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Listen Up: New rap shines above the rest

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Drake performs at the O2 Arena in London on March. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Drake performs at the O2 Arena in London on March. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Rap is the most prominent genre on most music platforms — Soundcloud is flooded with amateurs, and even the stars drop music constantly through it and other outlets. With the large amount of music being released every day, it can be tough to sift through.

That said, the releases that get attention usually deserve it. This week, probably the most popular male artist in the world, Drake, dropped three new tracks and a collaborative album made a splash. They are both essential listens.  

“Fake Love” Drake

Drake has long been in the habit of dropping groups of songs between albums. Some of his best have come not as singles or album tracks but as appetizers during the wait between.

Drake’s weekly Apple radio show, OVO, has become the choice outlet for releasing new music. His past two releases, “What a Time to be Alive” with Future and solo album “Views,” both premiered on the show.

Last weekend, three new songs were debuted. The most attention came from some suspect lyrics rather than the music. He appeared to call out Kid Cudi in “Two Birds One Stone,” who had criticized him recently but is also currently in rehab for depression and suicidal urges. A strange choice for Drake, considering the circumstances, and fans haven’t responded positively.

But just because it’s Drake, the new tracks and the announcement of “More Life” to drop in December — which he called a “playlist,” rather than an album or mixtape — was the biggest music news of the week. For a superstar, he spends surprisingly little time away, keeping his fans fed and never waiting too long for anticipation to build.

Drake’s early music was the blend of so many styles that it felt entirely fresh. But in recent years, as a younger generation has sprung up beneath him, his sound has conformed a bit to the moment. From using D.R.A.M.’s beat from “CHA CHA” for “Hotline Bling” to hopping on remixes of everyone from Migos to ILoveMakonnen, he’s lost some of his novelty. “Sneakin’” finds him joining aboard another wave, this time sharing a track with 21 Savage, whose style is one of deadpan nihilism.

“Two Birds, One Stone,” aside from the needless disses, is a great listen. Its endless vocal sample is trance-inducing with a steady tempo build.

“Fake Love” is the best song of the bunch, and most representative of Drake’s sound right now. It hints of dancehall, like the smashes “One Dance” and “Hotline Bling.” It’s still catchy, and theme-wise it’s the same old lovelorn Drake, although now it’s harder to believe he can say “I’ve been down so long it looks like up to me” with a straight face considering all of the success he’s had.

“Telephone Calls” A$AP Mob ft. Tyler, the Creator; Playboi Carti; Yung Gleesh

The A$AP Mob’s two most prominent members, Rocky and Ferg, have been some of the most consistent rappers of the last couple years. Both have put out two full length albums, and their relevancy has kept the mob on the map.

The group’s new album, “Cozy Tapes, Vol.1: Friends,” draws more than a dozen collaborators into the mix, stars like Wiz Khalifa and internet kings like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert.

“Telephone Calls” features A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti, but it is Tyler, the Creator who really shines on the track. He has expanded the Odd Future/ Golf Wang enterprise so far, into clothing and video, that a guest verse outside of that feels like a rare treat. It’s especially interesting given his own music has also expanded beyond the genre of rap.

Sometimes it takes a stray guest verse to remind fans why a rapper blew up in the first place. It was never just his rapping that made Tyler so huge — controversy about his lyrics also helped — but it is nice to hear him get back to the basics, for as long as the verse lasts at least.

3 comments

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