The UTM writers pick a handful of the most lit and intriguing tracks from the past 30(ish) days.
James Blake – If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead
This glitchy, weird nonsense wouldn’t be anywhere near my ears if it wasn’t James Blake’s name on it. It’s pretty obvious how much faith we place in James Blake that something that sounds like an old CD player on its last legs can be regarded as innovative and awe-inspiring.
The track shifts back and forth in some alternate reality and the vocals jitter like a early 2000s dial-up connection, but for a track seemingly all over the place, it has a surprisingly soothing overall effect. It’s really what James Blake excels at as a producer, capturing in sound the feeling of calm within chaos, and it’s why we keep our faith in his output.
Kali Uchis – After The Storm ft. Tyler, The Creator, Bootsy Collins
On Flower Boy, Tyler, The Creator prided himself on bringing in a plethora of exceptional vocalist to convey his melancholic introspection, with few standing out as Kali Uchis whose breathy sensitivity matched the delicate nostalgia of the track. With additional blessing from funk legend Bootsy Collins, ‘After The Storm’ plays out like a sequel that re-establishes the magical chemistry the duo share.
Awash with synth splashes and carried by slinky bass, that unmistakable BADBADNOTGOOD instrumental groove is there, a backing worthy of Kali’s hypnotically inquisitive vocals. Tyler ensures that the new path he established with Flower Boy hasn’t been derailed, self-referencing (Cause I’m the hottest flower boy/That popped up on the scene) with his atypical gruff cool.
Khary – 4AM Thirst Ballad
In the current climate of hip hop today, there’s an empty void that Rhode Island’s Khary feels almost destined to occupy. His words always provoke thought and evoke vivid imagery, a quality many heads assume lost in the never-ending sea of mindless mumble rap. His ear for beats, flows and melodies is impeccable, an intrinsic songwriting talent a lot of newer rap fans dissociate with rappers who get labelled things like ‘conscious’ or ‘wordy’. If there was ever going to be a miracle man who could unite the wildly different types of rap fans out there right now, then Khary seems like the prime candidate.
If he was ever going to achieve the aforementioned task, his upcoming debut album Captain would be the vessel for him to do so. Latest single ‘4AM Thirst Ballad’ serves as the pensive counterpart to Khary’s breakout buzz track ‘2AM Thirst Ballad’ – a thrill ride loaded with a frenetic energy mirrored in its lyricism pertaining to opportunistic late night, um, ‘activities’. Penned from the perspective of the woman, thoughts concerning the power dynamics and the fractured state of their relationship drift cautiously over the ambient soundscape sculpted by producer Cloud Atrium. For the most part ‘4AM Thirst Ballad’ revels in its quiet introspection, but the song’s resounding refrain of “you only want me ‘cuz THAT LIQOUR!” pulls double duty as both a stinging punchline and a hugely memorable hook.
Dabrye – Lil Mufukuz ft. DOOM
We’ve been on some up-to-no-good shit recently, listening to 16-year-old rappers lazily mumbling about doing whatever tf they want. We knew it wasn’t the most artistic representation of hip hop, and we all laughed in Joe Budden’s face more times than we can count when he expressed his elderly ass views on modern rap.
Now though, Daddy DOOM is back. It’s all ‘Yes Sir, No Sir’ when he comes back around to whoop everyone back into shape, and we’re reminded that talent trumps fame in his latest feature on Dabrye’s ‘Lil Mufukuz’.
DOOM sternly reprimands “wild ass childish rappers that need the time out,” embarrassing them in front of everybody by belittling their behaviour in the slickest bars that only someone of DOOM’s calibre can pull off.
A lot of ‘oldheads’ get shit for not being with the times, but DOOM is timeless and gets too much respect to not be listened to. So, excuse me while I delete every rapper under the age of 21 called ‘Lil ___’ from my library… I can’t get in trouble again.
LIZ – Queen Of Me
Being a LIZ fan is equal parts pain and pleasure. Her output over the past few years has seemed sporadic and somewhat sparse – although perhaps the crank-it-out mentality of streaming culture is to blame for us feeling that way – but whenever she graces us with the newness you can guarantee it’ll have that bop factor. She’s a devout student of pop throughout the ages, but her current mastery of the craft suggests she should already damn well be the biggest popstar in the world by now.
With ‘Queen Of Me’, her finesse for all things pop has never been clearer. It’s both a luscious throwback back to old skool R&B with its intricate melodies and flourishes as well as a sparkling embodiment of the here and now with its bouncy, blissful production courtesy of the elusive chord maestro Wave Racer. It’s totally cliche to say it, but it sure as hell feels like the crowning achievement of her career thus far.
Good Intent – KOMPRESSOR (ft. Shonen)
There’s something highly poetic about the collaborative arc of the prodigious do-it-all Good Intent and his best pal Shonen. The two artists first struck gold as a duo with ‘Some More’, an infectious banger with a hook riffing on Metro Boomin‘s iconic producer tag delivered by his longtime right hand rapper Young Thug. Two years later, Intent’s own producer tag vocalised by Shonen – “ridin’ round in that Kompressor with my lil’ bro Good Intent” – has become a surefire indicator that the song that follows is gonna be bump-worthy, as well as an undeniable earworm in its own right.
It’s fitting then that the two have launched into the new year with a song name-checking the supercharger at the core of that very tag. Arriving prior to the release of his next project Onodera Valentino – aptly dropping on Valentine’s Day next month – ‘KOMPRESSOR’ oozes with the kind of slickness you’ve come to associate with anything Good Intent puts his name on. With him and his compatriot sounding more confident that ever, 2018 might just be the year they make the move on up to the major leagues of the hip hop circuit.