New Album Review

Album Review: Agüita by Gabriel Garzón-Montano

ALBUM: Agüita by Gabriel Garzón-Montano


LABEL: Jagjaguwar Records

BEST TRACKS: “With A Smile”, “Muñeca”, “Fields”, “Someone”, “Bloom”


A glance at Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s biography may shed light on why his style is so eclectic: growing up in Brooklyn as the child of French and Colombian immigrants, he was exposed to a variety of different tastes. Nowhere is his multifaceted identity more apparent than on his latest project, Agüita.

To someone not listening closely, Agüita may sound like a compilation album – that is, the aesthetics found in GGM’s latest effort are so distinct that one may think they are a product of multiple artists. Specifically, there are three characters sharing the spotlight: the “wistful impressionist” who is fascinated by sonic textures and classical voice leading, the “leading man” who seduces us with R&B and neo-soul performances, and the “Latinx hitmaker” who exudes swagger with a reggaeton flair.

In the course of 42 minutes, these three have a lot to say. The first track, “Tombs”, finds our wistful impressionist musing about the comfort we find in failing relationships. “Fields”, with its beautiful string arrangements and otherworldly vocal harmonies, is perhaps the instrumental highlight of the album. “Muñeca”, “Mira My Look”, and “Agüita” establish our Latinx hitmaker as an artist capable of going toe to toe with the baddest of bunnies, and “Bloom”, which features only an acoustic guitar and string embellishments, reminds us that GGM is no stranger to balladry. “Someone” finds the debonair leading man in top form as he croons about an old flame.

The combination of these personalities are a testament to GGM’s refusal to be put in a neat little box, where fans and critics alike can categorize him. Ironically, he has been called “anti-genre” since his debut in 2014. Instead of shying away from this label, he has fully embraced it on Agüita. As a result, Gabriel Garzón-Montano is truly in a lane of his own.

– DJ Mango


Friday Favorites

Hey everyone! Libra season is in full effect (along with midterms) and with that said, here is a playlist of songs that got me through the past week.

  1. Guilty by Lady Wray: Lady Wray, f.k.a Nicole Wray, has reinvented herself as a seasoned soul veteran, and “Guilty” is a testament to just that. Check out my spotlight on her right here!
  2. With A Smile by Gabriel Garzón-Montano: A highlight from GGM’s new album Agüita, one of my most anticipated releases of the past few months. I especially love the outro’s use of acoustic guitar, harp, and vocal harmonies. Look out for my review on the full album!
  3. Ronnie Drake (feat. SZA) by Isaiah Rashad: Rashad’s debut, Cilvia Demo, proved that he could hold his own against his TDE labelmates like Kendrick and ScHoolboy Q. “Ronnie Drake” serves as the perfect example of why. Check out my review of the album here!
  4. Interlude (That’s Love) by Chance the Rapper: Chance’s Acid Rap is the mixtape that got me into hip-hop music. “Interlude (That’s Love)” is a lovely ballad about love that features Chano’s one-of-a-kind storytelling – be sure to check out my review of Acid Rap here!
  5. ‘96 Neve Campell (feat. Cam & China) by clipping.: Just in time for spooky season, the title of this track is a reference to Neve Campbell’s “final girl” character in the 1996 film Scream. With their verses, Cam and China prove that a masked killer is no match for them.
  6. Holden by Mista Lyrical: Representing Greensboro, “Holden” chronicles Mista Lyrical’s adolescence in the city’s south side. Check it out!
  7. feel away (feat. James Blake & Mount Kimbie) by slowthai: Tyron dedicated this new track to his late brother who died at a young age. The song is accompanied with an incredible video – check it out here!
  8. RASCAL (feat. Young Thug) by RMR: RMR appeared on the scene back in February of this year with his debut single “RASCAL”, a country/rap cover of the Rascal Flatt’s “Bless the Broken Road”. This remix features a poignant verse from Thugger that compliments RMR’s auto-tune crooning.
Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

ALBUM: Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard


LABEL: Flightless Records

BEST TRACKS: “Gamma Knife”, “Invisible Face”, “Wah Wah”


A perpetual motion machine is one that could, hypothetically, do work indefinitely without an energy source. According to the laws of thermodynamics, such a machine is physically impossible; however, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have no interest in following the rules.

