Whilst June offered some fleeting moments of respite for those whose faith in humanity had been all but shredded to pieces, it still resulted in everybody who isn’t an austerity-loving prick sinking into despair as our beloved prime minister assumedly discovered the ‘infinite bells’ glitch from Animal Crossing and bought her way back into power. But hey, there were still bangers, so let’s end it on a high with some of those.
Young Thug – Relationship (ft. Future)
Although Young Thug ad-libbing “YEE-HAW!” on Beautiful Thugger Girls‘ country-tinged opening track ‘Family Don’t Matter’ is a surreal testament to his disregard for genre boundaries and conventions, it doesn’t quite excuse the fact that his first project of 2017 is yet another middling affair from an artist whose innate talent for hooks and dynamism should safeguard his discography from letting out a single dud.
Even if the erroneous nature of his recent projects is infuriating, however, there’s seldom a feeling greater than when Thug hits the bullseye. ‘Relationship’ sees Thug and Future – the two artists whose warped use of inflection has arguably had the most distinct influence on the current state of hip-hop – come together to lament their women troubles on a power ballad/banger that, had it been released within the time period of 2007 – 2009, would likely have been an astounding commercial success. It’s pained, it’s passionate and it’s got momentous lyricism in the form of lines like “pop an X pill like we Malcolm” and “she suck on my dick/I’m hidin’ in the closet”. Thug’s live shows might be known for their riotous energy, but with ‘Relationship’ he’s earned himself a lighters-up, belt-along anthem beyond compare.
Tyler, The Creator – Who Dat Boy
For an uncomfortably long time, it seemed as though Tyler, The Creator had lost his spark. Tracks from Cherry Bomb like ‘Find Your Wings’ sounded like he’d gone to one of those “pray the gay away” camps and returned brainwashed into believing he’d left his former self behind.
To be fair to him, he couldn’t have continued being the vile, despised hate preacher that Theresa May made him out to be. It was stale, obsolete and untrue. Thankfully, he’s swerved back into his lane and reinvented the abrasiveness that made him an idol, without the brazen naiveite.
‘Who Dat Boy’ is new Old Tyler: the same ill-aligned percussion, horror b-movie synths and DGAF bars; “Fuck global warming, my neck is so frio/I’m currently lookin’ for ’95 Leo”; but with the antagonism directed into the right channels.
He’s brought a friend along for the ride too, and A$AP Rocky sounds like he’s having a blast stepping into Tyler’s world. His verse is the sound of a man amazed with the freedom of living with no constraints of heteronormativity and masculinity, and is consequently his most fun feature to date.
This track is the realisation that Tyler’s got it all. Clothes, art, directing, his own TV show, and now the music has been brought back to the fold. He states, “Fuck the rap, I’m tryna own a planet,” but it’s a bit short sighted. He’s already fashioned a whole creative universe for himself.
Terror Jr – Terrible
With unrelenting rumours of an A-list vocalist amidst their ranks hounding Terror Jr since their inception, the trio’s position as pop’s finest new purveyors of the bop – the elegant, more nuanced sister of the banger – has been criminally overlooked. Whilst the banger’s prowess is only truly felt in an adrenaline-fuelled environment, the bop can sleekly adapt into any setting – Uber, block party, club, Grandma’s house – and still promise that same steady feeling of elation.
With the arrival of the brilliantly-titled Bop City 2: TerroRising, the group continue to adorn their bedazzled bop throne with compelling new additions. ‘Terrible’ initially appears to be a breezy summer serenade, until it quickly sucker punches you with a lyrical lethargy, a sense of inadequacy that stems from Lisa Terror‘s lowly feelings of self-worth. For all its insecurities, however, it still manages to rollick with a charm and intrigue that so many of Terror Jr’s bops proudly possess. After all, “squeeze my ass like a teddy bear” has to take the cake for the most eyebrow-raising opening line of 2017 so far.
Vince Staples – Yeah Right
Of all the tracks on Vince Staples outstanding new album Big Fish Theory (go cop!), ‘Yeah Right’ is the most concerning on paper, due to (in his apparent goal to collaborate with every rapper alive) Kendrick Lamar’s tendency to land on ill-fitting beats and Sophie’s inconsistent record in sharing space with other producers, yet the results are equally destructive and delightful.
The track may provide a moment of calm in Flume and KUČKA’s cameo appearance over a colourful and charming pitch for ‘Smoke and Retribution’ part 2, however the majority of the track centres around sharp production that is unrelenting in its intensity, which the two vastly talented rappers are forced to go to war with.
Vince throws out bars with his trademark blunt scepticism, questioning the reality of the rapper lifestyle “Is your house big? Is your car nice?/Is your girl fine? Fuck her all night?” While Kendrick proves he is comfortable in the weird, as a sparse knock gives way to speaker-wrecking rumbles, as he muses over his unquestionably high stature in the rap game, a combination that is one of the most thrilling moments on Big Fish Theory (don’t forgot to cop!)
67 – First Degree
Whilst the grime scene has begun to die it’s inevitable, oversaturated death, it’s many faces have really been struggling to seem interested in spitting bars. In the midst of grime’s gradual decline – UK drill; grime’s ratchet little cousin, kickstarted by Brixton crew 67 – born of a simultaneous fascination with skengs and a dislike of the opps – has been making huge waves this year.
