A photo of producer Actress by Will Bankhead, via EB
Still looking to maintain that sonic fix we provided with our in-depth SXSW music roundup from earlier this week? No need to worry, MERRY JANE has got you covered. We’ve gathered a handful of the hottest new tunes from across the SoundCloud spectrum, bringing you the very latest in hard-hitting freestyles, drug-fueled love ballads, and everything else in between. On this week's playlist, we’ve got a minimal masterpiece from electronic producer Actress (pictured above), a banger from Your Old Droog, the potential revival of Lupe Fiasco, and more.
Flatbush Zombies - Babel
As they gear up to hit the road with Snoop Dogg for the Mount Kushmore Wellness Retreat Tour, the Brooklyn hip-hop trio Flatbush Zombies decided to share their new joint “Babel.” Released in celebration for the one-year anniversary of their album 3001: A Laced Odyssey, the latest cut from the Glorious Undead is unusually heartfelt compared to the drug-laden work we’ve come to expect from the NYC rhymers.
Producer-rapper hybrid Erick Arc Elliott kicks things off by spitting some bars over his own instrumental beat, which primarily consists of squeaky clean guitar samples and rapid-fire trap drums. Zombie Juice follows up The Architect by dropping a verse laced with psychedelic innuendos. After a soft-hearted piano breakdown, Meechy Darko wraps the loosie track up with a potently repetitive couplet. “Everytime I try to write this I ignite my fucking page/If yo walk don’t match yo talk then we on a different page,” he rhymes with raspy bravado.
Your Old Droog - You Can Do It!
Last week, the Brooklyn rapper Your Old Droog released his anticipated studio album Packs, and it has the potentially to thrust the artist on to the international stage. Inspired by his Ukrainian roots and equipped with a flow that resembles Nas, Y.O.D. has an impeccable rhyme style and sense of humor.
On one of the standout tracks from his latest project, "You Can Do It! (Give Up)," the up and coming rapper exemplifies both of those traits. Rhyming over a feel good piano-driven ballad, Your Old Droog delivers a soft blow to those who he thinks should probably give up on their failing dreams and set off down a more realistic career path.
“Tide startin' to turn the fate/ Gettin' older, you should probably learn the trade/Or work on music in a new capacity perhaps/Not everyone's supposed to rap,” he concludes as the beat ends. That brutal honesty sentiment might hold true for most, but in Droog's case, he’s exactly where he needs to be.
Charli XCX (ft. Abra) - Drugs
A perfect representation of the United Kingdom’s electropop underworld, Charli XCX isn’t afraid to flaunt her hedonistic lifestyle over the most lavish of beats. On her new song entitled “Drugs,” a standout track from her recent mixtape Number 1 Angel, the British pop star gives us an unfiltered look at her destructive relationship with party supplies.
Charli XCX thrusts an angelic thunderstorm through the gates of heaven as she croons over the dark and atmospheric production, creating a moody love ballad about ecstasy. “Put ecstasy on my tongue and that’s all I’m tasting now/You’re luxurious, I’m stuck/Champagne, cigarettes, convertibles/It’s ‘bout to pop off” she seductively purrs. Atlanta R&B singer ABRA chimes in with a solid drug-induced verse, setting up for a climatic finish comprised of roaring synths, bass, and a pitch-shifted interpolation of the catchy hook.
Actress - X22RME
It’s been three long years since British electronic mastermind Dante Cunningham (aka Actress) last shook the experimental music world his critically acclaimed album Ghettoville. But this week, the UK producer finally resurfaced with a poignant new banger “X22RME.”
The relentless five-minute single is comprised of pulsating blips and rattling drum sequences that seems to rain down from a ruminating sky. Here, Actress puts the listener on a first class flight straight into an ominous atmosphere, shuffling up spliced up vocal samples and a ground-rattling bass. Actress’ reemergence comes coupled with an eerie music video set in a dystopian future, which Cunningham calls "translucent ambience coming from an incognito slightly on the edge but eternally fixed paradigm."
“X22RME” is the first single from Cunningham’s highly anticipated full-length release AZD, due out April 14 via NinjaTune.
Jlin - Nandi
Known as one of the hottest footwork producers currently on the scene, the Indiana-born beat conjurer Jlin is poised to rise from the dance music underground and make even bigger waves with her upcoming LP Black Origami. After building up hype with her majestically fierce and djembe-heavy single “Nyakinyua Rise,” the artist is offering us another peak into what her new project will entail.
On her latest offering “Nandi,” Jlin stifles the listener with a lightning fast barrage of rattling percussion and mind-bending vocal cuts. The voices featured on this shadowy banger range from pitch-shifted demonic lows to a sultry repetitive whisper of “yeah,” while sporadic chimes come in just often enough to snap you out of an eternal trance. All in all, the rising producer has once again managed to transform her inimitable style into a piece that will keep your feet moving until the sun comes up and the club closes down.
