In the current music economy, it's nearly unthinkable to release a debut album independently; without major label marketing dollars, DSP partners, and all the pomp and circumstance of a big budget press run. An artist of substance like Seattle's Oblé Reed needed none of this corporate manufactured grandeur to confidently drop one of the best albums of the year in LINDENAVE!. Full stop. Not one of the best independently released albums, not one of the best hip-hop albums of the year; hands down one of the most complete and exciting projects you will hear this year.
Kicking off with the soft synths of "MP3.", Oblé's vision is so palpable through every line of this project, each delivered with the same hunger and humble bravado of a young J Cole. Each segment of the album was released as a themed 2-pack EP, touching on everything from police brutality ('affirmativeaction' EP), home life and displacement ('outofrealestate'), and mental health ('mayshowers'). You won't find a filler song on this project, as every track carries the same vigor and grit of an emcee that is so painfully slept on that it will make you visibly angry. Some standouts include the flawless "SK[I]NCARE.", a masterful tribute to self-care and placing priority on taking care of one's own mental health. Fan favorite "HOMETOWNHERO." is probably the most Cole-esque song you'll hear this year; a ravenous and head nod-inducing tribute to putting on for his hometown of Seattle, a city whose hip-hop consumption still has yet to reach the national average. Closing track "SKYISFALLING." perfectly recollects the ethos of the whole project, a tongue-in-cheek nod to the neverending apocalyptic news cycle that has gotten so grim to the point of general apathy. "Man I swear that the sky is falling" Reed raps, "I'm the only one that heard about it, the only one worried about it still (How?)"
There are artists that know who they are, and then there's Reed; an artist so remarkably poised that you'd think someone was playing a joke on you. At some point coming sooner than anybody expects, this 'next generation' of hip-hop will be where Kendrick, Joey, and Cole are now. Expect Oblé to be a part of that next gen pantheon.