2014 Forest Hills Drive* - J. Cole**
J. Cole's sophomore studio album after Born Sinner was received almost as well as that of his 2013 LP, but the record succeeds in its diversity on the production and a strong dose of thoughtful lyrics. Cole's words never lack introspection, reflection or a personal touch, and those qualities shine through in *2014 Forest Hills Drive *with the production backing that evokes a variety of emotions and invokes a number of influences. The album struck a chord with a couple Broncos.
"He's a real lyricist," Josh Bush said. "That's different from just trying to make a song that's going to get played in the club. He talks about real-life situations."
The Broncos safety's background in music goes back into his family history. When his father was growing up, his family had a gospel group with his grandfather and his cousins. Bush is a jack of all trades with a musical ear — he plays guitar, drums, piano, sings and raps. When asked about his favorite albums and songs of the year, Bush named just 2014 Forest Hills Drive, saying it was his favorite, "hands down."
Nathan Palmer was a big fan of the record, too. Palmer's aspirations in music are no secret; the wide receiver and R&B artist already has a six-track EP.
"To be honest with you, I liked J. Cole's album because it is perfect with timing," Palmer said. "The message that he's speaking on there is telling what everything that's going on in America right now, musically, that we needed to hear from a rapper that we need to wake up as people. And he didn't put a color on it, he didn't put a status on it — he made it for everyone that all people need to wake up."
J. Cole, the first signing under Jay Z's Roc Nation Records label, also founded and owns his independent label, Dreamville Records. With the album being released under both labels, 2014 Forest Hills Drive saw a somewhat unique release for the Grammy-nominated artist. It had no official singles, which is a bit surprising for J. Cole, but has gotten a big share of success.
"I think the timing of it is very perfect and the way that he put it out, I really agree with it," Palmer said. "There wasn't a lot of promotion for it, it wasn't a lot of hoopla about it. He just—he made the album and he presented it.
"I think the fact that he doesn't — all the artists that are on Roc Nation, he kind of stands apart from [them]," Palmer added. "He kind of sets himself apart from them. I think that's genius of him because it's easy to get into 'I'm under Jay Z' type of thing and not do your own thing. And I think whenever you hear music from him, you hear J. Cole."
Hood Billionaire - Rick Ross
"I think that was a pretty good album. I think Ross had probably five really good cuts on it," Austin said. "I think the best song was, to me, just musically, was 'Trap Love' on Hood Billionaire. I listened to that a lot. Just the stuff they were talking about, I can relate.
"'Trap Love' right now is probably my favorite song," Austin said. "Just the actual arrangements. The way that they, the drums, whoever mixed it and mastered the CD or mastered that song is ridiculous. I'm just talking about the way it is sonically, as far as the 808s and how crisp and tight they are, the snares popping. It really just sounds like a live drummer was playing. I don't know if it was, but I think they did a really good job on that. And then as far lyrically, Yo Gotti and Ross, I think they hit on some good points."
What Austin listened to in 2014, and his perspective on music
"I've been listening to a lot of Starlito. He had a track with one of my good friends, DJ Pain 1, who's one of my producer friends," Austin said. "I listened to Phil Adé — he's a DC guy. I listen to Lightshow, a DC guy. [...] I like a lot of ragtime jazz. I like Duke Ellington, Count Basie. I listen to Quincy Jones."
"When I listen to music now, I can really hear the subtle stuff, the things subconsciously the naked ear won't really hear," Austin says. "People that just listen to the song, they don't really hear certain things in the song but that's what makes the song. That's what gives the song body, gives it the warmth, some of the things that you can't really hear unless you're really listening. So now when I'm listening to music, I'm dissecting everything. I'm listening to the tempo, I'm listening to all the little nuances that they have in the music. I just do that because it helps me with my production. It helps me to stay abreast of what's hot in music."
Austin the drummer and making music in the future
If you couldn't tell that Austin's taste in music is a vast palette, a goal he has for next year is to go to an opera. "I really want to go to an opera and sit in there and really dive in, listening. I love music," he said.
"I just enjoy music and hopefully one day I can get fully engrossed into it, but as of right now I'll just be focusing on football. But during the offseason, I'll mess around with production and producing and stuff like that. And I'm also a drummer [...] I played the drums at the Christmas party, I played with the band.
Cadillactica - Big K.R.I.T.
Another sophomore LP from a rising hip-hop name, Cadillactica brought more of the southern sound that Big K.R.I.T. has put out in recent years. The Mississippi native's music recalls some themes and sounds somewhere between OutKast and U.G.K. With thumping bass, 808 drums and his "Third Coast" (Gulf Coast) accent, K.R.I.T. can switch between a funkier flow from that Southern sound of the past decade or so while also using some production that conjures up futuristic sounds. There's even some skits, which isn't as common on albums like it used to be. Like on his first studio album, Live From The Underground, Cadillactica brings some quality talent to join him on a number of tracks.
"If I had to choose a real favorite of the year, though, it'd go to Big K.R.I.T. — Cadillactica," Palmer said. "I love Cadillactica. From top to bottom it's good: production-wise, message-wise, lyrics-wise and just delivery overall."
Trigga - Tre Songz
"R&B-wise, [my favorite] would have to be Tre Songz," Palmer said. "That came out during the summer. I actually got to witness him create some of that while I was visiting Miami and LA. And just top to bottom, it's just a good R&B album. I just sat in on a couple of his sessions. That's one of my favorites."
Black Messiah - D'Angelo and the Vanguard
Wide receiver Nathan Palmer helped teach a music class at Fairview Elementary School on Tuesday morning.
In a bit of shock, D'Angelo announced the release of his first album in over a decade just this past month. In a matter of three days after a 15-second teaser was released, the album was released to the public, ending a 14-year hiatus. *Black Messiah *combines soul, funk, jazz and R&B in a powerful album that was received exceptionally well by critics and fans alike.
"I'm a fan of D'Angelo. Musically, it was very genius," Palmer said. "I just couldn't get into the gibberish and the scat singing. I think it's genius what he did. It's just me, I wanted more lyrical content."
Palmer's honorable mentions
"Adrian Marcel had a good album, too, that I listened to," Palmer added. "Actually, Nicki Minaj had a decent album, the new one: The Pinkprint. It was good. I think people saw a different side of her, as far as her music.
"I tell who I really liked, though. This will probably throw some people off: Ed Sheeran. He had a great album. I listen a lot to that to relax."