Listen to the following songs and more via TOO FRESH, the freshest monthly playlist there is here.
ALBUM OF THE MONTH | HEIZE – HAPPEN
Re-enacting her own version of the famous Chinese film In the Mood for Love in her video for “HAPPEN,” HEIZE, the breakout k-pop singer who once got her start performing on a televised competition show named Unpretty Rapstar (which is a total sin if that’s not lost in translation), finally gets the spotlight here on her second album. Reminiscent of English counterparts like Jessie Ware, or even the Swedish Snoh Aalegra, HEIZE’S songs are breezy, captivating, sweeping, and infused with more traditional Korean singer/songwriter instrumentation than her more popular counterparts. Coming off of features such as “Can’t Sleep” with Loco and production credits (alongside Dua Lipa) on TWICE’s recent record Can’t Stop Me, HEIZE is one of the top solo talents of the genre right now.
For more from the K-Pop counter: BTS released a remix of “Butter (Hotter Remix)” that greatly surpasses the original, NCT DREAM stunned with their music video for “Hot Sauce,” and TAEMIN, of the group Winner, gave us some much needed Advice on his “3rd Mini Album.”
AND ANOTHER ALBUM | Bachelor – Doomin’ Sun
Released late into May, I had to stick in another Album of the Month credit to Doomin’ Sun by Bachelor, the duo of female singer/songwriters Jay Som and Palehound. Both signed to Polyvinyl Records and connected through mutual fandom, which is how their friendship started touring on the road together, their music has never sounded as perfect as it sounds now that they’re playing together. Over guitar swirling tracks like “Stay in the Car” or “Back of My Hand,” the duo’s voices complement each other as they sing of road trips, walking home alone at night, and general L.A. gloom and doom.
VERSE OF THE MONTH | Conway the Machine – “Hood Blues” by DMX
Here just last week with Album of the Month La Maquina, Conway the Machine, the Buffalo, NY rapper and one of the best currently to even do it, absolutely tore up his feature this month alongside family members Westside Gunn and Benny the Butcher on the posthumous DMX record, “Hood Blues.” “Look, you throwin’ shots? You better be precise/If I only squeeze it twice, that’s me bein’ polite,” he raps overtop a sleazy Swizz Beatz sample. “They mad I’m rich, the same n****s that wouldn’t see my plight/The Nets playin’, I’m ridin’ to the game with KD tonight.”
9 SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR…
1. ALLBLACK – “How I Feel” with P-Lo and ShooterGang Kony
Repping Oakland, California, ALLBLACK’s latest with Sacramento’s ShooterGang Kony, who last stunned on “Off the Dribble,” and Filipino rapper P-Lo, who repeats his very Bay Area popular chorus from “Put Me On’ Some” here, has some classic West Coast bounce. Like Roddy Ricch and Mustard’s “Ballin'” or Vince Staples’ FM, I hope this one is just blaring out of Summer windows out there on the other coast.
2. J. Cole – “1 0 0 . m i l ‘ ” with Bas
J. Cole has spent the last few years trying to piss me off as much as possible. He made a record in 2018 titled K.O.D. talking down to younger rappers, and then during the pandemic he quite tone-deafly feuded with Noname to tone police her talk of how more wealthier artists in the industry weren’t speaking out enough about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Needless to say, Noname teamed up with Madlib and Cole got bodied. I haven’t really ever been a fan of the corny, cocky J. Cole, save for what I believe is his masterpiece, 4 Your Eyez Only, and that’s probably why “1 0 0 . m i l. ‘” is my favorite track off the lackluster Off Season, where for most others it’s for some reason their least favorite. This is pump up/NBA commercial music, and I’m glad he finally let one of his signed artists, like Bas here, feature on one of his own albums for god’s sake.
