Follow God – [Kanye West]

By Mike del Ro // 8 Nov 2019

In the wake of his 9th solo album ‘Jesus Is King’, Kanye West has remained relatively quiet save for his regularly programmed Sunday Service performances and the album’s merch releases. It’s become rarer for Kanye to release music videos at this stage in his career (2018’s ‘Ye’ didn’t have any videos), and when he has, it seems he’s always attempting to shift the very form of the music video itself. The most noticeable thing about the music video for “Follow God”, the second track and a fan favorite off of ’Jesus Is King’, is its utter simplicity. Following Kanye and his father Ray West as they journey through the snow-covered acres of Kanye’s Wyoming ranch, the video focusses on just the two of them. There’s no frills or effects and barely any cuts. A viewer is only left to focus on the video’s intro (an anecdote about a father leading the way for his children as they walked through the snow for the first time) and the text that appears at the end of the video: “My dad came to visit me at one of our ranches in Cody, Wyoming. He talked about his love for fishing, and how he …

Run Fast – [Billy Lemos] x [JJ]

By Mike del Ro // 8 Nov 2019

There are few songs that came out this year that I could remember hearing for the first time as vividly as “Here I Found / No Self Control” by Billy Lemos. The gloomy, tempo-changing and constantly evolving amalgamation of distorted sound stays imprinted in a listener’s mind, thriving off the fact that it can’t quite be placed in any one particular genre or sonic aesthetic. This elusive quality made me want to listen to that song over and over again, and that same quality resonates on Lemos’ new song out today, titled “Run Fast”. Vocals from songwriter JJ set the scene for this single, opening up with a dramatic acapella introduction. You’re brought into the world of the song layer by layer, slowly building up to a very unexpected, but oddly fitting drop. Lemos’ experiment with song structure, similar to “No Self Control”, pays off once again. It flirts with the line between intentional and gimmicky but gracefully comes out on the side of the former, as each subsequent beat change feels purposeful and fully fleshed out. After the rave-like barrage of electronic drums and glitched-out synths that mark the first drop, the composition subsides again, stripped back down to …

Before I Knew It – [King Khali]

By Mike del Ro // 7 Nov 2019

Atlanta-born/Texas-based rapper King Khali has just released a deeply personal new project entitled ‘Before I Knew It’. A chronicle of Khali’s life experiences moving to Texas and encounters with felony charges in his past, ‘Before I Knew It’ illustrates a rare example of a new voice tapping solely into his own reality to construct a fully-fleshed out conceptual album. Khali builds off previous aesthetics of his music to further prove that he thrives in the dark, crafting his most vivid bars over moodier production. Even on this album’s more upbeat moments, a layer of gloominess pervades, adding melodrama to the otherwise real stories Khali is telling. His voice hits with the force of a seasoned veteran, fueled by a bravado that refuses to be questioned and carries with it a weight of certainty that could only be borne out of authenticity. Khali’s ability to speak from personal experience has a genuineness to it that’s refreshing. Instead of following pre-paved formulas for success, Khali’s in the process of chartering his own, and ‘Before I Knew It’ is a promising sign that he’s well on his way. His efforts to incorporate more melodic moments end up paying off, leading to catchy, memorable …

Touch & Go – [Tinashe] ft. [6LACK]

By Mike del Ro // 7 Nov 2019

Tinashe’s independent rebirth since parting ways with RCA Records has been one that her loyal fanbase has been anticipating for a while now, and the RnB singer/songwriter is now in the midst of the rollout for her forthcoming album, ‘Songs For You’. Two weeks ago, Tinashe gave the first official look at what she’s been working on with the club-ready, experimentally sparse “Die A Little Bit”. Today, she’s following up on that single with a more emotional one featuring 6LACK, titled “Touch & Go”. On this track, Tinashe ventures into territory that isn’t necessarily new for her, channeling the slower, more ambient sounds that marked a lot of her early mixtapes prior to her major-label debut in 2014. “Touch & Go” signifies a return to true form in that sense, while also pushing forward in terms of production and quality of songwriting. The song’s most redeeming quality is its genuine vulnerability as both Tinashe and 6LACK connect over mutual heartache, and their verses complement each other both in terms of content and vocal style. Tinashe’s able to strike a balance on “Touch & Go” that it seems she’s been striving at for some time now. Her will to experiment with …

