Now Playing — 4/20/15: Mac Miller / Young Thug / Jazmine Sullivan / Tyler, The Creator / Carly Rae Jepsen

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

by Jameel Raeburn (@MeelzTV)

Nicki Minaj — Win Again

Not even a standout from Nicki Minaj’s The PinkPrint LP, but more of a sentimental favorite. The most endearing part of “Win Again” is that it isn’t as much of a spectacle as some of the other records on the album are. Just a standard, strong rap song that could’ve easily been a throwaway-favorite but now is a bonus track-favorite. The record sounds in line of something that Nicki would’ve released during her hip hop tear earlier in 2014 (“Yaas Bitch”, “Chiraq”, “Danny Glover”, “No Flex Zone”). “I’m Meryl Streep to all these bitches, they can’t do what I do,” is just a great line, a great line.

Jordan Bratton — Sinful World

Jordan Bratton’s been an artist I’ve been championing for what almost feels like two years now, and while people are slowly finding out about his genius, at least they’re finding out. Every track on Bratton’s The Grey Area has been in rotation since it’s release, so they’re all good, but this week I’m singling out “Sinful World”. Conceptually, it’s incredible and the record is worthy of prompting a packed house waving their lighters (I guess cellphones now) in the sky. Don’t let “Sinful World” be your only foray into Jordan Bratton, dive into The Grey Area.

Jazmine Sullivan — Let It Burn

Last week I wrote a piece on rekindling my love with R&B through this new crop of talent, and Jazmine Sullivan’s album is one of those reasons. Reality Show isn’t as praised as a few other albums this year, but there’s no arguing that Sullivan can deliver. “Let It Burn” is the kind of retro-lush love song that’s timeless enough to be the soundtrack to our parents first meeting. It’s set to be the next single from the album due to the support, and I’m fine with that.

YG — Sorry Momma (Featuring Ty Dolla $ign)

If you listened to hip hop in the mid 90s to early 00s, it felt like it was law for every album to have a dedication to the mothers, and YG restored that feeling on his critically-acclaimed debut My Krazy Life. Amidst the heavy theme of gang banging in YG’s “krazy” life, he closes the album with the surprisingly sentimental track “Sorry Momma”. The marriage of YG’s authentic lyrics, DJ Mustards signature sonics, Terrace Martin’s soulful backdrop, and Ty Dolla $ign’s hip hop crooning create a perfect closer to a worthwhile album.

Young Thug — Halftime

Barter 6 is standard Thug, from top to bottom, with no major radio records or top notch producers. Throughout the LP, Thug has flashes of lyrical brilliance, but he’s at his best as the charismatic performer who flips, slices, dishes and swishes his flow at any instant (word to Clyde Fraizer). “Halftime” is the portrayal of that, as he effortlessly glides over the lone Kip Hilson-produced track on the album.

A$AP Rocky — M$

“It’s a New Day, no Black Eyed Peas”. I love no Black Eyed Peas. Rocky’s been releasing one-off records for the last couple of months like the ballsy “Multiply” and the too-short-but-probably-long-enough “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2”. “M$” is an easy lay-up, with production from Honorable C.N.O.T.E.(2 Chainz, Migos, Gucci Mane, Young Thug) and Mike Dean (Kanye West, JAY Z), and while it’s nothing we haven’t heard from Rocky before, it’s solid enough to get a pass. Light up your playlist with this number and let the flame emojis torch everything down to the ground. Recommended: Play loud as possible for optimum effect. At.Long.Last.A$AP coming soon.

Carly Rae Jepsen & Dev Hynes — All That

Carly Rae Jepsen has one of the greatest pop songs of all time, not to mention one of the more overlooked pop albums of the last couple of years in Kiss. But despite trying to remain in the same cutesy, lovey-dovey, guilty-pleasure pop lane with “I Really Like You”, she’s at least making an effort to break out from the conventional sound. She grabs Dev Hynes, who is the mastermind behind Solange’s True EP and one of my favorite Tinashe records, to channel a 80’s pop soundscape for Carly Rae. It works. It’s a “patience testing ballad” as Pitchfork puts it, but it works. Bonus effort: The LUKA Edit may be as equally as enjoyable.

Tyler, The Creator — The Brown Stains of Darkeese Latifah Part 6–12 (Remix)

An appearance by Kanye West and Lil Wayne on the same track is notable for any album, but are we going to overlook one of the only ScHoolboy Q verses this year? Tyler tacks Q on the end of this explosive, ear-ripping, speaker-rattling record — and up until “Smuckers”, I was ready to call this the verse of the album. Q feels like an animal locked in his cage and he’s ready to pounce.

