This summer’s Freshman Class, XXL’s annual selection of the best new MCs, has been one of that publication’s most well-received selections in years, and I can’t say I disagree. This week’s best songs roundup features one MC you may have read about in this space before (Rico Nasty), and one newcomer to the playlist as well (YBN Cordae).
Lori McKenna – “Stealing Kisses”
McKenna crafts Nashville hits as her day job, which has funded her nice little cottage industry as a solo singer-songwriter over the years. Now she’s re-recorded two tracks from her 2004 album Bittertown, and the sharper of the pair even more accurately conveys the sound of quiet middle-aged desperation slowly raising its voice than she did 15 years ago.
Sherman’s Showcase feat. Ne-Yo – “Time Loop”
Admit it: You’ve been waiting for years for Ne-Yo to explain time travel. The theme song to this bizarre John Legend-backed TV project, a send-up of ’70s variety shows that I’m a little terrified of investigating further, has finally made it happen.
Tegan and Sara – “I’ll Be Back Someday”
Power-pop is a by-the-numbers genre, where you don’t expect musicians to discover new tricks but instead delight in the individual flair with which they navigate from one familiar component to the next. So sure, you’ve heard that insistent guitar chug build up to that double-timed chorus like this before. But never exactly like this.
DJ Shadow and De La Soul – “Rocket Fuel”
Maybe my Gen X is showing, but I’m happy to hear the beloved rap trio join together this energetically with production and (of course) scratching from their fellow old-timer. They achieve liftoff, reach a cruising altitude, and touch back down, all in 3:14.
Rico Nasty – “Time Flies”
In this post-genre age of all-too-infinite possibility, why shouldn’t a breakout MC try her hand at bedroom trap-pop? If the colorful but far-from-static synth beds intimate vulnerability, Rico is no less brash here for being more melodic than usual. Like she says, “I wouldn’t want to be anyone else,” and she isn’t.
YBN Cordae ft. Anderson .Paak – “RNP”
On this standout track from Cordae’s terrific studio debut, The Lost Boy, .Paak comes off as a badass with more personality than he usually exhibits, a perfect foil for the MC’s over-the-top high-rolling romp.