Must Listen, New Music: Week 16

My must-listen list of music containing singles and LPs all released between August 8th and August 14th, some of which specifically reference the systematic racism and continued Black Lives Matter protests which have occurred and continue to occur across the world.


Nas, Hit-Boy- “Ultra Black”

"Rhythm and blues, pop, rock to soul to jazz 
'Til my toes are tagged
How I look being told I'm not supposed to brag?
Nobody fault, I tell the truth, I know it's facts, we ultra black
Grace Jones skin tone, but multi that 
Multiple colors, we cone in all shades, mocha black
Accept where I'm at and not fight me on it 
Emotional stares like I might be wanted
Pitch black like the night, I'm ultra black"
"It's like the fountain of youth, the culture's black 
Like Iman, she beautiful, goin' ultra black 
To Africa, you say, 'Go Back'
I stay pro-black, my Amex black 
Black like cornrows, afros 
Black like Keep' blackballed from the Superbowls (Colin)
Hall & Oats, I can't go for that 
Motown Museum, Detroit, I'm ultra black 
This for New York and all the map
No matter your race, to me, we all are black"
"We goin' ultra black, I gotta toast to that 
We don't fold or crack (We don't fold or crack)
Occasion, we rose to that, fuck goin' postal (This a celebration)
We goin' ultra black 
Watchin' the global change, hop in the coldest Range
Hit-Boy on the beat, this shit 'posed to slap
We goin' ultra black (Black is beautiful)"

[ ℗ 2020 Mass Appeal. ]

Ciara (feat Ester Dean)- “Rooted”

[Ester Dean]
"Better than rooted now
Mi seeds we did now 
Mi rooted in the melanin"
All my songs come with melanin 
Got the heart, got the soul like Harriet
A queen since she born, that was evident
That's evidence, of black excellence"
"Young Rosa, young Luther keep marchin'
Flood gates comin' open don't stop 'em
I know that life it ain't easy 
Your life it matters, believe me 
Rule out the fakes and the frauds 
They hide it behind a facade

Young girl stay rooted
I done plant my seeds now I'm rooted
Brown skin poppin', I'm rooted
Can't pull the hood out me, I'm rooted
Rooted, nappy head rooted
I done plant my seeds now I'm rooted
Brown skin poppin', I'm rood
ATL bred, I'm rooted
Rooted, nappy head rooted"

[ ℗ 2020 Beauty Marks Entertainment. ]

FLETCHER- “If I Hated You”

“If I Hated You” sets the tone for FLETCHER’s upcoming sophomore EP THE S(EX) TAPES, which is set to release next month. And wow, it is a hefty, emotionally-charged tone. The track, along with the entire EP, are centered around FLETCHER’s most recent relationship. As opposed to the somewhat hasty themes featured in her breakout 2019 EP you ruined new york city for me, FLETCHER’s “If I Hated You” sees heartbreak from a different light. Instead of already loathing her ex, she wishes she could loathe her. She feels the break-up would be easier to process if only she hated her ex, as opposed to still loving her. The heartbreakingly raw theme is made apparent in the first verse: “If I hated you, I know that / I could do this on my own / If you weren’t so good to me, then / I could change the background of my phone”. In verse two, she reflects on why the breakup had to happen, despite the love they share. “Took an eyelash off my face / Said, ‘make a wish,’ and I made three / Wish I could’ve loved you better / Wish you’d kiss me; wish I wasn’t me”. Based off “If I Hated You” and previously released “Bitter” (which is also expected on the EP), prepare yourselves for another FLETCHER-constructed rollercoaster of emotions from THE S(EX) TAPES.

[ ℗ Capitol Records; ℗ 2020 Snapback Entertainment LLC, under exclusive license to UMG Recordings, Inc. ]

THEY.- “All Mine”

R&B duo THEY.’s “All Mine” exudes smooth and irresistible confidence, both vocally and lyrically. Starting off with an acoustic guitar, THEY. gradually eases into the tone in order to get a very simple point across: their ex will never find anyone better. This point is made immediately clear during the first verse. Despite the fact that the ex has been seeing someone else, she calls THEY. for a late night booty call because her new man doesn’t compare. Once the addictively smooth pre-chorus hits, the track picks up along with their confidence. Even when the ex finds someone else, “them ni***s are wastin’ their time, that pussy will always be mine”. With “All Mine”, THEY. makes it crystal clear that you can’t deny their affection or their music. “All Mine” is part of THEY.’s upcoming The Amanda Tape, their second studio album expected in October.

[ ℗ 2020 Avant Garden/Island Records. ]

Burna Boy- Twice As Tall

Nigerian singer-songwriter Burna Boy fuses reggae, dancehall, afrobeat, hip-hop, EDM, and more for his fifth studio album Twice As Tall. The new album is a refreshing tale of both self and social reflection. Instead of serving more feel-good hits as a global star, he spends Twice As Tall assuring his self-confidence, often citing his faith, and sharing his political viewpoints.

