This week I bring you albums from Nas, Frank Ocean, Afro Latin Vintage Orchestra, and tunes from Trina and Iyadede. Actually, they’re bringing it to you, I guess, since they created it. I just rounded it up. Anyway, on to the good stuff…

NasLife is Good

Now that we’re living in the age of the spectacle, people care more about provocative imagery or asinine Twitter comments more than actual content. That being said, I was a little worried when I initially saw the cover for Nas’ Life is Good, where he was pictured holding ex-wife Kelis’ wedding dress. However, the Queensbridge representative provided a solid effort that embodies everything Nas fans love about him—his wisdom and his lyrical prowess but the first part of that assessment is more genuine this time. That’s not a knock to young Nas as naïve but with age comes experience, knowledge and perspective and it sounds like he really needed to get some stuff off his chest based on life being a bitch (no pun intended). In other words, Nas’ 10th solo album is grown man music. One common critique of Nas’ music has always been that he was lazy when it came to picking beats but with help from Salaam Remi, J.U.S.T.I.C.E., Swizz Beatz and more, he figured out a sound that’s a little ess lazy. Maybe that’s all a part of his growth too. Life is Good is a refreshing injection into the vapid monotony that is rappers talking about Maybachs, money, women (but using other choice words, of course) and pretending to be mafia dons ad nauseam. Life is Good will be officially available on July 17 but if you didn’t cop it illegally and would like to hear something other than the lead single, “Daughters,” then click here.

Frank OceanChannel Orange

Frank Ocean once revealed that he writes for the sake of his sanity. Hopefully, he never ever, ever goes crazy—bad crazy, that is. After years of writing for others, singing hooks and releasing mixtapes, Ocean has released his first official LP, Channel Orange. The sound is more of what people (self included) love about Frank Ocean. His lyrics are descriptive and his voice is ethereal, detached and expressive. It’s easy to get lost in Oceanville. “Sweet World,” for example, is a funky groove about doing “whatever you like, whatever feels good and whatever takes your mountain high,” while in “Pyramids” his ruminations shift from his love affair with “Queen Cleopatra” who lived in Egypt, over funky two-step inducing synths, to her love “not being free anymore,” as the beat switches to a more bouncy rhythm, which represents his “queen” now working at the Pyramid, instead of living in one. See what he did there? Yeah, well, there’s a lot of that. Overall Channel Orange is an expressive, creative blend of music with various moods ranging from dark to more upbeat. Not since Dwele, D’Angelo or even Bilal, has an R&B singer been this authentic or emotive. I suspect that folks got so used to rappers trying to sing that they forgot what a real singer/songwriter actually does. Frank Ocean. Get into him. That boy good! Channel Orange is available on July 17 but check out a preview here.

Afro Latin Vintage OrchestraLast Odyssey

The Afro Latin Vintage Orchestra gets more props outside of the United States but their infections rhythms shan’t be denied to music nerds around the globe. Led by percussionist Masta Conga, the French group is actually an orchestra that draws inspiration from Afro-beat, funk, rhumba, reggae, and jazz. Their latest effort, Last Odyssey, is heavy on the jazz, horns and percussion, as per their usual. Imagine if Fela Kuti had a jam session with the Roots. Yeah, something like that. The album is out on July 17. Sample it here.

Trina – “Bad Bychhhh (ft. Lola Monroe and Shawnna)”

Every now and then Trina comes out of retirement from her behind the scenes business endeavors to spit a few bars in a usually bold anthemic (yep, I made that a word) ode to bad chicks everywhere. Her latest offering is “Bad Bychhhh,” which features Lola Monroe and Shawnna. There’s no rocket science here, just Trina and her girls talking about how they run ish. It’s catchy and it’s very, very Trina. Lola Monroe has been practicing her skills as it’s notable that her flow is getting better and Shawnna is on point, as usual. If you’re not offended by what the word “b*ch” has become (think the n-word debate), then turn this up to get amped for a night out with the girls. Listen here.

Iyadede – “The Last Time”

The 26-year-old Rwandan electro-pop princess recently released the video for her latest offering, “The Last Time,” which actually sounds like a Lisa Lisa and Cyndi Lauper love child. The song is cutesy and bubblegum-esque without being annoying as Iyadede sings about rekindling a flame she once fronted on back in the day. Iyadede also produced the track, and she illustrated the video too. Watch it here, and find out more about Iyadede via her website.

Starrene Rhett Rocque is a pop culture junky who often 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 love. Follow her on Twitter @GangStarrGirl.