Everyone's got opinions, here's ours.
Check out our favorite releases, tapes, reissues and everything else of 2016.
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Anderson .Paak needed solutions. The California native saw both of his parents and stepfather sent to prison by the time he was 18, and earlier in his adult life, he, his wife, and his son endured homelessness after he was unexpectedly let go from his job at a Santa Barbara marijuana farm. ''When I look at my tree, I see leaves missing, generations of harsh living, and addiction,'' he sings in his old-soul rasp on Malibu, his second album as Anderson .Paak. He's faced uncertainty as a musician, too, but after ''Suede'', a song he recorded with beatmaker Knxwledge under the name NxWorries, caught Dr. Dre's ear, .Paak became a significant part of Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre, making six appearances on the album. Not surprisingly, those songs combined for .Paak's big break, and now, eight years after deciding he wanted to make music his livelihood, he's released his best project yet, an affecting album that masterfully marries hip-hop, R&B, and soul.
Blank Face is South Central hip-hop star ScHoolboy Q's follow-up to his 2014 major label debut, Oxymoron, after a pair of independent releases on Top Dawg Entertainment, including Habits & Contradictions (2012) and Setbacks (2011). The new album features guest appearances by Kanye West ("That Part"), Vince Staples ("Ride Out"), Jadakiss ("Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane"), E-40 ("Dope Dealer'), Tha Dogg Pound ("Big Body"), Anderson .Paak ("Blank Face"), Miguel and Justine Skye ("Overtime"), with production by Sounwave, Swizz Beatz, Metro Boomin, Southside and Cardo, along with Nez & Rio, DJ Dahi and members of TDE's Digi+Phonics team. The critics have raved about the album, with Pitchfork's 8.3 review calling it "a collection of catchy, urgent gangsta rap songs that show the South Central native at his charismatic best, gallows humor and tough talk failing to obscure a humane core." The Vulture's Craig Jenkins called "Ride Out," Q's collaboration with Vince Staples, "five minutes of these two cripping out of control over TDE maestro Sounwave's evil-robot disaster-movie production certainly does the trick." Rolling Stone's 3.5-star review hailed the new collection as "trapped and haunted...his music is richer for its resistance to escapist fantasy." Packaging: 2 pieces of custom orange opaque vinyl in a gatefold jacket
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A Seat at the Table is the third studio album by American singer and songwriter Solange. Following the release of her second studio album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams (2008), Knowles began work on her third studio album, during which she suffered a "breakdown" due to the amount of time and emotion she was putting into the recording process. While recording the album Knowles released an EP entitled True (2012) and launched her own record label named Saint Records. Writing for the album began as early as 2008, while the albums recording sessions took part from 2013 to June 2016. The album was widely acclaimed by music critics and became Solange's first number-one album on the Billboard 200 in the United States, debuting with 46,000 copies sold (72,000 with additional album-equivalent units). The album features collaborations with Lil Wayne, Sampha, The-Dream, BJ the Chicago Kid, Q-Tip, Kelly Rowland, Kelela, David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors, and Tweet among others.
