Review: Last year, civil rights era proto-hip-hop group The Last Poets marked their 50th anniversary with their first album in 20 years. 12 months on they return with "Transcending Toxic Times", an expansive double album that sees the pioneering prototype rap group take aim at America's ills in the same incendiary, hard-hitting fashion that once provided inspiration for Public Enemy and many other early hip-hop pioneers. Musically, it's rich, warm and varied, with the involvement of avant-jazz bassist Jamaldeen Tacuma ensuring a heady mix of jazz, hip-hop, jazz-funk, soul, folk and art-rock grooves. In other words, it's a triumph.
Review: Three months after rapper turned singer Lizzo's major label debut first appeared on CD and digital download, Atlantic has decided to offer up a deluxe vinyl edition of the well-received set featuring three bonus tracks. Prior to release, Lizzo admitted she wanted to become "this generation's Aretha Franklin"; while she's not at the late soul legend's standard just yet, there's enough on "Cuz I Love You" to suggest that she's going in the right direction. Her vocals are variously confident, powerful, strutting and tender, with the accompanying backing tracks mixing hip-hop and R&B style beats with raucous guitars, bombastic basslines, Daft Punk style synth stabs (think "Robot Rock" and "Technologic") and occasional nods towards more pastoral, semi-acoustic sounds. Above all, though, the album is funky, forthright and hugely entertaining.