Midweek Mixtape #25
Better second singles, single-worthy album cuts, alternative hiphop joints and an intellectual track about doomsday theories. Put this shit on rotation so you can get through the rest of the week.
Hit the jizzump to get those eargasms.
Ab-Soul - “Nibiru”
Further establishing himself as a capable emcee + the intellectual quarter of the Black Hippy collective, Herbert Anthony Stevens IV releases this smart hiphop cut named after a planet-colliding cataclysmic event for his record label Top Dawg Entertainment’s Fan Appreciation Week. Name-checking other doomsday theories including the Mayan calendar + Revelations and elevating his flow to the level of Mesopotamian deities Anunnaki, “Nibiru,” which should come with its own Wikipedia glossary, starts with Soulo questioning whether the pyramids were built by aliens + ends with an excerpt from conspiracy theorist Richard C. Hoagland. Albanian American producer/singer JMSN’s (formerly known as Christian TV) eerie beat features hollowed out percussion, creeping bass synths and a looped female vocal perfect for Ab-Soul to spit some trufs. HiiiPower!
Brandy - “Wildest Dreams”
With her last couple of albums underperforming (though Afrodisiac + Human had some jams), Brandy Norwood is back in the musical saddle after a four year hiatus. Though “Put It Down,” lead single from her forthcoming sixth LP, Two Eleven, is a nice slice of urban pop, Brandy drops this gem. With Full Moon + Afrodisiac vibes, Brandy proclaims her love for new man Ryan Press over a mellow midtempo finger snapper with Tha Bizness (Chris Brown, Estelle) on the boards + Sean Garrett on the pen (“Never in my wildest dreams / Did I think someone could care about me”). Though it can’t touch the pop+B genius of Never Say Never, the track is a bit more radio-friendly than “Put” and has some heart to it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Brandy could deliver this sort of jam. Now promote the ever-lovin’ crap out of it!
Ciara - “Livin’ It Up”
After jumping the Jive Records ship following the mishandling of her fourth LP, Basic Instinct, Ciara returned back to the guidance of the man who signed her - L.A. Reid - signing to his Epic Records label. Despite a really questionable
lead promo single “Sweat” and delays in relasing “Sorry,” the actual lead single from her forthcoming fifth LP, One Woman Army, CiCi delivers what could be the pop crossover hit she needs to stay relevant. Released exclusively for Cosmo’s Epic Records playlist, the Wynter Gordon-penned hedonistic track is pure pop fun. Ciara delivers the lovely lyrics (“Ima live life to the fullest / I’ll be speeding like a bullet /I’ll be rolling like a train / I’ll be dancing in the rain”) with all the popstar panache and some not embarassing vocals, even sneaking in the “ola ola eh” from Kid ‘n Play’s “Rollin’ With Kid ‘n Play” (originally found in Ripple’s 1973 hit single “I Don’t Know What It Is, But It Sure Is Funky” and later interpolated by many artists including La Bouche’s 1994 single “Sweet Dreams”). The D’Mile island-flavored pop production may stray far from her urban roots but this track is fantastic. I am hoping she is going for the dual pop/urban singles with “Sorry,” rumored to be an urban ballad, to give me “Promise” vibes. You know if Rihanna recorded this song, it would be a multi-format, worldwide smash. Give Ciara a chance!
Elle Varner - “Oh What a Night”
Tipped as the talented R+B chantuese’s possible next single from her début LP, Perfectly Imperfect, “Oh” demonstrates the pop crossover possibilities Ms. Varner has. Produced by English cutie producer Al Shux (“Empire State of Mind”), the handclap- + tambourine-tinged beat with 80s-influenced keyboards provides a great backdrop for Elle to blame it on the alcohol (looking a hot mess, buying the club shots, losing her truck) for her town-painting escapades. Though her gorgeously unique vocals are on display, so are her rap-speak skills. Sounds like a fun night!
Flying Lotus - “See Thru to U”
The great-nephew of Alice Coltrane and uncredited producer of the bumper music for Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] has released the first offering from his upcoming fourth LP, Until The Quiet Comes. The jazzy collabo with Erykah Badu combines beastly percussion (the hi-hat work alone!), heavy moody accompanying instrumentation and Erykah’s restrained scatting. The all-too-short track is a great first showing for FlyLo’s new album, and a great possible hint at their studio chemistry for Erykah’s next album.
Frank Ocean - “Lost”
Frank Ocean’s début LP, Channel Orange, really demonstrates his ability to graft juicy songwriting onto layered neo-soul+B flavors. Malay’s perky, raindrop synths contrast with Ocean’s sad storytelling where he describes a woman lost in the world of cocaine. Love of drugs as a metaphor for love is not new but Ocean’s beautiful vocals elevate the song. With a radio-friendly sound + a more traditional verse-chorus structure, “Lost” could be a successful single for Frank.
Jessy Wilson - “Heartbreaker”
Ms. Wilson got started writing for John Legend + Fantasia Barrino and singing backup for Legend + Alicia Keys but now the singer/songwriter may be breaking out but someone is breaking her heart. The Brooklyn native + Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School alum (along with Azealia Banks, Kelis, Nicki Minaj) delivers a showstopping soulful track that liberally samples the Grand Funk Railroad 1970 single of the same name. Gold medal vocal gymnastics aside, Wilson has the songwriting skills to make it beyond the eponymous EP she will soon release. Blues like this are hard to find these days.
Kendrick Lamar - “Westside, Right On Time”
While we wait for his collabo with Lady GaGa, the Black Hippy emcee releases his contribution for Top Dawg Entertainment’s Fan Appreciation Week. Riding Canei Finch’s (T.I., Marsha Ambrosius, J. Cole) sample of The Sylvers’ soulful song “How Love Hurts,” Kendrick teams with Young Jeezy to spit some bars about both the street + good lives. The Sylvers’ lush harmonies enmesh with Kendrick’s lyrical poetry in this ode to the West Coast’s (re)ascension. As good as this track is, Kendrick sounds better with less tried+true production effects. Now give me some good kid, m.A.A.d city!
The X Factor: U.S. season one winner is like a fine wine: she’s getting better with time. Following a safer than condoms + spermicide lead single “Don’t Fail Me Now,” Melanie gets back to her strengths with this urban-leaning midtempo featuring those million-dollar vocals. Producer Soundz (Rihanna, Ciara) adds some flavor to the simple keyboard backing with some military-lite drum kicks that allow Melanie’s harmonies to shine. Not quite a smash but she’s definitely getting stronger.
R+B Divas - “Lovin’ Me”
In support of their reality TV show R+B Divas, Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert of Brownstone, Monifah, Syleena Johnson + Keke Wyatt join forces on the feel good theme song. The Motown-inspired joint features each of the ladies employing their beautiful voices to very satisfying effect. Is this a radio hit? Probably not, but hearing all of these singers from my past is both nostalgic + smile-inducing.