YES LAWD! As temping as it may be to just let that exclamation suffice as your sole introduction to NxWorries, we should go a little deeper. The men at the heart of this LP — soul styler Anderson .Paak and loop beast Knxwledge — make an exceedingly clean pair, even as they deal almost entirely in the gritty: vocals that sound lived in for a couple of lifetimes; beats that kick up dust as they bump; and an 18-track set that plays like a mixtape merging skits, songs, and snippets into a package of fluid groove and rough-cut rap ‘n’ soul gems. You may have heard these two out in the world, on their own or sprinkling some of their musical gold dust on someone else’s songs, but this is what happens when .Paak and Knx get home, lay back, light up, and let it go. If there’s a Blaxploitation vibe to Yes Lawd!, that’s just the depth of NxWorries’ funk and strut showing. If there’s gospel in the grits, that’s the history of the cooks. Each grew up with religion. It was Knxwledge’s job to tidy up the family church in Jersey as a kid, and when he was done, he got to play on the instruments. Better still, when those instruments went bad, he kept them. Similarly, he’d soon find sounds in his growing vinyl cache, and when he moved to Los Angeles in 2008 as a beat maker, his compositions ensured he’d be home at Stones Throw. His hypnotically dank 2015 LP Hud Dreems was the tip of an iceberg—75 Bandcamp collections, and counting. Paak was neck deep in those songs when Knxwledge reached out. The singer grew up in Oxnard drumming in his own family’s church. His folks got locked up when he was a teen, and while he’d eke by on odd jobs (grocer, trimmer, personal assistant), he was homeless for a spell with a newborn son. But .Paak pushed forward, building a career via imaginative albums (2016’s Malibu), and collaborations that always seem to make him the star, even when he’s just there to sing the hook. On Yes Lawd!, .Paak – who calls the album “my best work” – plays theatrically brash version of himself who sings like a ‘70s superstar and talks shit like a stone cold player. But the perfor-mance is seeded with details from his life, which has seen a fair share of struggle and hardwon triumph. Meanwhile, Knx weaves a tapestry of sampled bits and live fragments—bass, brass and violin—that smooths everything over, reminding us that despite whatever struggle it took to get here... well, you already know the name: NxWorries.
"and the Anonymous Nobody" is the first De La Soul studio album in eleven years and as independent artists, free of record labels interfering in the creative process. True to the roots of Hip-Hop, the new album incorporates elements of Jazz, Funk, Rock, Country Western and more sampled to create the tracks. Sampling is how De La has always made music but after spending a huge part of their career fighting off the "sample police", De La decided to take a completely new approach, something Hip-Hop hasn't done before...sampling themselves. Over three years, De La collaborated with some of LA's finest studio musicians and recorded them in free-styled, unrehearsed, jam sessions. They played everything from banjo to upright bass, sometimes up to a dozen musicians at once; simply allowing sounds to integrate. Recorded in one of LA's most classic studios, Vox, the recordings have that creamy analog warm mixing board sound that the old records our parent's once played had. With over 200 hours of sounds, and vibes, equal to about 250 to 300 full-length vinyl LPs, De La began listening, enjoying and discovering those special moments where, musically, something magical happens, where interesting sounds and layers were forgotten, where new sounds can be sampled, looped, chopped, filtered and arranged, freely, without the intrusive presence of publishing politics and the infamous "sample police." "What we've done is created our own crates of records; album upon albums to mine and sample from. In our world, what we've created is freedom, freedom to make the art you believe in without having to compromise your vision. That's what we've always wanted most, that's what we've always believed in, that's what we've fought for..." -De La Soul
"He is unmatchable in flow, delivery, and voice. Danny Brown has all the tools to be the greatest working rapper." -PITCHFORK Atrocity Exhibition is one of the freshest and boldest-sounding rap albums in recent memory, a sonic swirl inspired by the work of Talking Heads and Joy Division that nonetheless sounds like nothing else from the past or present. Featuring contributions from producers like Evian Christ, Petite Noir (who also lends vocals to the world-weary clang of “Rolling Stone”), Black Milk, the Alchemist and frequent collaborator Paul White, the album is full of laser-beam guitars, gym-teacher whistles, creaking vocal samples, and air-raid drones. It is the most intriguing take on hallucinatory rap since the heady heights of Cold Vein or Madvillainy. Known for his wide range of collaborations, including everyone from Purity Ring, the Avalanches and Rustie to Schoolboy Q, E-40, and Ghostface Killah, Atrocity Exhibition sees a continuation of this carefully curated mix. Kelela lends her snaking vocals to the intriguingly murky “From the Ground,” Cypress Hill’s B-Real delivers “Get Hi”’s languid hook, and Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick Lamar, and Ab-Soul all convene for the twinkling ominousness of album standout “Really Doe.” “When XXX came out, all of us were peers, and those were the three rappers who were the best,” Brown explains on having the star-packed trio appear on the track. “I felt like we were competitors, they made me want to step my game up. I wanted to put the hottest rappers in the game on there.” This album is a highly personal take on Brown’s ruminations on life and the changes that have occurred -and those that didn't - following the ups and downs of career success. Atrocity Exhibition makes for a thrilling third installment in the Danny Brown biopic, one not to be missed.
