XV-Tappin' Out (Cashin' Out Freestyle)

Taking on one of the mainstream’s favourites right now in Ca$h Out’s single (shout out to Ca$h’s management team, who are RELENTLESS with their email promotion), XV follows up his Stone Cold Steve Austin-referring track with one that features Bret Hart on the artwork. I already liked XV, but now I’m fully on board!

The production is light, upbeat and packs a nice bounce, making for a nice contrast to his previous laidback release. Vizzy takes on the playful beat well, laying his natural charisma on thick with a cool and confident hook (featuring a couple of submission references), followed by some characteristically witty raps packed into a couple of solid flows. A good show of versatility from XV with two distinctly different tracks in a short period of time, and hopefully there’s more to come.

M83-Reunion Video

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is one of my favourite albums of the last 12 months, and M83 come through with hugely-anticipated visuals for the next single from that album.

The first, the fantastically-feelgood Midnight City, featured a video that initially felt like it missed the vibe of the audio by opening with dark scenes, featuring a grim prison for supernaturally-gifted children, before turning things around with brighter images of freedom, talent and rebelliousness. This video is the direct sequel to that in both style and storyline, opening in an ominous manner (and even a possible child death!) before moving into heavy action scenes and a fight seemingly of good versus evil, ending grandly in a spiritual and celestial manner. It’s a duet of videos laden with messages of trapped youth, revolution and spiritualism, and hence they’re fantastically gripping watches that are about as engaging as any videos I’ve seen in recent years.

A true example of how to combine stylistic excellence with a captivating story, and on reflection its astounding that they’ve managed to pack so much detail and depth into just a few short minutes. I’ve no reservations saying that when placed in sequence with the Midnight City clip, this is one of the best videos you’ll see this year. Grab the album on iTunes now.

Ellie Goulding-High For This (The Weeknd Cover)

Risky. Ellie hooks up with Xaphoon Jones of Chiddy Bang to take one of the The Weeknd’s finest tracks to date, and given that his fanbase is increasingly a combination of hipsters and clueless girls (I’m flouncing around somewhere in between), it’s one that will inevitably be met with instant skepticism by many.

It’s a different take on the track, moving away from the original’s lush, atmospheric soundscapes into a more minimal, electronically-driven style. Truthfully, I’m not sure it completely comes off as you’re left waiting for something to really grab you, but whilst it’s not as addictive or instantly loveable as the original is, it deserves credit for trying to put a twist on the formula rather than attempting to recreate it. The primary criticism I’d have is that the Autotune really doesn’t suit Golding at all and she’d probably have done a fine job going for some natural vocals on this, but nonetheless its worth a listen or two, even if it just means you end up appreciating the original even more.

Bloc Party-Four Album Trailer

Four years after their last album, the reunited Bloc Party are gearing up to release their fourth album on 20th August. Whilst I wasn’t hugely keen on their third album, Intimacy, their first two albums were excellent and when on form they’re undoubtedly one of the most listenable acts in the UK indie scene.

There’s only so much you can glean from a trailer that only has brief clips of each song, but it seems as though they’re going for a real mixture of sounds, with a couple of airy, more laidback track clips reminiscent of A Weekend In The City being played alongside much harder, more jagged snippets akin to Intimacy. The trailer is mostly comprised of in-studio footage, offering little indication on the artistic direction any surrounding materials (videos etc.) may adopt, but I’m sure most Bloc Party fans will just be delighted to see them working on new music.

Let’s hope a single is on its way soon. For now, you can pre-order the album and check out their upcoming tour dates.

XV-Stone Cold (Recipe Freestyle)

Awesome. XV draws inspiration from Stone Cold Steve Austin for his first drop in a little while, titling it after the legendary wrestler and making a few fun references to him/his catchphrases throughout.

The production is very laidback, with a soft percussion blending with a mellow vocal sample and a couple of other easygoing elements to good effect, providing Vizzy with a backdrop that compliments his raps nicely. Those raps are sharp as ever, with the subject matter centred around his hometown for a nice personal feel, whilst the hook proclaims that hometown love with multiple Stone Cold catchphrases. A likeable all-rounder and a very easy listen.

