Elle Varner, “I Got Next”

Elle Varner recently released “I Got Next” in preparation of her upcoming sophomore album, 4 Letter Word. Here, the powerhouse singer does what she does best: sing about love from an awkward fly girl’s perspective. The low-key mid tempo music underscores her rich raspy alto as she sings about a woman silently hurting from the pain of a toxic relationship. It’s a powerful record about something many of us do—pretend that everything is okay. If this is a sign of what’s to come from 4 Letter Word, then Varner has a winning project.

Pharoahe Monch, P.T.S.D.

The highly underrated Pharoahe Monch is of the best MCs to touch a mic. Part of his allure is that he’s versatile and lyrically offers food for thought. Enter P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), his fourth solo studio album. Fans have already gotten a taste of this album with the January release of “Bad MF,” where he tells the story about his spiral into depression, rapping in third person about reckless behavior and not taking his meds.

Speaking of meds, the tone of this entire album is personal for Monch. He reflects on his own struggles with mental illness, and also provides social commentary on the effects of depression, violence and substance abuse on a society full of people suffering in silence. P.T.S.D. is a masterfully provocative, thought-provoking album offering a nice deviation from the typical, vapid hip-hop sounds of today. Along for the ride are Black Thought, Talib Kweli, Marco Polo and more who help to make this gritty groundbreaking album a success. It’s out today. You need it now.

Cop it at iTunes.

Kelis, Food (Album stream)

Kelis’s newest album, Food, doesn’t come out until April 22, but she teamed up with NPR to give fans a first listen. Food has a retro rock sound laced with live horns, funk and a touch of classic soul. It’s a new sound for Kelis, but fans are used to her chameleonish nature by now. Yet it’s not far off from something that she would actually be expected to do. She sounds very at home, as she lends her raspy voice to tracks from producer Dave Sitek (of TV on the Radio). They make good music together, so you should check it out. 

Preview here.

Meshell Ndegeocello, “Conviction”

Meshell Ndegeocello is preparing to release her 11th album, Comet, Come to Me, on June 3—but in the meantime, enjoy “Conviction.” It’s a mellow pop-rock groove with a touch of blues guitar, where Ndegeocello sings of romantic turmoil in a tug of war over who’s right and who’s wrong. “Conviction” takes listeners back to Ndegeochello’s 1990s musical sensibilities without sounding dated. This is a good omen for the release of her next project.

Starrene Rhett Rocque fantasizes about becoming a shotgun toting B-movie heroine, and aspires to save the world from the impending #ZombieApocolypse… In reality she’s a freelance entertainment journalist/blogger who muses about music, TV, movies and fitness. Follow her on Twitter @GangStarrGirl or at GangStarrGirl.com.