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Best new tracks of the week: The Weeknd and Kendrick, Rick Ross, Lykke Li, & more

After the year-long month that was January, we’re into the safe confines of a new month, far away from the new year, the holidays, and all the other shit that keeps you from listening to new music.

This week we’ve got some interesting drops from the Black Panther soundtrack, Rich Brian’s debut album, Ricky Rozay, Lykke Li covering Jim Croce, and some other dope releases.

Let’s jump into it.

The Weeknd – “Pray For Me” (ft. Kendrick Lamar)

The star-studded Black Panther soundtrack, compiled and curated by TDE, is sure to be full of hits with some pretty wild collaborations.

“Pray For Me”, featuring The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, is definitely going to be everywhere. This track is a banger, we’re trying to hear this whole Black Panther OST right damn now.

Rich Brian – “Occupied”

Rich Brian’s career started as a joke. Now, after a (very necessary) name change, he’s dropped his first full project, Amen, and it’s anything but funny.

This is a very legitimate record from the Indonesian rapper. “Occupied” and “Attention” with Offset (yes he got a Migos feature) bang.

Rick Ross – “Florida Boy” (ft. T-Pain & Kodak Black)

Rozay teams up with fellow Florida natives T-Pain (Tallahassee) and Kodak Black (Pompano Beach) for this soul-sampling banger in typical Ross fashion.

Does this mean there’s a new Rick Ross project on the way?

Lykke Li – “Time In A Bottle”

Everyone’s favorite Swedish dream-pop star Lykke Li has covered Jim Croce’s “Time In  A Bottle”, adding her evocative spin to the track.

It’s cool to have some new Lykke material, she’s recently been working with Miike Snow and others for her LIV supergroup.

Smokepurpp – “Geek A Lot”

Florida rapper Smokepurpp joined up with producer Ronny J for this distorted, apocalyptic banger. If you’re of the “lyrical” rap mold, you will not enjoy this.

If you don’t take yourself too seriously, mosh out to this one.

Thunderpussy – “Torpedo Love”

Thunderpussy, the Seattle band with perhaps the best band name ever, dropped “Torpedo Love”, a slow-boiling rock ballad that unfolds into a massive wall of sound.

These women can fuckin’ rock.

YBN Nahmir – “Bounce Out With That”

Montgomery, Alabama teenage rapper YBN Nahmir became a viral star after last year’s “Rubbin’ Off The Paint”.

He’s been backing up the success of “Rubbin Off The Paint” since then, this time with the bumping “Bounce Out With That”.

Gunna – “Helluva Price”

Seems like there’s a new popping ATL trap rapper everyday. Gunna, who dropped Drip Season 3 today, could easily be the next up.

“Helluva Price”, produced by Metro Boomin, covers on many of the familiar sounds and tropes of trap rap. Shit is hot.

Rejjie Snow – “The Ends” (ft. Jesse James Solomon)

Rejjie Snow, the Irish rapper who has previously worked with Joey Bada$$, dropped the second part of his Dear Annie project today.

It’s some very interesting, musical hip-hop, drawing from the Dublin native’s a massive selection of influences. Snow is one to check out if you haven’t yet.

The Kid Daytona – “Litcoin” (ft. Mid-Nite)

New York rappers Daytona and Mid-Nite teamed up on this bop “Litcoin”. Backed by some funky-ass, wailing horns, Daytona and Mid-Nite trade hilarious punchlines and boasts.

It’s a great partnership, gotta hear more from Daytona and Mid-Nite.

Who is Steve Lacy? The Internet member and Kendrick producer making music off his iPhone

Steve Lacy has produced a Grammy nominated album, made tracks for Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Tyler, The Creator, and Goldlink, released a solo EP, and hosted his own Tedx Talk. He’s 18. Also, he makes all his music on his phone.

Lacy’s musical journey began in his high school jazz band where he met recording artist Thundercat’s younger brother, who brought Lacy along to work on The Internet’s third studio album Ego Death.

Lacy, who was brought on to play some keys on the record, ended up producing half of the tracks on Ego Death.

The Internet’s mixture of hip-hop, funk, soul music, and alternative rock captivated audiences and critics alike, and before Lacy had graduated high school he had notched a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album.

When The Internet set out on a nationwide tour, Lacy had to stay at home and go to class.

But from there, Lacy was able to start gathering a pretty ludicrous round of production credits. Producing J. Cole’s “Foldin Clothes” off 4 Your Eyez Only.

Lacy produced the slow-boiling “PRIDE.” off Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.

