New Music Friday: What You Should Listen To Today (Besides Drake's New Song)
There are insane amount of releases on this #NewMusicFriday, some better than others. Here is what you should listen to.
We all know Drake released a new song.
It's actually a very good song. It features Lil Durk, a rapper who has long deserved to be alongside Drake. But that's not why you're here. You're here because you need help dissecting all the new releases that have come out today. Here is what you should– and maybe should not–listen to out of the mass releases flooding streaming services today. One thing's for sure: You're definitely not going to listen to just Drake.
Karma 3 By Dave East
Harlem emcee Dave East returns with the latest entry in his coveted Karma mixtape series. Full of sturdy bars reflective of the rapper's rise, Karma 3 is the densest entry in the series and offers little commercial reprieve for those seeking catchy hooks.
But East's storytelling isn't as lucid as it was pre-Survival, and at times Karma 3 can heave and haw without finding its footing. On 2018's "Corey," East, in vivid arresting detail, described how he and an old friend slowly fell out over the years due to fame, pride, and jealousy. Such details are nonexistent on Karma 3.
East often scrambles a variety of narratives together with no linear cooperation, and the result is a collection of vague, repetitive snapshots. "Forget my name, call me handsome / No more Xans / I was scrambling / pocket full of a bunch of dad men / you ain't f*ckin' / give me head then / I see demons / I hop out the bed / Could've leased it / I copped it instead," he raps with candor on "Said What I Said."
The divide is most prevalent on "Stone Killer," which finds Benny The Butcher, Griselda's lyrical titan, burying East under magnetic bars like, "I'm one them n***** that gave the fiends testers with the dust from a blender." The vapid anecdotes wouldn't be as noticeable if East hadn't established himself as such a strong lyricist, but on Karma 3, he tries for style over substance with mixed results.
Twice as Tall by Burna Boy
Nigerian singer Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, otherwise known as Burna Boy, rose to prominence in the early 2010s off his slick afro-fusion party tunes. But after the international acclaim of 2019's African Giant, the eclectic musician stepped away to reevaluate his stature. "[Success has brought me] a very huge responsibility that I didn't think I would have," Burna Boy told The New York Times on the eve of his fifth studio album Twice as Tall.
The album, which focuses substantially on mortality, spirituality, racism, and unity, is the singer's most accomplished work yet. He set forth to create the project with a mission he believed to have already started, "which is building a bridge that leads every Black person in the world to come together." With western contributions from Anderson Paak, Diddy, Timbaland, and Chris Martin, Twice as Tall is an Afro-fusion record that incorporates a multitude of sounds.
From alt-R&B, hip-hop, and rock to the sounds of Nigeria, South Africa, and Jamaica, such as Zulu choir singing and West African marimbas, nothing is left untouched. Burna Boy glides over all of it with ease as he alternates between English and Yoruba, speaking on his beliefs with the infectious coolness of a modern-day pastor. Poised, compact, and most of all, fun, Twice As Tall is Burna Boy's magnum opus.
Rich Slave by Young Dolph
Young Dolph has had an unprecedented experience in rap. After a 2008 drive-by nearly stole Adolph Thornton Jr.'s life away, the Memphis rapper recognized the wake-up-call and fully immersed himself in his craft. Since then, he has had a steady, albeit tumultuous rise. In 2017 he was once again the target of gunfire, with shooters letting loose 100 rounds into the rapper's bulletproof car in North Carolina. He walked away from the incident unscathed, but then several months later was attacked again by three men in Hollywood, California, nearly dying from gunshot wounds before bouncing back.
Since then, the indie rapper has released a steady stream of surprisingly versatile trap music; his latest project, Rich Slave, is another impressive feat from the rapper. The project's production is rich, the narratives tightly wound, and Dolph, as always, is relentless in his execution, offering some of his most vicious bars in recent memory. "They say this the land of the free / (That's a lie) / It seem like the land of bulls*** to me," he says with bitterness on "The Land."
While he's previously reflected on the multiple attempts on his life, Rich Slave is a deeper reflection on his position as a Black man in power. "It's the reality of being Black in this country – you can have money, and you can be a benefactor and a leader in your community, but all people see is Black skin," Dolph recounted in an interview. "Hopefully, this album makes people understand that even though guys like me are doing well, we're still affected by racism and inequality."
The Versace Tape by Boldy James
On the Detroit emcee's third release of 2020 and his first as a member of Griselda, Boldy James fits snugly within the Griselda soundscape on The Versace Tape. As he croons nonchalantly over the casual lo-fi Jazz beats that have beckoned in the new age of Boombap rap, Boldy James doesn't need much to be compelling. His psychedelic Alchemist collaboration The Prince of Tea in China from this past February is evident of that.
James has always thrived when placed amongst diluted instrumentals. He needs the space to speak his mind, and Griselda's ethos of high-class, sophisticated art makes for the perfect playing field for James's ostentatious, nonchalant bars. "The coke's numbing my tongue / I got expensive taste," he says with a shrug on "Cartier," as he casually describes moving drugs across state lines and switching his license plates to get back safely.
James, who has been grinding away at rap since 2013, doesn't feel any type of way anymore about the sketchy moves he makes. He has no problem giving listeners a birds-eye view into his world, and he doesn't care what you do with the new information you learn. "Either way it go / imma get my point across," he says calmly on "Cardinal Sin."
Teenage Fever by Kaash Paige
Dallas R&B singer Kaash Paige is ready for her close-up. After her magnetic EP Parked Car Convos caught the attention of multiple labels, the singer signed to Def Jam and finally announced her arrival with Teenage Fever.
Paige is, first and foremost, an R&B singer but is never afraid to experiment. She dabbles in punk rock melodies on "Lost Ones" and brings the sexual confidence of Summer Walker on "Problems." Her alluring sound is enough to quell the naysayers who mark Paige as just another R&B songstress, but Teenage Fever does lack a certain focus.
Her influences are on pretty obvious display, and it's tough at times to completely discredit copycat accusations. "Jaded" is almost sonically identical to the Drake song of the same name, and "SOS" is rank in The Weeknd's ghostly "ooh's" and "ahhs." The beats are hollow and withdrawn, and they flow into each other without any varied distinction, but when she truly opens up on moments like "Karma," her talent shines through. Kassh Paige is someone destined to break through; Teenage Fever just might not quite be the project that does it.
Ultra Black by Nas
The legendary rapper, whose last two releases were panned by critics, sounds right at home on the Hit-Boy produced "Ultra Black." The lyrical emcee uses the track's three-minutes to list off as many Black achievements as possible. He cites Billy Dee Williams, gives a shout out to the legendary Isaac Kennedy, and critiques Doja Cat for her controversial comments surrounding blackness. Nas sounds refreshed, prideful, and pumped up by the current movement, and it's a beautiful thing to see for an emcee who hasn't put out a solid piece of work in quite some time.
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