Here, the 6th full-length from Alicia Keys, is inspired by her hometown, New York, and it is a raw and truthful collection of tales—political, social, and emotional—that she narrates over stripped down, hip-hop-influenced production (partly done by her husband, Swizz Beatz). The lead single, "Blended Family" featuring A$AP Rocky, is an ode to families with complicated stories: "Hey I might not really be your mother / that don't mean that I don't Really love ya," sings Keys as she draws from her own experience as a mother to children from Swizzy's previous relationship. In "She Don't Really Care_1 Luv," which samples Nas' "One Love," she is fully immersed in a New York state of mind by exploring the choices a female growing up in the city might be faced with, and "Kill Your Mama" is a gritty and powerful stance against the damage that humans are imposing on Mother Nature. The interludes are insightful also, notably, "Elevate (Interlude)," in which she converses w/ Nas about personal grown ("we always build, we always grow, we elevate"). In addition to the music, the album cover, which features the R&B songstress with no make-up and natural hair, is striking. It alludes to the intimate and honest contents of the 16-tracker.
reviewed by enbee 02/2017