Jlin's upcoming album Black Origami is due out on May 19 via Planet Mu Records.
Smino - Amphetamine
After dropping his studio debut blkswn last week, the rapper-singer hybrid Smino has exploded onto the rap scene with his smooth voice and versatile style. Though the whole project is freely available on his SoundCloud, no song showcases his budding talent quite like the nearly eight minute two-part finale “Amphetamine.”
Produced by Monte Booker, Phoelix, and J.robb, Smino conquers the smooth and soulful collaborative beat with an emotional ballad detailing his use of amphetamines as a coping mechanism for the hardships of life. “Pass me the amphetamine/Right now can't focus on anything/Why they take lil bro instead of me?/I hurt when you hurt, we was siamese,” he pleads to a higher power. Spitting his heart out over spiraling keys, a clap-fueled boom-bap beat, and buttery bass lines, Smino closes out his album by offering us insight into the daily struggle. The epic conclusion to his studio debut also features uncredited guest spots from his musical crew, including Jean Deaux, Noname, and Bari.
Lupe Fiasco - AMKH:HER
His name might not hold much weight nowadays, but a decade ago the Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco was the voice of an angsty generation. Looking to revive the glory from his “Kick Push” days, the outspoken MC hit a speed bump last year when he was accused of making anti-semitic remarks on his track “N.E.R.D.,” prompting him to announce his retirement from the rap game.
But just one month later, the Chi-town legend dropped DROGAS Light, and is now returning with a direct follow up project entitled DROGAS Wave. Two days after announcing the new album, Lupe proved he’s still got bars by dropping a blazing freestyle recorded over the Michael Christmas track “Everything Burrito.”
Lupe surfs over the wavy Rich Kidd-produced beat, putting a lyrical fist in the air and speaking out against the historic oppression faced by the African-American community. “May I die from a hand that is not black/Lie down my crown where Mike Brown dropped at/At the spot where he was unchained/To pour liquor on it and watch a King grow from the blood stains,” he spits with no filter. “AMKH:HER” hints at a complete return to form for Lupe, the same guy who says whatever he wants and doesn’t give a fuck how you feel about it.
Freddie Gibbs - NO PRBLMS (Freestyle)
Last year was an extremely tumultuous one for rapper Freddie Gibbs, who was accused of sexual asssault and subsequently holed up in Austria for a good while. But after beating the case and returning home to the U.S., the Gary, Indiana native is back with a vengeance and plotting his hip-hop takeover.
After announcing his upcoming project You Only Live 2wice and sharing the desolate visual for his first single “Crushed Glass” last week, Gangsta Gibbs has resurfaced with a new freestyle entitled “NO PRBLMS.” Produced by Soundsbynova, the quick-spitting rapper speaks his mind without hesitation over the bass-heavy and reverberating beat. The nearly five-minute freestyle covers all of the bases of Freddie Corleone’s treacherous past, from whipping up crack on the stove to the recent sexual abuse charges leveled against him.
“I can't explain it that rape shit you know it ain't me/Hoes lock me up try to take all my paper/But I beat the charge I'm a motherfuckin G,” he rhymes with candid confidence. It’s clear from his two most recent cuts that Gibbs is holding no bars back this year. Now that he’s made his triumphant return from the depths of despair, the only problems from here on out will be for those standing in his way.
TOPS - Petals
Based out of Montreal, the Canadian quartet TOPS received raving reviews for their 2014 album Picture You Staring. After taking a brief hiatus, the indie pop group has returned with “Petals”, a heart-wrenching and disco-driven single that is sure to put TOPS back on top of your music radar.
Their latest release is as catchy as ever, featuring crisp and unrestrained guitar strumming, a simple but heartwarming rock beat, and fluttering harmonies that are seamlessly layered atop one another. “Last night, last night on earth today/ I’ll make it worthwhile/ if you promise to do the same,” frontwoman Jane Penny coos above the band’s serene backing vocals. “Petals” is the first offering from TOPS’ upcoming album Sugar At The Gates, due out in June 9 via Arbutus.
Allan Kingdom - Know About It
Since the release of his 2016 release Northern Lights, Canadian rapper Allan Kingdom has been patiently plotting his next move on the indie hip-hop food chain. Along with recently announcing his upcoming album LINES, due out in April, the Thestand4rd crew member also dropped the new single “Know About It.”
Produced by Ronny J & FNZ, Kingdom’s latest piece showcases the witty rapper sprinkling subtle autotune over a vibrant beat. The ice-cold Northerner’s head seems to be stuck in the digital world, rhyming about how he’s “all in his phone.” The track is an unexpected direction for eclectic artist, but as he raps in his anthemic verse, Kingdom just simply “Don't need to impress ya.” The forward-thinking offering “Know About It” comes equipped with a trippy visual, showcasing Kingdom rolling through outer space in an office desk chair.