Whilst one criticism of the current slew of UK rappers fuckin off radio and talking road could be a zooted up lack of dynamism, this isn’t apparent on ‘First Degree’. Combining a cold as fuck beat with hard as fuck flows, and bars still very much telling of the blocks they still step on, 67 have produced one of the hardest UK drill tracks to date, whilst keeping it one hundred percent real.
Whilst YouTube commenter TRAP GOD voiced his concerns on the idea of 67 becoming the new Section Boyz (i.e. lame), don’t worry. ‘First Degree’ is a game changing example of well produced, well thought out, banger-centric UK trap, and evidence of 67 going pro without selling out. We won’t be seeing Drake ham-fistedly attempt to ape LD’s flow anytime soon, thank fuck.
Higher Brothers ft. Jay Park – Franklin
Yes, another Higher Brothers track. Monthly Bangers would not be complete without them. This month we had the choice between ‘WORKIN’ and ‘Franklin’ but ‘WORKIN’ didn’t have DZ on it and it didn’t seem right to exclude everyone’s favourite HB member (affectionately known as Snorlax in the YouTube comments section).
The Higher Brothers seem to be among that perplexing crowd who still play GTA V (there are other games, y’know), but the track itself is fresh and chill – the opposite of what GTA V is. It’s more for driving around Los Santos than doing all the shooting and stealing. The most beautiful human being in the world AKA Jay Park features on the track too, cawing like a bird at the end of his verse. Because he gets birds. As in chicks. As in women.
Putting fever dreams to one side in favour of the pipe variety, Rockstar better do GTA VI in East Asia and give Higher Brothers their own radio station or I’m fuckin’ beatin’ they ass. I’m not fuckin’ playin’ no more.
Tarquin, TSVI & Luru feat. Jammz – Come to the Dance
Following up on an already huge 2017 for himself, Jammz has returned with a UK funky backed banger encouraging everyone at rave to fucking move – precisely what a grime MC should be doing.
Whilst this summer’s Notting Hill-bound UK funky/grime fusion is a little less poetic than Wallwork’s 2016 collab with Nico Lindsay, it doesn’t matter. The tribal thump of the track’s funky backing proves that grime is still music to fuck to, Jammz delivers a stream of perfectly articulated rage toward apathetic clubbers, whilst lowkey encouraging everyone to fucking move.
Fuck middle-class dudes allegedly ruining grime for everyone, it ain’t them – it’s people looking at their phones in the midst of a seminal Mumdance and Logos b2b at Boxed that are really ruining rave for everyone, big up Jammz for calling em out on their bullshit.
2 Chainz – Poor Fool (feat. Swae Lee)
Pretty Girls Like Trap Music cut ‘Pool Fool’ brings together three artists at the top of their game right now, resulting in a sombre yet captivating banger.
2 Chainz is a hysterical presence on most tracks, and while this track is in no way devoid of chuckle worthy bars (“They call me Tity Boi ’cause she used to spoil me”), there’s a harrowing atmosphere as he nostalgically touches on his dad’s death and drug chargers. Mike Will Made It is, of course, a leading producer and he effortlessly shows why, there’s the skitter and bump we expect from trap, but he mostly draws its dark mood from unique, graceful wind chimes.
Of course, we gotta talk about this hook. Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee is killin’ it at crafting earworm hooks right now, and this is yet another example, both tender and intimate, it nails that emotional sweet spot. Catch yourself singing “The streets don’t love you like I do” every goddamn moment of the day from now on.
Sik-K – Party (Shut Down) [ft. Crush]
H.A.L.F marks some changes for Korean rapper-with-some-singing-chops Sik-K. It’s his first project delivered through H1GHR MUSIC, a joint label/promotion initiative from K-pop industry heavy-hitters and frequent collaborators Jay Park and Cha Cha Malone. His artist name is also in hangul – that’s the Korean alphabet, by the way – now on Spotify, which makes this record not only a tad harder to find but is also a logistical nightmare if you want to play his previous material alongside it. That’s a minor inconvenience though – playlists exist for a reason, right?
H.A.L.F is an acronym for Have A Little Fun – which is quite frankly an understatement when it comes to the auditory pleasure that this body of work administers – and no song is a better suitor to show you a good time within the mini album’s tracklisting than ‘Party (Shut Down)’. Produced by the infallible beat architects GroovyRoom, it swings in a lounge-like fashion not too dissimilar from ‘Hotline Bling’ – yet its palpably more au naturel in its composition. With a guest appearance from Crush offering a raspier alternative to Sik-K’s syrupy, sometimes vocoder-laced voice, ‘Party (Shut Down)’ is a tantalising R&B and hip-hop blend that gets sweeter with every taste. We’re down to party, skrrt skrrt.
TOFUKU – 2D Dreaming
Riding on the pixel perfect wave of her previous single ‘Digital Girl’, the all-singing all-producing dynamo TOFUKU wasted no time in dishing up another two dimensional delight with ‘2D Dreaming’ – a song that permeates the pure essence of joy via puffy synths, popping percussion and a few generous helpings of good vibes.
Although ‘2D Dreaming’ doesn’t come packaged with a signature TOFUKU vocal performance, it’s still primed with all the hallmarks of her considerately constructed sonic make-up – captivating and intricate melodies, glitched anime sound-bytes and a cruise-along tempo that makes it the ideal accompaniment for leisurely summer strolls. Or perhaps a virtual escapade in Animal Crossing, if you’d prefer not to venture outside. It even slips in a late game key change which – as any sincere pop lover would attest to – is the biggest power play you can make like, EVER.