For the opening track “Level Up (Twice As Tall)”, Burna Boy shares the points in his career where he felt insecure, anxious, and small. He remembers times where he felt like giving up, but preaches that “right when you start feeling like you can’t level up / that’s when you haffi shut the devil up”. By the second verse, he reflects on how his perseverance helped him “come back standing twice as tall.” On the second track “Alarm Clock”, Burna reassures his sense of self-confidence with a warning to anyone who doubts him: “you’ll discover that I’m really unstoppable”. For “23”, which is inspired by Michael Jordan, Burna Boy told Apple Music it’s a nod to the sacrifices of pursuing greatness that people won’t see. Along with reflecting on his path to success in the industry in order to find his sense of self-confidence, Burna Boy also found his sense of social platform with Twice As Tall.

In calling for unity, he preaches to the world, and more specifically Africa, about its potential and its failures. “Alarm Clock” begins with a very important spoken message: “It’s important how you look at yourself. And you view yourself. How you look at your brother, how you look at your sister. We from the same tribe. It’s Black love. It’s that real love. Wake up.” In a statement about the track for Apple Music, Burna Boy stated “As I’ve said before, ‘We were all Africans before we were anything else,’ and this is the same message here for everyone to wake up and realize that and really know what it means to be aware of it.” For arguably the most socially important and radical song, “Monsters You Made” (featuring Chris Martin of Coldplay) addresses the poor treatment of Africans due to marginalization and injustice. “If you look around, they surrounded by pain / I’ve seen the sky turn to grey / It took the light from the day / It’s like the heads of the state / Ain’t comprehending the hate / That the oppressed generate / When they’ve been working like slaves / To get some minimum wage / You turn around and you blame / Them for their anger and rage / Put them in shackles and chains / Because of what they became / We are the monsters you made.” Though written about the oppressive regimes ruling post-war Nigeria, the message within “Monsters You Made” unfortunately bares truth on a globally oppressive basis.

[ ℗ 2020 Atlantic Recording Corporation. ]

Linkin Park- “She Couldn’t”

On the anniversary of Linkin Park’s breakout debut 2000 album Hybrid Theory, the band shared a previously unreleased demo song titled “She Couldn’t”. The demo was recorded in 1999, back when Linkin Park was known as Hybrid Theory. According to the band’s co-founder Mike Shinoda, it’s one of the first demos the band created once Chester Bennington joined the band. “She Couldn’t” marks the rock band’s first posthumous release following lead vocalist Chester Bennington’s tragic death in 2017. 7 days following its release, “She Couldn’t” has reached over 2 million streams on Spotify as listeners once again enjoy Linkin Park with Chester at the helm.

Hearing Chester’s incredible vocals was exactly what I needed during 2020. During any rough times, I turn to Linkin Park’s remarkable, genre-bending artistry and vulnerable lyricism for guidance to lead me through it. “She Couldn’t” is no different. Band co-founder Mike Shinoda posted about the song on his Instagram: “the softly-sung ‘you’re not alone’ refrain reminded me that, although we debuted with a song screaming ‘shut up,’ what most fans came to find out was that empathy and community were just as integral a part of LP’s DNA from the very beginning.” Though Linkin Park has released its fair share of hard-hitting, screaming lyrics, the heart of the band has always lied in songs like “She Couldn’t”. Thank you, Linkin Park…Music misses you, Chester.

[ ℗ 2020 Warner Records Inc. ]

Miley Cyrus- “Midnight Sky”

Miley Cyrus is truly a stylistically musical chameleon. From Disney Miley, to country Miley, to Bangerz Miley, to Malibu Miley, to the latest: mullet-rocking disco Miley…every new sound that she adds to her arsenal proves her undeniable musical range. Lyrically, with each changing style of Miley Cyrus, she consistently shares intimate glimpses into her personal life. For her first track of 2020, “Midnight Sky” sends a clear message: Miley Cyrus belongs to no one. Following several very publicly scrutinized relationships (some of which she references in the track), the world-renowned pop star is taking back her own narrative. In an interview with SiriusXM, Cyrus spoke about the unrealistic expectations for relationships. “In “Midnight Sky”, one of the lyrics that I’d ask everyone to kind of consider and kind of think about for themselves is the idea of ‘forever and ever, no more’ […] I think that we, especially as women in relationships, a lot of the time, we can get villainized when forever doesn’t happen. I think that you’re just really setting yourself up to be disappointed and not from a bitter or resentful way but from a realistic and logical standpoint, especially in modern society. We’re changing and evolving and understanding ourselves in such a different perspective that it just feels like forever is definitely a big word.” Put simply, not everything is meant to last forever and Miley’s totally okay with that: “I was born to run, I don’t belong to anyone, oh no / I don’t need to be loved by you.”

