Tag Archives: song of the year

Song of The Year-Palmolive Featuring Pusha T and Killer Mike produced by Madlib by Freddie Gibbs

Song of The Year-Palmolive Featuring Pusha T and Killer Mike produced by Madlib by Freddie Gibbs

by Dan-O

In 2014 when Madlib and Freddie Gibbs produced Pinata I thought the two were magnificently matched. A song like Deeper is just not possible without the mutilated soul Madlib feeds Freddie. For some rappers soul sample based beats (Madlib, 9th Wonder) push them into a gentler, reflective place. A chance to put the teeth away and show another side; for Gibbs it is very much not like that.

You can tell because on Palmolive, one of two epic posse cuts on the new Madlib x Gibbs album Bandana, Gibbs starts his verse with “Kane season/F_ing my pastor daughter in two Jesus pieces/Dropping this blow on the basement floor/My Yeezy’s squeaking” all while the bridge to the Sylvers song Cry Of A Dreamer gets the falsetto pulled out and stabbed then kicked behind Freddie to sound like the spooky painful cry that inspires his seething darkness. How bleak is Gibbs? Am I exaggerating? He doubles his own vocals so he can comment on what he is saying and the conversation he’s having with himself is brutal PTSD recollection. “Fernando said they used to move chickens in the Noriega days(Yeah)/ I disrespect his name and he signed my face with a razor blade (True story, N_).”

This song is the perfect meeting of seething darkness. Killer Mike’s chorus carries that bullish swagger, that evil sneer daring you to challenge or doubt the truth of this song. Pusha T doesn’t just understand what Palmolive wants to do, he helped build the model for it. He begins speaking so specifically that it is chilling and he does it all in code you might not understand if your not combing through. When he says “PTSD from what I weighed on the digital,” a casual fan could get lost. My favorite is “The love of your life rap n_ wear fake watches/ the serial number don’t match the gift boxes.” This dude is rapping about knock off watch serial numbers! Push doesn’t care who understands or don’t he needs to speak to his audience on this song. When Push asks the audience if they are Alpo or Mitch it’s a more important question than you might understand. Mitch is dead and Alpo is in witness protection. The question brings the darkness center stage. Are you a traitor? Will you be the end of me? Where in this world can I be safe, if not for the rest of my life for a little while to just get my head together?

The other collaboration is the second to last song called Education. It has Yasiin Bey and Black Thought throwing 100 mph while Freddie does the same but it’s not Palmolive. This one is for fans like me who have Raekwon lyrics tattooed on their soul. If I am ever listening to Palmolive and someone robs me I’ll shrug and think “makes sense.” It’s the most desperate jagged lyrical diamond of 2019 and that spares no one from the conversation. Give me Bandana and keep the rest.

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Song of The Year-Speedboat by Denzel Curry produced by Rugah Rahj

Song of The Year-Speedboat by Denzel Curry produced by Rugah Rahj

by Dan-O

Very few people do what Denzel Curry does. That is what struck me when I listened to his new album ZUU and heard him rapping with Rick Ross over a crunchy jagged industrial beat. If you are an old school hip hop head you should rep Curry. He can rap. On that Ross collab the Florida MC says “My pastor making dollars like he’s Eric Sermon,” which is a heady EPMD reference. He knows the culture, can rap with anyone, and what he gives is not just a finished product but one with dynamic individual characteristics.

Speedboat is the best. It is crazy fun to listen to and exhibits impressive melodic and lyrical work. The bridge that leads into the chorus is

Pre-Chorus]
Jesus, please deliver us from evil
Please pray over all my people
What you see in life’s illegal
I don’t wanna use my Desert Eagle

The pauses he makes between each word adds even more gravity to the paranoia and violence PTSD discussed. Now check out the 2pac-esque chorus to go with it.

[Chorus]
Big talk, speedboat (Speedboat)
Pray to God I don’t get repoed (Repoed)
Didn’t go to college for a free throw (Swish)
People gettin’ killed through the peephole (Blah)
Have your money up before you go to war (Hmm)
Put the mask on like a luchador (Hmm)
My dawg didn’t make it to 21, so I gotta make it past 24
Big talk, speedboat (Speedboat)
Pray to God I don’t get repoed (Repoed)
Didn’t go to college for a free throw (Swish)
People gettin’ killed through the peephole (Blah)
Have your money up before you go to war (Hmm)
Put the mask on like a luchador (Hmm)
My dawg didn’t make it to 21, so I gotta make it past 24

Think about how much is discussed in that chorus? We talk about college scholarships, robbery, mortality ages in bad neighborhoods. You can feel it all coming after you(hence the 2pac comp). ZUU belongs on the year end lists because Curry is Floridas shining hope for the future. Not that the state doesn’t have talent but Denzel Curry has star power. When he raps it is important every time. That is an important distinction.  Curry can shout, rap, or compose a hook with equal dexterity and he doesn’t owe anything to a co-sign. No movement has him hanging onto it. His work and his voice got him here.

