There are few salves to the draining experience of being a conscious human these days, but surely Rihanna’s rap on “Lemon,” the return single from N.E.R.D, is something that will heal you, no matter what your dysfunction. There were a lot of great new songs out this week, but we would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t point out this magnificent track as the undisputed highlight.
But there were plenty of other songs to love this week, such as a return from Lil’ Kim, a long-awaited Nicki Minaj remix, fire collaborations from 21 Savage & Offset and Skepta & Lil B and (dare we say) an actually decent Taylor Swift single.
All of those and more make our picks for the Best Tracks of the Week.
21 Savage / Offset / Metro Boomin – “Still Serving”
The timing of Without Warning arriving, well, without warning, on Halloween was surely not coincidence. The holy trinity of 21 Savage, Offset and Metro Boomin’s surprise collection of tracks is downright spooky. And in a tape full of eerie tracks, the eeriest of all is “Still Serving,” a song that drips menace and oozes malice even more than the lean 21 lackadaisically brags about pounding.
CyHi the Prynce – “Dat Side” ft. Kanye West
What a hook. If chants of “dat side” aren’t ringing in yours ears after listening you may want to get your hearing checked. A steadfast part of the G.O.O.D. Music crew, it seems that CyHi is finally getting a platform to issue his artistic vision that is worthy of his talents. And, of course, a Kanye verse always helps.
Flying Lotus – “Post Requisite”
Initially appearing as the theme to his reviled feature film Kuso, “Post Requisite” is finally getting the proper release it deserves. As per usual, it is a showcase for Flying Lotus’ remarkable ability to weave so many disparate samples together to form a tapestry united by his ear for experimental jazz. An arsenal of percussion rounds out a track that should provide some subconscious warm and fuzzies.
Gorillaz – “Garage Palace” ft. Little Simz
Sound the alarm, the 8-bit air raid is now commencing. Linking up with Little Simz – who turns in a fiery, insanely on-point verse – Gorillaz’ latest standalone single is a pulsing, club-ready floor-filler that matches the frenetic, apocalyptic paranoia of this year’s Humanz beat for beat.
Lil Uzi Vert – “The Way Life Goes” (Nicki Minaj Remix)
It’s hard to improve on perfection, but clearly that sentiment goes out the window whenever a Nicki Minaj guest verse is involved. The undulating beat of “The Way Life Goes” was one of the many standouts of Uzi’s Luv Is Rage 2, and hearing the dulcet tones of Minaj slay – as only she can slay – is just a delight.
Lil’ Kim – “Took Us a Break”
At this stage in her career, few descriptions works as effectively as the one she gives unto herself in this track: “bad bitches with some old money.” She’s popped up here or there in various remixes over the course of this year, but “Took Us a Break” is a treat; cold, hard proof that there has never been an emcee quite like Kim.
Miguel – “Told You So”
Miguel’s just-announced new album War & Leisure is promising to be quite the journey. Of the singles released thus far, we have “Sky Walker” – a radio-friendly jam with Travis Scott – and “Shockandawe” – a creaking downtempo affair. The singer turns in yet another direction with “Told You So,” a go-for-broke bit of electro-funk that makes comparisons to early ’80s Prince feel entirely warranted. We hate to play favorites (jk we love to!), but this one might be the best of the bunch.
N.E.R.D – “Lemon” ft. Rihanna
Everything about “Lemon” is pretty astonishing. Like how the sonic template is far more in the vein of Neptunes-high-level production work than anything under the N.E.R.D moniker. Or how the track goes on for well over a minute in a fake-out before the real beat suddenly slides into focus. Or how some of the lines feel instantly iconic (“Bath salt, bitin’ speakers in the face”). Or how Rihanna has definitively proved that yes, she can rap, and yes, she utterly dominates to the point of stealing the whole show for herself.
All in all, it’s a win.
Skepta – “Sit Down” ft. Lil B
Skepta’s latest Vicious EP is a great listen for fans of the grime-master, but others may find it nothing more than a collection of (very good) B-sides from last year’s breakthrough album Konnichiwa. Except for “Sit Down,” that is. Enlisting Lil B for a characteristically hilarious verse, the two emcees trade bars over a beat that instills dread, circling and pitch-shifting like the buzzing of a mosquito circling round your head.
Taylor Swift – “Call It What You Want”
Now here’s a surprise. “Call It What You Want” is the first of the singles released from Taylor Swift’s upcoming Reputation that doesn’t feel like a ham-fisted, smash-over-the-head reminder that this Taylor is different now. Combining producer Jack Antonoff’s swirling studio wizardry, a trap-inflected beat and an effortlessly catchy chorus, Taylor deftly delivers another piece of lovestruck pop. If anything it might be too bland, but after the putrid stench of a song like “…Ready For It?,” blandness like this is good for the palate.
Be sure to check out last week’s edition right here.
- Cover Image: Christopher Polk / Getty Images