Playlists SOTW

Song of the Week: July – August 2018

Featuring: Blood Orange, Jungle and Freddie Gibbs

One new song a week, every week. Peep below for the full playlist, as well as a quick breakdown of each track:

August 27, 2018: “Orlando” by Blood Orange

First impressions are everything. “By Ourselves,” the opening track from Blood Orange’s 2016 album, Freetown Sound, introduces Dev Hynes’ R&B masterpiece with a swell of dark vocals, free jazz and impassioned slam poetry. The song feels dramatic and grandiose, setting up not just the record’s tone, but also its weighty, high-concept ambitions.

On, Negro Swan, Hynes’ latest album, we get an entirely different welcome. “By Ourselves” gave us a tour of the house as soon as we got there, but “Orlando” is a more laid-back host, opting instead to take our coat, pour us some wine and settling us down onto a comfy couch in the family room. The opening track is a sugary-sweet R&B groove with a simple, sleepy drum beat that lulls into a state of funky relaxation—perfectly ready to soak in the album that lies ahead.

August 20, 2018: “BLACKJACK” by Aminé

Is it possible to have 350 million streams and still be underrated? If you’re Aminé, the answer is definitely yes. The 24-year-old became a Spotify Godzilla when he dropped “Caroline” in 2016, but—despite some Billboard chart buzz and a XXL Freshman Class nod—he’s mostly failed to reach the same level of viral superstardom.

You know who else is underrated? Jack Black. On “BLACKJACK,” a two-minute adrenaline rush of a track from his new ONEPOINTFIVE mixtape, Aminé invokes the Kung Fu Panda on more than one occasion, finally asking listeners a simple question: “How could you not like Jack Black?” The line is as poignant and reflective as anything referencing the star of Nacho Libre can be, and also begs the follow-up: how could you not like a rapper who raps about Jack Black?

August 13, 2018: “Hash Pipe” by Toto

There’s nothing quite like the exhaustive, frighteningly powerful force of a meme run wild. It’s one thing for internet culture to enact real world change (see: our reality), but it takes real tenacity to see that an online joke is pushed completely to its logical end.

It’s for that sort of effort that we owe Weezer fans—and Weezer themselves, for that matter—a big, ’80s-style high five. After months of Twitter campaigning, the band finally caved to the pressure and finally released its own cover of Toto’s “Africa” in May. Now, Toto has responded with an assurance that this joke can absolutely not be taken any further, putting out their official version on Weezer’s 2001 hit “Hash Pipe” over the weekend. The reversal is an expected move, but it’s a beautiful, synth-drenched, guitar-shredding expected move, so that’s OK.

August 6, 2018: “WHO? WHAT!” by Travis Scott (feat. Quavo & Takeoff)

When Travis Scott dropped the credits for his new album last week, it almost felt like a joke. ASTROWORLD, the Houston native’s third album, seemed like a parody a record—an obnoxious, no-holds-barred collab-fest of exactly the sort of feature-heavy music Scott has long been criticized for leaning on.

But then the project dropped, and it…was…good? More Avengers: Infinity War than Justice League, the album shines through its diverse ensemble cast, all while giving Scott the chance to showcase his own vision and decision-making. “WHO? WHAT!,” which is almost just a Migos track, is one of the best decisions on the entire record: the song sets the table, brings out the fine china and lets Quavo and Takeoff feast.

July 30, 2018: “Heavy California” by Jungle

Jungle isn’t into rocking the boat. The London-based soul group, whose self-titled debut came out more than four years ago, found a formula for success that they have zero problems with applying over and over again.

And that’s not an issue at all—especially when that formula is so, so right. “Heavy, California,” the latest single from the band’s upcoming record (called For Ever, and due out September 14), is a relentless, big-band groove from start to finish. It’s a three-minute track full of charming falsettos and airtight guitar flourishes that splash around between explosive choruses and head-bobbing breakdowns. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

July 23, 2018: “I Might Need Security” by Chance the Rapper

Pusha-T may have revived the art of rap beef, but Chance turned it into a science. “I Might Need Security,” the best of Chano’s new, four-song release, is sophisticated, politically astute and intellectually piercing—it’s like if The New Yorker released a diss track. 

Over a beat that is literally just a repetition of the words “f*** you,” Chance flexes his political aptitude just as much his lyrical prowess, calling out Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and even announcing his purchase of a local media outlet.

July 16, 2018: “1999 WILDFIRE” by BROCKHAMPTON

There’s an incredible, two-second scene from “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” where Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge, after a year of denying Lord Voldemort’s return, finally sees the dark wizard firsthand. Fudge, supposedly the magical world’s most powerful figurehead, had ignored all of the signs, dispelled all of the evidence and is ultimately flabbergasted when he learns the truth.

For anyone denying BROCKHAMPTON’s meteoric rise over the past year, this is your Fudge-Voldemort moment. The group released three mixtapes (containing a total of 48 songs!) over in 2017, then returned this summer with “1999 WILDFIRE,” which is possibly the group’s most catchiest and most melodically mature song yet. All other rappers beware—hip-hop’s most powerful force is only getting stronger.

July 9, 2018: “Better” by SG Lewis x Clairo

He’s one of London’s most in-demand DJs. She writes electropop songs about Cheetos. It may sound like some awful, “opposites attract” rom-com from the early 2000s, but it’s actually the recipe behind the summer’s best dance record.

Like nearly every movie in Hugh Grant’s IMDb catalog, it’s the story of a pairing that looks wrong at first, but will really have you in your feelings by the end. Clairo’s relaxed, half-asleep vocals absolutely float their way through SG Lewis’ electro-funk beat, which fizzes, sizzles and pops like a shaken-up can of musical orange soda.

July 2, 2018: “Weight” by Freddie Gibbs

From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to the Russian national team to Lance Stevenson, it was a great week to be an underdog. Rap music was no different: while Drake underwhelmed fans with a 25-song exercise in musical perseverance, Freddie Gibbs came through with the weekend’s best rap record.

Gibbs’ fifth album, Freddie, is a shockingly brisk display of swagger and technical ability that feels sort of like watching John Wick fight 50 guys at once while still managing to keep his tie completely straightened. “Weight,” the album’s first and most focused track, is nothing but raw power—it’s aggressive, lyrically crisp and full of brags like: “In love with the paper, took my money on a date.”

Photo: Jerry and Pat Donaho/Flickr

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