Soundcloud has become a global hub for artists on the come up. No longer do you have to prostrate yourself before a record label or even put yourself on the radio. Just make a Soundcloud account. What you may not know is that massively popular artists also utilize the platform to put out music that didn't make it to their albums.
Nostalgia Ultra, Frank Ocean
This was actually Frank Ocean's first full length project after years of songwriting for Alica Keys, Justin Bieber, and Beyonce, among others. Then in 2010, Frank joined the hip hop collective Odd Future, and started dropping his own music. Turns out everyone seems to like it a lot.
The main reason this album is available for free on Soundcloud and not on other major platforms like Spotify or Apple Music is because of copyright concerns. The Eagles sued Frank for unlicensed usage of their song Hotel California on the track, and to be fair, it really is just the entire master track of Hotel California. But come on, Frank was an up and coming artist who made zero money off this project, and the Eagles were being petty. Maybe I just love Frank Ocean and could really care less about the Eagles but whatever, this album is fantastic. Do I need to explain why? It's a Frank Ocean album. Has he ever made anything bad? No. Will he? No. Go listen.
Any Given Sunday, Parts 1 and 2, J Cole
So, I touched a bit on J Cole's Soundcloud library a bit last week, but this is my personal favorite of his. This came out in 2011 as a prelude to the launch of his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story.
It's a five track, sixteen minute album. It has pretty songs, it has hard songs, it has fun songs. It's Cole saying look who I am, look what I can do, and it's great. The first two tracks, Like a Star and Knock on Wood, are my personal favorites.
House of Balloons, The Weeknd
House of Balloons is actually an Apple Music exclusive now, available if you have Soundcloud go, too. But it isn't on Spotify, and that's nothing short of infuriating. This is easily The Weeknd's best project. It's dark, beautiful, edgy, everything we loved about him in the first place in a much more raw, less marketable form. If you consider yourself a fan of The Weeknd, you have to go check out this project.
The Heart Part 4, Kendrick Lamar
While Kendrick doesn't have much in terms of Soundcloud releases, this song more than makes up for any lack of volume. This song has an incredible beat transition. There are so many moods in this song. It's hopeful, it's spiteful, it's melancholy, and yet nothing clashes. Everything fits together perfectly despite beat changes, flow changes, and mood changes. Because Kendrick is amazing.
STN MTN, Childish Gambino
Modern polymath Donald Glover released the EP Kauai in 2014 to not too much commercial success, but universal fan approval. What a lot of people don't know, is that a mixtape, STN MTN, dropped alongside Kauai in a much quieter fashion. While Kauai is undeniably depressing, STN MTN is a bit more fun. This sounds a lot more reminiscent of the background tracks you'd hear watching Glover's Emmy winning TV show Atlanta. Not quite a party album but definitely a car album.
i mean, Isaiah Rashad
No one would blame you for forgetting, but Isaiah Rashad is one of the best rappers in the industry. The Suns Tirade was one of the best albums of last decade, and Cilvia Demo isn't that far behind. Ever since then, I have been crawling Soundcloud, YouTube, his Instagram live sessions, and the subreddit r/IsaiahRashad for any news of his return. But, aside from him leaking his own music steadily to keep fans interested, the enigmatic rapper has all but disappeared for the past five years.
It looks like it's finally happening, a phrase that when it comes to Rashad, one can never say with confidence. But the new project, tentatively titled The House is Burning, looks to be on the way.
If you haven't gotten yourself accustomed to the TDE starling yet please do yourself a favor and get acquainted.
Radio, Lana Del Rey
For a reason no one can quite comprehend over half of alternative pop sensation Lana Del Rey's available music is free in the form of internet leaks. Remember her song Queen of Disaster that went viral on TikTok? A leak. Her song Ridin' with one time partner A$AP Rocky? A leak.
She also has a tendency to release demo versions of her album work on Soundcloud, with a typically more fun and upbeat tone than the somber nature of the album. National Anthem immediately comes to mind as an example.
This woman leaks more than she actually releases, and she leaks her best stuff. Except for Norman Fucking Rockwell. That album is awesome.
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright Cover, Post Malone
Seeing a teenage Post Malone is almost as incredible as this cover. This voice is perfect for the long standing tradition of Bob Dylan cover work in the musical industry. This cover was posted on his original YouTube channel under the name Austin Post.
The singer/rapper/icon has often remarked he plans on being a folk singer by the time he turns 50, and some would prefer if he just went ahead and made the switch now. His voice and candor is perfect for folk music. If you still have doubts after this, go listen to Feeling Whitney off the Stoney album. It's remarkable how diverse this guy is musically, but this might be his strongest medium.
you suck charlie, Joji
Back when he was one of the most iconic Youtubers of all time and not an international pop star, George Miller was actually still releasing music under the name Joji, and not, you know, Pink Guy.
His original plan was to drop a project called Chloe Burbank Volume 1, which one can only assume has been scrapped, since it's been about six years. What we did get out of that project, though, was this two minute vocalization.
This came out in the Filthyfrank days, when all we had was a glimmer of what could be from the provocative, crude, but genius comedian.
Delusional Thomas, Mac Miller AKA Larry Fisherman
Back in the good old days, Mac Miller used to release a lot of demos under the pseudonym Larry Fisherman, including this mixtape entitled Delusional Thomas. This is one of the favorite lesser known Mac projects, with the most well known being Faces, but Faces is the saddest thing I've ever heard in my life and I don't want to ruin your day by linking it here. So Delusional Thomas will have to do.
This followed on the tail end of his 2013 album Watching Movies With the Sound Off, the first time mainstream audiences who didn't seek out his mixtapes got to see a darker side of Mac. This project definitely isn't Miller's best, but it gives you an interesting look into his artistic evolution. Especially since 2013 was around the time he made the transition from the Blue Slide Park days of fun, frat boy, teenage rap, to something a little more serious. Rest in peace.
Unclear why this mixtape isn't more widely available, probably sampling issues like all the rest, but this is the first EP SZA made under the Top Dawg umbrella. This is far more consistent with the psychedelic lounge music nature of her first project available on major streamers Z.
There isn't much else to say. Her voice is incredible. If you love SZA but you haven't ventured past Ctrl, go hear her in a different type of sound. You'll love it.
Earl Sweatshirt, Earl
Earl Sweatshirt's debut 2010 project, Earl, came on the scene right as Tyler and the rest off Odd Future was first blowing up. Not quite consistent with the palpable sadness seen in Doris or IDLSIDGO, Earl can still bring you a lot of enjoyment as far as an album goes. It has the classic OFWGKTA style: really good, really offensive music, meant to be provocative. It's what they do, it was a group of provocateurs, and they were amazing at what they did.
That aside, even at fifteen, you can hear a wordsmith in the making. Earl is a master of wordplay. He's rhyming things you don't even realize he's rhyming. Check out this video deconstructing his rhyme patterns off the Frank Ocean classic Super Rich Kids.
The project is truly remarkable, as is the fact that he was a sophomore in high school when this project was made, and a junior when it came out.
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