For the genre of hip-hop, the month of March was the month of hype. Hype for the long-awaited arrival of More Life; the Drake playlist that isn’t actually a playlist. Hype for the return of the Gorillaz and the release of four new songs. Hype for new Frank Ocean, which was a phrase never muttered pre-August 2016.
Hype for new album’s from Joey Badass and Logic set to drop in Apr- HYPE FOR KING KENDRICK; APRIL 7TH NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.
Even though most of the hype from March was generated from music that is yet to be released, the month still gave us some great music. Highlighted by projects from Drake and Freddie Gibbs, it seems March is the sign of things to come. Another stellar year in hip-hop is upon us.
Chanel – Frank Ocean
After being deprived of New Frank Ocean for years, it seems like we’re just getting spoiled with a nondescript single. Is it a Blonde throwaway? Is it the first single from an upcoming project? Nobody really knows, but then again, nobody really cares, because we will take all the New Frank Ocean we can get. And this is of the same quality we have come to expect from the man. It’s got a moody atmosphere, with Frank spitting some bars over desolate keys on the first half. The second half doubles down on the singing, features some beautiful moments of solace, and the addicting hook sequence that begins with, “I got newww money, and it’s alllll cash; I got newww bags; and they alll collabs,” is too nice.
Heatstroke – Calvin Harris feat. Young Thug, Pharrell Williams, & Ariana Grande
It appears that Calvin Harris is attempting to appeal to the hip-hop crowd. His two newest singles features the likes of Frank Ocean, Migos, Young Thug, and, Pharrell. But hell, nobody seems to be complaining because these summer-friendly tracks are undeniably hot. “Heatstroke” (obviously), follows suit. Young Thug is given the stage to spit bars such as “Shawty suck the dick good, she wanna fuck it first / Hey mista you a rat… burn,” over tropical house rhythms, but where the song really peaks is the chorus. Pharrell and Young Thug trade some “have a good time” melodies which sound wonderful, and Ariana Grande rounds it out with some incredible vocals. Summer banger certified.
Madiba Riddim – Drake
“Passionfruit” has hogged the limelight thus far when it comes to More Life. Depending on how Drake markets the songs (the only single so far is “Fake Love” which was released in 2016), we won’t really know songs will be successful commercially, but there are quite a few songs that have that appeal. “Madiba Riddim” (more so than “Passionfruit”) has this appeal. It’s bright, it’s bouncy, it’s repetitive, and it’s Drake; the good kind, the one that embraces his god-given talent and goes full crooner. Sonically, it’s got the vibes of “Just Hold On, We’re Going Home” with a tinge of the Caribbean. Lyrically, well, it’s kind of empty, but it does have that catchy hook that finds a way of sticking with you. It’s a signature Drake cut, and it’s likely another one that will stick with you through the summer.
20 Karat Jesus – Freddie Gibbs
Freddie Gibbs’ new album is a quick attack of lush production and relentless bars. It’s sort of a hybrid between 2014’s Pinata and 2015’s Shadow of a Doubt. The prior being a meticulously crafted masterpiece, the ladder being a loose display of Gibbs’ ambitions. This is best embodied in “20 Karat Jesus” – the album’s opener that sounds exactly like the artwork. It features two remarkable beats submerged with sped-up gospel vocal samples that sound downright holy. The religious serenity gives space for Gibbs to spit unfiltered with a flow that is possessed by some spirit. It’s the definitive church track of 2017 that reminds you “Jesus is your homeboy.”
Saturnz Barz – Gorillaz feat. Popcaan
Of the four new singles the Gorillaz released this month, the most interesting and ambitious is “Saturnz Barz” which comes equipped with a fucking 360 degree, panorama-style video! How dope! Sonically, the eerie synths and moody bassline creates a great setting for Popcaan to flaunt his unique flow. The production comes for circle when the haunting vocals come in at the 2:00 mark. It sounds like it’s straight from a horror movie, but it’s wavy enough to make you feel like your floating in space.
ROCKABYE BABY – Joey Bada$$ feat. Schoolboy Q
If you were disappointed by 2015’s B4.DA.$$, you’re not alone. For me it was a frustrating collection of tracks from an artists who possessed a great deal of talent but failed to unleash his potential. “ROCKABYE BABY” is a step in the right direction. It fits all the descriptors that best embody Joey: menacing, unforgiving, confrontational. The piano loop is catchy, the synth is harsh, and the drums go hard. Plus it doesn’t get any harder than bars from two of the prominent gangsta rappers of their respective coasts. “We don’t give a fuck, never had one to give:” Bada$$ SZN is back.
Everybody – Logic
This essentially sounds like a poor man’s version of “Alright”. The vocal chop is much less inspiring, the chorus is much less empowering, and the bars are just… awkward. He grapples – again – with the fact that his complexion is too creamy to be appreciated by the blacks, but his black heritage is too much for the whites to handle. It’s uncomfortable, not especially clever, and even after spending an entire song talking race he says, “Everybody talkin’ ’bout race this, race that / Wish I could erase that.”
HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
If this sounds out of context or character, it’s because Kendrick has a knack for releasing singles that are very misleading before the album comes. He did it with “Backseat Freestyle,” and he did it for “i”, and both songs ended up as great tracks within the concept of a great album. Besides, the bars, the visuals, and stop-start synth on “HUMBLE.” is enough to convince you that Kendrick is still king. Who else can drop some social commentary like “Girl, I can buy your Western world with my pay stubs,” in the middle of a MikeWillMadeIt beat. I advise you to wait till April 7th to get your shit together.