The UTM writers pick a handful of the most lit and intriguing tracks from the past 30(ish) days.
Deem Spencer – iwyboft
In the age of rap where everything is lit, Deem Spencer sits in the shadows doing his own thing. It’s these types of artists that emerge without front or fakery, wholly idiosyncratic, that can really capture the imaginations of the xanny-gnashing outcast rap fans. Comparisons are being drawn to Earl Sweatshirt most likely due to the combination of an elegant flow and dejected delivery, but the similarity between the two is really how different they are to everyone else.
‘iwyboft’ is peppered with gentle thuds and shakes that Deem meanders over without pause, addressing the man of a girl he just slept with:
“She said that you be fucking like a beginner, she don’t no longer want you, she want me nigga, I got a lady so I can’t be seen with her, please take her back if you even wanna be with her.”
Looking at Deem (and judging from his other tracks, most notably ‘soap’) he seems like a cerebral kind of guy. How alluring and intriguing it is then, to hear such cognitive dissonance of the beat and him discarding one night stands with such contradictory machismo. He’s steering just clear of revealing who he really is, which makes the desire future full-length debut incredibly compelling.
Big Boi – ‘Kill Jill (ft. Killer Mike & Jeezy)’
‘Kill Jill’ is the noticeably more off-kilter choice of two singles that spearhead the launch of Big Boi‘s upcoming album Boomiverse, with the other being the groove-laden ‘Mic Jack’ featuring Maroon 5‘s sole distinguishable member Adam Levine. Whilst you’ll gleam nothing too conspicuous in the content of its verses, the track’s otherwise sparse production offers up one striking peculiarity – the unmistakeable tones of Hatsune Miku, the bright-eyed face of vocaloid music who appears via an eerie sample from a trance cut composed by EDM producer Aura Qualic.
How exactly is it that Big Boi stumbled upon the wonderful world of vocaloids? Did he fall into a Nico Nico Douga wormhole and spend countless hours listening to assorted Miku arrangements? Is he a closet Project DIVA prodigy? Does he own a handcrafted Miku cosplay? None of these assumptions are likely to be true, but they’re definitely way more fun to picture than whatever the reality might be.
With the welcome additions of long-time OutKast collaborator Killer Mike – who kickstarts his verse with a swagger-infused flow not dissimilar to the one that leads Childish Gambino‘s ‘WORLDSTAR’ – and the quite literally booming voice of trap veteran Jeezy alongside Miku’s spectral warbling, ‘Kill Jill’ carves out a remarkable niche amongst this year’s rap bangers. It might also go down in history as the catalyst for an entire movement of hip-hop domineered by our soon-to-be virtual idol overlords.
Cousin Stizz – Headlock (ft. Offset)
Everybody loves flutes and everybody love Migos, those are the two biggest takeaways from 2017 so far. So, by enlisting the help of the whimsical instrument and a hyped-up Offset, Cousin Stizz is only one repeatable hook away from a true banger, and he pulled it off.
Despite an audible skitter and boom, the instrumental is focused on its centrepiece, a sombre flute hypnotically drawing you in, with the duo tasked with keeping you entertained. Stizz delivers a rhythmic deadpan, blowing his cash on pasta and dropping in self-comparisons to Rick Ross, while Offset fleetingly hops into the track to add some ad-lib assisted adrenaline. At this point, nothing can dethrone the flute as the go-to banger building block.
Higher Brothers – Made in China
The 88rising poster boys are back with another banger, probably 100% backed by the government for its pro-Chinese overtones. ‘Made in China’ revels in the fact that all the best shit is made in China.
Scrying into MaSiWei’s verse, it becomes very apparent that Higher Brothers are proud that China is running shit. Gold chains and watches? Made in China. The greatest sport on Earth, ping pong? Chinese. Buying designer shit for your bitch? That’s prolly made in China too.
Similarly and rather prolifically, Higher Brothers are stealing the means of production to run shit in the rap game, having produced a string of absolute bangers. Consider ‘Made in China’ their Great Leap Forward.
