July is creeping to a close. A month that started with scorching weather is ending in typically British fashion: rainily. It’s the month that saw clubs, bars and restaurants open up fully for the first time in more than 18 months. The bank account is feeling the effects. Luckily, music is here to provide some sonic respite from the dreary vibes outside. It’s another B2B with myself Damola and Sam linking up to deliver some of our favourite drops this week. Lock in.
Skepta – Eyes On Me
It’s a sign of strength when one of the UK’s greatest MC’s samples a foundational track in establishing the grime scene. More Fire Crew’s ‘Oi’ is right alongside Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Pow’ as one of the most influential Grime tracks, as well one of the most influential tracks produced in Britain, period. So now that Skepta is where he is – an elder statesman in the game – he’s paying homage to the scene that made him by tapping into said scene’s archives. His latest release is titled All In, the title of this EP suggests that maybe Skepta isn’t retiring as he hinted earlier this year. My highlight from this project is ‘Eyes On Me’, which finds Big Smoke in classic form. This sounds like Microphone Champion-era Skeppy, specifically ‘Over The Top’ from that album. Punchlines pon punchlines. Skep comes out swinging “how they gonna lift my skirt (how?) / when I never wear no dress”. Here he’s referencing the internet’s attitude to his sartorial evolution – people began asking questions about his style. But Skepta never answered. He just kept doing him. Like he’s always done. He says this is his last EP before moving onto other things – for a long time he’s dropped references to directing and film in his music. That may be the next chess move for the ever-evolving MC.
Liv.e – _21
Liv.e is the LA-based singer-songwriter, rapper and producer who does just about everything musically. She’s a purist. A creator’s creator. With a big co-sign from Erykah Badu, her 2018 album Couldn’t Wait To Tell You was met with rave reviews on both blogs and mainstream music media. Not an easy thing to do in this specific moment of music. But her sound is chameleonic – it moves and it warps and it takes the form of whatever it feels to, when it feels to. Her latest EP CWTTY+ is conceptually similar to her last album, just a bit looser in places. It features some live cuts of her album’s best drops and then some redrafts of other ideas. It feels like a sketchbook you find randomly and looking through it you see some strong ideas you didn’t have the time to fully realise. The strongest of those ideas is ‘_21’. Straight off the bat, the 70’s sounding, warm and hazy Los Angeles garage funk strings capture your ears. Before her voice kicks in. Soulful, rhythmic, her delivery is simple – and enchanting in its simplicity. Her songwriting is smart, too – ‘’reach for my sins / I go grab my gold tooth’’ – there is a lot of symbolism in her music ‘’I burn the book of the dead / forget all our past rules…’’. It swings constantly from allegories to romantic longing ‘’wish I could know what’s going on in your head / I’ma always be in love with you’’. She’s got talent in spades, and with Erykah Badu’s tutelage, she’s only going to keep getting better.
Ragz Originale feat. Knucks, Lady Donli – no doubt
Ragz Originale is a master of creating catchy hooks. At some point in his career, making a pivot into creating songs for kids might be a masterstroke. Every one of his releases his a crazy addictive hook – and the thing is – he always manages to make the next one sound different. It’s no surprise he was nominated for an Ivor Novello award in 2016. The “pull up on you baby” call and respond is another winner for the North London artist. He produces too, so he knows acutely how to craft a beat to work with his favoured style of delivery, which is sort of a cheat code as he knows his pockets. Knucks continues his current hot streak of features here, mixing up his lyrics with some Patois infusions “true say she wants to wuk off ah Knucks / Tuesday I’m getting top off ah pops’’. It’s dope to hear Knucks mixing up his delivery and his sound. He’s enjoying this moment where he’s able to hop on different vibes and show his artistic range. Lady Donli jumps on with some Yoruba-inspired verses “hubba hubba / now he wanna wear his big Agbada”. Agbada is what Yoruba men wear in day-to-day life or for big events such as weddings, or parties. The song spans from London to Lagos with a stopover in Spanish Town. It’s an interesting mesh of vibes, one you’ll be replaying.
Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak) – Skate
The R&B superduo that we see as Silk Sonic has been pending ever since Anderson .Paak supported Bruno Mars on tour back in 2017. But hearing these two combine validates this move and will leave listeners waiting out on the corner for their upcoming debut album An Evening with Silk Sonic. Back in March, they released their debut single ‘Leave The Door Open’ which was well-recieved and lauded for it’s vintage feel. Their latest effort ‘Skate’, produced by Jeremy Sullivan, is more uptempo and combines the best of the duo’s pop, funk and R&B senisbilites. Fitting for the skate rink (obviously), the entendre in the chorus is clear as Bruno implores his lover to skate on over to him. You wonder if you’ve ever heard a statement so direct delivered so sweetly.
With direction in the visuals by Florent Dechard and Bruno Mars himself, we see more of the latter’s creative direction as the Silk Sonic duo are playing to an energetic group of skaters. The vintage feel extends to the outfit choices and location of the video, remniscent of times where mass skating outside was super popular. With the album being hosted by the legendary Bootsy Collins, one can only hope that the rest of the album lands as sweetly as the first two singles. Highly likely.
Jordan Stephens – Wicked
Former Rizzle Kicks member Jordan Stephens has been doing things in his own way since he decided to break out as a solo artist. His messages that touch on mental health, positivity and more have been celebrated by his fans and gained him an audience that he perhaps wouldn’t have tapped into earlier in his music career. His latest track ‘Wicked’ allows Jordan to tap into the energetic side of his repertoire, almost jumping from a spoken word style to a more traditional rap style to compliment the J.Ar.J. production. The artist himself describes this one as “free therapy” and that much is gathered from the premise of the video. Very guerilla in the way it’s shot and how it focuses on Jordan only among the backdrops of trees and cloudy skies.