With nine tracks that transition seamlessly into each other, the sextet from Australia have created the world’s first “infinitely looping album”. Though “Robot Stop” and “Road Train” could be considered bookends of the album, Nonagon Infinity has no definitive start nor end point. Instead, Stu and the crew present us with a prog/psych rock epic that is more like a never-ending jam session than a traditional LP. In that 40 minutes, the band explores dizzying tempo changes, atypical time signatures, and even microtonality.

Though Nonagon Infinity is best experienced in its entirety, its individual tracks can still be enjoyed on their own. “Robot Stop” introduces the refrain of “Nonagon Infinity opens the door” that repeats throughout the album, and “Road Train” serves as an on-ramp of sorts to restart it. Other highlights include “Gamma Knife”, a blistering affair in 3/4 time, and “Invisible Face”, which offers a brief reprieve from Nonagon’s auditory onslaught with its jazz sensibilities. My favorite track is “Wah Wah”, which puts a Gizzard spin on 5/4 time.

Nonagon Infinity is an album that quite literally doesn’t know when to quit. It’s 40-minute runtime is merely a suggestion as its nine tracks loop into each other to form a perfect nonagon. Even if you aren’t a fan of rock music, this one is definitely worth checking out!

-DJ Mango


The Unlikely Success of Hallelujah

Within the realm of popular music, few songs have the staying power remain in our collective consciousness for more than a moment. There are protest songs like “A Change is Gonna Come” and arena anthems like “We Will Rock You”, but no song that has captured the cultural zeitgeist has a story behind it quite like “Hallelujah”.

Hallelujah was originally written by Leonard Cohen in 1984 and has since been covered more than a hundred times over. As a singer, songwriter and novelist, Cohen was best known for his sublime poetry and baritone vocal range. The song was written during the early 80s, a period in his career that was creatively stagnant. As a meticulous writer who was always revising material, he wrote more than 50 verses for the song over the span of 5 years – at one point, Cohen found himself banging his head on the floor of a hotel room because he just couldn’t finish the song.

So, given how long Cohen slaved over the song, Hallelujah was sure to be an instant hit – right?

Well, not quite. Leonard Cohen recorded his Hallelujah for the 1984 album Various Positions, but when he brought his project to his record label they rejected it. But he didn’t give up there – instead, he took the record to an independent label that agreed to release it.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – the original version of the song

So, was this when Hallelujah hit the charts?

Well, again, no – Various Positions was a commercial failure, but it was at this point that the song took on a life of its own. Among the first to pick up the song was the Velvet Underground’s own John Cale, who was inspired to record his own version after attending a live performance of it. Cale’s Hallelujah landed on a Leonard Cohen tribute album called I’m Your Fan, released in 1991.

Hallelujah by John Cale – the first cover of the song

So, was this where the song gained traction, capturing the hearts of millions?

Not yet. Like Various Positions, I’m Your Fan was largely ignored by the public and, seven years after its initial release, Hallelujah remained in obscurity. This is where the story gets really remarkable: one of the few people to purchase I’m Your Fan was a woman named Janine. Janine, who lived in New York, happened to be friends with a certain up-and-coming musician named Jeff Buckley, who decided to add Hallelujah to his live setlist. This landed him a deal with Columbia, and his version of the song landed on his 1994 debut Grace.

Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley – the most popular version of the song

So, after 10 years on the sidelines, was this when Hallelujah finally entered the spotlight?

Once, again, no – despite the critical praise Grace received, it was a commercial flop like the previous iterations of Hallelujah. It wasn’t until 1997 when Jeff Buckley accidently drowned in the Wolf River that his only studio album saw commercial success, bringing his music – and Hallelujah – to a mainstream audience. More than 15 years after it was conceived, this tragedy is what thrusted Cohen’s 5-year labor of love into the spotlight.