3. Lil Nas X – “Sun Goes Down”
No one, and I mean NO ONE ALL CAPS, my readers, can plot a career like Lil Nas X. Following last month’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name),” a hedonistic joy ride that got Network TV boomers absolutely fumed for giving the devil a lap dance in the music video, Lil Nas X released his next single, “Sun Goes Down.” Depicting Lil Nas talking to his younger, depressed self, the “Sun Goes Down” video amazingly compliments not only his wide array of songwriting talents, but for sure would make anyone feel like complete s**t for making fun of him before. I can imagine him thinking, “Oh you think I’m a monster corrupting your kids Fox News? Well some of your kids want to blow their brains out because they’re afraid to come out of the closet, and are bullied and lonely, like I once was. But thanks to my music, and those who accept me, I’m now having the time of my life.” Genius.
4. CZARFACE – “Mando Calrissian” with MF DOOM
Inspectah Deck of the Wu-Tang Clan, lead rapper of the group CZARFACE, is one of the few artists carrying the pure, MF DOOM sound on past the late emcee’s death. It was quite an odd experience tearing up while listening to cheesy rhymes on a record referencing Star Wars and Marvel characters like they were going through an encyclopedia. But, it was just really special having an artist like DOOM in our lives, and to hear that sound, and his voice again, simply got the tear ducts working.
5. Olivia Rodrigo – “Brutal”
Following “Driver’s License,” I for sure didn’t expect this kind of cutesy punk sound from Rodrigo, but it really works in a semi-crafted and honest kind of way. The lyrics aren’t obnoxious, as one might expect from a song like this, and some like, “If someone tells me one more time, ‘Enjoy your youth,’ I’m gonna cry,” and “I can’t even parallel park,” come off really charming. Side-note, I don’t know if anyone else will find this interesting, but Rodrigo’s record, Sour, was produced by the lead singer of a Brooklyn band named As Tall As Lions that I was really into after I saw them open for Cage the Elephant in 2010. So, there you go.
6. Quando Rondo – “Okay”
Quando Rondo. Always loved that name. Hailing from Savannah, Georgia, Rondo got a lot of attention last Winter when he was involved in a shooting that led to the death of King Von, a rapper signed to Lil Durk’s label. Bad press as it may have been, it put his name out there for a larger audience, and those listening to him for the first time on Still Taking Risks would probably be surprised to find out he had a good working relationship with Lil Durk just one year prior on his debut studio project QPac. “Okay” may be his lightest, catchiest song to date, but it’s a good sign that he’s moving on past the altercation, and thinking out a safer road to music stardom.
For a great posthumous King Von track released this month, be sure to check out his feature on Tee Grizzley’s “Not Gone Play.”
7. SoGone SoFlexy – “Big Wide Body”
Signed to Kevin Abstract’s new label VIDEO STORE, fellow Corpus Christie, Texas emcee SoGone SoFlexy stuns on “Big Wide Body,” following his debut feature on the Brockhampton song “Windows.” Exuding the chopped-and-screwed classic sound of the South, “SoGone SoFlexy” is the most Texas rap sound I’ve heard since UGK, and it’ll. have us “swangin’ in a big wide body” all summer.
8. SpotemGottem – “Dirty Diana”
One of E-40’s favorite bright, young stars coming up today, SpotemGottem has the quirk and slurred speech of those who grew up listening to Future and Young Thug, hoping to be the next RaeSremmurd. After hitting what felt like never ending remixes of his single “Beat Box” featuring big named like DaBaby, Latto, Polo G, and most recently Young M.A, Gottem dropped off Most Wanted, featuring the track “Dirty Diana.” A simple, Michael Jackson referencing and Chance the Rapper-sounding piano accompanying track, “Diana” proves that Gottem has more potential in his future.
9. YG & Mozzy – “Gangsta”
YG and Mozzy are a surprisingly good duo–where YG feels like he’s dancing all over the beat, 10,000 ft in the air, Mozzy is raspy and grounded. They both sound perfectly at home on the beat for “Gangsta,” a flipped sample of 50 Cent’s 2002 cut “Wanksa,” and for two guys who release a project every year (sometimes even more than one), they still sound in top form.
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.