Now Listening: Wale / Future / OG Maco / Jill Scott / Cashmere Cat / Post Malone

What’s running through iTunes the most as of late?

by Jameel Raeburn (@MeelzTV)

JoJo — Glory

Can you believe it’s been almost ten years since JoJo released an album? While being essemtially a prisoner of the music industry for the better part of the last decade, we’ve had to witness her evolution only through one-off singles and under-the-radar mixtapes, but her last project #LoveJo (released Valentine’s Day 2014) illustrates just how far she’s come from “Leave (Get Out)” teenager. The project’s closing track “Glory” is still chills-inducing with her powerful-yet-controlled vocals taking center stage, backed by minimal piano. Looking forward to JoJo’s return on Atlantic Records.

T-Pain — Hashtag

It’s been ten years since T-Pain emerged and seven years since he’s been anything close to musically-relevant. But in those three years (if you’ve got the 1st grade math down), he was one of the most omnipresent figures in music. In 2015 T-Pain’s got a much deeper respect from listeners who respect his catalog of hits, but he’s fighting not to go down as some novelty act with his new project The Iron Way. Among the grab bag of creative content, “Hashtag” is by far my favorite. Conceptually, it could be perceived as corny but T-Pain’s hypnotizing melodies take over and before you know it you’re leaning and snapping like it’s 2007.

Florence + The Machine — St. Jude

It would’ve been easy for Florence Welch to announce she’s stepping away from Florence + The Machine to pursue a solo venture, grab the most relevant group of producers and attempt to take the world on, but I think she knows the type of magic she can create when the band’s together. Everything released off of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful has been magic and the latest release is “St. Jude”. While we’ve heard Florence’s unique voice create incredible moments on “Dog Days” and the Calvin Harris-assisted “Sweet Nothing”, her subdued sound on “St. Jude” may be equally alluring.

Wale — The Need To Know (Feat. SZA)

Admittedly, The Album About Nothing didn't do much to provoke emotions within the first few listens, but the conceptual LP isn't free of any major standouts. Grabbing Musiq Soulchild’s “Just Friends” over a much more modern backdrop, Wale finds himself in his element in the soulful, confessional record. While his single “The Body” felt more structured for the current climate of radio, “The Need To Know” could be much more of a winner for it’s authenticity.

Earl Sweatshirt — Wool (Featuring Vince Staples)

The Earl Sweatshirt / Tyler, The Creator joint-album, EarlWolf, could be on the backburner for now, a Earl Sweatshirt / Vince Staples joint album could be a perfect substitution (StapleEarl? EarlStaples?). The west coast boys fly off the handle in a lyrical exhibition over Earl Sweatshirt’s own production, and it’s as raw as you can get. The competition for best verse gives me the same feeling of Kanye West & Lil Wayne jocking for position on “Barry Bonds” or JAY Z & Eminem pulling out their best on “Renegade”. Sidebar: Vince Staples won.

Tinashe — Wrong

Could there be a more lush sample of Kool and The Gang’s “Summer Madness”? Tinashe won over audiences on her debut studio project Aquarius released late last year, but “Wrong” feels more reminiscent of her pre-Aquarius work on the Black Water mixtape. Her 7-track mixtape Amethyst features a few more gems, but this Ryan Hemsworth-produced track may be the crown jewel. They also collaborated on the equally-as-appealing “1 For Me” in 2013, which is worth a listen as well.

Kendrick Lamar — These Walls (Featuring Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat)

To Pimp A Butterfly has opened up the floodgates for commentary amongst hip hop fans for it’s timely social commentary, themes of depression and self-love. “These Walls” parlays into the jumping point of the album (right before “u”), but my favorite thing about the track is it’s soulful, authentic feel. If the words don’t capture you, the live instrumentation will with contributions from names like Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Thundercat, and Larrance Dopson. It’s a smooth jam before the album descends into it’s darker moments.

Kehlani — Down For You (Featuring BJ The Chicago Kid)

This one just feels right. No more than a month ago I was introduced to Kehlani, and before I could dip into her past material, her latest collaboration with the soulful underdog BJ The Chicago Kid emerged to my surprise and delight. The weather’s getting warmer, Spring’s blooming, and this sultry-duet satisfies the feeling that love is indeed in the air. It’s a theme that’s been played out a million times before, but isn’t any less gravitating with audio-chemistry these acts have.

OG Maco — Get Down

OG Maco’s worried that his career might be defined by one, awesome, raucous, vine-pimped single, so he’s literally doing everything to prove that he’s much bigger than “U Guessed It”. He’s been flooding the internet with material for the better part of the last six months and a looked over gem may be his Breathe EP where he provides his own social commentary over slightly more complex beats (well, more complex than “U Guessed It”) and more complex flows (“Why niggas jump to aggression and why just wanna be victims? / When everyone is aware that it’s niggas these niggas killin’ / Why people who never hustled uplifted by dopeboy lyrics? / Why do lyrics steer the demeanor of most of our country’s people?”) Maco may not get the credit he deserves, but he’s certainly a credit to the new Atlanta movement that’s bubbling.

