Welcome back to The Abbreviator, a short, monthly breakdown of the musicians who are demanding our attention
In my past intros for this column, I’ve talked a lot about the power of brevity. You know what’s better than talking, though? Showing.
That’s why I’m keeping it short this week: instead of wasting 300-plus words explaining why shortness is so fantastic, I’m just going to do it. Short, sweet and to-the-point. That’s The Abbreviator motto, and it’s about time to start living by it. Let’s do it.
Description: An Asian boy band for the Soundcloud rap age.
Why They Matter: Higher Brothers are the face of Chinese hip-hop right now. Their bilingual lyrics are infectious, and their style melds seamlessly with an era in which American rap prioritizes raw confidence and aesthetics more than anything.
Must-Listen Track: “Lover Boy 88”
Description: The R&B equivalent of a hot shower that’s run so long the steam is starting to leak out from underneath the bathroom door.
Latest Material: Ramping up for the release of her debut album, Lennox has put out five singles—including a song for the Creed II soundtrack—in the past month.
Why She Matters: Ari Lennox is an R&B completist. Her lyrics and as vulnerable as they are confidently sensual, her voice is totally commanding and her instrumentals sound like the sort of music especially reserved for driving to and from a late night booty call. Her debut album will probably find its way onto every post-breakup Spotify playlist in America.
Must-Listen Track: “Whipped Cream”
Description: An art-pop mastermind with an old school hip-hop resume.
Latest Material: Broken Politics, just the second album Cherry’s released in the past decade, came out last month.
Why She Matters: Neneh Cherry’s 1989 debut, which is actually called Raw Like Sushi, might be the most ’80s album ever made. The opening track alone features at least 40 record scratches, lyrics about crocodile shoes and even a request for the DJ to “give me a beat.” Nearly 30 years later, Cherry’s career is totally transformed: she’s spent three decades exploring every genre under the sun, and it’s all culminated into her latest record, which is a beautifully experimental, impressively multi-instrumental masterpiece.
Must-Listen Track: “Fallen Leaves”
Description: If Stevie Nicks was born 35 years later, and lived in the Smoky Mountains.
Latest Material: Her latest single, “Play Nice” dropped this Friday.
Why She Matters: Being pegged as traditional isn’t normally a compliment in modern music, but in Gudasz’s case its the highest praise there is. The North Carolina-born singer feels nostalgic in a powerful, reassuring way, delivering her own spin on country, folk rock and Americana through the filter of her perfectly serene voice.
Must-Listen Track: “Somewhere a Judge”
Description: If a leaky faucet and an 808 machine had an incredibly well-behaved love child.
Latest Material: Booker produced a handful of the tracks on Smino’s latest album, NOIR.
Why He Matters: No one understands controlled chaos like Monte Booker. The Chicago producer’s beats are noise first, and music second: his drum loops bounce, drip and clank their way around gorgeous bass lines, creating a truly iconic sound that’s helped define the careers of blossoming rap stars like Noname and Smino.
Must-Listen Track: “FENTY SEX”