Mic Drop: Get on the Floor or Get in Your Bag

Mic Drop: Get on the Floor or Get in Your Bag

Leon Bridges – “Motorbike”
Leon Bridges – “Motorbike”
Screenshot: YouTube

Congratulations! You’ve made it through another week and are headed into a weekend that—at least in New York—will be what one calls “in the streets” weather. You know, where you’re out and about and drinking by 11 am. A summertime warm-up, if you will. But what will you listen to, you ask? Well, you’re in luck, since artists dropped banger-on-banger-on-banger on us this weekend—even if some of them sound like they were made to chill.

But who doesn’t need a chill track or two to keep things balanced? Emerging R&B superstar Diamond White delivers a “slow and mellow” R&B track that mixes spacey and ambient noise with crystal clear vocals. Another set of clear and “holy shit” vocals this week comes from Pricie on her track “Friendzone” featuring Genesis Owusu. On the flip side, Jelani Aryeh gives us what I believe is the epitome of summer songs—an upbeat, indie pop/rock track that has you in your bag and on the dance floor.

It is May 14, the date of the infamous and long-awaited drop of J. Cole’s latest album. Everyone had a lot of feelings about the release with questions of what it would sound like, who it would feature, and if it would feature anyone…but to quote Senior Editor of VSB, Panama Jackson:

I have no idea if this new album will have features, but I predict and hope it doesn’t. Why? Because if it doesn’t, it will go platinum. Why do I predict this? Because all of J. Cole’s albums with (or without) features, go platinum. But mostly because I hope that J. Cole cares as much as the internet does about ensuring that one of the absurd reasons that his fans think he’s the GOAT (or at least one of them), is that when Cole drops a featureless album that goes platinum, his fans can all proclaim—both jokingly and seriously—that Cole went platinum with no features.

It doesn’t have any features, so place your bets on whether or not it goes platinum.

While you’re deciding whether or not to put money down on J. Cole’s impending platinum/double platinum status... check out some of the other tracks released this week.

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Diamond White – “Secondhand”

Diamond White – “Secondhand”

We might have taken the monochrome trend too far. At least, Diamond White seems to think so. Trapped in a beige world where her attempts at escape are thwarted by her own perception of reality, she finds herself ripping through her own body in order to be free. The very spacey and ambient song has varied drum lines that do a really good job of cutting through each section of the song and making strong transitional changes. Her hope to create “a man from something secondhand” can be interpreted as both a man or just a human being as she tries to recreate herself in a world of monochromatic repetition.

May 13, 2021, Independent (R&B)

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Elaine – “Right Now”

Elaine – “Right Now”

Why is it that regardless of how much time you spend healing, the guy who left you on read comes back just as you’re rounding that final corner towards truly being over him? Elaine sits lavishly on her poolside couch and demands to know why a man wants her to “come over right now” as if she hadn’t been working on getting over him since the last time he sent a text like that. Her voice holds a dark sensuality that fits so perfectly with the genre. Her harmonies blend seamlessly with the baseline melody and the way the instrumentals shift echo the changes she goes through throughout the song.

May 14, 2021, Columbia (R&B)

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J. Cole – “Hunger on Hillside”

J. Cole – “Hunger on Hillside”

Ah, yes. We’re back with the burning basketball hoop and glitching string instrument. “Hunger on Hillside” is the last song on Cole’s drop The Off-Season. There’s a lot more singing on this track than his other ones. As I mentioned, this is the last song on the 12-track album and I don’t have much to say about it, overall. It was kind of “eh” but I did enjoy this last track and the interlude he released last week. It feels like the music we’ve heard from him before. Am I still going to blast it through the rest of the weekend? Absolutely.

May 14, 2021, Dreamville, Inc., Under exclusive license to Roc Nation Records (Hip Hop)

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Jelani Aryeh – “From These Heights”

Jelani Aryeh – “From These Heights”

I don’t know what it is, but Jelani Aryeh’s new release “From These Heights” feels like summer to me. This track belongs in the backing track of a beach montage scene or a bunch of kids running around the city in the summer. Melodically, the song has a very happy sound; however, as all great artists do, Aryeh is able to speak on real feelings. “It’s a battle inside/ I’ve never felt so far from something in my life.” The intro builds with a wave-like crescendo and crashes into the bassline, simple but very catchy, then moving into the quiet complexity of the drums and guitar. “From These Heights” has a duality between the melody and the theme and tone of the lyrics—making the song more complicated as it falls into more than one mood or genre.