Lacy told Matt Wilkinson of Beats 1 Radio about how the song came together after DJ Dahi had connected Lacy and Lamar:

“This was the track where he [Lamar] was like ‘Yo, put your number in my phone I need this.’ I went there a couple more times to work on some stuff and this song he was just sure about. He loved this one. Then I hit him up again and he said he’s just finishing up the album so I go ‘Tracklist?’ with the eyeball emojis and he said ‘LOL.’ It was called ‘Wasn’t There’ at the time but it’s called ‘PRIDE’ now. It’s still hitting me I still haven’t fully gripped what I just did but yeah it’s crazy to think I was in a classroom just 6 months ago.”

Yeah, going from a high school classroom to producing on probably the most influential hip-hop album in recent memory is pretty crazy.

Lacy also landed on Goldlink’s album At What Cost on the groovy “Some Girl”.

Then teamed up with Tyler and clear inspiration Frank Ocean on “911/Mr. Lonely”.

It’s obvious what any rap artist is looking for when enlisting Lacy to produce on a record. He’s gonna bring some soulful, funky guitar riffs and crispy-ass retro sounding drum loops.

The source of those infectious drum loops? Garageband. On his iPhone.

Lacy spoke during his TedxTeen talk about wanting a Macbook for four straight Christmases but eventually stumbling upon his beatmaking process on a 5th generation iPod Touch.

“It was an iPod 5th generation Touch and from there, I started to explore music apps like iMPC, BeatMaker 2, GarageBand, and all that sort… I’ve discovered these apps and I’m exploring this world of sound with this little device in my pocket and I realized that I didn’t necessarily need what I thought I did. From there, I just started pressing stuff and figuring it out and just getting some really, really bad beats out at first before I found the piece called the iRig. That’s when I started to combine my knowledge on what a drum beat was along with my guitar playing skills and bass.”

While this sounds kind of creatively limiting, Lacy clearly prefers the method over big studio equipment, which he now has more than enough access to. His iPhone recording technique gives him direct and immediate control over his music.

Producing for some of the most prominent names in hip-hop immediately out of high school is pretty fucking cool, but Lacy’s first cohesive solo project Steve Lacy’s Demo, which he prefers to call a “song series,” is even more impressive.

my manager took this s/o @3qtr

A post shared by Steve (@steve.lacy) on

The project, released last February, which runs less than 15 total minutes, holds such an intense potential.

The first track, “Looks”, with it’s funky guitars and grooving bassline, is the perfect introduction to Lacy’s music. His voice ranges from high to low, clear to filtered. The drums are clear and precise.

That guitar is taken right out of peak funk era, serving more as percussion than your typical leading guitar riff. The only issue with “Looks” is that it’s not longer.

“Dark Red” is the stand out on the project, one of my favorite tracks of the last year. Lacy’s songwriting is equal to his instrumentation. It holds a heaviness, a natural nostalgia, and a truth, making those comparisons to Frank Ocean obvious.

On the track, Lacy can tell his relationship is going slightly off the rails, singing in the opening bars,

“Something bad is ’bout to happen to me
I don’t know what, but I feel it coming
Might be so sad, might leave my nose running
I just hope she don’t wanna leave me”

Lacy then goes into a funky breakdown with Motown call and response on the second half of the song to give himself a little reassurance:

“What if she’s fine
It’s my mind that’s wrong
And I just let bad thoughts
Linger for far too long”

It’s hard to capture the wandering mind of a love-stricken teenager, but on “Dark Red” Lacy is able to articulate that adolescent confusion. That breakdown in the second half of the song (starting at about the 1:40 mark) is so damn perfect, I had to run it back like four times the first time I heard it.

And just peep the drum skills on “Haterlovin”, which sounds like it was taken directly from N.E.R.D’s In Search Of…

Like on In Search Of…, Lacy made a project that is as impressive as much it leaves the listener yearning for more. My lasting impression from the project was, “where the fuck can I get more of this?” and “what would you even call this?” The answer, according to Steve, is plaid. Yes, plaid.

He told Wired about making plaid music.

“Plaid is my genre. I found that at, I was thrift shopping and I was in the Pendleton section. As I realize, scruffling through the shirts, I’m like, this kinda looks like how my music sounds. ‘Cause if you listen to a couple songs it might sound like there’s a lot going on but it doesn’t clash at all. And plaid, it’s a lot going on. It all goes together to be one pattern. And that’s what I call my music.”

Plaid it is then!

This year, Lacy is set to work on a new The Internet album, make more of his own work surely, and continue to link up with artists and bring some funk to their art.

He’s producing all of Ravyn Lenae’s new album and if the first single “Sticky” is any indication, it’s going to be another exciting step in Lacy’s young career.

Steve Lacy isn’t 20 yet, but he’s one of the most intriguing artists in the music world.

2018 looks to be another big year for the kid from Compton and one has the feeling that he’ll have a guiding hand in the direction of music in the near future.