Limited vinyl LP pressing features white scratch-off ink and a 25 cent piece cased in a plastic outer sleeve. Each copy will be unique, as the quarter will move around the plastic sleeve in transit creating it's own pattern. This is intentional, so any scratches that appear on the front cover when the vinyl arrives is a result of this. 2016 release. Sirens is the highly anticipated second full-length LP from Nicholas Jaar, the Chilean-born electronic music producer, mixing engineer and DJ. A prolific artist with a wide palette of talents, Jaar spent his teenage years in dance music circles in New York City, where he now resides. In 2011, he released his debut album, the critically-acclaimed Space is Only Noise. In 2012, he was contributed to BBC Radio 1's prestigious 'Essential Mix' series, winning 'Essential Mix of the Year'. Jaar is the founder of the New York based imprint Other People, releasing music and spoken word by a diverse group of artists ranging from Lydia lunch to Ezekiel Honig.
Still Brazy is the second studio album by American rapper YG. He enlisted the production on the album that was handled and provided such as Ty Dolla $ign and Hit-Boy; as well as enlisted collaborators from Lil Wayne and Slim 400, among others.
Having treated fans to new music during various TV performances over the past year, Top Dawg Entertainment, alongside Aftermath/Interscope Records present reigning hip hop king Kendrick Lamar's surprise new album Untitled Unmastered. The 8-song project debuted atop the Billboard 200 charts and features unreleased studio demos from the To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) sessions which Kendrick premiered on The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and most recently at the 58th annual Grammy Awards show. Lamar explained the collection: "I got a chamber of material from the album that I was in love [with] where sample clearances or something as simple as a deadline kept it off the album." The universally acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly took home the 2016 Grammy award for Best Rap Album and was nominated for Album of the Year.
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Amnesia Scanner's Young Turks debut, the 12" EP AS, is also the duo's commercial physical release.
Dil Withers has been making noise ever since his emergence in 2013 on a split tape with Ohbliv (Dil ‘Blivers). Residing in Seattle, WA, Dil has been thriving in the town’s rich vinyl scene, soaking up all that he can. Jazz heavy loops with dusty drums is Dil’s calling card. ‘Studies’ is an audio collage of samples, drums, vocals, thoughts and feelings. As Dil studies the game, he takes notes, waiting for his time to shine. His time has come.
ANOHNI has collaborated with Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke on the artist's latest work, HOPELESSNESS. Late last year, ANOHNI, the lead singer from Antony and the Johnsons, released “4 DEGREES", a bombastic dance track celebrating global boiling and collapsing biodiversity. Rather than taking refuge in good intentions, ANOHNI gives voice to the attitude sublimated within her behavior as she continues to consume in a fossil fuel-based economy. ANOHNI released “4 DEGREES,” the first single from her upcoming album HOPELESSNESS, to support the Paris climate conference this past December. The song emerged earlier last year in live performances. As discussed by ANOHNI: "I have grown tired of grieving for humanity, and I also thought I was not being entirely honest by pretending that I am not a part of the problem," she said. “’4 DEGREES' is kind of a brutal attempt to hold myself accountable, not just valorize my intentions, but also reflect on the true impact of my behaviors.” The album, HOPELESSNESS, to be released world wide on May 6th 2016, is a dance record with soulful vocals and lyrics addressing surveillance, drone warfare, and ecocide. A radical departure from the singer’s symphonic collaborations, the album seeks to disrupt assumptions about popular music through the collision of electronic sound and highly politicized lyrics. ANOHNI will present select concerts in Europe, Australia and the US in support of HOPELESSNESS this Summer.
