, Andre 3000 appears here along with Kane and Future on “Scientists & Engineers.” While it’s welcomed, this is…surprising. But in a great way. Harmonies abound as Andre 3000 waxes poetic right before Future delivers his easy-flowing laidback rhymes. The music? Well, it takes a different approach, organically evolving as Kane once again offers soft, sultry, and hypnotic backing vocals. Having others mixed into the fray on the album is an added plus but they help accentuate Mike’s raging lyricism.

But it’s the album as a whole that we should be appreciative of. “Slummer” with Jagged Edge, a warm-weathered R&B jam, “Two Days,” a heated joint with Ty Dolla $ign, or the unrelenting banger “Don’t Let The Devil” with his Run The Jewels cohort EL-P. Though, nothing hits harder than “Something For The Junkies” featuring Atlanta’s Fabo. The track revolves around a gritty reality, falling victim to substance abuse within a day-to-day life living through it.

The full scope of the album comes through listening to Michael in its entirety. Killer Mike has delivered an album that’s thoughtful to the extreme with guest appearances that assist with his alley-oop. Michael may be one of the greatest albums of the year but also one of the greatest albums in Hip-Hop.


Debut albums are sometimes a tricky endeavor, but EPs allow a quick look at an artist without having to dig too deep. Sometimes an EP is all you may need to capture the broad scope of the artist’s music. That’s what we get with Waterbaby’s debut offering, Foam EP (Sub Pop). With just five tracks, we seem to get a well-rounded release from the Stockholm artist.

Waterbaby culls interesting auto-tuned melodies on the opener “Airforce Blues,” wrapped around acoustic guitars, keys, and drums with cooing vocals floating in and out. Her voice has subtlety but is lusciously sweet she utilizes to form such wondrous melodies. The 55 second “My Luv” takes a different approach, propelled by keyboards and percussion which she could have easily built more around but allows the brevity to have us all clamoring for more. It’s “911” though that has me reeling just at the way guitars are delivered which allows me to reminisce for Elliot Smith but knowing full well Waterbaby is something altogether different. Her soulful vocal delivery is unmistakably her own, creating melodies we’ve never heard before. Tailoring it with a brief string arrangement to close it out makes “911” even better. If you’re interest isn’t piqued by this point, it’s you, not the music.

The lo-fi feel of “Born Too Late,” a duet featuring producer Marcus White, is for lack of a better word, magnificent. White opens with the chorus, which isn’t very odd, as guitars plink away and keys are atmospheric in the distance. Waterbaby of course, delivers her wording and phrases with ease and chill. When the two sing in harmonize, it’s perfection.

With use of acoustic guitar, piano, and keys, Waterbaby delivers a beautiful release with Foam. It’s expansive without being forceful and there’s a creativity that’s easily delivered. If anyone was wondering who’s up next, that would be Waterbaby with her first release.