Song of The Year-Whipped Cream by Ari Lennox


Song of The Year-Whipped Cream by Ari Lennox

by Dan-O

I’m impressed with Dreamville. It’s a talented roster of artists from J.I.D. to Cozz to Bas and Ari Lennox but talent is all over the place. Talent doesn’t surprise me.  Any rap label headed by an artist runs into the same problem: ‘you can be big but not bigger than me’.  J. Cole struck gold with J.I.D. and struck harder with his next album(Dicaprio 2) giving him full spotlight. It takes a real emotionally intelligent person to understand those ‘Is J.I.D. Better than Cole?’ headlines are working In your favor. It is a deeply talented roster but more impressive than that, one where all the artists are growing in different directions together. Not many labels can lay claim to that space and growth at the same time.

The new Ari Lennox album Shea Butter Baby is a masterstroke. When I recommend it to people they snap their fingers and say ‘I heard of that…’ because the title track was on the Creed II soundtrack(I feel like it featured during the sensational sex scene. TESSA THOMPSON IS THE G.O.A.T).  The album itself is brilliant because executive producer (producer or co-producer of 8 out of the 12 tracks) Elite figured out that this album shouldn’t sound hot, fresh and new. Ari Lennox needs to feel like someone you’ve spent your whole life listening to. The kind of soul that always lives in the grooves of your bones and just needs to be let out. By the third listen of the album I felt like it will be playing in the background at a BBQ for my birthday in ten years. That’s the kind of music this is, thick bass horns keyboards and lots of stage for our star to perform on.

Whipped Cream, specifically, is what resonates. Her hooks are always very specific and strange. To start the song with the hook and have the first lines be “I’ve been eatin’ whip cream, having vivid dreams of your face…” differentiates the Lennox experience while the music sounds like the definition of the genre. Shea Butter Baby is classic but it is very now. The short interludes at the end of songs speak about abusive relationships and perceptions of yourself through others eyes. She manages to be funny, sexual, and human at the same time. My favorite part of Whipped Cream is when she says, “Your deceivin’ receivin’ not givin’ head @$$.” She sings it too quickly to fully grasp then sings it again. You can hear the smirk as she mocks this ex but also the real hole that hasn’t refilled. Ari Lennox has songs about making love but none that are frivolous. Everything she sings is part of a three dimensional balance she seeks to achieve. Even as she sings about his inability to give oral pleasure she’s not venomous. She wishes she didn’t care but she does and it’s because that’s who she is. I love this song but if you listen and love it you need to do the whole album. You need to hear how happy she is to be naked and alone in her new apartment on New Apartment. You need to hear how Whipped Cream’s end feeds into the triumphant saxophone that begins Static.

Song of The Year-Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

Song of The Year- Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

By Dan-O

This is my favorite first song of the year (it’s from the self-titled album). Sure, Lizzo has a show stopping voice of the kind I would stab an alien for. That is not the most exciting thing about Lizzo. I can’t get enough of how totally reckless and bonkers she is. Her uncontrolled energy bursts in all directions on the title track produced by Ithaca NY rock band X Ambassadors.

I’m sure a lot of people are writing how great this album is from a body positivity standpoint; that it is great to have more vibrant black female voices. Problem with those takes is they come out of a jar ready to be spread out to fit anybody from Janelle Monae to Cardi B etc etc. Artists are specific not general so criticism should be specific.

While listening to the song you can find yourself asking questions: who would hit the high part of their register this much?! Who would open their album laughingly calling themselves a former ho?! When Pitchfork reviewed Cuz I Love You they pointed to ham fisted lines and awkward images as tough to swallow. Lizzo just doesn’t have the time or energy to go Fiona Apple with the lyrics. Her strength is that she doesn’t carry the fear a lot of us do. She’s not afraid to belt so hard she has to catch her breath, and let you hear, not afraid to say something we all know is corny like “I would do it for you all my friend, ready baby?! Will you be my man?” The desperation in the delivery and pulverizing honesty in the lyrics take center stage even as X Ambassadors fill the track with high energy pro-wrestling rock entrance music. Musically she’s so wild she’s free to be honest and in a world this deceptive and artificial it feels so good to hear.

 

Song of The Year-Boys Will Be Boys by Stella Donnelly

Song of The Year-Boys Will Be Boys by Stella Donnelly

by Dan-O

The debut album by tiny lady Stella Donnelly from Perth Australia has dominated my listening for the last week plus. Album cover is definitely off putting and the subject matter is so tense in its exploration of patriarchal savagery (in both personal and political spheres) I feel her eyes as I listen. What I didn’t expect was the emotional durability and craft in the album.