Once Hallelujah hit the mainstream, it spread like wildfire. The song was introduced to a younger audience with its inclusion in 2001’s Shrek, and has appeared in numerous TV shows such as the OC, the X Factor, and the West Wing. At this point, it’s safe to say that Hallelujah has been cemented into our collective consciousness.

There you have it: the unlikely success story of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Let’s take a second to reflect on the contingencies that made such an event possible. If Cohen hadn’t been rejected by his record label, John Cale may have never heard the song, and it may have never ended up on a tribute album. If Jeff Buckley never heard that album, the song never would have ended up on Grace. And if Buckley had not tragically drowned, his work may have never reached the masses – and Hallelujah as we know it may have never happened.

– DJ Mango

Band/Artist Profile

Slept On: Lady Wray

Nicole Wray got a taste of the spotlight at a young age: just after graduating high school in 1998, she was the first artist signed to Missy Elliot’s fledgling record label, The Goldmind. Before she knew it, her debut single “Make it Hot” was certified gold and she was touring with Aaliyah. But when Missy began adding new artists to her label, Nicole was overlooked, and her second album never saw the light of day. This would become a recurring theme for the next decade of Nicole’s career, with various labels expressing interest in her and then refusing to release her work. It seems we weren’t the first ones to sleep on her.

After several other artistic endeavors, Nicole has returned under a new stage name: Lady Wray. With this change in name comes a change in sound – she has abandoned the R&B style in favor of retro soul and doo-wop, though her church choir upbringing made rebranding quite easy. While her 2014 release Lady got her foot in the door, it was her 2016 follow-up Queen Alone, with its live instrumentation and impassioned vocal performances, that cemented her as a force to be reckoned within the soul soundscape. Highlights include the hit “Guilty”, written after her brother’s arrest, and “Make Me Over”, a track that finds her coyly asking her lover to take her shopping.

Against all odds, Lady Wray has navigated the fickle beast that is known as the music industry and developed a voice all her own. At this point, it is no longer a question of what she can do but what she can’t do. I recommend this artist to fans of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Hannah Williams & the Affirmations.

– DJ Mango

Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Cilvia Demo by Isaiah Rashad

ALBUM: “Cilvia Demo” by Isaiah Rashad


LABEL: Top Dawg Entertainment

BEST TRACKS: “Ronnie Drake”, “West Savannah”, “Soliloquy”, “Heavenly Father”

FCC: Every song

When Isaiah Rashad signed a deal with Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013, he had big shoes to fill. After all, this is the same record label that’s home to hip-hop heavyweights like ScHoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar. Would he live up to the hype?

His 2014 debut proved that he could, in fact, hold his own. Cilvia Demo established Isaiah Rashad as an artist capable of coming as hard as Q while being as introspective as Kendrick. As a Chattanooga native, Zaywop brought a Southern flair to the TDE lineup – something that the West Coast-based label was previously lacking.

Cilvia Demo that explores the ups and downs of Rashad’s adolescence. Some common themes include a desire for guidance and lack thereof: On “Soliloquy”, he boldly claims “I left my daddy ‘round ‘97, he was lazy.” Considering he was 6 at the time, it’s more likely that his father left him. As a result of this estrangement, he turns to religion on the track “Heavenly Father”, but finds few answers there. On “Ronnie Drake”, Isaiah meditates on the Black experience in America: “Came a long way from a boat and an auction/Now we got names and a vote, then a coffin/Ain’t s— change but the coast we adopted.” Of course, he wouldn’t be a rapper if he didn’t indulge himself now and then, and tracks like “Webbie Flow (U Like)” and “Modest” prove he can brag with the best of them.

Isaiah Rashad is a breath of fresh air in TDE’s ever-expanding lineup of artists. His debut, Cilvia Demo, is a woozy blend of depressive introspection and aggressive slick talk perfect for a night drive or blowing up the aux. I recommend this project to fans of Mick Jenkins, EARTHGANG, and Smino.