Childish Gambino-Silk Pillow ft. Beck

The third instalment of Gambino’s recent free-leases, and he’s snagged a huge name on the feature here as alternative legend Beck lends a hand to help Childish make it three good releases on the trot.

The production is very clever throughout, tailoring to each artist’s strengths in their respective sections. Beck opens the track backed by some fantastic piano work and a sharp percussion, with his almost spoken-word style combining with those provisions for an alt-pop sound. The track threatens a metamorphosis after Beck’s contribution by switching briefly into an electronic transition, before going back to the chords and drums for Gambino’s raps. The switches are made back and forth again part-way through his verse, before the track closes with an instrumental that fully transforms into the electro style. It’s a diverse and dynamic listen that’s impossible to box into a genre, and as a result will go down well with Gambino fans.

Big Boi and Theophilus London-She Said OK ft. Tre Luce

Given that both Big Boi and Theophilus are credited as the lead artists here, I’m not sure who’s upcoming album it’s destined for (sidenote: Big Boi announced his next solo LP is titled Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors), but it’s good to see a hip-hop veteran hooking up with a young upcomer for this one.

There’s no ambiguity with regards to subject matter here, as the first 30 seconds attest to: Theo and Big Boi are right after the ladies with this one, and in a pretty blunt way. The audacious nature of it smacks of old school Outkast, and that vibe is backed by a slow and sleazy production that winds its way through the track softly, giving it a laidback summer vibe that’ll sound great turned right up in the car. The vocal work from Tre is soulful too, working well with the chillout vibe and further enhancing the suggestive vibe of the track. Decent all-rounder, and I’d quite like to hear more from this duo as they’ve clearly got a solid chemistry.

Angels and Airwaves-Surrender Video

Looks like even Angels and Airwaves want in on the riot-themed video action, as they come through with a clip for one of the many excellent tracks from their most recent album, Love Part 2.

If you watched the No Church In The Wild video a little earlier, you’ll be familiar with chunks of this video. The opening few seconds are almost identical in setting up a riot scene, though the video then transitions into something a little more positive, helped hugely by the fantastically feelgood audio. As the audio is heavily anchored around the hook, the video represents that by gathering pace through the verses, and progressing slowly into action-heavy climaxes for the hook that are a hyperactive blend of band shots, rioting and dancing. The diversity of those scenes adds a lighter, positive spin to the notion of an uprising, and certainly removes some of the seriousness associated with the riot scenes, a necessary move given the uplifting nature of the audio. The whole package of scenes combines with the audio for a general feeling of youthful rebelliousness, and its an audio-visual that makes for a pretty solid watch. Grab the single on iTunes now.

Jay-Z and Kanye West-No Church In The Wild Video

An engaging and aggressive video for the opening track and one of the highlights from the otherwise-mixed Watch the Throne album. Director Romain Gavras takes strong inspiration from the riots that have taken place all over the world over the last 12 months, giving the video a real world feel whilst making it relatable to many on a national level-inevitably, over here we’ll draw comparisons with the London riots, whilst our Greek readers will do the same and so on (not to be ‘that guy’, but it’s disconcerting that riots are a closely-relatable theme globally).

It’s an intense video that would probably be better suited to a more aggressive track, but nonetheless links up with the audio to give these anarchical scenes a slightly different context, painting the streets as the new ‘wild’, and enhancing the menacing qualities of the production. The dark palette and apocalyptic environments create an ominous aura, adding a gravity and seriousness to the audio, whilst the contrasting addition of lasers and other effects add to the freneticism of the video.

It’s a great video but I’m not convinced it’s the absolutely ideal fit for the audio. That’s not to say it doesn’t work as it certainly does, but a rougher, edgier song would have fully utilised the powerful visuals. Worth a watch for sure though, and credit to Gavras for directing a very detailed video.

