20 Aug 2013 - 20 Aug 2016
The Style BlogRas Nebyu, Charlie Worsham, Lulacruza and Goodie Mob: Critic’s Notebook
Notable recordings from the world of pop music.
Ras Nebyu (James Davis Wilson)
For all of the television shows currently set in Washington D.C., it’s odd that so few qualify as science fiction. Have you looked out the window lately? The exclamation point on the city’s skyline is a giant, glowing, alien obelisk. 21-year-old Washington rapper Ras Nebyu gets it. His intriguing new video for “Futuristic Black Man�? — the most potent cut from his not-quite-new mixtape “Babylon’s Most Wanted
�? — transforms Rock Creek Park into an ancient sci-fi playground. There, he rhymes about rastafarianism, charged-up chakras, the tangled politics of his city’s growing rap scene, and in his closing couplets, addresses the federal politicos that share his area code, re-stoking a culture clash that’s epitomized life in Washington for decades: “I’m born and raised in the city/You are not the District
If Nashville’s swollen mob of party bros are turning country music into a frat house, Charlie Worsham is the shy guy out on the porch, quietly hunched over his banjo. On his exquisite debut album “Rubberband,�? the Mississippi native sings about love and longing with the same delicate touch he applies to the banjo, the guitar and the mandolin. At the close of a beer-drenched summer, his voice feels like a cleansing breeze weaving through a rubble of red Solo cups.
It’s been more than two years since their “Circular Tejido�? EP first floated across the Internet, but the music still sounds as if it’s just arrived from some dreamy, faraway future. (The South American duo performs in Washington this week.)
Meshing the thwack and crackle of traditional folk instruments with crisp digital textures, these songs stretch themselves out at leisurely tempos, giving vocalist Alejandra Ortiz plenty of time and space to further blur time and space.
Goodie Mob. (Courtesy of Primary Wave)
He took a four-letter word up the pop charts. He dueted with Gwenyth Paltrow at the Grammys. He coached scores of sub-par singers on reality television. But before all of that, Cee Lo Green was the sonic anchor of Goodie Mob, a brilliant Atlanta rap quartet that spent the ’90s crafting some of the most imaginative hip-hop ever recorded.
Fourteen years have passed since the last Goodie Mob album, and now we have “Age Against the Machine,�? a twitchy new collection of songs, out next week. Green makes good on that title. Over an array of harsh, convulsing beats, he and his comrades spit fireballs at the conformist music-biz culture that made him a household name. “When you’re in the valley, the mountain top seems so very high,�? Green sings on “Valleujah,�? a song that’s more irate than inspirational. “So I got on my hands and knees and started climbing.�? He’s finally at the top and he’s furious.
Warning: This song contains explicit lyrics.
Lulacruza performs at Sitar Arts Center, 1700 Kalorama Road, NW on Aug. 24. Goodie Mob performs at the 9:30 Club on Aug. 24. Ras Nebyu performs at Liv on Sept. 1.
This post has been updated to reflect a correction to the band Lulacruza’s name.