Musicians seem to be taking fall even harder than usual this year.
At a seasonal moment when I don’t particularly need any encouragement to stay in bed (and I don’t mean that in a sexy way) the critically championed sounds I heard this week were mostly drowsy downers, So I reached further back into the past month for a few up-up-UP rap singles I hadn’t spent enough time with.
Let’s all rage against the dying of the light, motherfuckers.
TNGHT – “Serpent”
The production team of Hudson Mohawke and Lunice return from a six-year hiatus with a hyper bit of electronic mayhem that features (real or simulated) steel drums, a momentary appearance of a vocal resembling an Auto-Tuned kazoo, and all sorts of screeches and skitters. More than anything happening in the broader pop world today, this track reminds me of Congotronics, the mid-00s Kinshasa scene that split the difference between trance and ruckus with junkyard percussion and modified thumb-pianos (and whose spirit lives on with the great Kokoko!). This is even more riotous though. Maybe all producers should sit out half a decade?
DaBaby – “Intro”
When I’m listening to DeBaby, all I want to hear is DaBaby. His second album this year, Kirk, ping-pongs with an enthusiasm equal to the bob-and-weave showcase Baby on Baby, and even as the Atlanta rapper gets introspective here, mourning his late father and celebrating his success, he delights in his ricochet flow without being smug about his skills.
NLE Choppa – "Camelot"
The high-energy Memphis rapper who made his name with “Shotta Flow” earlier this year rhymes hard and fast again over a one-handed piano hook I can’t shake and a hectic flow that makes him come across like a one-man army. And though I wish he’d find a new hobby, he does make shooting people sound very exciting. POW!
Vagabon – “Water Me Down”
Downtempo electronic-indie is plentiful (and overrated) but the unsparing self-analysis and psychological accuracy of Laetitia Tamko’s lyrics elevates her above the poetry and dramatic flourishes her stylistic peers prefer. “Never meant to be you/Never meant to be me/Never meant to be us” offers simple Insight into romantic regret; “I'll take my time, next time/And I'll do it right” inches realistically toward hope. And the track's flutey keyboards and eventual bass gallop have an equal emotional range,
Sampa the Great – “Freedom”
I slept on this Afro-Australian rapper till she dropped The Return last month. This track recreates the lush yet claustrophobic mood of ’70s soul and entices a choir to interject the title phrase, an ideal fit for the wary self-determination of her precisely edged delivery.
Slayyyter – “Alone”
There aren’t enough x’s in “extra” to describe the plastic pliance of this tryhard electrobabe, whose self-titled full-length dropped this month. This single was actually released toward the end of 2018, but it was the first I heard of her, thanks to the mysteries of the algorithm, and it still smokes everything else of hers I sampled. If Britney’s singles had stiffed and she’d gone underground with some arty drum ‘n’ bass veterans—well, it wouldn’t really have sounded like this at all, but it’s fun to pretend anyway.
Every week, music editor Keith Harris scours the vast musicscape for six worthy tracks to add to City Pages' ever-expanding 2019 playlist.