Pusha T-Exodus 23:1 Video

There’s no glitz, gloss or glamour in this one. Pusha rounds up some of his cronies for a gritty, stripped-back video set mostly in his, or someone else’s, hood.

Most hip-hop fans are now familiar with the thoroughly enjoyable audio, with some sharp raps from Pusha T and a strong hook from The-Dream, whilst the fallout from and response to the track have been well-documented. It’s probably a classic case of trying too hard to see something, but there seems to be one actor/character that bears quite the resemblance to the fellow who has taken most exception to the track, namely Lil’ Wayne.

Not a great deal more to say about this one. It’s a good visualisation of the relatively punchy audio and certainly drives home the message of the audio, without adding any unnecessary sheen on top. Look for this on the upcoming G.O.O.D. Music album, Cruel Summer.

GLC and Blended Babies-Cathedral Mixtape

I haven’t checked for GLC in quite some time, but upon hearing he’d hooked up with the gifted Blended Babies production outfit for this entire tape, it seemed worth getting him back on the radar.

Having only got as far as the opening track, I’m not yet well placed to make a call on whether the combination comes off, but if that track is anything to go by then we’re in for a treat. Featuring an excellent Raheem DeVaughn hook and a positive, upbeat production, GLC’s deep tones are contrasted and highlighted very well on the track, making for a good re-introduction to the rapper’s body of work. Find out for yourself if the rest of the tape holds up with a free grab below.

GLC and Blended Babies-Cathedral

Nas-Daughters Video

Pretty much every track Nas has let loose from Life Is Good has been met with a good reception, but arguably none more so than this one. It gained pretty much universal acclaim on its release a couple of weeks back, and Nas rightfully comes through with a clip for the single.

It’s a simple and effective video, interspersing close-ups of Nas with close-ups of his family life. There’s no facade here as its a part-celebratory part-biographical account of Nas’ relationship with his daughter, oftentimes being a very touching and heartwarming affair that I’m sure many parents will relate to. The progression of the video matches the honesty of the lyricism, following the difficulties surrounding the growth and maturity of his daughter, and painting a great picture of the hardships of being a celebrity parent, as Nas owns up to not bringing his daughter up in the best of circumstances whilst documenting her own misdemeanours.

It’s a great clip that makes for open, honest viewing and a refreshing, personal listen. Life Is Good due July 17th, and you can grab this single on iTunes right now.

Linkin Park-Burn It Down Video

This song has continued to grow on me since its release, and Linkin Park now release a video for the single, the first from their upcoming Living Things album.

The video is in keeping with the style of their releases in recent years, with lots of cyberpunk effects and imagery, along with an otherworldly quality and a grand sense of scale that all blend together for a futuristic and intense video. Whilst there isn’t a great deal of diversity or change from scene-to-scene, the clip backs the song up well and plays down the electronic elements of it, instead highlighting the rock aspects of the track, something that’s much-needed given the heavy and potentially divisive electronic influence on the audio.

The track is available on iTunes right now, where you’ll also find the pre-order for the upcoming album, due for release on 26th June.

Lil’ Wayne-Goulish

Pusha T dropped a terrific track earlier this week (sadly, I didn’t have to time to post it. It’s tough working solo!) that Wayne took exception to, marking the latest milestone in a G.O.O.D./YMCMB feud that’s been simmering (via subtle digs) for a while. Given that Pusha and Wayne had their own issues a few years back, this response suggests things are back on between them.

A radio rip for now, but the message is clear. Credit to Wayne as he doesn’t hold back too much, opening with the Tweet linked above and continuing with some relatively aggressive raps, and whilst it’s not going down in history as a great diss track, it’s nice to hear fire in Wayne’s voice again. Cudi tweeted a response recently, so the question is who steps up to the plate next? Admittedly, it’s probably a manufactured ‘beef’ to sell some CDs, but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

Childish Gambino-Black Faces ft. Nipsey Hu$$le

Two of my favourite young rappers in the game come together for a collaboration from Gambino’s upcoming and as-yet-untitled mixtape, and it’s the second excellent drop in two weeks from Gambino.

