Must Listen, New Music: Week 18

My must-listen list of music containing singles, EPs, and LPs all released between August 22nd and August 28th, some of which specifically reference systematic racism and the continued Black Lives Matter protests which have occurred and continue to occur across the world.


Black Thought (feat Pusha T, Swizz Beatz & Killer Mike)- “Good Morning”

[Black Thought] 
"Vile temperament, you start shit, we endin' it
It's mad last wishes, gas mask kisses 
The thin line between savants and savages
Your life could depend on the laws of averages
The difference between Black and white is mad privilege (Fuck that shit)"
[Pusha T]
"Panamera shopping in the pandemic 
The work got grill lines when the pan's searing
Give you the whole clip to let your mans hear it 
The pallbearer next to them so they can all fear it 
Ulterior motives with the modus
Bulletproof package like I'm POTUS
I'm just cashing in on what they owe us 
They say the coming winter is the coldest 
Celine fur hangin' off the shoulder
What's worse, the gift or the curse?
The only way to celebrate a death is with a birth"

[Killer Mike]
"Just as soon as the sun rise, the night dies
You was building pyramids and African empires
Where pale-skin savages with straight hair and light eyes
Was still eatin' raw meat and barely could light fires"

[ ℗ 2020 Passyunk Productions, LLC, under exclusive license to Republic Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc. ]

Aluna- Renaissance

As evident in the past weeks of ‘Must Listen, New Music’, I have been patiently waiting for the full Renaissance album to arrive. Though Aluna has seen her fair share of success in the world of dance music as half of the duo AlunaGeorge for almost 10 years (alongside producer George Reid), Renaissance is her solo debut. Not to worry though: the producer, singer, songwriter is not stepping away from duo AlunaGeorge, but merely paving a solo path. And that solo path has an empowering purpose for the betterment of the entire dance community.

In an interview with Paper in April promoting the first single release from Renaissance titled “Body Pump”, Aluna emphasized that though she hasn’t felt completely out of place as Black woman in dance music, she does feel a need to reclaim her culture within the dance community. “I am a Black woman, but I’m also a multicultural woman and I’ve lived and experiences many different places and so I was like, that’s what I’m going to bring.”

Two months after “Body Pump” dropped, Aluna took to her solo and AlunaGeorge‘s Twitter accounts to call for cultural and racial inclusion within the dance music community. (As previously mentioned in both Must Listen, New Music: Week 12 with “Get Paid” and Must Listen, New Music: Week 17 with “Envious”) Aluna posted an honest and thorough open letter addressing the entire dance community with the caption “I want all black people to know that the genre of Dance is their heritage and they should feel included and encouraged to create under that banner by expanding the genre to be culturally and racially inclusive.”

Furthermore, the album is titled accordingly. Historically speaking, the term “Renaissance” refers to the period of European cultural and artistic rebirth and promoted for the rediscovery of classical art and literature (amongst other political and social sectors as well). Aluna’s Renaissance is this same concept, but in reverse. In her letter, Aluna spoke on the westernization of dance music’s impact: “as the genre was westernized the sound changed to the point where its original cultural influences were no longer heard or associated with the genre. This means that only the subgenres of EDM or European-style House/Techno are consumed by the masses […] — any other styles of dance music from African-born artists and producers of the wider African diaspora are left out.” The ‘other styles’ she refers to– which include afrobeats, afropop, dancehall, reggaeton, juke, slowflo, etc.– are treated within ‘mainstream’ dance culture as an isolated genre even though “these sounds have influenced mainstream dance and pop music for years.”

I know this new release’s synopsis is much longer than most, but it’s for good reason. The very culture which paved way for the mainstream dance genre deserves its rightful place within the dance community. Please take the time to read her letter, especially if you’re fond of the dance genre– as Aluna serves straight historical and cultural facts throughout the thread. She ends the letter with a timely message: “Dance music needs to be progressive and move us into the future, especially right now, as we have globally united in the fight to end racism. The role of dance is to give healing, to uplift us, and to serve as a celebration of those who are on the front line making a better future for us all.”

[ ℗ 2020 Mad Decent. ]


Leikeli47- “Zoom”

The bandana and balaclava-wearing rising rapper Leikeli47 hits hard once again with her latest “Zoom”. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that she isn’t to be messed with. Not to mention she pairs an addictive beat with an equally addictive chorus, “Fist in my pocket / Just in case a ni*** talking crazy / Gotta sock ’em / I don’t have no ammo / But my gunna got the rocket / Zoom, zoom, zoom, on my target”. Empowering, fierce, and independent…exactly what we need from our female rappers infiltrating the male-dominated game. The single marks the first release from her upcoming third album Shape Up.