SZA didn’t even want to do music, now she’s one of the hottest artists in the game

SZA’s rise to fame has been a rather rapid one. With all the acclaim that she’s garnered recently, its only right that we take a step back and look at her path to success.

The funny thing is that in the beginning, SZA never really intended on doing anything music related. In and interview with Pharrell on his Beats 1 Radio show OTHERtone she described it as a job saying,  

“I never wanted to do music. Doing music seemed like a job, like a burden that would remove the joy of listening.”

Fortunately, we can all thank her brother, Daniel, for changing her mind. While working on his own album, he had SZA record a hook for one of his songs.

Uh Huh Yes GIF by SZA - Find & Share on GIPHY

Once he noticed her potential, he forced her to hone in on her talent.

Some of the forms of ‘training” he put her through were singing Biggie lyrics over MF DOOM beats.

Over time she began writing her own music, eventually beginning work on her debut EP See.SZA.Run by accident.

In an interview with Billboard, she described the accident as,

“I just recorded one song and then another and then it was like ‘You should probably record some other songs and make something out of it.'”

During the album’s creation she’d go to a friend’s house and even steal beats off the internet.

Birdman GIF by SZA - Find & Share on GIPHY

SZA’s first real taste of exposure came from a show where Kendrick Lamar was performing. A friend of hers ended up presenting some of her earlier work to TDE president Terrence Henderson, and he kept in touch.

On October 29th 2012, she finally released See.SZA.Run.

A year later she released her second EP S on April 10th 2013. This one received praise but didn’t quite bring her into the spotlight. But it was at this point SZA began building traction within the industry.

A couple months later on July 14th 2013, it was announced that SZA had signed to Top Dawg Entertainment.

With people in the industry beginning to notice her talent as a songwriter, big names began hitting her line for songs.

A couple of those names include Rihanna (“Consideration” ft. SZA) and the queen Beyoncé herself (“Feeling Myself”).

Ok GIF by SZA - Find & Share on GIPHY

She describes writing for Beyoncé as “Literally like on God it was something I could never explain to anyone”, 

“Yeah, I wrote parts of that. A nice chunk of that [laughs], I’m on the credits so I think it’s really interesting, It was dope meeting Beyoncé, she’s tight, she’s perfect actually. The call just got put in and then I arrived, I have no idea. Hit-Boy produced and I wrote the lyrics, so Nicki and Beyoncé are singing some of the things that I wrote to it.”

Under TDE, SZA was able to release her second EP Z. This album featured singles “Child’s Play” and “Babylon,” which became one of her more popular songs.

With most of her songs being emotionally charged with a hint of romantic drama, SZA was able to build a good following of fans who relate to the content of her music.

When SZA announced she was working on her debut album, the hype surrounding more upcoming music began to rise.

For Me GIF by SZA - Find & Share on GIPHY

Over time, fans still didn’t have anything more than album delays. Turns out the wait was because she was so indecisive on the songs she wanted on the album.

The main reason why we have the album now is because TDE ended up snatching the flash drive from her.

“They just took my hard drive from me. That was all. I just kept f—ing everything up, I just kept moving s–t around. I was choosing from 150, 200 songs, so I’m just like, ‘Who knows what’s good any more? Give me another month and it would have been something completely different.'”

On April 28th 2017, SZA released “Love Galore,” which instantly became a hit. The song peaked on the at Billboard Hot 100 at #32, and as of September 20th, “Love Galore” has become her first platinum single.

June 9th 2017 was the day SZA’s fans have all been waiting for. With the release of her Debut album Ctrl (Originally intended to be titled A) came great reviews. The album managed to debut at #3 on the Billboard 200.

Hungry I Love You GIF by SZA - Find & Share on GIPHY

With all the success she’s had following the release, she thought the experience was surreal. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one. In a recent interview with BBC Radio 1Xtra, she revealed that Jay-Z thought she was a ‘fluke.’

“Jay-Z was the first person to tell me that he thought I was a fluke, to my face. He was just like, ‘You’re really good, you’re pretty good,’ and I was like ‘Thanks,’ He said, ‘I thought you were a fluke’ and I was like, ‘me too!'”

With all the good music and talent that we’ve heard thus far from SZA, it’s pretty safe to say that her career is far from a fluke.

In honor of Mental Health Day, here’s 11 tracks that will keep you up

Word to Bob Marley when he said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” From early on Bob knew that music can be the ultimate form of therapy.

Music has helped many people, including myself, get through their most difficult times. It touches your heart in the cleanest and purest way. That’s every “talented” artist’s goal when they’re making music – to touch your soul.

An artist’s lyrics can relate to a predicament you’re in, aid you in seeing true emotion, and keep you grounded. There are a couple of songs that have saved my life in ways you would never imagine.