Hit Me Up – [Omar Apollo] x [Dominic Fike] prod. [Kenny Beats]

By Mike del Ro // 6 Nov 2019

Indiana-raised artist Omar Apollo has followed up the release of his single “Frio” last week with another new song, collaborating with Kenny Beats once again and bringing Dominic Fike on for “Hit Me Up”. A couple of months ago, Instagram posts of Apollo and Fike working together started circulating, and now listeners have the chance to hear what they’ve been cooking up. “Hit Me Up” offers the best of both artists’ worlds; Kenny Beats, who previously collaborated with Fike on their song “Phone Numbers”, uses a similar sonic aesthetic to bring the two vocalists together in a way that fits both of their styles. Over a smooth bassline and punchy drums, Apollo’s harmonies soften the track as Fike’s melodic flows ride the beat more aggressively. The three artists make for a natural match, and they’re able to capitalize on the hype that they each have around their names right now to make for a rewarding, highly-anticipated collaboration. Listen to “Hit Me Up” by Omar Apollo, Dominic Fike, and Kenny Beats below:

Kryptonite – [D2X] ft. [Quis]

By Mike del Ro // 4 Nov 2019

Chicago’s D2X has been building up momentum this year with the release of multiple singles that have showcased the rapper’s growth both musically and intrinsically. Now, D2X is continuing his streak and evolution with his latest single, “Kryptonite”. In contrast to D2X’s previous release (the house-influenced banger “Go!”), the emcee returns to his more introspective side on “Kryptonite”. He centers his mind of the everyday struggles and stresses that ultimately keep him away from the things he really wants to be spending time on, and this song serves as his way of taking stock of his current situation in life and wrestling with how to move forward. Producer and featured rapper Quis soundtracks this moment of self-reflection with an instrumental that escalates, allowing D2X’s flow to evolve along with it. The prominent guitar strums throughout come at uneven intervals, and both rappers craft their flows around the beat in a way that makes their words hit with more impact. With “Kryptonite”, D2X and Quis take a more somber detour from their last song together while still making something that hits hard in its own way. Stream “Kryptonite” by D2X and Quis below:

Wool – [Juto]

By Mike del Ro // 4 Nov 2019

If Juto’s ‘Velvet’ EP was the romanticist fantasy one imagines before shooting their shot, ‘Wool’ feels like the unforgiving reality one lives out as a result. On his new 7-track project, the alternative RnB songwriter continues to deliver guitar-driven ballads about matters of the heart, sunken in clever lyricism and soothing vocal melodies that carry with them a similar warmth as the fabric referenced by the EP’s title. Striking a unique balance of genres, Juto blends elements of RnB, funk, and alternative to craft a hazy sound that hits hard on first impact and leaves a smooth lasting impression. His vocals act as the force that holds his stylistic experiments down, alternating between soft crooning and angst-ridden shrilling in his tone. Juto comes off as lighthearted in his songwriting, maintaining some sense of humor even as he confronts his woes. Altogether, ‘Wool’ offers an even more comprehensive look at the songwriter’s versatile talent, packaging it in a set of easygoing, diverse new songs that flow together seamlessly. Listen below:

La La Lost You (Acoustic) – NIKI

By Mike del Ro // 1 Nov 2019

NIKI is without a doubt one of my personal favorite new artists out right now. The Indonesian singer/songwriter is one of 88 Rising’s most promising musicians right now, and her recent appearances on the collective’s compilation album only serve to illustrate that point further. Last week, she decided to release acoustic versions of all of her tracks from ‘Head In The Clouds 2’. There are certain instances when a stripped-down, live version of a record rivals or even surpasses the original, and NIKI’s acoustic take on the track “La La Lost You” just may be one of these instances. She’s not new to delivering stellar live renditions of her songs, and this one hits especially hard thanks to her crystal clear vocal quality. It almost feels like she’s performing right in your living room—singing with this careful balance of vulnerability and power that breathes new life into her meticulously written lyrics. Watch NIKI’s performance below, and check out her other acoustic sessions here.