– DJ Mango

Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper

It’s May of 2013. “Time for school, honey!” Your mother calls from downstairs. You get dressed, pairing one of your five T-shirts with one of your three pairs of basketball shorts. Your Nintendo DS is fully charged and you’re off for another day of eighth grade. Unbeknownst to you, Chance the Rapper has just dropped his sophomore mixtape, Acid Rap, which would later be certified Diamond on

For me, middle school was a time before I had any aesthetic taste of my own. My musical palette consisted of alternative and other dad-rock my father listened to when I was growing up – that was, until I heard Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap on accident. I remember hearing “Cocoa Butter Kisses” for the first time and being put off by Chance’s raspy voice and trademark “IGH!” ad-lib. But I would not be writing this today if Acid Rap had not grown to become one of my most cherished hip-hop projects to date.

From the very first track, “Good Ass Intro”, Chance the Rapper exudes charisma. Over an equally upbeat instrumental, he establishes himself as the lovable class-clown type that you can’t help but root for. He brings the same energy on tracks like “Pusha Man”, “Juice”, and “Favorite Song”.

However, it’s not all fun and games in Chance’s world. Coming from Chicago’s south side, it is clear that he’s seen his share of terrible things: according to the hidden track “Paranoia”, “Down here, it’s easier to find a gun/Than it is to find a f—— parking spot”. Chance further reflects on the violence he grew up around on the track “Acid Rain”, where he recalls witnessing the murder of his best friend.

While Acid Rap does have its depressive lows, it is clear that Chance chooses joy in spite of them. The confluence of hip-hop, jazz, soul, and Chicago juke music convey a sense of unstoppable excitement that is reflected in Chance’s off-the-wall approach to rapping. Though some tracks pale in comparison to others, this mixtape has a charm that few other records possess. If I were to pinpoint a single project that got me into hip-hop music, it would be Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap.

 Favorite Tracks: Cocoa Butter Kisses, Juice, Interlude (That’s Love), Acid Rain

– DJ Mango


Fall Favorites

Time to put on those faux fur Uggs and head to the nearest Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte because it’s finally fall! Just kidding. Please don’t do either of those things. Instead, embark on an autumnal auditory adventure with this playlist of my fall favorites!

  1. September by Earth, Wind, & Fire: The 21st night of September marks the final day of summer in the Northern hemisphere, so this song is the perfect way to ring in the fall. I promise this is the last time I’ll be Septemberposting. Until next year.

  2. Autumn Leaves by the Bill Evans Trio: During his time in the Miles Davis Quartet, Bill Evans played an integral role in the recording of Kind of Blue, which is considered to be one of the most influential jazz albums of all time. Immediately after he recorded Portrait in Jazz with his own trio. Their rendition of the standard “Autumn Leaves” really captures the aura of the season with only the textures created by a piano, drums and upright bass.

  3. Where We Used To Live by the Esbjörn Svensson Trio: Following Bill Evans and company is the Esbjörn Svensson Trio with another jazz composition. Whereas “Autumn Leaves” portrays the warm, energetic side of fall, “Where We Used To Live” evokes feelings of melancholy and longing.

  4. Fall in Love by Slum Village: For this classic, J Dilla sampled Gap Manigone’s “Diana in the Autumn Wind”. The result was an intimate instrumental perfect for the Slum Village.

  5. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground by The White Stripes: With this track, The White Stripes offer us a slightly more aggressive approach to the autumnal sound. It would be the perfect song for angrily raking leaves in your yard.

  6. Thriller by Michael Jackson: Of course, fall isn’t just pretty leaves and flannels. It’s also the spookiest time of the year, and there’s not a single song more synonymous with Halloween than Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.

That’s the playlist! What are some of your favorite fall songs?