[ ℗ 2020 RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. ]

CHIKA- “My Power”

Rapidly rising rapper CHIKA released her newest single “My Power”, which was recorded for the new Netflix original film Project Power. The single follows “U Should” and her debut EP Industry Games. “My Power” is an empowering track celebrating perseverance and self-worth — “When life get lower, we get higher / The roads all open, the views get wider / Live long, head strong, shoulders, lighter / My word is my power power / Crazy with the skill, believe me I can go hours.” In a roundtable discussion for Billboard, CHIKE spoke about the imminent power Black women hold, and its connection to the film and single: “Black women have so much power in and of themselves that if they were to ignore everything and focus on honing that power, which is so much of what the movie is about, ultimately, you don’t have any limitations.”

[ ℗ 2020 CHIKA under exclusive license to Warner Records, Inc. ]

The Killers- “Dying Breed”

In preparation for their sixth studio album titled Imploding The Mirage (expected August 21st), iconic rock band The Killers released the 4th single off of the project titled “Dying Breed”. It follows “Caution” from March, “Fire in Bone” from April, and “My Own Soul’s Warning” from June. What starts off as a steady and consistent ode bursts into a triumphant and glorious rock anthem with “Dying Breed”. Through the steady triumph births a rock-esque love song. Lead singer Brandon Flowers professes his untethering love straight away in the first verse “if you’re looking for strong and steady / well, baby, you found it / we’ll weather the coldest night / baby, we’re a dying breed / when everyone’s compromising / I’ll be your diehard”. Even as the love faces seemingly hopeless doubt and tear in the song’s bridge, Flowers bursts “I remember the promise I made / And the way that I fell” and chorus concludes “we’ve got everything we need / Baby, we’re a dying breed”.

[ ℗ 2020 Island Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc. ]

Lauren Sanderson- “Frustrated”

With “Frustrated”, rising star Lauren Sanderson convinces you to stop getting in your own way when it comes to love. During a Q&A on her Instagram stories, Sanderson shared that she wrote the song about the beginning of her current relationship. It dives into her own struggle of learning to let go of the fears in order to make room for love to grow. Despite her inner demons telling her that love is too scary, Sanderson begins to acknowledge that love is more powerful than any anxiety she feels. Apologizing for the frustration she was causing her girlfriend, she pleads for her to be patient as she conquers her demons. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry / That every single ounce of conversation’s about the way / That I don’t know how to trust and I don’t wanna admit it / Cause if I talk about it, how am I supposed to forget it? / Anxiety is a bitch and I don’t wanna be in it.” Alongside the personal and vulnerable lyricism, “Frustrated” features an addictive bridge, infectious melody, and signature guitar riff. “I know that you’re frustrated / I promise I frustrate me too / I’m sorry you’re frustrated”.

[ ℗ 2020 Lauren Sanderson, under exclusive to Young Forever Inc. ]

Wrabel, Win and Woo (with Kesha)- “since i was young- win and woo remix”

The original for “since i was young” was released by Wrabel (with Kesha) on July 8th, and has since reached over 1.6 million streams on Spotify. In honor of the song reaching over 1 million streams, Wrabel took to his Instagram to post a video sharing his personal coming out story, which served as inspiration for the song’s lyrics. The touching captions includes: “this song means so much to me. I find myself thinking about little kid me…like if I could talk to him…if I could just tell him he’s not alone. and if I could show him one day you’re gonna be out. you’re gonna be alive. and doing what you’ve always wanted to do […]” He also hopes to inspire others to share their own stories with “I know how hard it can be to open that closet door and walk out. I almost died in there. and I am so thankful for every single day outside of it. if you feel comfortable, I’d love if you could share your coming out story with me. the more we speak about our experiences the more power we have. the easier it is to not feel alone.” Each new remix for the track adds a little more than the last, including the most recent from win and woo. The track was also previously remixed by Daniel Allen, and another remix will be released featuring boiish on Friday. As someone who has followed Wrabel’s music for years and deeply relates to the track’s lyrical meaning, I’ve downloaded each of the tracks and stream religiously. It’s not just for all ofthe gays, but for anyone and everyone who’s ever felt like an outcast.

