With most of the recent hip-hop news headlines covering either Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, Drake, Meek Mill, Macklemore or whoever else happens to be trending, it’s very hard for any other rappers to get mentioned, let alone underground ones like the San Francisco Bay Area’s rapper/DJ Azure (pronounced “azur-ay”), who is in both the Heartbreak Gang collective (nationally and especially locally famous for Iamsu!, Sage the Gemini, Kehlani, Jay Ant and others) and the separate Down 2 Earth trio. Released Jan. 15 via Friend Card in this current leap year we’re in suitably enough, Leap Year, his latest solo album, which follows his 2013 Mint Condition project, is a propelling force for Azure that’s sure to keep his personal, linguistically lyrical brand going strong aside from his collaborations and affiliations.
Coming with an ad-lib-geared mindset but with a prepared script and an involved flow, the cool Azure has a loose train of thought and a winding stream of consciousness, bouncing back and forth between topics within songs, and perhaps it’s his Asian American background at work (he points to it in “Magic Hour”) but he’s noticeably anti-trap — critical of violence, excessive drinking for image-sake, and sellout-suckers in his trade, i.e. those taking the craft for granted and those taking advantage of it. He’s a peace-wishing, alternative, laid-back soul who speaks good game here, maybe with something soothing to sip on in hand (in moderation of course) and some magic dragon to puff (no harm there either). Sit back and let Azure wax wanderingly about girls, poverty, family, style, problems and achievement.
He definitely has an Alexander Spit-meets-Ab Soul type vibe going on, but he is mostly original and vocally versatile, preferring his own fizzy style of music, which is self-produced btw. He’s brought together piano jazz samples (a recurring favorite), moving cloud beats and vibe-y cutting edge lounge-music. “Wussup” is noticeably harder with fresh bass and drill, and “Alive & Well” has an almost parodic homage to the hyphy movement in it. Needless to say, in an artistic way, he gets a little retarded with it there but never stupid with his rhyme-game. Joined by guests Rayana Jay, MURS, Clyde Shankle, Jay Ant, Marc E. Bassy, Dayvid Michael and 1-O.A.K., Azure gets lots of nice diverse help in filling up his beats with voice though he didn’t need to. By himself he’s a complete package. Progressive and an enlister in the conscious millennial hip-hop generation, the impressive Azure has the skills to pay the bills without being mind-blowing in this good warm Leap Year rap album.