Ariana Grande feat. The Weeknd – “Love Me Harder” Aug20

Ariana Grande feat. The Weeknd – “Love Me Harder”...

The marketing push for Ariana Grande is ramping up as her A&Rs aggressively carve out space in the crowded pop world. At the same time Ariana has to fend off feud reports from her ex-co-star on “Sam & Cat” and endure criticism on her lack of dance talent. It all seems so ridiculous, so let’s get back to the music. The first track is a winning collaboration with The Weeknd. Even at a fraction of his powers, he is still a quality, impassioned vocalist who can elicit the best out of Ariana. The rest of the songs show her vocal range and talent. She is playing to her strength in this 4-song package. Good work, A&Rs! My Everything will be out on August 25th, but can be pre-ordered on iTunes now. (OnSmash) Get More: Ariana Grande, Ariana Grande...

Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda” (video) Aug20

Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda” (video)

Last time I wrote about the “Anaconda” record, the novelty of using “Baby Got Back” aggravated me especially after witnessing the power of “Pills N Potions” right before listening. The buzz, both positive (which has been rare) and negative (because that’s the default position), is exactly what Nicki was trying to generate. “Anaconda” will not just straddle but knock down the normal genre walls of reporting and seep into mainstream media. Talking heads will debate her overt sexualizing of her body and whether the display is artistic or vulgar. I am not sure how you can sample a song as popular today as “Baby Got Back” and not show your ass on the video. The video was banned from MTV because it was too gratuitous (not really) while Howard Stern’s bare ass was A-OK. Even 22 years later, grown ass white women are throwing ass at Mix-A-Lot, who looks suspiciously like the late, great Patrice O’Neal, at an orchestral performance of “Baby Got Back.” Anyways, the song is still disjointed and almost arhythmic. Nicki is trying to make a dance song from the part of the original track build-up beat that didn’t inspire dancing. It’s like the whole idea went awry when everybody realized sampling the meaty part of “Baby Got Back” would feel like a straight copy, but sampling from the song’s gristle yields a song that feels like constant anticipation and no payoff. Kinda like a lap dance from Nicki Minaj, right Aubrey? EDIT: This is the article I wish I could write about the “Anaconda” and Nicki Minaj’s successful manipulation of social media and perception. Thank you, Lindsay Zoladz. (Seattle Met/CBS News) Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Baby Got Back” For frame of reference of...

Action Bronson – “Easy Rider” Aug20

Action Bronson – “Easy Rider”...

Inspired by the movie of the same name, Action Bronson’s video for “Easy Rider” is a libidinous and hedonistic trip into the mind of today’s best rapper. Party Supplies has created a wiry, ominous production underpinned with guitars and wicked bassline. With Bronson’s adept storytelling, “Easy Rider” is a beautifully constructed composition that rappers and musicians should aspire to on their work. If all that sounds like hyperbole, just watch the video. Everything Action Bronson does is over the top, yet his music is rooted in organic sounds. This could’ve been the soundtrack to some French indie flick in the 70s. Instead this could be the future of rap music. Actually this says what I want to say much more succinctly. @ActionBronson just dropped the 2014 "November Rain" on cats. — Christopher L. Inoa (@TatteredFedora) August 20, 2014 “Easy Rider” is out now. The album, which I hope is called Mr. Wonderful, will be out later....

Les Sins – “Bother”...

Full disclosure: Les Sins is Toro Y Moi is Chaz Bundick. Les Sins is his four-by-four dance production project. Ya know, because artists need to breathe and manifest ideas outside their prescribed genre. And I’ll assume he’s a little like me; he doesn’t want his dance gravy bleeding into his indie rock steak. Sure steak and gravy sound great together, but some flavors deserve their own palate. Now I’m fucking hungry. “Bother” holds down a head-bobbing, body-moving groove until a stunning hallelujah moment straight out of a sci-fi version of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Actually, Chaz has been experimenting a lot with his dance production, but this is the first single off a new album, Brother, to be released soon. Let’s go already! (OnSmash/Carpack...

THURZ feat. Kelsey Bulkin – “Perfect Words” Aug19

THURZ feat. Kelsey Bulkin – “Perfect Words”...

THURZ has made one of those breezy LA rap songs that have typically served as a counterpoint to the LA gangsta rap sound. I guess the upset should be that newcomer (to me), Kelsey Bulkin, is singing the hook instead of Jhene Aiko, who might finally be big enough to let work like this slide. The track is nice enough. THURZ’s nasal delivery and slice-of-life lyrics are nice enough. This is a coffeehouse rap-sung collaboration. It’s perfect for your playlist if you have a bunch of saditty or uptight adults in the room, but you still gotta hear some rap. After listening to recent offerings from burgeoning stars like Vince Staples, Que, Travi$ Scott, and Joey Bada$$, THURZ has more work to do to break through with laidback style. The “Perfect Words” single is available on iTunes. Blood on the Canvas is coming soon....