Curren$y — Opening Credits

With all the grand releases of the year (and trust me, everyone’s came out it seems like), Curren$y arguably sneaks by a bunch of them as one of the best releases of the year. “Opening Credits” is short, but incredibly candid — way more candid than about 90% of Curren$y records, which are usually a celebration of life as a successful rapping weedhead. This isn’t even the best of what the Pilot Talk III release has to offer, but the introduction plays its role in getting me excited and ready for the greatness to follow.

Ginuwine — Stingy

Here’s my philosophy when listening to old music: Take a few trips once in a while, but don’t live there. That’s why there’s relatively a small amount of music before 2009 on my iTunes, and even those songs are starting to get to old. Over the last week, I’ve been locked into this 2003 R&B/Hip Hop Playlist on Spotify and it’s rekindled me with Ginuwine’s “Stingy”. It was originally on the Barbershop soundtrack (back when soundtracks were actually good), but I really remember it from the radio playing it over and over and over again. Standing beside Ginuwine classics like “Pony”, “None Of Ur Friends Business”, “So Anxious”, this one’s one of the more underrated singles. A strong vocal performance that’ll send those feelings of 2002/2003 rushing right back.

Action Bronson — Easy Rider

It’s very rare for artist to deliver epic closers for an album, in fact, it’s rare for one of the closing tracks to be one of the strongest on the album. Action Bronson kills it with “Easy Rider”, and if you haven’t heard his other tracks like “Baby Blue” or “The Rockers” (first of all, what the hell is wrong with you), let this be your introduction into the deep Bronson cuts. This song isn’t new by any means, but it’s a classic Bronson cut in the making methinks.

Drake — Madonna

I swear to you this was on the rotation before Drake tongue-wrestled with Madge at Coachella. Listening to the track in the context of Drake’s If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late, it may get lost in the shuffle of the similarly structured tracks (and trust me, there’s a lot of them), but on it’s own it holds up. Ginuwine’s “So Anxious” sample haunts the background of the record, but Drake’s simplistic melody keeps this one alive.

Calvin Harris — Dollar Signs (Featuring Tinashe)

There’s always a couple good grabs on a Calvin Harris album, especially when you look on his latest, Motion, and he has features from Ellie Goulding, Haim, Gwen Stefani, Big Sean, among others. However, Tinashe’s “Dollar Signs” is a sleeper. It’s follows a similar format to the other euro-powered club anthems (verse-hook-ridiculous drop-repeat), but it’s appeal is that it doesn’t follow the cliché hook heavy records as she sifts through verses. Very real energy on the track and a welcomed addition to any workout playlist.

Chris Brown — Don’t Judge Me

Fortune will likely go down as Chris Brown’s most forgettable album (it’s probably neck to neck with Graffiti, honestly), but isn’t it usually those forgettable albums that have the strongest gems? “Don’t Judge Me” has gotten mixed reviews from critics, but it’s one of my favorite tracks from his entire discography. The lyrics are beautiful (beautifu-u-ul) and apologetic and his delivery is subdued and right in the pocket of the mid-tempo production. Despite his infamous attitude and decisions, this song is another look at his incredible talent as an all-around artist. Extra points for incorporating the record into a sci-fi-themed video.

Mac Miller — Objects In The Mirror (Live)

The last thing I’d describe about Mac Miller’s Watching Movies with the Sound Off album is that it sounds like spring, but it’s amazing how a live rendition can change a song around completely. Artists releasing live albums in this age is like flying too close to the sun, but Mac Miller bears his heart on his Live from Space album released in 2013. If you preview anything from this LP, let it be the live version of “Objects In The Mirrors”, which receives a boost in tempo and overall enthusiasm from Miller’s melodic vocals to the background support from The Internet. It’s one of those records perfect for the 70-degree sunny days, despite it being actually about drug addictions.

Kanye West — See Me Now (Featuring Beyoncé, Big Sean, Charlie Wilson)

There’s something about Beyoncé opening her hook with “My niggas is home..” that’s both hilarious and awesome. If you don’t quite remember, this is the track that opened Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Fridays and was eventually featured on the near-perfect My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as a bonus track. Quality wise, it’s solid, but the song’s playful demeanor (especially in a post-Yeezus environment) is welcomed.

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