Cashmere Cat — Adore (Featuring Ariana Grande)

My first true foray into Cashmere Cat (outside of a few El Blanco Nino remixes, of course) was the incredible work he did on his Wedding Bells EP (“Wedding Bells” is worth the listen by the way). But now it looks like the music industry’s loving his genius as he’s been in the studio with Kanye West (“Wolves”), Ty Dolla $ign (“Drop That Kitty”), Kid Ink (“Body Language”), and Tinashe (“All Hands On Deck”). “Adore” is his second collaboration with Ariana Grande and these two might have genuine chemistry as Cashmere Cat’s abstract take on R&B/pop/electronic provides a playful backdrop for Ariana Grande to soar on. It’s worth the listen, and worth the repeat.

Post Malone — Tear$ (Featuring 1st)

After hearing Post Malone’s “White Iverson” and now “Tear$”, I’m literally beginning to think, “Man, I bet Chris Martin wishes he could still write songs like this.” “White Iverson” is a simmering Top 40 record waiting to happen, but “Tear$” feels like that b-side single that may steal the show. There feels like a surplus of artists delivering this same brand of numbing, audio novacane to audiences but Post Malone’s attempts aren’t as eye-rolling as the rest. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes, but I’m hooked.

Future — Peacoat

I’m listening to Future as of late because in the span of three months, my collection of his music has ballooned to nearly twice it’s original size. While people are still in a frenzy about his 56 Nights mixtape, I’m still enjoying the gems in his Beast Mode tape (in collaboration with Zaytoven). It may be the wild, piano scheme on the record’s production but “Peacoat” has been getting the most love. It’s not a complex song to grasp, but it’s a great song nonetheless.

Machine Gun Kelly — A Little More (Featuring Victoria Monet)

You know those conscious/confessional, uplifting records with powerful, ubiquitous hooks? It’s kind of hip hop, features rock elements, and coasts right into the rhythmic category. Nine out of ten times, you’ve heard them performed by Eminem and seven out of ten times they have something to do with Skylar Grey. This one has neither, and while it still may be cliché, it’s still pretty strong. MGK’s passion may be one of the strongest points in his music, and his connection with his fans (and his city of Cleveland) is as strong as any in music. “A Little More” isn’t as easy to shrug off as “Invincible” because it’s coming from a very real place.

Mike Will Made It — California Rari (Featuring Future, Young Thug, and Problem)

Why’s Young Thug performing the hook like he’s in the middle of eating a pizza? No clue, but it’s provocative. Mike Will Made It’s mixtape Ransom has got hits out the wazoo but no track is hitting more on all cylinders for me than “California Rari”. It’s got an infectious bounce and it feels like all three artists are competing on who can score the best flow (Thug wins, by a close margin) on the record. The record won’t change the mind of Thug detractors, but you know what I say?

J. Cole — G.O.M.D.

Videos aren’t needed to create a great song, but they certainly help. “G.O.M.D” didn’t push me in any strong direction running through 2014 Forest Hills Drive other than it’s crass, awesome hook. But Cole’s visual for the record sold me completely, even down to the awesome climactic break in the record. I’m sold Cole, I’m sold, now do one for “No Role Modelz.”

Omarion — Don’t Leave

This was initially the title of Omarion’s album, before he realized he probably couldn’t name it the same thing as that romantic comedy with Jake Gyllenhaal, so he changed it to Sex Playlist. Undoubtedly, one of the most underrated catalogs in R&B, Omarion’s “Don’t Leave” stinks of Tank from the vocal arrangements to the production, but it still remains one of O’s best performances on the album. It feels urgent, it feels desperate, it does what a lot of contemporary R&B doesn’t do this day, and that’s make you feel in the name of love.

Ty Dolla $ign — Stand For

I remember the moment I first heard this single, I was hooked. Then I saw the production credits of Diplo (awesome) and DJ Dahi (fucking incredible) and I became more locked in. And then the video was released, an unorthodox but incredible depiction of the song’s message and energy. “Stand For” has been out for a minute, but don’t sleep on this one. Free TC, coming soon.

Jill Scott — You Don’t Know

Do you feel that? That’s goosebumps. Jill Scott released this song out of nowhere, and how can anyone turn down Jill Scott? While the current conversation in music is about the top notch quality of hip hop releases, Jilly From Philly’s coming out swinging and saying R&B will not be ignored with “You Don’t Know”. It’s a song that courses through your veins with it’s invigorating soul and irrefutable passion. God bless Jill Scott.

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