Straight fire: Rap’s best new releases
Ryan Israel | Wednesday, October 9, 2019
2019 has been a strange year for rap music. Drake and Kendrick Lamar, two of the genre’s most prevalent artists, have yet to release any new music. Kanye West’s recent “Jesus Is King” debacle has garnered plenty of attention but has yet to yield any actual music. So instead of the usual players dominating the scene, a variety of new artists have emerged to stake their claim. Tyler, the Creator’s “IGOR” blurred the line between rap and pop while establishing him as a star. The J. Cole-led “Revenge of the Dreamers III” introduced rap fans to the entire cast of Dreamville rappers and their friends. Young newcomers like Lil Tecca and NLE Choppa have made waves by capitalizing on the genre’s newest trends.
To help condense the vast canon of new rap releases, I’ve compiled a list of songs worth listening to. They come from a variety of artists and (mostly) from the past three months, ensuring that they’re fresh finds and will keep you in the know when it comes to rap music.
“HIGHEST IN THE ROOM” – Travis Scott
Travis Scott began teasing his new single, “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM,” long before its official release last Friday, first performing it at Rolling Loud Miami back in May. Now that it’s finally arrived— only a few days after news broke of the rap artist’s split from celebrity girlfriend Kylie Jenner— fans can rejoice. Relationship status aside, the track is a low-key trap banger with classic Travis Scott Auto-Tune and a transcendent outro.
“Combat” – Danny Brown
Despite being critically acclaimed since the release of “XXX” in 2011, Danny Brown has remained on the fringes of popular rap music, in part due to the potentially alienating quality of his strangled, distinctive voice. His newest album, “uknowhatimsayin?,” layers that voice over glitchy, immersive beats, most courtesy of master producer Q-Tip. “Combat” features not only a Q-Tip beat but also some vocal contributions, as he and Brown paint a bleak picture of some tough city streets.
“BOP” – DaBaby
DaBaby is, without a doubt, rap’s breakout star of the year. His March album, “Baby on Baby,” featured the hit “Suge” and introduced many to his unique style of rapping. On his newest album, “KIRK,” the song “BOP” emerges as a standout, mostly because it sticks to DaBaby’s signature formula. Over a bouncy, hard-hitting beat, DaBaby delivers breathless, high-energy verses, proving once again that he can rap really well.
“Hell Raiser” – Dee Watkins
Dee Watkins emerges from a long line of Florida rappers who have been pushing the region’s unique rap sound out to the nation in recent years. On “Hell Raiser,” he’s mischievous and rebellious, listing all the ways he wreaks havoc and raises hell. The beat provides a heavy synth bounce while Watkins delivers a non-stop flow of rap.
“Power” – Nickelus F
Nickelus F has been making music since 2004 but has been criminally overlooked by most outside of his local Richmond, Virginia rap scene. His songs are reminiscent of old-school hip-hop, and “Power,” off his newest album “The Gold Mine Volume 1,” is a classic. The production is led by a piano and violin but still hits hard, emblematic of the way Nickelus celebrates himself and all his power.
“Epic Fail” – Duwap Kaine
Duwap Kaine’s “Epic Fail” is a sign of the times in rap music. The beat is a masterpiece of spacey, hip-hop production, the type of beat over which you’d expect to find Playboi Carti’s signature baby voice. Duwap raps at a barely audible pitch, lending even more credence to the term “mumble rap” and creating a hazy track that emerges from and returns to the ether in its brisk, minute-and-a-half runtime.
“BIG” – Young M.A.
Brooklyn-bred Young M.A.’s 2016 release, “OOOUUU,” put her on the map. With the release of her debut album, entitled “Herstory In The Making,” she’s staking a bigger claim in the New York rap-mosphere. “BIG” finds Young M.A. delivering crisp verses and braggadocious flexes over a gritty beat courtesy of producer Mike Zombie.
“Rehab (Winter in Paris)” – Brent Faiyaz
Sure, Brent Faiyaz’s “Rehab (Winter in Paris)” is more of an R&B song than a rap song, but it still deserves a mention. Faiyaz’s silky smooth vocals make his heartless lyrics all the more intriguing as he sings about a particularly unhealthy relationship. Expect Faiyaz to set the R&B game on fire when he drops his next album.