NPR Music

Two decades after his death, Tupac Shakur is still the headline-generating, record-selling, contentious figure that he was in life. From DJ Funkmaster Flex's recent tearful Tupac rant to the fresh diss tracks it generated in response, our obsession with the legend continues to grow. And it's bigger than hip-hop.

A year ago today, Gucci Mane emerged from an Indiana federal penitentiary a slimmer, sober, reformed version of his old self. Though still confined to house arrest, the Atlanta rapper quickly began picking up the pieces of a career left in limbo when he received a 39-month sentence on gun and drug charges in 2014.

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Krystle Warren has been compared to artists like Tracy Chapman and Nina Simone. The latter comparison is particularly intriguing: Not only does Warren share that icon's talent for evocative storytelling, but she also lives in France, as Simone once did.

By night, they play gigs. By day, they sample ramen in cities across America.

Listening to Pinegrove's music gives you that warm feeling of spending time with old friends — familiar, nostalgic and endearingly rough around the edges. And although its 2016 album Cardinal got a lot of love from critics, Pinegrove is a young band that still practices in the basement of one member's parents' house in Montclair, N.J.

How is this for a first day on the job: Maurice Murphy, the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO)'s late principal trumpet player, spent his very first day with the orchestra recording Star Wars' iconic opening theme, with its incredible brass fanfare — and Murphy leading the trumpets.

Singer José James has been best known as a modern-day jazz singer, but his latest album, Love In A Time Of Madness, sets him on the path to become a powerful force in contemporary R&B. "Closer" is a perfect example of his new direction.

Set List

  • "Closer"

Photo: Davis Bell/KCRW.

This week's show celebrates the concept of collaboration in two very important ways. First, it is the story of the Puerto Rican band ÌFÉ and its innovative, collective approach to the spiritual side of Yoruba culture. Bandleader Otura Mun has assembled a group of musicians steeped in the Afro-Caribbean culture of the drum, and together they have created a sound that is both familiar and completely new.

Absolutely Not are absolutely fab. After a few promising EPs of glammed-up garage-punk, the Chicago band is set to release Errors, its spastic and ridiculously fun debut full-length. This is a punk record dialed into an alien frequency with a heavy production that makes the spare instrumentation (guitar, keyboards, drums) sound like a spaceship crashing into Earth.

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