[ ℗ 2020 Big Gay Records. ]

The War and Treaty- “Take Me In”

Husband-and-wife duo and powerhouse vocalists The War and Treaty, Tanya Blount-Trotter and Michael Trotter Jr., brought us one of the most beautiful songs I have heard all year with “Take Me In”. I’m going to take a step back in my interpretation of the song because the duo presented an incredibly enlightened explanation in an interview with Garden & Gun. Michael stated “So many times we find ourselves yearning for acceptance. We put on a tough skin when we don’t get it. We say, ‘I don’t need anybody,’ but that’s just a bitter response to rejection. So let’s cut the facade, drop the attitude, and be honest: Say, ‘I need love. Won’t somebody please take me in?’ That is a pivotal question in our time. Whether it’s the LGBTQ community, whether it’s the African American community talking to the fathers of this country, whether it’s the people who are overweight, wanting to be accepted—take me in. Not just when I hit the home run, but take me in when I fail, too. Tell me it’s okay. Tell me it’s all right” and Tanya added “that is the highest level of acceptance, to look at a person with no judgement there. You see the soul. You see through them. It’s an opportunity to love. That’s what ‘Take Me In’ is all about.” The undeniably beautiful love song, free of loneliness or judgement and filled with acceptance, will land on the duo’s forthcoming album Hearts Town.

[ ℗ 2020 The War and Treaty Corporation., under exclusive license to Rounder Records. Distributed by Concord. ]

Mac Miller- K.I.D.S. (Deluxe)

First and foremost, music misses Mac Miller. By the young age of just 26, Miller had already released over 20 projects, collaborated on over 80 others, mad over 50 music videos, reached the Billboard Hot 100 not once but 22 times (including one top 10), and received a Grammy nominated for Best Rap Album of the Year (Swimming). Though his legacy will live on forever though his music, no one will ever do it quite like Mac. ’92 til infinity.

The special deluxe edition of Mac Miller’s breakout K.I.D.S was released on Thursday (Aug. 13th) to celebrate the mixtape’s 10th anniversary. The original, which stands for “Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit” features breakout tracks like “Knock Knock”, “Nikes On My Feet”, and “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza”, and earned Miller national attention at just 18 years old. The deluxe edition features 2 previously unreleased tracks titled “Ayye” and “Back In The Day”, both of which embody the late rapper’s essence and legacy in the industry.

“Ayye” showcases young Miller’s happy, care-free, always-smiling attitude as he raps “see the ocean when I’m chillin’, got me smiling’, like / ‘Ayye’, tonight will be great / Walkin’ through the door with a smile on my face / Like hate me or love me”.

According to his outro, Miller dedicated the closing track “Back In The Day” to “Any of y’all (haha) That ain’t tryna get old (haha).” It celebrates Miller’s notorious, underrated come-up in the industry (“Back in the day, when it was a dream / Nobody believed in what I could be / But now I’m laughin’ at ’em like, ‘ha-ha-ha’ / ‘Cause I’ma be okay / I used to have a dream, now it seem that I’ma live it in real life“) and reflects on Miller’s life before the fame (“My wonder years, never woulda thought they could end / Back, back in my glory days, way before the haze / A good night sleep had me energized for the day / When I would look up at the planets in they orbit / Before this life got distorted / Before the money was a plan / Before I ever thought that I would need to be a man”).

I’ll leave you with my personal favorite lyrics from the new track “Back In The Day”, which (in my opinion) perfectly depict Mac Miller’s infinite legacy on the industry: “Love me for me, not who I’m ’bout to be / And if they didn’t believe, then I can do without ’em / ‘Cause at the end of the day I’m just Malcolm.”

[ ℗ 2020 Rostrum Records. ]

Honorable Mentions:

KIRBY, Pink Sweat$- “Apple (Remix)” (single)

Ella Eyre- Quarter Life Crisis (EP)

Dava- “Right Time” (single)

Darlingside- “A Light On In The Dark” (single)

Coi Leray- Now or Never (EP)

The Japanese House- Chewing Cotton Wool (EP)

Rook Monroe- “Jolie” (debut single)

WizTheMc- “Lied” (single)

Drake (feat Lil Durk)- “Laugh Now Cry Later” (single)

Alicia Keys (feat Khalid)- “So Done” (single)

IHATEYOUSHEED, Moses Mosima, Kevin Abstract- “Pastel (Remix)” (single)

Patrick Droney- “Glitter” (single)

Ebenezer- “Vodka & Lemonade” (single)

Sista Prod (feat Powfu, Alec Benjamin & Rxseboy)- “Eyes Blue Like The Atlantic, Pt. 2” (single)

Declan J Donovan- “Perfectly Imperfect” (single)

NIKI- “Lose” (single)

Tori Kelly- Solitude (EP)

Kid Bloom- Blood Sugar (EP)

Charlotte Day Wilson (feat Syd)- “Take Care of You” (single)

Justin Quiles- “Jeans” (single)

Jaden- “Rainbow Bap” (single)

Weezer- “Beginning Of The End (Wyld Stallyns Edit)” (single)

YUNGBLUD (with Denzel Curry)- “Lemonade” (single)

Tom The Mail Man- Liephas Evil (album)

Lous and The Yakuza (feat Hamza)- “Laisse Moi” (single)

Anderson .Paak (feat Rick Ross)- “CUT EM IN” (single)

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