Beware Of The Dogs could easily have been a precious thoughtful album with high review scores but too tough to listen to, instead, it mood matches marvelously. It jokes and laughs at the problems it presents grooving while taking them to task. The melodies are composed to be sweet and soft as your heart gets broken. Her voice is really special and has layers to it that she uses extraordinarily well for someone on their debut album.

Can I tell you what I love the most about Stella? The writing is the toughest most spellbinding in the world to me. In this song she sings in heartbroken tones “Your father told you you were innocent. Told you women rape themselves.” You cannot misunderstand her songs. Her lyrics are dedicated to clarity while remaining deeply important and thoughtful.

Boys Will Be Boys is a vital spotlight change in the consensual sex conversation. The spotlight always seems to be on the poor young man whose life and reputation are in jeopardy because he was accused of rape and this song helps push our vision to the women who were betrayed and dismissed. None of this album is preachy, none of it sits from a comfortable place expounding upon the right ways to live.

Beware Of The Dogs is dedicated to the real damage patriarchy causes. The damage we always seem to ignore. It is my favorite album of this year because the narrator walked me through it all with kindness and humor while NEVER pulling punches. Stella believed in my ears enough to give me the truth as brutal and complicated as it is. So few have the temerity.

Please check out all the songs available to listen to on bandcamp:

https://stelladonnelly.bandcamp.com/album/beware-of-the-dogs

 

Song of The Year-Westbrook by J.I.D. featuring A$AP FERG produced by Christo

 

Song of The Year-Westbrook by J.I.D. featuring A$AP FERG produced by Christo

by Dan-O

It’s exciting when a new voice comes into full bloom for the public. In March of 2017 when J.I.D. put out his album The Never Story the underground publications sang about it and didn’t stop until the end of the year. It was that dope indy film that didn’t have the budget to be as deeply entrenched in the culture as it was. What I love most about J.I.D. is that he got that bubble up and decided his next project needed to ratchet up the effort/efficiency/entertainment value. He’s a clutch player. Dicaprio 2 is so good that at times it feels like being trapped.  Despacito Too and Mounted Up have smash mouth minimal production feels so as to leave you face to face with the man mountain of syllables (feel free to spread this description of his ability). When he has help he’s superb. Whether it is Bj The Chicago Kid, 6lack or Method Man he finds enough space to sacrifice for his guest and they shine.

A single line from a single verse really messed me up. That is on my favorite song from Dicaprio 2,  Westbrook. The beat chimes like Christmas then stomps your speakers as Ferg brings perfect sneering energy on the hook but at a little over halfway through the song J.I.D. says

Live life like a baby that was dead at birth

But came alive and f—ed the nurses

 

Throughout the verse he is chuckling to himself just plunging into the depths of his sick mind and dumping it out. I can’t lie I was very excited by how deeply inappropriate this is. This is a hip hop thing connected to the feeling NY had when Nas claimed he went to hell for snuffing Jesus. We weren’t excited to see smug old Jesus finally get his it was the discovery of a new voice, a new mind we can connect to who might be weirder than anyone we know. Similarly, no unringing this bell; this kid got Joey Bad@$$ and Meth together and wrecked it next to both of them. You can read other reviews to hear where he’s from what his social media footprint is like. I’m old and not going to waste space.  I just want to pull up a chair and watch the young man spin this cadence till the whole world rings with it. Dicaprio 2 feels like being trapped in a place your body won’t let you leave.

 

 

 

Song of The Year-Roll Call by Leikeli47

 

Song of The Year-Roll Call by Leikeli47

by Dan-O

I play Leikeli47 a lot and my family does not mind. She produces all her own stuff and last year’s album Wash & Set stays solidly in the rotation. The excitement in her flow and in the dynamic dirty bounce she concocts makes it so you don’t lose enjoyment as the song becomes known to you. No matter how often you re-listen the beat still dominates the stereo, the hook becomes more and more infectious as you give yourself permission to sing-a-long. This aspect of her music is what reminds me of Missy Elliott; the conscious effort to push the pace while not sacrificing lyrical space.

The fascinating and very well done HBO show Insecure has used multiple Leikeli47 songs to soundtrack black female perspective. It makes sense if you listen to Roll Call. Leikeli47 knows drums like few in the world do while carrying the versatility to switch flows into a few different speeds. The guitar at two minutes thirty six seconds into it, the weird grunt, all of it is so much fun. On top of that, Leikeli47 is not asking permission to be taken seriously as a female MC in 2018. She just keeps burning down tracks with her trademark ski mask on.  I loved Wash & Set, didn’t have a bad song so I bought her first album. Loved all of it and at that point I had a name on the tip of my tongue whenever anyone asked me who was new weird and hot. Here is to hoping people watching HBO are doing some googling.