The production is perfect for Nipsey’s style and mirrors some of his selections from his various Marathon projects, blending a laidback cool with a little atmsophere, seriousness and bounce for a beat that will find favour with almost every corner of the hip-hop fanbase. The raps are enjoyable from both acts, with Nipsey bringing his contemplative yet confident style on the opening verse, before Gambino bursts in with a hook that sounds straight out of the West coast playbook, before transitioning into an empassioned verse that’s similar to Nipsey’s in subject matter, making for some welcome consistency and giving the track a good structure. Really likeable one again from Childish Gambino, and that mixtape can’t come soon enough.

Emanny-Songs About Her

Fresh off a spate of good work as part of the Summer Leather Vest collective, Emanny comes through with a solo project that will hopefully lead to more success for him as a solo artist.

He’s undoubtedly a gifted vocalist but seems to have just lacked that consistency and quality with previous releases. There’s every chance that his work as part of SLV has sharpen up some of those rough edges, and I expect this could be a defining mixtape for him, a view I may not be alone in having as Jadakiss, Emilio Rojas and Joe Budden lend their talents to assists to Emanny’s 13-track project. R&B heads should be grabbing this one, and you can do so for free below.

Emanny-Songs About Her

50 Cent-The Lost Tape Mixtape

He’s been going on about it for what seems like forever, and 50 finally drops off his latest mixtape and his first ever Gangsta Grillz tape (like that has any prestige after giving OJ Da Juiceman multiple Gangsta Grillz titles).

It’s an interesting lineup too. It feels strimmed down courtesy of a lack of major features, outside of Eminem, Snoop Dogg and 2 Chainz each appearing once, and even then the latter is due to 50 remixing his single. By the same token, the list of producers doesn’t quite read like a who’s who of the hip-hop game, and the combination of that and the lesser features could actually be a good thing; 50′s put the spotlight on himself as a result, and I’m sure most hip-hop heads would love to hear a hungry, on-form 50 Cent. Free grab below.

50 Cent-The Lost Tape

Cocaine 80s-Chain Glow ft. Nas

Given the vast amount of material that Common, James Fauntleroy, No I.D. and friends have released as Cocaine 80s, it’s a surprise I’ve not posted any of it on here. Nonetheless, they’ve started releasing more music recently after a few months off, and this is certainly the standout of the bunch courtesy of a great Nas verse.

Fauntleroy does a superb job with his harmonies throughout this one, taking on the soft yet atmospheric No I.D. production with a delicate delivery on the vocals, both in rapped and singing sections, working to really accetuate the high points of the beat and showcase his own abilities. The slick Nas verse contrasts excellently with the smooth vocal work that comes before and after it, with a razor-sharp delivery that definitely leaves you wanting more; clever move with his next album on the horizon. A really likeable effort that straddles the lines of soul, R&B and hip-hop very expertly.

A-Trak and Dillon Francis-Money Makin’

Summer’s coming (all 2 days of it, hopefully) and it’s about the time to grab some brand new dance/electro/whatever to crank the volume up on in your car.

It’s a lively, energetic number that’s anchored around an earworm of a melody, that being the shrill electronic melody that bounces its way through the track. The rest of the production is pretty standard stuff and that’s not a bad thing, piecing together a percussion that moves the track along nicely with a catchy vocal sample, multiple tempo switches and a few other additions that add some welcome detail. A light and bright electro effort that’s generally quite inoffensive and ticks all the right boxes for a summer playlist.

Lupe Fiasco-Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)

Lupe’s back. The Friend of the People mixtape had a couple of outstanding tracks that hinted at a return to form, and this excellent first single from the upcoming Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album suggests he’s well and truly back on track.

Any hip-hop fan worth their salt will instantly recognise the production, sampling Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s legendary classic T.R.O.Y., and that instant throwback recognition sets you up well for the familiar and sorely missed sound of Lupe on form. The rest of the production needs no description: it’s simply one of the all-time great hip-hop beats, albeit a little ‘shinier’ and lacking the rough edge of the original.

