Jesse Boykins III - Plain

Unquestionably, JB3 is one of my favourite upcoming R&B/soul acts. Arguably, he was one of the early pioneers behind the alt-R&B sound that’s penetrating the mainstream bit-by-bit, though in the intervening years he’s added many more strings to his bow, and arguably now thrives when in a more positive, livelier soundscape.

That’s precisely what we get from the lead single from his anticipated Love Apparatus LP (landing on 22nd April). The production is built on vibrant percussion, adding a quick (but not intimidating) speed to proceedings, tempered by the gentle melodies floating above it, with the soft synths and samples being almost lullaby-esque when isolated away from the collected piece. It’s a good combination of soulful melodies and a more modern style; it’s a testament to good craft (and mastering) when such divergent layers fit seamlessly together. That unique backdrop sets Jesse up perfectly, as his vocals move beautifully between his trademark drifty, airy style and a more energetic, extroverted delivery. His vocal gifts have never been questioned, and it’s another strong performance from one of the most naturally gifted acts on the scene today.

He’s even demonstrating new tricks in the video, with a fun, high-energy visual of Jesse breaking out some slick dance moves from start to finish. His carefree nature makes for an infectious positivity, and definitely makes this a good watch. Hopefully, this single is the one that breaks him through that next barrier. Available now.

Lupe Fiasco - Snitches 2

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It was a choice between one of three tracks Lupe’s released in recent days, and it was this (the sequel to one he released on the very same day) that grabbed me most. For reference though, Snitches (featuring Ty Dolla $ign) and DopeBoysAtAllStarWeekend (featuring Gizzle) are available here. Of the two, the former is unquestionably better, for what it’s worth.

On first listen, it’s a very ‘un-Lupe’ production. I’m not sure what this whole Drogas thing is about (is Lupe suddenly a Hispanic drug dealer?) but it’s resulted in a thumping, club-ready production that many of today’s mainstream rappers would be quite happy to get on board with- you can quite easily hear the likes of Rick Ross having a great time with this, and to Lupe’s credit, he does a good job of adjusting his style enough to not sound out of place himself.

Packed full of street raps (from the third person, interestingly), it’s a pretty solid performance, and though Lupe’s inflections and emotions aren’t exactly at peak intensity, his flow is as watertight as ever and it’s an easy to follow, uncomplicated effort, which makes for a degree of change as far as Lupe’s lyricism goes. Worth a listen, and hopefully Tetsuo and Youth isn’t far away.