1. Lorde, Run the Jewels – Supercut (El-P Remix)
Lorde’s 2018 tour kicked off with a somewhat unusual twist – joining her would be rap duo Run The Jewels. Of course, this isn’t the first time that pop and rap tours have collided (Rihanna’s ANTI Tour being the shining modern example), but this usually derives from a similarity in artistic appeal or subject matter. It’s hard at first glance to see how politically-led, abrasive rap and soulful, teenage pop can mesh. But if this song is anything to go by, it’s a fantastic new direction. Supercut’s original glitzy club-pop is removed, warped by El-P into a gritty, distorted growl of a track. With this shift comes a tonal shift in vocals, too – Lorde’s voice sounds isolated and vulnerable, while El-P and Killer Mike’s rapping is dark and heinous. This song is a fantastic blend of the two artists’ strengths and is well worth a listen for any Lorde or RTJ fan.
2⁄3. Young Fathers – Tremolo and Holy Ghost
Scotland, for the most part, has a fantastic musical canon. Alongside favourites such as Biffy Clyro, David Byrne, Annie Lennox and Calvin Harris, the nation is responsible for many phenomenal modern acts - Hudson Mohawke, Rustie and Django Django to name just three. Joining these ranks is Edinburgh band Young Fathers, whose third studio album recently dropped on underground label Ninja Tune. The album is an incredibly well-conceived work of art, featuring an unusual myriad of genres that warp in and out of its soundscape.
In honour of this release, I’d like to spotlight two of my personal favourite tracks: Tremolo and Holy Ghost. Tremolo is a bizarre one indeed, an incredibly minimalistic drum pad being combined with a muffled electric piano to form an almost-blank canvas. It’s not long before the group’s unique vocals inhabit it – a spiky, desperate verse and a gruff, hoarse verse are interspersed with the beautiful “Tremolo my soul” refrain, before the three combine in a glorious finale. The track is beautiful, experimental, and worthy of your playlists.
Holy Ghost is slightly more conventional, but no less fantastic. The track centres on the juxtaposition between a beautiful, Bon Iver-esque voice and a rap voice that’s somewhere between Anderson .Paak and Dom McLennon. This vocal battle is set to a slow series of horns and synths, a decision that, whilst seeming unintuitive, actually adds greatly to the rapid vocals of the band’s members. The religious imagery in the song is artsy and tongue-in-cheek in equal part, creating a thoroughly compelling narrative that requires a few listens to fully digest.
4. Mozzy, Jay Rock, DCMBR – Nobody Knows
2018 is Mozzy’s year to take. Fresh off a Kendrick Lamar co-sign and a feature on Black Panther: The Album, the Sacramento rapper is set to have an incredible run. His latest EP, Spiritual Conversations, released early this month, and with it came six tracks of impressive soul-searching. Nobody Knows, the EP’s lead single, is an exemplar of what Mozzy does best – applying heartfelt, blunt lyrics over emotional instrumentation. The track’s soulful, echoing beat begins slowly as Mozzy delivers painful lines such as “put it all on the line behind Moz / and I couldn’t stop crying, my little n**** died”, before rising with a punchy sub bass that kicks it up a notch. TDE rapper Jay Rock slides onto the track shortly after, complementing the punchier mood with a hard-hitting tone, before DCMBR’s soft vocals allow the track to fade out as quickly as it arrived. Nobody Knows toes the line between emotional and brutal and is a perfect example of Mozzy’s skill as a songwriter.
5. Roc Marciano – Rosebudd’s Revenge 2
At a glance, this is a very hip-hop-centric week. But in all honesty, it deserves to be: this fortnight has been characterised by a series of fantastic rap releases. With trap rising to monumental status (Rockstar, anyone?) and subsequent mediocrity, there’s been a call back to a so-called Golden Era – the gritty boom-bap of New York. Alongside Griselda Records, Roc Marciano has been at the forefront of this revivalism, producing one of 2017’s best rap records in Rosebudd’s Revenge. Well, the sequel is here, and it’s just as fantastic. Standout track Corniche really embodies the revival of the boom-bap style, featuring a mellow acoustic guitar loop over a classic drum pattern. Delivering quotable after quotable, Marciano’s tone is relaxed, combining the off-beat stylings of DOOM with Ka’s minimalist tones. Bronson brings his A game too, delivering a Blue Chips-style verse with subjects varying from Stephen King to Tekken. Marci sums the track up best – “Some say I’m the G.O.A.T / Why try to fix this shit if it ain’t broke?”