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

Tiwa Savage- Celia

Nigerian singer-songwriter Tiwa Savage released her highly anticipated third studio album. In 2018, Savage made history by becoming the first female to win Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards, and has since been nominated for World Music Awards, BET Awards, and more. Her singles “Lova Lova” and “Tiwa’s Vibe” reached Number 1 on the charts across Africa. Tiwa Savage pushes for the further integration of Afrobeats into the global music scene.

Filled with addictive rhythm and thematically honest songwriting, Celia further proves her ability to push Afrobeats to a more global audience. She thrives in merging Afrobeats with modern sounds of R&B, soul, and pop. Lyrically, Celia — which is named after Tiwa Savage’s mother– is different than Savage’s previous work that earned her the Number 1’s. For the third album, Savage leans into political and spiritual songwriting. Specifically: “Ole” exposes the theft deeply rooted corruption and in Nigerian spirit and “Celia’s Song” shows gratitude to God. Along with her dabbles into political and spiritual lyricism, Tiwa Savage also continues to focus on topics of female empowerment, specifically within sexuality, love, and success. Examples: “Bombay” represents woman owning their sexualities; “FWMM (F*CK With My Mind)” warns lovers not to mess with her; “Us” accepts responsibility for a failed love; “Glory” wills to enjoy her own success.

[ ℗ Motown, Island Records, Universal Music South Africa; ℗ 2020 Universal Music (Pty) Ltd South Africa. ]

Topic, A7S (feat Lil Baby)- “Why Do You Lie To Me”

German DJ-producer Topic and Swedish singer-songwriter A7S are viral international superstars, with their 2019 single “Breaking Me” reaching almost 400 million plays on Spotify. Meanwhile, Lil Baby has been taking the world of hip-hop by storm dabbing him a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Performance. With 3 viral rising stars on the same track, “Why Do You Lie To Me” is yet another epic cross-genre collaboration within the world of EDM.

Topic bears sole producing credit on the track, while Topic (Tobias Topic), A7S (Alexander Tidebrink), and Lil Baby (Dominique Armani Jones) all share writing credits. Lyrically, the trio explores an addictively toxic romantic connection filled with deceit and dishonesty. With A7S and Lil Baby’s immersive vocal talents atop Topic’s melodic dance music, “Why Do You Lie To Me” has a hooking quality worthy of repeats.

[ ℗ A Virgin Records release; ℗ 2020 Topic, under exclusive license to Universal Music GmbH. ]

Teddy Swims- “Broke”

The YouTube sensation known for his genre-defying covers has found his own unique and undisputed sound. After accumulating over 160 million views to date, drawing attention from powerhouse media publication Rolling Stone, and receiving endorsement approval from THE Shania Twain, Teddy Swims has found his fair share of fame and success. With “Broke”, Swims is making money for the first time in his life. In an interview with American Songwriter, Swims spoke about his lyrical inspiration for the single: “the song, as carefree as it may sound, comes from an honest place. I was so used to being broke my whole life that it is hard to believe I’m not hurting for money anymore […] This song, which was written right before the pandemic hit, captures the journey that I’ve gone through over the last year.” Having covered hits like Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One”, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights”, Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You”, Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”, Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved”, and more, Teddy Swims breaks any and all genre-barring barriers. His original “Broke” is a tastefully playful Motown soul groove and his upcoming EP will build upon “the same soulful and playful sounds”.

[ ℗ 2020 SWIMS Int. ]


After a brief 3 year hiatus, PVRIS is finally back with Use Me. Their third studio album features a slightly more matured sound, but is still filled with their alternative charm. Before releasing the full LP, PVRIS dropped an EP titled Hallucinations, which featured 5 of the LP’s 11 tracks. The EP rendered its fair share of success, with “Hallucinations” nearly reaching 11 million plays on Spotify.

