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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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.