On November 5th, multi-instrumentalist and producer Terrace Martin released his latest solo LP, Drones. Drawing from R&B, hip-hop, jazz, and pop music, Martin put together 41 minutes of hard-hitting grooves, flows, and melodies. Featuring appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Cordae, Ty Dolla $ign, Arin Ray, Malaya, Kamasi Washington, Leon Bridges, YG, and Robert Glasper (among many others), Martin has absolutely killed it. The tracks here are moving, soulful, and incredibly well-produced.
Right from the jump, Martin hits the listener with distorted vocals, saxophone, and gorgeous guitar on “Turning Poison Into Medicine.” With its constant pulse being kept in electronic drums, the song feels eerie yet poignant. It serves as a perfect intro track because of how it draws the listener in, pushing them to go forward even with a constant refrain telling them not to stick around. Though, as we all know, that kind of statement only serves to push a person to do the exact opposite of what’s being requested of them.
Following “Turning Poison Into Medicine” is the title track, “Drones.” A track that feels like it’s channeling Kirk Franklin and gospel music in the instrumental while covering the topic of, according to Genius, “the ecstasy and pure enjoyment of passionate sex that each of the contributing artists frequently partake it.” This juxtaposition is incredible, and it proves that Martin did set out to cover all the bases of Black music. On the record, Martin himself has said “There are touches of R&B, touches of jazz, touches of hip-hop, touches of classical, Cuban music, West African music, house music … You’re going to hear all elements of Black music within this record. It’s not one element I can leave out if I call myself a true Black artist.”
Other highlights from the album include “Work It Out (feat. Cordae),” which has one of the best grooves on the whole album and some of Cordae’s most forward lyrics. The song also features Martin on vocals, which… I somehow always forget that Terrace Martin can sing. It may be low and smooth, but that smoothness is incredible. Following up “Work It Out” with “This Morning (feat. Arin Ray & Smino)” is a power move. The bass line is so simple yet funky and memorable. I can’t think of anything wrong with this song.
“Tapped (feat. Channel Tres & Celeste)” is a solid track as well, featuring some of Terrace Martin’s signature sounds that can also be heard on 2020’s Dinner Party with Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington, and 9th Wonder. “Griots of the Crenshaw District (feat. Hit-Boy, Kamasi Washington & Robert Glasper)” is an incredible instrumental, pulling on jazz and funk influences to create something that is timely and timeless all at once (as passe as that is to say).
The last three tracks, “Sick of Cryin’ (feat. Leon Bridges & D Smoke),” “Don’t Let Go,” and “Listen (feat. Kim Burrell, James Fauntleroy & Robert Glasper),” combine to bring the album to a sober conclusion, particularly in the case of “Listen.” The message of “Listen for God” being the last line of the album is incredibly strong on such a secular album for the same reason as the title track borrowing grooves from Kirk Franklin: it brings all the power of Black music to the forefront and acknowledges the power of gospel music over all the music we don’t necessarily think of as religious.
So what makes this album so incredible?
Well, the production, first and foremost. The way this album sounds is immaculate, utilizing Terrace Martin’s signature style to unify different influences from different genres of Black music. Secondly, the features are incredible. Kendrick Lamar and Cordae stand out the most to me, but there are plenty of other phenomenal features here. Finally, the concept. The idea of being “an effort to balance an unmasking and celebration of the lived Black American experience in what Martin describes as a ‘Black Disneyland’” would take a mastermind to see through, and Terrace Martin is that mastermind.
Be sure to check out Drones below and let us know what you think! I also can’t recommend Dinner Party enough. Terrace Martin’s collaboration with Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder, and Kamasi Washington is phenomenal. Drones is the better album, and I’m not just saying that because it’s what I’m supposed to be talking about, but Dinner Party deserves some praise, too.