– DJ Mango


September 2020 Sample Platter

Sampling is the recontextualization of a preexisting work in a new composition. While this practice is utilized across genres, it has become a cornerstone of the hip-hop tradition. Since its inception, producers have been sampling soul records, funk records, world music and even cartoons to create head-bobbing beats. Drawing from numerous styles and time periods, here is a sample platter of some of the spiciest samples in hip-hop music!

  1. Late Nights & Heartbreak by Hannah Williams & the Affirmations: Courtesy of producer No I.D., this song was sampled in the titular track of Jay-Z’s 4:44. It’s the perfect backdrop for Jay-Z’s intimate confession of infidelity in his relationship with Beyoncé.

  2. Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding: This soul ballad is wonderfully composed – it slowly builds in tempo, volume and urgency, and ends with Otis showing off his chops in a fiery finish. His vocal riffs were chopped up by Kanye West to create “Otis”, which features one of my favorite beats of all time.

  3. Bam Bam by Sister Nancy: Hailed as a Jamaican dancehall classic, this song is perhaps the most frequently sampled song in all of popular music. It has been recontextualized more than a hundred times by the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Lauryn Hill. Read the full story here!

  4. Why Can’t We Live Together by Timmy Thomas: If you were around in 2015 and 2016, you’ll remember how inescapable Drake’s “Hotline Bling” was. The song was everywhere, and for good reason – it’s an earworm. The bossa nova-style groove comes from Timmy Thomas’ 1972 track Why Can’t Live Together.

  5. One Step Ahead by Aretha Franklin: Ayatollah chopped up this soul classic to create the beat for “Ms. Fat Booty” by Mos Def.

  6. Whores in this House by DJ Frank Ski: Based on the title alone, I’m sure you can guess which song this was sampled in. That’s right – the iconic vocal line appears in Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP”, aka Ben Shapiro’s favorite song.

  7. Pots ‘N’ Pans by Anthony King and John Matthews: An obscure early electronic song sampled by Don Cannon in Pusha T’s “Numbers on the Boards”. The result is one of the most head-bobbing hip-hop tracks in recent memory.

  8. What Will Santa Claus Say? (When He Finds Everybody Swingin’) by Louis Prima: This Christmas tune was sampled in Kanye and Kid Cudi’s 2018 project Kids See Ghosts. “4th Dimension” is now a contender for my favorite holiday song.

I hope this sample platter has given you an eclectic taste of hip-hop source material. What are some of your favorite samples?

– DJ Mango

Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth by Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson is something of an oddity in the country music soundscape. His 2014 Release Metamodern Sounds in Country Music explored his fascination with philosophy, and 2019’s Sound and Fury was accompanied by a feature-length anime film. But I believe his best work arrived in 2016 with A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

It would be a gross mischaracterization to call A Sailor’s Guide a country album: sure, there is an undeniable twang to Sturgill Simpson’s voice, but to assign a single identifier to this multifaceted project would be a disservice. Ethereal string arrangements found in “Welcome to Earth” and “Oh Sarah” suggest chamber pop influence, intricate horn sections in “Keep it Between the Lines” and “All Around You” are indicative of funk and soul, and lap steel guitars in “Breaker’s Roar” and “Sea stories” keep the album steeped in Southern sensibilities. Simpson and his band even manage to sneak a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” into the tracklist and it sounds completely at home.

In terms of lyrical content, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is essentially a love letter to Sturgill Simpson’s firstborn child. In classic dad fashion, he shares stories of his younger days in order to give his son guidance. From his teenage years spent selling drugs and smashing mailboxes to his young adult years traveling the world in the Navy, it seems Simpson has led an eventful life. As he says on “Keep it Between the Lines”: “Do as I say, don’t do as I’ve done/It don’t have to be like father like son.”

A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is many things, but boring is not one of them. Its kaleidoscopic sound makes it appealing to fans of any genre – I am by no means a country music fan, but I am certainly a fan of this album. If you’ve never heard it, I encourage you to give it a try!

Favorite tracks: Keep It Between the Lines, All Around You, Call to Arms

– DJ Mango