1. Megan Thee Stallion, “Traumazine.” Contractual obligation can be a great motivator. For much of this year, Megan Thee Stallion has been in a public dispute with her label, 1501 Certified Entertainment, which she would dearly like to disassociate herself from.
(And yes, 1501 owner Carl Crawford, who Megan — given name: Megan Pete — has been trading accusations with in the press, is the former Major League Baseball player Carl Crawford and father of Justin Crawford, the centerfielder the Phillies made their top draft pick last month.)
Much of Traumazine — the Houston rapper’s follow-up to her 2020 full length debut Good News — is contentious and agitated, fired up and fueled by her belief that’s she’s being unjustly locked into a deal that she can’t wait to be done with. “We almost out,” she wrote in a tweet announcing the album’s surprise release. “Lets stay focused and run this last one up.”
That might sour her mood, but it never tempts her to mail it in. This is her best, most confident work yet. The spirit of Traumazine is best embodied on “Not Nice,” in which the sharp-tongued rapper declares “when it comes to cuttin’ people off, I don’t think twice,” and makes reference to a Kendrick Lamar hit when she makes plain that “I’m one with being humble, because I know I’m that b—.”
2. Danger Mouse & Black Thought, Cheat Codes. The Roots haven’t put out a new album in eight years, but there have been no shortage of ways to get a Black Thought fix, from his legendary 10-minute freestyle in 2017 on Funkmaster Flex’s radio show to a series of Streams of Thought EPs to his roles in the Afro-Futurist musical Black No More.
Now, the Philadelphia rapper also known as Tariq Trotter has released a full-length collaboration with producer Brian Burton — a.k.a. Danger Mouse. Not surprisingly, it’s yet another demonstration of his unparalleled proficiency on the mic. Cheat Codes is a hard-hitting, dense-but-not-too-dense hip-hop master class.
There are guests galore, including A$SAP Rocky and Run The Jewels on “Strangers,” Brit soul singer Michael Kiwanuka on “Aquamaraine,” and a surprise star turn from the late MF Doom on “Belize.”
But the focus is always on Black Thought, the rapper you’re not surprised to hear rhyme “odyssey” with “follow me,” “kinesiology,” and “no apology.” These days, it’s fashionable to talk about about how the rap world slept on Black Thought, and it’s now becoming clear he may in fact be the GOAT. In Philly, we knew that all along.
3. Street Movies. Scribe Video Center’s summer Street Movies! series brings independent films — documentaries, animation, you name it — from around the world to outdoor spaces in Philadelphia and the region.
And at each screening site, the movie screenings, which are free, are accompanied by live music. On Wednesday, at Taller Puertorriqueño in West Kensington, it’s percussionist Karen “Magic Fingaz” Smith. Thursday at the People’s Wall in Germantown, it’s Jordan Brown.
Friday in South Philly at Hawthorne Park, singer-guitarist and self-described “singer, song-catcher, and musical adventurer” Samantha Rise plays with a full band. And on Saturday at Lawnside Park in Lawnside, Camden County, trio 2 Nites & Nae perform. All events start at 7:30 p.m. More info at scribe.org/street-movies.
4. Santana & Earth Wind & Fire. Carlos Santana made alarming headlines last month when he collapsed on stage during a show in Michigan due to heat exhaustion. The 78-year-old guitar virtuoso was forced to cancel six shows. “Doctors have recommended that Mr. Santana gets rest to recuperate fully,” a spokesman said.
But last weekend, Santana returned to the road to play dates in Connecticut and New York. His Camden date on Thursday — originally slated for 2020, and then 2021, back before the venue was known as the Freedom Mortgage Pavilion — is scheduled for Thursday.
This show with Earth Wind & Fire, who are without the late Maurice White, but still includes vocalist Philip Bailey, is part of the Miraculous Supernatural tour. So it will surely pull from 1999′s Supernatural, the blockbuster that contained the Rob Thomas-sung megahit “Smooth.” But hopefully it will also draw on Africa Speaks, the superb 2019 Santana album that adventurously explored African polyrhythms. $39-$205, 7 p.m., 8/18, 1 Harbour Blvd., Camden, livenation.com
5. “Nightclubbing: The Birth of Punk Rock in NYC” and “Sid: The Final Curtain.” PhilaMOCA is hosting the Philadelphia premiere of two music movies. Danny Garcia’s feature length Nightclubbing is a chronicle of Max’s Kansas City, the lower Manhattan venue where David Bowie first met Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen played in his salad days, Andy Warhol held court, Debbie Harry was a waitress, and Lou Reed chronicled the backstage goings on in “Walk on the Wide Side.”
Sid: The Final Curtain, also directed by Garcia, is a short film about Sex Pistol Sid Vicious’ last performance at Max’s in 1978, complete with the goth-punk pathos of his cover of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” $14.91, 7:30 p.m, 8/18, PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St., philamoca.org.