Frank Ocean – Biking ft. Jay Z & Tyler, The Creator
Currently, the world needs healing with copious amounts of Frank Ocean. Thankfully, the formerly reclusive singer has been generous recently with new tracks, and ‘Biking’ is the inarguable standout.
Jay Z proves he really likes bikes by throwing out cycling references during a hazy intro. Frank is the heart of the track, as his delightful voice takes a pensive ride over gentle acoustic guitar and a warm synth drone. Tyler, the creator perfectly judges the mood with a cool calm as he stunts with wheelies (“one wheel, one wheel”) in a meditative verse. Finally, Frank closes the track by swearving off course with an uncharacteristic, but still restrained, shout.
Joji – I Don’t Wanna Waste My Time
Filthy Frank isn’t for everyone. He definitely isn’t popular at UTM, but the man behind the garbage persona is also a music producer, and a fucking good one at that.
Producing under the name Joji, George Miller presents a completely different side to himself. He had previously released ‘Medicine’, an introspective chop up of the lyrics from Daughter’s ‘Medicine’ to sound out “Don’t be what you want to” instead of the original “you can still be what you want.”
‘I Don’t Wanna Waste My Time’ has an equally anxious tone, but this time directed towards relationship troubles. The deflating chord progression lends to the grander sense of a man who wants to know what he wants, but is holding himself back.
As much as Filthy Frank and Pink Guy are abscesses on the arse of the internet, it’s doubtful that Joji would have gotten the exposure without having those alter egos – and perhaps they are the reason for such conflicted, anxious and beautiful songs.
P Money, & Pharoah – Like Dem Man ft. Hyde
With the winning trifecta of UK drill newcomer Pharoah’s xan’d out drawl, Novelist’s up and coming production and bars from P Money – ‘Like Dem Man’ is a banger on paper and in practice.
Showing just how far he’s come as a producer since his earliest dalliances as a member of the Square – Novelist’s slapping production job perfectly drill/road rap/grime synergy. But it’s The King, The Originator, P fucking Money who really shells down.
Supported by on point star wars references – and with an appearance silver grilled gully flow alter ego Hyde – P Money steals the show, shelling the entire track down with not one, but two flows. Fuck Skepta he’s deadout, in 2017 P Money is the king of grime.
Mez – Normal Shoe
Having put Nottingham on the map over the past twelve months with the attention-grabbing energy in his flow, and three EPs, Mez has returned in 2017 with ‘Normal Shoe’.
The production by Diamondz stands out immediately, crisp hit-hat and snare beats; a kick drum with punch and depth, then the offbeat cowbell that adds a cool samba tone along with a piano bassline that makes it a really lively instrumental. Mez has a unique, entertaining, bouncy flow and ‘Normal Shoe’ shows it at peak performance.
Mez’s mad style and lyrical content adds to the chilled IDGAF air he carries: “Come to the rave looking like Gold Medalist with Kurt Angle Boots on and I don’t wear no Louboutin/Only got normal shoes on.” Mez is smashing it.
GOOD INTENT – ‘DIAMOND’
2016 was a statement of – ahem – good intent for Good Intent. Following years of honing his craft and serving up remixes of Migos, Ariana Grande and Drake hits, the Washington-based producer released his first collection of originals under the moniker – the understated EP The Sada Project and ‘Some More’, a collaboration with Yung Shonen that name-checks the renowned producer tag of the infallible Metro Boomin and was certainly a radio smash in some parallel world if unjustly not this one.
This year’s initial offering from Good Intent comes in the form of ‘Diamond’, a self-curated infusion of mellowed R&B elements in a trap-flavoured punch. Comfortably asserting his presence as a vocalist – his performance striking up comparisons to Father and his patented brand of dreamy one half Red Bull, one half NyQuil flows – alongside demonstrating his versatility as a producer, the malleable essence of the track begs the question as to where he’ll be headed next. The likelihood that whichever path he takes will lead to success is pretty damn high, though.