In honor of World Mental Health Day, I would like to share some of the songs with you that helped me get through this arduous journey called life. I hope these songs will help you the same way they helped me.

Peep these 11 songs that will ease the mental pain.

Mac Miller & The Internet – “Objects in the Mirror”

This song is a refreshing taste of life. Mac reminds you that life is precious and that all your troubles in the world should be left in the rearview mirror.

“Objects in the Mirror” helped me get through bad breakups, insecurities about past mistakes, and reminded me how precious life is.

Post Malone – “Too Young”

Post Malone says it all in the hook for me on this one.

I don’t wanna die too young, too young, too young
Counting bands, hallelujah, ‘lujah, ‘lujah
I don’t wanna die too young, too young, too young
I’ve been grindin’ way too long, too long, too long

Live life, be happy, and keep it moving. If you want that shit, go get that shit, and pop that shit. This life is too short and poppin’ to die too young.

Frank Ocean – “We All Try”

Nostalgia to me is Frank Ocean’s best project, every track relates to a situation that most have been through. But “We All Try” stood out to me the most. This is probably the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

Ocean recognizes the imperfections of humanity but reminds us that we are crafted in the likeness and image of a god.

Each human has their flaws but the important part is that we try to be the best we can be. He doesn’t believe that we are wicked, he knows that we sin, but he does believe we try.

Kid Cudi – “Day ‘N’ Nite”

If you’re stressed out or have anxiety, take a stroll and listen to this song. When this song dropped back in 2009 I was around 15 years old. I was young, stressed, and unaware of who I was.

I never knew the importance of freeing your mind, embracing the environment around you, and going with the flow. Kid Cudi’s “Day ‘N’ Nite” taught me how.

Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

As a young black man in America, you can imagine how much this song spoke to me. All of our lives we had to fight just to be considered a human being.

Even now we are reminded that we are still looked at as “niggers” as innocent Blacks die at the hand of police officers.

All the unjust killings had me angry. If it wasn’t for this song that reminds us that God got us and that we are going to be “alright’ I don’t know how I would have acted on my anger. So, thank you, Kendrick Lamar.

Isaiah Rashad – “4r Da Squaw”

“4r Da Squaw” spoke to me in many different ways. It kept it real and helped me be real with myself. Isaiah speaks of the fear of adulthood and being responsible. All of us young cats can relate.

One of the scariest parts of life is entering the midpoint of the transition between being a child and becoming an adult. Especially if you’re coming out of college and have loans or if you can’t find a job to take care of your expenses, it’s all the same.

Shit, some people have to grow up earlier than that. I have homies that have been on their own since 17.

Rashad reminds us that if we can balance our responsibilities within our daily lives that transition into adulthood can be much easier.

Lil Uzi Vert – “Money Longer”

One thing that will always motivate me when I’m down or in a funk is getting my money up. “Money Longer” reminded me of that.

Sometimes you just have to lock in and gear up into the savage mode. Once that is done according to Lil Uzi, cars will get faster and money will get longer.

Trust me on this everyone, once in awhile you have to hype yourself up. Grinding is a big part of having a stress free life, you can’t have one without the other.

The Internet – “Girl”

We all know relationships can cause a lot of stress and there are a lot of songs that relate to heartbreak. We’ve all been heartbroken at some point throughout our lives but what if you could avoid that? “Girl” to me is like a love manual.

The Internet does an amazing job about explaining what love is really worth. You should feel the same way that Syd feels about this girl or vice versa in whatever relationship you’re in.

If that’s not the case then you should really consider if that other person is causing you to be sad all of the time or is the reason why you are hurting. This song taught me how to love and how I should be loved.

Schoolboy Q – “Blessed”

The first time I heard this song I cried. Q reminds us that it could be much worse and there are people out there that are going through some real shit compared to whatever we’re going through.

“Blessed” stresses that you also have people around you that can and will help you. All you have to do is reach out and you’ll be surprised how many people will stick out their helping hand.

If you never heard this song and you’re going through some ish please listen to it. Don’t neglect the progress of a baby step.

Nipsey Hussle – “10 Toes”

“10 Toes” was my wake up alarm for a while. Trust me it did wonders for waking up inspired.

Lace up those sneakers and don’t be afraid to step into an unforgiving world. Wear your confidence on your chest and tackle every situation with your all.

If you’re feeling unmotivated Nipsey Hussle’s bars will always keep you going for what you want to achieve. Don’t stress homie.

Logic – “1-800-273-8255”

We are all humans with all of our own stresses and it’s important to talk to someone if you need to express how you really feel. It’s unhealthy to keep your pain locked inside.

When you feel like you’re about to lose yourself in a deep depression there’s always someone you can call. Logic reminds us that on “1-800-273-8255.” That number is the suicide prevention hotline.

If you relate to this song call that number now and live.