While there haven’t been too many great albums released recently, there have been a lot of great singles. So, here are some of my favorite songs that haven’t gotten enough exposure.
The first song is “Life,” by Saba, the rapper who was once featured on Chance the Rapper’s song “Everybody’s Something,” from the latter’s Acid Rap mixtape. Saba is a great artist who only continues to improve, and his last album, Bucket List Project, was a phenomenal listen.
“Life” seems to improve on everything I loved about Bucket List Project. The track starts with a simple, groovy bassline and a loud drum break. Saba jumps in, as he always does, with impeccable flow. He speeds up, slows down, then guns it again, pulling out a double time — never skipping a beat.
The lyrics on this song are deeply personal. Saba goes into detail about the loss of his cousin, the incarceration of family members and the poverty he lived through while growing up in his hometown of Chicago. Saba’s lyrics are straightforward, objective, and yet somehow poetic and powerful.
The next song is “Moonlight” by XXXTentacion. I am not an XXXTentacion fan; if you need proof, please read my review of his last project. Indeed, this new song suffers from almost all of the problems his last album and label debut, 17, did.
Nonetheless, “Moonlight” is one of the most creative songs I’ve heard in a while. The beat is led by tinkling bells that glitch out and rapidly switch pitches. The pounding kick drum compounds the weird harmonies to create an off-kilter, bouncy rhythm. X half-raps, half-sings a catchy hook that fits perfectly on this difficult beat.
Ultimately though, I wish that X took songs like this and developed them more. If he pushed himself to lengthen “Moonlight” with a few more verses, or even a bridge, he could have taken it to even greater heights. Nonetheless, it is still an interesting piece that everyone should check out.
Next is Tobi Lou’s new piece, “Troop.” The artist takes a simple beat, which is just a simple chord progression and a tough drumline, and turns it into a gorgeous, catchy song. This track has barely any structure and yet still works great.
The hook is fun and bouncy. The verses are filled with ridiculous one-liners and fun joke-y lyrics. The way that Tobi Lou sings them works phenomenally. The Smino feature on the track is perfect, particularly considering the melody. If you want to fully enjoy this track, watch the video.
Next is “Khlorine,” one of the most tropical, fun rap songs of the past year. Sango — the Brazilian beatmaker who has been making crazy music in the underground for years now — cooks up a banger in this song. He layers rattling, eccentric drums that kick behind this beautiful melodic soundscape. There are tinkling keys, full synth washes and a subtle rumbling bass.
Smino’s contribution elevates this song to an even higher level; no one else can flow like he does. Smino thrives off these wild switch ups, going from a monotone double time flow, to bursting into melodic themes without any build up or expectation.
Listening to him rap is like being in a car with a driver who doesn’t follow any of the road signs, yet still brings you to your destination without a scratch. It is exciting, unique and engaging. This track just makes me want Baltimore to stop hanging on to the last dregs of winter and let summer come around.
I had never heard of Serious Klein until I heard “91 Flex,” which is one of the craziest, highest energy songs I’ve heard in some time. The beat is the definition of hard; the kick and 808 combination is so loud and banging, that they fill up almost all of the soundscape.
“91 Flex” isn’t like a usual trap song though; the groove is unique. Klein raps with a Vince-Staples-esque flow, grabbing you from his first line with confidence and power. Few pieces of music can make you feel impenetrable. “Dreams and Nightmares” is one such piece; “91 Flex” is another.
Anderson .Paak has done it again. His new song, “Til it’s Over,” is phenomenal. This song is closer to .Paak’s early work — almost like it was plucked off of Venice, his debut album. It seems like there are infinite layers on this song. There are basic synths to back the harmony. There is a powerful bass. There are sparkling marimba-sounding riffs that bounce around.
What makes this song sound so unique is its play with the contrast between maximalism and minimalism. The verses of the song are backed by dense instrumentation, but during the chorus all of the sound dips out except for a wobbling, almost dubstep-inspired synth. This is one of .Paak’s most experimental and unique tracks, and I can’t wait to hear where he goes next.
These are a few tracks that should tide you over until the next wave of summer songs. Hopefully you find some artists you haven’t heard of before. Check out some of their other work as well, because I simply picked my favorite recent song — they all have some great repertoires.