2814 are one of the most innovative musical acts in recent memory. Blending breathtaking ambient soundscapes and futuristic downtempo experiments with a gorgeous sense of electronic melancholy and urban atmosphere, the ever-elusive duo’s sound is defined by their brilliant adoration for warped, hypnagogic nostalgia and the simultaneous outlook into a futuristic dystopian setting – a winning combination of loss and optimism translated through a heavily altered new age lens. Rain Temple, their third full-length album, represents a new chapter in 2814′s sound: sprawling synth drones, beautifully distant vocals, swirling percussion, and an ethereal sonic aura tie together a simply masterful record. HKE and t e l e p a t h have once again created a stunning artistic statement that exceeds expectation and goes far beyond most modern ambient music, reminding us that beyond our late night somber and eternal wonder, we all remain.
Formed in 2009, the prolific Austin, TX experimental synth quartet S U R V I V E have released two full-lengths and numerous EPs / singles since their inception, including recent contributions to the soundtrack for the acclaimed indie horror film The Guest. Additionally, two of the group’s members recently scored the soundtrack for the new hit sci-fi / horror show Stranger Things starring Winona Ryder on Netflix. S U R V I V E have appeared at numerous esteemed festivals across the US including Moogfest, Levitation Fest, Fun Fun Fun, Beserktown, Day in The Desert, Decibel, etc. and have played alongside acts like Goblin, John Maus, Tame Impala, Lightning Bolt, This Will Destroy You, A Place To Bury Strangers, Max Cooper, and many others; Noisey even called their live show “transcendental.” Now, S U R V I V E have completed self-recording their second full-length via their home studios, which will see a September 30 via Relapse. The synth quartet’s sophomore full-length and Relapse debut is a dark, sweeping exercise in analog synth mastery. The pulsating, 9-song instrumental release showcases immense diversity between tracks – RR7349’s compositions range from grim tom-tom thunder to space-age epics, pairing tense plodding grooves with meditative ambience and driving, rhythmic beats. Inspired by IDM and horror scores alike, RR7349 is simultaneously ominous and hopeful; tense and relaxed; percussive and melodic. A unique addition to the Relapse discography, and unquestionably S U R V I V E ‘ s best work to date. S U R V I V E are: Adam Jones / Kyle Dixon / Mark Donica / Michael Stein
It all started at a Detroit strip club called Platinum, with a platter of deep-fried beef taquitos and a dancer whose face looked a bit like Burt Reynolds. It was here that Sam Baker first met a self-described fan of his, who gave him the sage advice to take his music work more seriously. Sam had long since graduated from tapping on piano, clarinet and video games to working on the MPC and 404 under the name Samiyam, circulating beat tapes among local crew in Michigan, and zip files to friends on the web. He was among a network of post-Donuts hip-hop producers focusing on instrumentals as the work, rather than traditional MC/producer collaborations, who found themselves migrating west and huddling in the scene around the Low End Theory in east Los Angeles. That's where Flying Lotus met Sam and picked him for the debut release on his Brainfeeder label, 2008's Rap Beats Vol. 1. Sam Baker's Album followed in 2011. His Wish You Were Here showed up on Leaving Records in 2013, along with production work for Earl Sweatshirt, Captain Murphy and Pharoahe Monch along the way. Samiyam has been extended Stones Throw family for a while now, and debuts on the label with Animals Have Feelings, an album which he considers the creative sequel to Rap Beats Vol. 1. As he tells it, "Animals has roots in beats made around the time of Vol. 1, and the new stuff on the record has some of the same sound." The record is classic instrumental hip-hop, mixed with a handful of rap tracks he did with the few MC collaborators he chooses to work with: Earl Sweatshirt ("Mirror"), Action Bronson ("Mr. Wonderful"), Jeremiah Jae and Oliver the 2nd ("Lord of the Rings").
