Terrace Martin is easily one of the more talented producers, saxophonists, singers, as well as multi-instrumentalists. Not to mention just one of the more extraordinarily talented artists. To emerge over the last nearly two decades. His blend of Hip-Hop and Jazz, helping him work with a who’s who of emcees. Ranging from names as big as Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar to The Game, and more newer names like YG, Problem and Cordae. Not to mention his work outside of Hip-Hop with the likes of his the iconic living legend Stevie Wonder. As well as Soul greats like Lalah Hathaway and Charlie Wilson. Martin has easily become not only one of the most sought after producers and musicians in the California music scene, but just music in general.
The Los Angeles native also forming two groups over that time as well. With his own Jazz group, The Pollyseeds. Plus the supergroup, Dinner Party. Which consists of Martin, Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper and 9th Wonder The latter, which he also recently earned a GRAMMYs nomination for Best Progressive R&B Album for the group’s EP, Dinner Party: Dessert.
While Martin has put out several solo EP’s in the past few years. As well as his work with his groups. It is his solo work and long anticipated newest solo album, DRONES. That is the followup to his classic GRAMMYs-Award nominated last solo album, Velvet Portraits. That fans of Martin have really been clamoring for since he first announced and teased it nearly three to four years ago. Which he finally released almost two months ago and was well worth the wait.
Encompassing elements of many of Martin’s main inspirations of music that made him want to become a music artist. Such as Hip-Hop, Jazz, R&B, as well as touches of classical and even Cuban music and West African music throughout its 13 tracks. DRONES, is a very smooth and chilled out affair. That is also a very coherent and well put together album. Which really showcases Martin’s abilities as not only a producer and instrumentalist, but a bandleader and when he needs to be. A vocalist and lyricists as well. That doesn’t shy away from collaboration or saying what he wants to say or letting others say what they want as well. That starts with the album’s title track. A very smooth record featuring frequent collaborators, Lamar and Snoop. As well as Ty Dolla $ign and James Fauntleroy. Where each artist on the record over the very droned out backdrop. Sing and rap about the pure escacsty and enjoyment they each have. When having passionate sex that they frequently partake in. As well how mechanic and autonomously like, “drones”, humans and society have become and despite all these tools to communicate with one another. Have continued becoming. This perfectly seguing into the jazzy smooth previously released lead single, Leave Us Be. Before going into the lust-filled Martin and Kid Culture-produced, Work It Out. That features a very great opening guest verse from Cordae. As the record mainly focuses on the lust and longing they both have for previous lovers. They thought would be more than just lust. As well as how crossed paths with someone from your past in the present can cause unnecessary roadblocks
The love theme that plays throughout a lot of the album continues on arguably the best record on the album. With the very smooth and and soulfully stellar, This Morning. That features really great guest contributions from upcoming great singer, Arin Ray and upcoming great emcee, Smino. As they sing and rap very emotionally about a love they can’t seem to get by and move beyond. Despite the many obstacles presented by others. Martin with a very stellar sax solo to perfectly close out the track. Right before perfectly seguing into the Celeste and Channel Tres featured, Tapped. Where they both rap and sing over the very jazzy backdrop in a very social commentary way. About how drones and other machines. Are really tapped into what we are doing. So how it affects all of us and we should really be observant to those who live around us as well.
As we get to the midway point of the album. The reflective tone of love and how it affects our thoughts. On the appropriately titled, Reflection featuring James Fauntleroy. Is really explored with Fauntleroy’s very stellar performance over the very ambient and soulfully backdrop. That is perfect for his singing and abstract thoughts he masterfully displays through his songwriting on the record. Before the album starts to pickup even more. On the only record that really feels like a skit. With, Leimert Park. Named after the neighborhood that Martin grew up in. It’s a snapshot of a neighborhood bar where Martin over bar ambiance in the background. Delivers a powerful spoken word piece as a prelude to the next track, Griots of the Crenshaw. Also really helping set up the more resilient tone of the album’s final five tracks. Griots of the Crenshaw, actually just an instrumental that is a really brilliant convergence of musical masterminds. Martin, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Hit-Boy. Just going sonically all out. As the record keeps building to the great climactic end. Before going into the Martin and Allen Ritter-produced, Evil Eyes. That features YG and singer, Malaya. Finding both over the very soulfully jazzy production. Rapping and singing about not letting outside distractions such as, “evil eyes,” interfere with your creative or overall life process. To overcome and get to where you want to be. Malaya doing double duty by also singing and showing off her uniquely stellar singing voice on the hook/chorus too.
Reaching the album’s final three tracks. A very more upbeat tone continues to be shown. Starting with the Leon Bridges and D Smoke featured, Sick of Cryin’. Where over the jazzy, yet very upbeat production and really more so playing of Martin on his saxophone. Both, Bridges and Smoke, sing about all the countless frustrating barriers they have to go through like many others do daily in life. Making progress in life difficult, but they persevere to get through it in anyway. Which is why so many will not only be able to relate to this record, but love it and perhaps even use it for inspiration in their own lives. That then seguing into Martin in a voice box, deeply reminding the listener about never letting go in life. You can have so much life struggles that makes it seem hard at times. However you should never let go or give up on anything in your life. The album then perfectly closing out with the very inspiring and uplifting, Listen. That features Fauntleroy, the legendary, Kim Burrell. As well as frequent collaborator, Glasper. The record finding both, Fauntleroy and Burrell. Singing about how the listener should listen and continue to grow in life. While also seeking solution from God, to stick around, listen and deal with life and the many emotions we all go through in life. To properly live life in the right and proper way we all should. Glasper giving a very stellar piano solo to close the record.
Overall, DRONES, is not only another very timeless masterpiece album from Martin. But it is his most ambitious record to date and arguably even his best work to date too. Which is a very triumphant statement by Martin as a solo artist. In his a little over a decade he has been putting out material as a solo artist. That already includes such classic projects as Locke High, 3ChordFold, Here, My Dear EP, Velvet Portraits and Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1. With, DRONES, easily one of the best albums of 2021. Don’t be surprised to see it land on many year-end lists of best album’s and perhaps even earn, Martin, yet another GRAMMYs nomination as well.