Rounding out the end of 2017, here are some amazing music and content I've come across this December.

When I started this series, I wanted to share my love of music and songs that I had on repeat. As time goes by, I kept finding myself digging deeper behind the songs, the artist, the process, and just this huge fascination of content and culture. Much like the product design process, we often celebrate the end deliverable and forget that there's so much that goes into creation.

This month's theme or so is definitely discovering beyond just the song. There are stories of how artists get to their music, how to train and maintain, and also how we consume and express ourselves in real life.

As usual, enjoy and join the conversation. Let me know what you think and what else I should check out!

New Takeover // Stan Walker

Get to Know Stan Walker

This Māori pop star sings about indigenous power 💪 Rides shirtless on a horse 🔥And loves his grandma 👵 👑

Posted by AJ+ on Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sometimes, we discover new music sort of by accident. I was scrolling through my FB newsfeed and came across this video about Stan Walker. He's a Māori singer based in New Zealand who is incorporating Māori culture into his mainstream music.

Back in 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand for work. One of the most unexpected things learned was the appreciation of Māori culture and peoples. The most significant part of the trip for me was that my team was working directly with the NZ government on a project.

The first day when we went to the offices, we had a formal introduction. Even though very little folks spoke the Māori language in the room, officials made a formal introduction in the language to welcome us. And it wasn't a bullshit, half-assed thing. It was sincere homage and respect to the culture and people who we were visiting. There's a lot we can learn from other cultures and I love it when we're exposed to it in a universal medium—music.

Also, the Haka is a traditional Māori war cry, dance, or challenge that raises goosebumps every time. Here's an amazing video of a Haka performed at a wedding with subtitles and context.


Melissa Cross - Vocal Coach for Metal Bands

Here's a fun one! I came across this on my Facebook feed and this kind of blew my mind. Melissa Cross is a vocal coach who helps metal singers be able to perform their music in a safe way. Really interesting to hear how she approaches it and how she's helping folks do what they love.


Dance in The Real World Series // NYT

It's so fascinating to see how cultures celebrate and use bodies, costumes (or lack of), and movement to express ourselves in various ways.

For this particular video, it's voguing in NYC. Anytime I see anything on voguing, I have to watch and I have to share. I remember being introduced to Paris is Burning in my Sociology of Gender course in school. It blew my mind on two specific things: gender as truly a construct and in a sense a performance. There's a scene about performance and passing. As a cisgender woman, it really rattled my mind because that's something I never really had to think about (that's what we call privilege).

A second scene that's embedded in my brain is when Eileen Ford, co-founder of Ford Modeling Agency, appears in a scene where she talks about what type of models she looks for. In the context of making clothes look good and having a cheerful demeanor, she says "Nobody likes to go in and hear your troubles, you know? When people ask you how you feel, don't tell them if you're sick 'cause they don't really care." It was harsh but unfortunately true in so many contexts. Seriously, if you haven't seen this film, it's on Netflix. Watch. it. now.

See the rest of the Dance in the Real world series here


Black in Tokyo Documentary // Melanin Unscripted

A little less directly connected to music but a great documentary on the black experience within Japanese culture (specifically Tokyo). This video is beautifully done. You can hear perspectives from each individual about their culture and how it all ties into the black experience overall.

Growing up in America, I often feel that we focus on our differences. I think that's beautiful in celebrating both differences and similarities in who we are and who we strive to be. Like Trice & Will talked about the appreciation of culture takes research and time to understand, I strongly believe in the celebration of people's different experience can be done in a positive manner. Most importantly, it's done with respect.

P.S., tracks in the background are by Sleep Dealer who I love and featured in Sounds of: November.


Above Water // The Code

The Code is out with new music. Latest track is Above Water with murky R&B vocals. This is one of their first tracks release in preparation for their next release, "Paramount."

P.S., I'm always excited about their album artwork. Their branding is solid and at the end of the day, we still have no idea who is behind the sound. That's sort of the best part where you can focus on the music.


Utopia // Darius

It's been a minute since I've listened to Darius. I've always been a fan and definitely remember replaying "Hot Hands" when I studied in school. I just recently came across his latest album, Utopia, after seeing a fun interview he did.

PS, did you knew he spoke French?


West Coast Drama // Kelsey Bulkin

Kelsey Bulkin has the most distinct voice that makes my ears perk up every time. I'm massively in love with Made in Heights and now Kelsey is out with her own tracks.

Here's a fun article from Highsnobiety talking about Kelsey's awesome moves in the music video.


Mellow Bars // Spotify Playlist


Here's a bit of a cheat but recently stopped by a chai bar in LES and they were playing a bunch of songs that I had to figure out the songs. I asked Siri "Who sings this song?" multiple times. Turns out, most of the songs were from this specific playlist.

PS Chai bar is called The Hideout. Here's photographic evidence of me there that day with the boy on their Instagram.


Pick Up // PLAZA

The song is a recent release from PLAZA. One of the newest artists on the OVO roster, Plaza's distinct sound focuses on him being torn between his relationships with his work (music) and his girl.

Here is HotNewHipHop's take on the song.



2017 Wrapped // Spotify

Here is a fun share is Spotify's year-end feature where users can see top genres, songs, artists, and minutes listened this year. Find out yours at!


As always, take a listen and let me know your thoughts.

Got tracks to share? Drop a comment below.