Vince Staples – “Blue Suede” Aug19

Vince Staples – “Blue Suede”...

Who is Vince Staples? I should’ve wrote about him 6 months ago after his excellent single, “Nate,” dropped but somehow, someway forces conspired against me. Here’s the video. This is coming off his work with Mac Miller, another well-received mixtape, and two excellent collaborations with Earl Sweatshirt on the Doris album. Then came Common’s release of Nobody’s Smiling, and Vince is featured on the lead single, “Kingdom.” Yet with all this foreshadowing and preparation, Vince Staples has dropped an aggravated, visceral opus of musique concrete. The lazy comparisons to Kendrick Lamar should be flowing in, but while K-Dot felt like raw product molded into a gem, Vince already feels like a complete package ready to be unleashed. Natural flow. Complex internal rhymes structure. A clear voice that cuts through the ominous beat. He is definitely an emcee in the “move the crowd” mode. Time for Vince Staples to step into his spotlight....

Travi$ Scott feat. Big Sean and The 1975 – “Don’t Play” Aug19

Travi$ Scott feat. Big Sean and The 1975 – “Don’t Play”...

Travi$ Scott (last time I use the dollar sign) is one of the few new rappers who understand that the visuals are just as important as the audio. When he dropped “Quintana” on the world, it felt like less of a song and more of a full frontal sensory assault. The record felt like it had acts instead of verses. “Upper Echelon” was similar; you knew was Travis Scott was not on some regular rap ass shit. For his new single reworking The 1975’s “M.O.N.E.Y.” to death and featuring Big Sean on the second verse, Travis is overworking the harpsichord over some 808s and trap cymbals (that’s my term. i don’t know what drums are what). This single is off his new mixtape, Days Before Rodeo, and Travis Scott’s official album, Rodeo, will be out soon. (OnSmash) P.S. Who is that...

BOY/FRIEND feat. Fat Tony and Tom Cruz – “Ride Slowly” Aug18

BOY/FRIEND feat. Fat Tony and Tom Cruz – “Ride Slowly”...

First things first about BOY/FRIEND (aka Shan Poo), when he stays inside that sultry love lane, he is winning everyday. I may have seen the name, but this is the first time I’ve heard of him. That track is 6 months old and is already timeless in my eyes. The fact that he looks like filmmaker friend, Walter, makes BOY/FRIEND even more compelling. Although I’ve grown up among very capable Asian folks who can really sing, it’s still a shock yet heartwarming to see an Asian dude sing R&B on a national, albeit independent, level. However, for the sonic jambalaya BOY/FRIEND is serving up on the “Ride Slowly” record, it has literally taking multiple back-to-back listens for me to divorce the parts I don’t like (the intro rap with an unfortunate Fred Durst namecheck) from the parts I do like (any part when Shan Poo is singing). Time to retcon my knowledge by downloading his previous releases and listen with open ears while wishing I could be considered Va$htie‘s dream man. [EDIT: Dude likes Girls over Game of Thrones…/sideeye] (The...

Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off” Aug18

Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”...

First things first, Taylor Swift‘s single, “Shake It Off,” is a hit. Can’t front. Moving on. Because I’m not a music theory guy or a real music critic, just some dude killing time to talk about music and looking for new angles. Here’s how I found out about this single. Country and Pop weren't enough for Taylor Swift. Now she has to invade Rap #ShakeItOff http://t.co/bzNgHWilwB pic.twitter.com/XIbC2dFBMm — OnSMASH (@OnSMASH) August 18, 2014 OnSmash is one of my primary rap resources which will extend out to pop culture topics. I will say this is not a shitty Manning brothers rap or Iggy Azalea retread. Then on the other side is the money quote from some country music blog Google found for me. “The song is an uptempo pop song that will do nothing to appease her country music fans.” I can’t speak for country fans, but this ain’t “going back to her country roots.” I made an analogous statement about Common’s new album, Nobody’s Listening, being a very Chicago “street” album. However, Common has never been a gritty rapper, just an honest one whose hometown is really going through terrible shit. Taylor Swift is 24-25 whatever years old. Her love life, the songs she writes about her love life, and unfathomable way she manages to maintain a wholesome All-American image are the tentpoles of the Taylor Swift machine. As I have learned from her dustup (ha!) with Kanye West, her fans are ravenous, so I will say it again: “Shake It Off” is a great pop record. It will dominate the autumn. But this is not an urbanized version of Taylor Swift nor a complete rejection of the country-pop genre she propped up. I see this single as an evolutionary step for a woman...

G-Unit (Buck, Kidd Kidd, 50 Cent) – “Ah Shit” Aug18

G-Unit (Buck, Kidd Kidd, 50 Cent) – “Ah Shit”...