In what is one of his most politically and socially charged rhymesets to date, Lupe takes the listener on a world tour of sorts as he documents and offers opinions on a range of global goings-on, demonstrating that passion, motivation and depth so sorely lacking from Lasers. The flows and wordplay are pretty solid throughout, switching through a couple of deliveries and dropping off some nice quotables throughout for a very well-rounded performance. This is about as good a lead single as Lupe could have gone for to get the hip-hop audience back on his side, and I’m thoroughly excited for more from the album. Sadly, this hasn’t hit iTunes UK yet, but keep a look out for it.

Kendrick Lamar-War Is My Life

A nice look for Kendrick here, as he’s placed on the official soundtrack for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier game, released over here on Friday 25th May.

A relatively short blast but it’s rarely a disappointing one with Kendrick, as he takes to a production that swings through a few moods with some strong flows. The beat opens with a driven, slightly dark style before progressing into a marching, more motivational soundscape, courtesy of some good transitional work on the percussion. Kendrick’s raps are solid throughout, bringing some slick flows to the verses before unwrapping that singing/harmonising delivery he’s so fond of for the hook to enhance that motivational aspect. A decent effort that will satisfy Kendrick fans hungry for more material from him.

Asher Roth-Outside

Since his release of the lead single from Is This Too Orange? Asher’s been quiet, but he returns to the limelight with some brand new music to brighten the Monday of Asher fans.

Feelgood vibes wrap around this track, as Asher cools out and describes a pretty great summer day for most people, with lots of outdoorsy lyricism packaged into a bouncy flow. There’s nothing massively complicated about the raps and that’s a highlight of the track, with its easygoing nature being a light listen that helps this track to definitely find a home on your headphones on a bright summer’s day. The production compliments the rapping, with a childish vocal sample that enhances the playful nature of the subject, whilst the soft percussion allows the track to bob along smoothly. A solid all-rounder that’ll slot onto summer playlist without much fuss.

Mickey Factz-Taking Pictures of Girls Naked

NOT work safe. Also, anyone under 18 needs to watch something else.

I’ve been enjoying the soundtrack to the Mickey Mause documentary so much that the opportunity to check out the actual documentary and all of the accompanying visuals hasn’t arisen. That being said, this was the standout track and seemed a good start to hunt down the video series.

The video takes full inspiration from the title and lyrical content, as the Mickey Mause character gets an close-up and personal photography session with a more than willing model. Despite the obvious sexual overtones of the video, there is something oddly captivating beyond that (I’m being serious!), possibly down to the general cool vibe of the Mause character and the ridiculousness of his daily life. The audio is an excellent blend of classic Mickey Factz storytelling with a thick electro production that sacrifices tempo for depth and power. Mickey’s raps are simple and to the point, setting the scenes perfectly, whilst the intense, rugged electronic tones give the track a raw, attitudinal edge that feed into the character’s cool vibes. Worth a watch (if you’re of age), and definitely worth a listen; grab the excellent Mickey Mause mixtape here.

Slaughterhouse-Westwood Freestyle

The Slaughterhouse boys are at it again. It’s always a pleasure to see these guys come through with some freestyle work, and here they stop by at Westwood’s place whilst on their European tour to fire some bars off on Stay Schemin’, I Don’t Like, and I’m A Boss. It’s a selection of beats that most mainstream heads will be familiar with, and hence it’s great to hear the Slaughterhouse machine get their hands on them.

Whilst some of the bars are recycled from previous verses (I definitely recognised bits of Royce and Budden’s verses), the performances are still enjoyable enough throughout with some tidy flows and solid wordplay. Joell probably takes the win, purely because it’s clear most of his bars are pretty much improvised (unless he’s previously made a Nando’s reference?), though props to Crooked I for his fantastic, albeit short, flow for his section.