Black Milk, one of the most prodigious and versatile talents in the world of hip-hop, returns alongside his band Nat Turner with a live instrumental LP, The Rebellion Sessions, a jazz-funk opus recorded over the span of one week. Orchestrated and produced by Black Milk, The Rebellion Sessions features Nat Turner (Aaron “Ab” Abernathy on keys, Malik Hunter on bass, and Zebulun “Z” Horton on drums). Although the guys have appeared on Black’s previous works, The Rebellion Sessions is the first project created by the four as a collaborative unit. The album, at times recalling the works of Fela Kuti, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Sly & The Family Stone, D’Angelo, and Robert Glasper, builds off Black Milk and Nat Turner’s incredible live show, honed over the course of years and more than 90 shows played worldwide in 2015 alone. Black Milk & Nat Turner will embark on The Rebellion Tour in Europe this May, performing select tunes from The Rebellion Sessions in addition to songs from Black Milk’s extensive catalog, before hitting the road in the States.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' sixteenth studio album, ‘Skeleton Tree’ follows the Bad Seeds' most critically and commercially successful release of recent times, ‘Push the Sky Away’ (2013). Skeleton Tree began its journey in late 2014 at Retreat Studios, Brighton, with further sessions at La Frette Studios, France in autumn 2015. The album was mixed at AIR Studios, London in early 2016.
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Everywhere At The End of Time is the first in a series of six albums by The Caretaker, aka James Leyland Kirby, slowly cataloguing the stages of early onset dementia. Each album will reveal new points of progression, loss and disintegration, progressively falling further and further towards the abyss of complete memory loss and nothingness. Viewing dementia as a series of stages can be a useful way to understand the illness, but it is important to realize that this only provides a rough guide to the progress of the condition. Drawing on a recorded history of 20 years of recollected memories, this is one final journey and study into recreating the progression of dementia through sound. As the first in the series - and despite its typically frayed loop construction, this volume is the most lucid - subsequent instalments will continue to move into faded obscurity and material erosion. Mastered and cut by Andreas Lupo Lubich. Artwork by Ivan Seal.
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Mndsgn (born Ringgo Ancheta) grew up in south New Jersey, raised with Gospel music at church, and B-Boy culture at home. Experimenting with beat-making, he befriended fellow producer Knxwledge and the two formed the influential Klipmode collective (along with Devonwho and Suzi Analogue). Mndsgn's music flourished when he moved to Los Angeles, catching the attention of Stones Throw who released Yawn Zen (2014), an LP of introspective and mostly instrumental beat creations, punctuated by vocal cuts. Body Wash is his second album for Stones Throw, a full set of realized songs that were only hinted at on Yawn Zen. Influences here include the likes of early SOLAR records material, Leon Sylvers III, Kashif, and Dave Grusin. These artists, Mndsgn says, "embodied that potent feeling in the early 80s boogie/funk/soul/jazz/fusion wave." He adds, "I was also digging back into some early 90s R&B sounds and started really imagining what it would be like if I had mashed the two eras together." He explains Body Wash as "a soul record that plays with nostalgic elements in a very dynamic & positive way. Think about it as a box of crayons for you to draw emotions with." The album was built around a backstory, a loose narrative thread through which he could filter his unformed ideas. In the narrative, a homeless man encounters a mysterious woman who gives him shelter. She instructs him to bathe with a very peculiar body wash. As he soaks and sinks deeper in a thick lather of this unknown solution, the man finds himself transported to an alternate dimension. Mndsgn describes the story as a vessel "that would allow me to speak on topics that were universally relatable … The story actually became a true outlet for me to address worldly issues with Self." The resulting album also represents a dynamic step forward in songwriting. Without explicitly relating its plot or characters, the album as a whole turns on the story's key theme, the psychedelic, transformative power of love.
Open Mike Eagle dominated End of Year Lists with his last album, "Dark Comedy" - making USA Today, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork's "Best of" Lists at the end of 2014. During 2015 he toured Europe & North America, as well as making television appearances on Comedy Central's "Why With Hannibal Burress" alongside Thundercat & Flying Lotus, Midnight w/ Chris Hardwick, and the Eric Andre Show. During all of this he completed his strongest album to date, "Hella Personal Film Festival" with UK producer Paul White. You may know Paul White from his solo work, or his production work with Danny Brown, Homeboy Sandman, or Yasiin Bey (Mos Def). But, his work with Open Mike sets a new standard for cohesiveness and creativity. Eclectic, inspired and at times jarring, the sound is Arthouse Hiphop at its best. The new album, "Hella Personal Film Festival," features are sparse and pointed, one from the legendary Aesop Rock and the other from Future Islands frontman Hemlock Ernst. The topics are profound and timely, fresh in their perspective. This is one for heavy rotation.
