1. Kali Uchis, Steve Lacy – Just A Stranger
This track is straight-up perfect, and I won’t hear anything to the contrary. I’ve been following Kali Uchis for a while now, and she has consistently delivered fantastic track after fantastic track (this album’s first single, Before The Storm, is a personal highlight). Just A Stranger is no exception, blending funk, pop and soul into an ecstatic blend of vocal harmonies, lush production and bouncy drums. Despite featuring a variety of gorgeous backing vocals, Uchis still takes the spotlight – her “dollar bills” refrain is ridiculously catchy, and the delivery of “She’s a hurricane, feel the earth shake” is shiver-inducing. This is already vying for my top tracks of the year so far.
2. Drake – Nice for What
God’s Plan, God’s Plan. If you’ve been anywhere near social media for the last month and a half, then you’ll have encountered Drake’s 2018 smash hit. As someone who usually leaps on the Drake hype train as soon as it pulls into town, I can’t say I was anything but disappointed. I just couldn’t get to grips with what made God’s Plan so popular. Luckily for me, though, Drake’s latest run of singles haven’t had the same effect – Look Alive was on constant rotation, and now Nice for What has lodged itself in my head. The track is a blend of pop Drake and rap Drake, combining the best of both to make a fantastically catchy track. The most interesting thing, though, is the production: Nice for What uses the Chipmunk Soul style perfected by Kanye West, sampling Lauryn Hill’s iconic Ex-Factor. It’s safe to say that 2018 is Drake’s for the taking.
3. Tom Misch, De La Soul – It Runs Through Me
Tom Misch’s long-awaited debut album is finally out. I’m still working out my thoughts on it, but for now it’s clear that It Runs Through Me is a phenomenal track. Misch is a constant reminder of how much I miss actual instrumentation in electronic music, and It Runs Through Me embodies this principle, featuring a refreshing variety of keys and strings. This understated instrumentation perfectly matches Misch’s subdued vocals, then only adds further to the phenomenal performance by De La Soul’s Posdnuos, who glides over the track with ease. This is a breezy, warm reminder of the summer to come, and well-worth a listen for anyone looking for an easy-going, low-key jam.
4. Denzel Curry – SUMO
For energy, there’s nobody doing it like Denzel Curry. Despite the recent trend of Soundcloud rap spawning a near-endless supply of 808s-led bangers, nobody does it quite like Curry. Charlie Heat’s production is godly as ever, featuring a speaker-breaking bass that somehow doesn’t overwhelm Denzel’s vocals. Then again, it would be difficult to eclipse Denzel, whose trademark brutal vocal style is on absolute top form, switching between a variety of flows as the track ups the energy. This is the kind of track that makes you want to topple a skyscraper with your bare fists. In the words of the great Feefo, “It bumps in the whip”. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJNt89WLT7Y)
5. There is a huge list of tracks worthy of this spot, but to avoid posting an essay, I’ll dedicate it to three of them. The first is Cardi B’s I Like It, which flips the current Spanish-pop trend into a trap banger that surpasses Bodak Yellow and Bartier Cardi. This is a track that will dominate the summer.
The second is Tyler, The Creator’s OKRA, a relatively minimal track where Tyler comes to terms with the end of Odd Future. Tyler’s flow here is untouchable, sounding effortless despite absolutely tearing through the beat.
The third is A$AP Rocky’s A$AP Forever, a cloud-rap-inspired track that is at once brutal and beautiful. Featuring an excellently-sampled beat, Rocky’s flow is at its absolute peak, smoothly skating over the beat before allowing for a glorious slow breakdown towards the track’s end.
That’s not even to mention new records by Flatbush Zombies and Saba, both of which I’ve so far been unable to listen to, but undoubtedly contain some phenomenal tracks. This is a great fortnight for music – enjoy it while it lasts.