May 14, 2021, No Matter (Indie Pop/Rock)

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Jorja Smith – “Bussdown (feat. Shaybo)”

Jorja Smith – “Bussdown (feat. Shaybo)”

Jorja is the snake-charmer of vocals. Change my mind. Within the first minute alone, she gives four different vocal and harmonic lines and effortlessly slips into her silky cadence for the rest of the song. Her harmonies are chilling—in a beautiful way. It’s well known that she has a wide vocal range but this song really shows how much she can do and how her arrangements work. Shaybo’s South Londoner rap flow melts into Smith’s vocals. The rhythm falls somewhere between the reggae and merengue genres with slow beats that speed up on the turns—making it easy to sit back and vibe or get up and dance when this song starts to play.

May 14, 2021, FAMM (R&B)

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Kehlani, T-Pain – I Like Dat

Kehlani, T-Pain – I Like Dat

T-Pain is clearly drawing on new inspiration alongside Kehlani, as the duo create a whole different perspective on “Buy U A Drink.” He keeps the same melody behind the track, but rather than begging Miss Girl to let him buy her a drink (or take her to “a mansion on Wiscansin”) he’s admits he’s completely out of his league with Kehlani and her “boss bitch mentality.” The song is cute. It’s not overly sexy—which both artists are amazing at doing—but the core of it is about being independent, having your own money as a woman and meeting a man who respects that independence.

May 14, 2021, Nappy Boy Entertainment / EMPIRE (Pop)

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Leon Bridges – “Motorbike”

Leon Bridges – “Motorbike”

I don’t have a singular word for what I just watched. I feel betrayed by Bridges and his soulful voice and his beautiful co-star who are living the summer life I want to be living. Until… well… here. You let me know how this heartbreakingly beautiful song and video make you feel and maybe I’ll be able to understand.

May 14, 2021, Columbia (R&B)

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Nicki Minaj – “Seeing Green (feat. Drake, Lil Wayne)”

Nicki Minaj – “Seeing Green (feat. Drake, Lil Wayne)”

Did I take a time machine back to 2009? This trio hadn’t come together to work on a project in a hot sec but the YMCMB stars collaborated on this new track to accompany the release of Minaj’s 2009 mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty that she dropped on fans today. It opens with Wayne’s staccato flow on fairly prophetic lyrics touching on his own feelings of hopelessness during the pandemic. Drake is still rapping about how he’s the best and the richest and how he can pull any woman...and I am here for it. Even though it doesn’t fit his current musical aesthetic, it fits with the idea that the mixtape is supposed to be from 2009. There is a lot of emphasis on the backing vocals and production of the song over the prioritization of who gets to rap the loudest.

*Sighs* Nicki. “I am the star in any room that I stand in.” Yes, you are. “These bitches still my sons.” Yes, we are. While this song doesn’t have the rapid-fire rhymes she was harnessing in 2009, she uses that same power to give an equally powerful message. She also lays out some hard-hitting lyrics about the industry and how the pandemic affected people’s ability to work.

May 14, 2021, Republic Records (Hip Hop)

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Pricie – “Friendzone (feat. Genesis Owusu)”

Pricie – “Friendzone (feat. Genesis Owusu)”

The music in “Friendzone” is jam-packed with incredible instruments making incredible sounds. From the horn section at the end harmonizing with the chorus to the staccato keys and snaps that make up the intro, Pricie knows what she’s doing it. She has a very clear voice that cuts through the noise , with vocals that are naturally in a lower register but flow into the higher register harmonies with ease. It contrasts well with Owusu’s sound, which has a very closed jaw effect; his vocals come through clear but clipped, whereas Pricie’s are broad and open through the whole track.

May 13, 2021, Nice Work (R&B)

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Young Devyn “Act Bad”

Young Devyn “Act Bad”

Young Devyn has been holding her own in 2021, and “Act Bad” only adds to this. This track finds her fast-paced flow juxtaposed with the very “trap bagpipe” sound she has playing in the background. “Act Bad” also a deep bass drum that—when played loud—hits in your chest. The song is a mix of hard rap and aggressive instrumentals that accompany a very flirty tone mostly found in Young Devyn’s vocal delivery.

May 14, 2021, 4th & Broadway / Island Records / Victor Victor (Hip Hop)

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DISCUSSION