Amber, the second full-length from Autechre and considered by many to be their ambient opus (though we imagine they wouldn't call it that!) having been out of print on vinyl since 2001. Amber contains eleven tracks of sparse Ae minimalist machine modules that blur the boundaries between isolationist electronica and richly vivid techno soundscapes. Considered by many fans to be the most crucial recording from the group, it contains some of their most immersive soundscapes to date. Steering away from the post-hardcore dynamics that shone through on Incunabula, Amber moves further away from anything resembling 'techno' and moved into more territories of abstract ambience. These eleven crystal-like cubes of sound came together to produce some of the most mind-bendingly hypnotic sounds to be committed to wax during the 90's. Placing Ae up in the ranks of legendary composers such as Steve Reich and Manuel Gottsching as well as their Artificial Intelligence contemporaries with whom they were crafting the building blocks of the future.There is something uniquely immersive about Amber, it's almost as if as you are playing it the sounds are fading away before they even begin, when played from the start you can lose a lot of time within the endless gradients that adorn its cover, before the sounds just seemingly, disappear. Included with this release is a download of an original Autechre live set, previously only available in the Autechre webstore, with artwork by long time creative collaborators The Designers Republic.
Listeners familiar with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's previous album Euclid (an album that prompted Dazed to call her "...one of the most pioneering musicians in the world.") will no doubt notice her heavier use of vocals on her new album EARS. On all but one song, her gently ecstatic swells of vocals emerge to soar over a dense jungle of synths and woodwinds. After initially composing on a Buchla analog synth, she wrote arrangements for a woodwind quintet, added vocals, and further refined the pieces with granular synthesis techniques she developed in her sound design work (she contributed sound design to Panda Bear's "Boys Latin" video, and handled sound design and original compositions for Brasilia co-written by and starring Reggie Watts). Kinetic arpeggios of synths pulse, often buoying her graceful vocal mantras, while woodwinds breathe and flutter, emulating the wildlife Smith observed while growing up on the West Coast (she even studied recordings of slowed down bird calls prior to composing these pieces). Though some of her gestures echo the musical tropes used by early minimalist composers, the world she creates on EARS is uniquely hypnotic and full of life, not unlike Miyzaki's film Nausicaa, which she cites as an inspiration.
The record features “Modern Soul” and “Timeless”— both featured on his BBC Radio 1 Residency show. Frank Ocean and Rick Rubin also contributed to the album as co-writer and co-producer. Blake recently appeared on “Forward” and co-wrote “Pray You Catch Me” on Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Following the release of 2013’s Overgrown, BLAKE garnered a “Best New Artist” nomination at the 2014 GRAMMY® Awards, and a “British Male Solo Artist” nomination at the 2014 BRIT Awards.
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Joseph Abajian (DJ Jab) founded Fat Beats in 1994 with nothing more than a shoestring budget and an earnest obsession with the music, the culture, and the brotherhood of New York’s burgeoning rap scene. What began as a simple vinyl shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side quickly became an integral hub for artists, both aspiring and established, to convene and collaborate on new projects. Joseph’s timing couldn’t have been more impeccable. When the 90’s cultural zeitgeist – and, in turn, the music industry establishment – chose hip-hop as its new arbiter of cool.
International tourists and touring artists alike flocked to Fat Beats for rare vinyl, kindred spirits, and exclusive in-store performances from Jay Z, Eminem, Gang Starr, Outkast, Slum Village, Mos Def, and more. One thing was clear: the Fat Beats phenomenon could no longer be contained in a single basement shop.
In the late nineties, Abajian proceeded to open new stores in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He further expanded the company’s profile to include global distribution and record label branches. Distribution has since proven to be the company’s strongest and most enduring enterprise. Today Fat Beats Distribution stands poised as one of the country’s pre-eminent distributors of vinyl & specialty item records: a proud survivor in an industry now famous for its mortality rate. Despite market fluctuations, technology innovations, and stylistic revolutions, Fat Beats has remained steadfast in its commitment to the timeless vinyl format and to the loyal community who keeps it spinning.
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