A. Chal-Paid In Full

With a slew of hip-hop vocal samples in tow, the very talented A. Chal comes through with his latest alternative electronic effort. I’ve had much of his back catalogue on repeat since the emergence of the excellent Come Back, and it’s great to get some fresh new material from him.

As with his previous material, there’s an addictive cool in and amongst the diversity he displays from start to finish. The first half of the track is smoothed out, atmospheric and relaxing without losing a lively edge, before alternating in short bursts with a quicker, more house-esque style to bring that variety to the fore and inject further energy into the track. Whilst the two alternating styles are different, there’s a general calm and solidity in the synths that underpins the whole track and ensures consistency, making this an enjoyable listen the whole way through. Looking forward to more from A. Chal.

Childish Gambino-We Ain't Them

Having vented a little just moments ago on Twitter, I thought I’d pay Childish Gambino/Donald Glover’s site a visit. Imagine my surprise when firstly, it was somewhat renovated (with a Big Ghost quote, no less), and secondly, this excellent track was sitting at the bottom waiting to be downloaded.

Many will recognise this as one of the outstanding tracks from the quartet he performed recently, and I’ve been looking forward to this being released. The production is wonderfully easygoing, with the opening relying heavily on a light key melody before launching into, and blending with, a pulsating percussion and some superb raps from Gambino. There’s a mixture of motivational and biographical lyricism in this one, making for relatable content to accompany the warming production, including a couple of lines that will surely get the gossip columns talking (“hope the show gets cancelled, maybe then I can focus“). I’d rather ignore that and celebrate this track for the summery, all-round throughly enjoyable effort it is, and I’d fully recommend this to all Gambino fans.

Childish Gambino-Unnecessary ft. Schoolboy Q

I know this collaboration will excite a lot of OTU fans, and rightfully so. Two upcoming rappers who’ve risen at different ends of the spectrum, and this is about as good a co-sign as Gambino’s managed to grab to date in his quest to be taken much more seriously as a rapper.

Assumedly from his upcoming mixtape, and having given Funk Flex the honour of premiering this a couple of nights back, he’s certainly upped the hype for that project. There’s a clear maturity taking place with Gambino’s raps, leaving behind his lighter style for something a little darker and more aggressive in a recent video, and that’s a trait carried over here. A slow, ominous production holds things together whilst both rappers grab the beat in very different ways, and whilst Q edges it with his razor-sharp flow, Gambino’s performance is enjoyable with some nice lyrical high points. Radio rip for now, and I’m looking forward to a better version.

Rick Ross-Touch ‘N You ft. Usher

God Forgives, I Don’t is on the horizon, and recent collaborators Rick Ross and Usher hook up once more for the latest release from that project.

I’ve been hugely underwhelmed by everything from this project thus far, but this is definitely a step up. The production begins with a slow, smooth quality that mirrors some of Drake’s early material, before moving into yet another catchy Usher vocal, and finally ending up at a Ross verse with a percussion that adds some energy into the track. Occasionally, that blend of soft synth and urgent percussion sounds a bit cluttered and confused, but for the most part it’ll hold up well enough to satisfy the mainstream. Undoubtedly though, it’s the Usher hook and vocals that make this one, and it’s as good an advertisment for Ush’s own upcoming album as it is for the Ross album.

Ne-Yo-Lazy Love

Of the trillions of possible album titles, why Ne-Yo opted to use the same title as Game’s album released less than a year ago is beyond me. It helps no-one and it’s not even that good of a name. R.E.D. Yeah, creative.

The first release from that album, and thankfully it compensates for the silly titling. The production is anchored around a booming percussion, creating a driving power in the soundscape that is supplemented by some excellent lightness in the melodies. The soft keys, strums and synths surround themselves around the pounding percussion alternately, serving to calm it slightly and keep the track from straying too far from the realms of more laidback R&B. Vocally, Ne-Yo rarely disappoints and his delivery is on-point once again, ensuring he doesn’t get too wrapped up in the more intense elements by resisting the temptation to cut loose and deliver an overly-passionate segment. It’s nothing revolutionary, but a solid R&B jam for sure.