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Courtesy of Roc Nation Records.

6. Ardipithecus – Willow

Let’s have one thing clear: this album is no “Whip My Hair” follow-up. Leaving her old music behind along with her last name, Willow Smith ventures into genre-blurring sound that bears no resemblance to the teenager’s past (as if, at the age of 15, she even has much of one). Originating from the genus name of the first humanoid, Ardipithecus is written from a place of transition, discussing subject matter ranging from young love (“Wait a Minute!”) to struggling with self-identification (“Organization and Classification”). Willow’s recent musical growth is most obvious in the maturity of her content that she presents with such brilliant lyrical beauty. “When I wake up in the morning time/I think about my past life./Was I with you or you with me?/We’re living in a fantasy, babe, it’s all a dream,” she sings in the groovy “UR Town.” Ultimately, Willow’s approach to music distinguishes itself in its delivery, sounding at times more like a verse of slam poetry than a song. Through this, she develops music that is so uniquely spiritual that it almost feels more appropriate to call them hymns than songs. Whether singing in Na’Vi (“Marceline”) or hitting vocals similar to those of Florence Welch (“Star”), Willow creates a sound that is all her own, exclusively writing 14 of the 15 tracks and producing 11 of them. In the wake of Ardipithecus’ musical adventure, it’s easy to forget the age of this musical sprite of spellbinding sound.

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