In an interview with Kerrang!, PVRIS lead singer and frontwoman Lynn Gunn talked through the entirety of the album and each track’s inspirational meaning. She mentioned that the first track “Gimme a Minute” captures the album’s essence stating that it’s her “feeling run down, pushed around, and not having much say in things or being able to speak up for myself”. Layered in honest vulnerability, Use Me shows Gunn letting go of negative energy (“Dead Weight”, “Good to Be Alive”), preserving the innocence of a past relationship (“Stay Gold”), weighing the risks in a relationship (“Death of Me”), dealing with the emotions associated with previous relationships (“Old Wounds”, “Loveless”), replacing one addiction with another (“Use Me”), and cutting ties with people who wronged her (“Wish You Well”). You can read the full album, track-by-track breakdown here.

[ ℗ 2019, 2020 Warner Records Inc. ]

Black Pumas- Black Pumas (Deluxe)

At first listen, I simply could not believe that this project is Black Pumas’ debut album. The level of maturity in both sound and style had me thinking that my Spotify was glitching. Turns out, Black Pumas is founded by Grammy Award winning guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada. Now it was all making more sense, though I am still baffled by the rookie recording status of the duo’s vocalist Eric Burton. According to the duo’s official Spotify page, when Quesada went on the prowl for a vocalist to match his recorded instrumentals, he wanted to find something different. Safe to say: he succeeded. Burton’s voice is a stand out, perfectly conquering an addictively smooth yet raspy uniqueness. And to think that less than 3 years ago, the 27-year old was busking in Santa Monica, CA and Austin, TX with virtually no track record in the industry.

Black Pumas is an unlikely pairing with the duo coming from two opposite points in their music careers, having drastically different musical backgrounds, and being 13 years apart in age. Leading up to Black Pumas, Quesada has performed a range of styles– from punk-jazz, to Mexican dance, to funk. In 2011, his group Grupo Fantasma won a Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Alternative, or Urban Album with their 2010 album El Existential. On the other hand, Burton grew up around gospel, soul and pop music. So how the hell did these two manage to blend styles in order to form Black Pumas you may ask? While Quesada’s instrumentals supply the old-school piano, drums, and classic guitar, Burton supplies the original songwriting and gritty vocals. According to Rolling Stone, Burton turned to classic R&B artists like Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye to capture the soulful mood of the record. Ultimately, the unlikely pair puts a modern spin on the classic sounds somewhat effortlessly, shaping an addictive blend of psychedelic soul and R&B qualities.

To the surprise of everyone, including Quesada and Burton, the newly-formed duo managed to blend so well that the self-titled debut earned them a Grammy nomination. Their modern spin on a classic sound put them up against the likes of Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Maggie Rogers, Rosalia, and Yola for Best New Artist. Considering each of the other acts has more records sold and more sales earned, the nomination is “mind-boggling” as Bruton put so frankly to Rolling Stone. I, for one, am beyond thrilled about the nomination. Finally one of my personal favorite albums of the year has led to a nomination, which seems to be a rarity.

[ ℗ 2020 ATO Records, LLC. All Rights Reserved. ]

Honorable Mentions

ILLENIUM- “Nightlight”

India Shawn (feat Anderson .Paak)- “Movin’ On”

BUNT. (feat Georgia Ku)- “Nights Like That”

Lonr.- “The End”

JoJo- good to know (Deluxe) (album)

reggie- “Southside Fade”

Celeste- “Little Runaway”

Christina Aguilera- “Reflection (2020) [From “Mulan”]”

Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day- “That Thing You Do!” (cover)

Cordae (feat Roddy Ricch)- “Gifted”

Rich Brian- 1999 (EP)

Katy Perry- Smile (album)

Sasha Sloan- “House With No Mirrors”

Jaden- CTV3: Cool Tapes Vol. 3 (mixtape)

Disclosure- ENERGY (Deluxe) (album)

Chris Stapleton- “Starting Over”

Maggie Lindemann- “Knife Under My Pillow”

lovelytheband- conversations with myself about you (album)

Lawrence- “Quarantined With You”

Travis Scott- “The Plan – From the Motion Picture ‘TENET'”

The Neighbourhood- “Pretty Boy”

Giveon- “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”

Octavian, Gunna, SAINt JHN- “Famous”

Calvin Harris, The Weeknd- “Over Now”

Russ (feat Kehlani)- “Take You Back”

SAYGRACE- “Feel Good”

Big Sean (feat Nipsey Hussle)- “Deep Reverence”

Problem, Jack Harlow, Jay Rock- “NOTHIN”

Ruston Kelly- Shape & Destroy (album)

Nasty C- Zulu Man With Some Power (album)

Jazmine Sullivan- “Lost One”

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