Favorite New & Old Tracks of the Week

“Cash In Cash Out” by 21 Savage, Tyler the Creator & Pharrell Williams cover art [Columbia Records]; “Ctrl” by SZA cover art [Top Dawg Entertainment]

We’re only about halfway through 2022, but the best collab. of the year might’ve dropped this week.

Also, SZA’s still great, in case you missed last week.

Honorable mentions for my favorite new track of the week first, as always:

Steve Lacy announced his sophomore album “Gemini Rights” will be out this summer along with lead single “Mercury”. Anyone who knows me will know I hate astrology and based on this single’s lyrics and the album title it sounds like astrology will be a core theme of Lacy’s latest LP. Not looking forward to that. Still, “Mercury” is by far the most fleshed out song Lacy has released in his solo career, full of Spanish guitars and layered rhythms. I am looking forward to more of that.

“Breath Control” is the last single for Logic’s 30-song “Vinyl Days” which dropped today. On the surface, that sounds like a slog of an album. If the deep cuts are as good as “Breath Control” and most of the other singles, maybe not. Wiz Khalifa is actually the best part of this song, sounding surprisingly mature over a great Father’s Children sample.

The internet’s favorite sad boi Joji is back with his first new solo material since 2020’s “Nectar”. I loved that album, and I really like this single, “Glimpse”. The subject matter is nothing new for the 88rising star – wanting your new partner to be your ex. That’s ok. Joji’s finding other ways to make his music interesting. He continues to improve as a singer and the arrangement is a lot more interesting than similar songs on 2018’s “BALLADS 1”.

I will die on this hill: Raury walked so that Lil Nas X could give the devil a lap dance. But the Atlanta singer-rapper has mostly dropped the indie/folk elements of his sound for latest LP “Strawberry Moon”, which is basically a straightforward Alternative R&B album. Too straightforward for its own good. Raury’s genre-bending and experimenting on the margins is what makes his music interesting. “Strawberry Moon” is well produced, sometimes well written, almost always bland. “Her Smile” was the best track in my opinion.

Favorite New Track of the Week: “Cash In Cash Out” by 21 Savage, Tyler the Creator & Pharrell

If you’d told me 5 years ago when I was about to move to London for the 1st time that in 2022 my favorite British rapper would be 21 Savage, I wouldn’t have believed you.

For so many reasons.

1st of all, I didn’t like anything 21 Savage had done up to that point. He was the epitome of vapid mumble rap before “i am > i was”.

2nd, I expected to enjoy Grime a lot more living here. Call me when they find out there’s more than one flow.

3rd – and let’s be honest most important – we all thought 21 Savage was from Atlanta.

Anyway. The song.

Stick around after the middling hook, because Savage delivers his best feature since “m y . l i f e” with J. Cole. Peppered with the usual ad-libs, yet again he finds a slightly off-kilter flow that fits Pharrell’s beat perfectly.

It takes a rapper with some real gravitas to call himself ‘bunny hop’ about 5,000 times and still sound intimidating. Tyler, the Creator has always had the voice to pull that off and in the last five years he’s had the technical ability. This might be the best verse he’s ever recorded over a beat he didn’t produce himself.

The song doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, a couple hooks, two great verses, that’s it. The beat isn’t insane but it’s a perfect mix to fit these two rappers. I never knew I wanted this, and I want more.

Favorite Old Track of the Week: “Broken Clocks” by SZA

After being drip-fed the tiniest bit of ‘new’ material last week, I’ve been listening to SZA a lot this week.

The Frank Ocean comparison that gets thrown her way a lot is lazy. Alternative R&B sounds so different artist to artist, and Frank’s work in particular has deviated from that sound pretty heavily since “Channel ORANGE”.

But there is something to the comparison. They both have a really idiosyncratic, singular approach to songwriting that I think is the core of why I enjoy both artists so much.

“Broken Clocks” is one of the best examples of it in SZA’s discography. It’s one-part introspective diary entry, one-part break-up song, one-part grafting song, weaving in and out of all three in every verse and every chorus. All without sounding like a complete mess.

‘I’ve had a thing for dirty shoes since I was 10 / Love dirty men alike’ is about as close to a summary statement for “Ctrl” as you can get. The love triangles and toxic relationships take center stage on most tracks, but the real through line ends up being growing up by the end of the record.

Coming a bit past halfway on the tracklist, “Broken Clocks” feels like the pivot point on “Ctrl”, where all of the album’s themes collide. More introspective songs that follow like “Normal Girl” and “20 Something” don’t feel jarring, all thanks to “Broken Clocks” and the attention that was paid to sequencing the album (we won’t talk about “Pretty Little Birds”).

All of this is to say: I want another one. I don’t know if Top Dawg just needs a hug or what – let us hear the album man.

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