Cities Aviv, “???”
From .Avi, an odds-and-sods mixtape collecting a bunch of in-transition tracks that show Memphis rapper Cities Aviv’s move from the chillwave-tinged, Justus League-informed clutches of 2011’s Digital Lows to the pigfuck hip-hop darkwave bad romance of late 2012’s Black Pleasure. Featuring lumpy island vibes and on-point rapping that also doesn’t give much of a shit, it finds Cities priggishly telling y’all, “Peace” over and over again, using “vacay” with a smirk, and making stoned-and-alone in-jokes between verses. (“It’s really sunny, we’re going steady, feel me.”) It all trollishly ends a good minute before it should, just as those orchestrated pop strings really get going and the blunted, Walker Brothers-sounding beat settles on an elegantly looped bass line.
Earl Sweatshirt ft. Frank Ocean, “Sunday”
In which Earl poetically conveys the knotty feelings of a depressed, down-in-it relationship that he can’t put back together. And then comes Frank Ocean, rapping — yes, rapping — quite well in an interesting-eccentric-second-fiddle way, bemoaning the life of a musician for all the right reasons (you have to leave the people you love behind for a little while and that sucks), connecting memories of high school bullies to R&B bully Chris Brown, and ending on some quiet awards-show boasts, Kanye-style, somehow humble and far from it at once: “Standing ovation at Staples, I got my Grammys and gold / Polka dots on my Brit, I’m not supposed to be stunting.” Like Ocean’s clever, anti-hype-machine-feeding “Versace” remix “verse” (posted on Tumblr as a screencap of a word document only, and also containing some Breezy zingers), “Sunday” is a class-act diss track, and a whole lot more.
Loose Onez, “Turn on the Lights (Loose Onez Remix)”
Schwarz is maybe best known around these parts for “U R Beautiful,” an aggressive posi-vibes party track with Fatman Scoop-esque shouts telling you how fawkin’ beautiful you are. (It made SPIN’s 40 Best Songs of 2013 So Far.) DJ Baglady is an everything-and-then-some producer piling up ping-pong dance rhythms, Tumblr-touched oddities, and full-stop rage-out rave beats. Together, they are Loose Onez, and their first song together is this air-raid siren, all buildup and then more buildup and then a little more buildup as it offers a hardstyle remix of Future’s romance-in-the-club slow-jam warbler “Turn on the Lights.” It’s the bizzaro-world version of Mike Will Made It’s elegant, maudlin electronic beat, hopped up on goofballs instead of soaking in sizzurp; sonically, it’s like an engorged, Incredible Hulk-sized fist pumping wildly and without abandon, breaking through walls and knocking people to the floor, all in the name of wildin’-out fun.
Oddisee, “Lonely Planet”
Brooklyn-by-way-of-D.C. producer Oddisee released the instrumental concept album Rock Creek Park in 2011: the sunny sounds of soul, funk, and jazz fractured and fried to capture the youthful feeling of the outdoors from a child’s perspective. But with the upcoming Beauty in All, he enters downtown New York prog-punk territory, it seems. Here, an 8-bit-sounding video-game blip chomps through honeyed guitar straight out of one of those epic Isaac Hayes vamps, with the stirrings of some Squarepusher-style drill n bass — that one-of-a-kind mix of jazzy precision and spazzed-out IDM — thrown in there, too. Not to mention the dudes-in-the-room-together energy of this thing. “Lonely Planet” is not a track slapped together and only presented as an instrumental because nobody rapped on it: It’s an honest-to-goodness weirdo composition. RIYL: Henry Kaiser, Shuggie Otis, and any other guitarist with wide-open ears.
Tink, “Fight It”
Tink is Chicago’s most interesting and exciting rapper, adept at realer-than-real talk and, more often than not, doing fairly singular hip-hop-tinged R&B, not quite rap-and-bullshit, but something specific to her real-talk, I’m-gonna-do-me steez. On “Fight It,” a slow jam about not wanting to get into a big, stupid fight, she comes off vulnerable, which is even more affecting if you know her other work; hovering in the background of this hesitant track is the hyper-confidence of her previous rap songs. Tha Kid DJ L’s beat makes Tink’s decision to collaborate with the more explicitly avant-garde Future Brown a little redundant, especially when it almost comes to a stop, seems to step on its own toes, and approximates a wonky forward-back-forward shuffle that reflects the frustrations of arguing with your significant other with no end in sight.