RIP Eric Garner RIP Michael Brown RIP Ezell Ford It’s open season on Black men and the cops are hunting....

Que feat. 2 Chainz – “Rich Problems” (prod. by DJ Mustard) Aug18

Que feat. 2 Chainz – “Rich Problems” (prod. by DJ Mustard)...

With a lot of rappers like Que, standing out from the crowd of similar voiced rappers with similar subject matter may be feel like an impossible victory. You can hook up with the producers of the moment. You can pay exorbitant cash for an A-List feature delivering a B-List verse. You can write that impossible hook that will infiltrate the minds of listeners. The field will always be crowded, and talent is not a limiting factor. But my belief is that “Rich Problems” can stand alongside today’s trap records and strip club anthems. Que’s raspy voice can create space for him as a unique voice in this rap game. He’s two-for-two after the release of his last single, the slow burner “Standout” featuring the hottest rap vocalist now, Ty Dolla $ign. Que’s new mixtape, “Can You Digg It” will be out August 19. That’s tomorrow! (This Is...

Charli XCX – “Break The Rules” Aug18

Charli XCX – “Break The Rules”...

Is Charli XCX’s “Break The Rules” the record that finally breaks through and properly introduces her as a major pop star? Doubtful. The track is too good. The hook is catchy. Charli’s voice is still youthful but powerful. But the production is not pop, it’s pink punk pop (I think that’s how Buzzfeed…yeah fucking Buzzfeed… described it). I don’t wanna go to school. I just wanna break the rules. Boys and girls across the world Putting on our dancing shoes, Going to the discotheque Getting high and getting wrecked. I don’t wanna go to school. I just wanna break the rules. Sure there are classic trap and drop elements in the song, but I feel like this song could’ve been a hit in the 90s and 00s. I want this song to succeed. I want Charli XCX to succeed; she has talent for days. But in the jaded world of 2014, Charli’s pink anarchy anthem will likely need a supplementary boost from a commercial outlet. Or maybe I’m just out of touch and that goofy cancer movie she wrote a song for will propel Charli XCX to pop stardom. That would be nice....

Your Old Droog – “Sleepers…” Aug18

Your Old Droog – “Sleepers…”...

First things first, if you ain’t familiar with Your Old Droog, do yourself forever and start on his Soundcloud. I’ll wait. . … ….. ……. . … ….. …….still waiting . … ….. …….he’s pretty fucking good, right . … ….. ……. Now he’s got himself a track from another rapper who probably understands a lot of the pitfalls Your Old Droog will encounter in his nascent rap career. Personally I am not a fan of Mac Mi… errrrr Larry Fisherman’s organ-driven menacing minimalist beat. Here’s a chance for a collaboration that could actually net some dividends because of the accompanying star power, but this track ain’t for anybody but the most independent of rap heads. YOD’s still attacks the beat but not with the gusto of “No Message” or “Free Turkey.”...

Kwabs – “Walk” Aug17

Kwabs – “Walk”...

What do I know about Kwabs? Pretty much what Okayplayer has told me. And then what Okayplayer told me again. Then after distilling it all down to “he’s a Black British R&B dude” I see he’s a contemporary of Grey Worm AKA Raleigh Ritchie. (What you didn’t know the captain of the Unsullied could sing so well? And while hasn’t he unleashed his dulcet tones on Missandrei? And when is Season 5 of Game of Thrones dammit?!!!) I digress. And I disagree with the commenters. “Walk” may not have the gravity of Kwabs’s previous single, “Pray For Love,” but here the emotion is everlifting and vital. This is put-the-battery-in-your-back music. I can fuck with that. Eventually “Walk” will be on iTunes, but his other work including “Pray for Love” by Kwabs is available....

Nicki Minaj – “Pills N Potions” / “Anaconda” Aug17

Nicki Minaj – “Pills N Potions” / “Anaconda”...

This summer Nicki Minaj has release two diametrically opposed tracks leading up to the release of her album, The Pink Print. “Pills N Potions” is a pensive letter to someone who causes great pain but more love for her. While “Anaconda” is her ratchet, pop-rap anthem devoted to her ass. The thought that both these records will share space under the same album is amazing. On the same album will be Nicki at her most visceral, martial, and combative. You could say the first 3 singles were so Nicki could reclaim her status as lyricist back on par with her verse on “Monster” while the last 2 singles are keep her broader audience. What bothers me is extreme novelty of “Anaconda” following the probing earnest of “Pills N Potions” and how people reconcile the two tracks. Nicki has built her image on her beauty, her body, her rapping ability, and her pop sensibility. It’s one thing to make it pass the hip hop community after “Super Bass” but to do it again after “Starships” is a triumph. Those songs may work for a pop audience but are rap poison, but here Nicki is. It really shows how starving Hip Hop is for a female MC to transcend. “Pills N Potions”...