Jumping all the way up to one of my favorite tracks of the year comes “Happy Birthday Mama” off of the collaborative 10-track LP, Better On A Sunday, between Sugar Tongue Slim and Khari Mateen. These two shared several connections through the years, from being raised in Atlanta, to establishing themselves in Philly, to collaborations with The Roots and, most recently, RJD2, where Mateen played bass and cello as part of the live crew during STS x RJD2’s full-length album tour back in 2015. It was here that STS and Mateen began writing music together.
“Happy Birthday Mama” is at once the most beautiful and one the of the most celebratory tracks on an album full of the exploration of hard work, and enjoying time with family and friends. The mix of jazzy bass and hip-hop focused percussion pairs amazingly with the story of celebrating the life of the amazing woman in all of our lives, and how we take advantage of her sometimes, but appreciate her nonetheless. What really makes this track pop is the amazing vocal harmony winding in and out consistently in the background, acting as another instrument, and adding a sometimes haunting, or pleading, quality to the song. Put this one on replay.