WEEKLY ROUNDUP#7SONGSAWEEK / by Noor Kalouti

1. Self: Noname

Fatimah Nyeema Warner, better known for her stage name Noname, is the most unique musician in my roundup this week. Born and raised in Bronzeville, Chicago, Fatima began her musical career performing in local open mics and slam poetry competitions.

It’s clear that being a rapper is only one side to this talented lady’s persona; her flow is like delicate spoken word spread over a toasty bed of neo-soul. Self is the first track on her new album Room 25, her second self-released album. Her first album Telefone took three years to produce, and when Noname finally introduced herself to the world, the world loved her. The record had overwhelmingly positive reviews, and Room 25 is getting the same reception.

Noname’s list of collaborations is one fantastic rapper after another; Mick Jenkins, Kirk Knight, Saba… the list goes on. Her relationship to Chance might have been the most influential, not only does her flow resemble his, but she also had her first feature on his mixtape Acid Rap.

Noname is the kind of artist that scrutinizes every detail of her work, and I can hear that not only in her choice of words (which are extremely deliberate) but also through the innovation of her own specific sound. This song epitomizes what the point that you can't bind a song to one genre, this track and album IS Noname and her personality shines through the fluidity of her sound.

2. Lavish Lullaby: Masego

I couldn't decide what song to choose from in Masego's new album Lady Lady. This whole album is like a five-course meal that fulfills your every culinary craving. I mean that in the most sophisticated way.

Lady Lady is Micah Davis's (a.k.a Masego) debut album which dropped in early September. The Virginia-native composed, produced and wrote this entire project on his own.

Before this album, Masego released a series of eclectic EPs and tracks on Bandcamp that show off his multi-instrumentalist approach. This collection ranges from Stevie Wonder tributes to instrumentals dedicated to his Jamaican roots.

On top of all this, Masego's self-sufficiency includes his mastery of several instruments; he taught himself how to play piano, saxophone, trumpet, drums, bass, guitar and cello. It’s insane really when I read that list. More, the young saxophonist breaks genre convention in not only style but brand, Masego affectionately refers to his sound as “Traphouse Jazz, soulfully merging two genres that are both deeply rooted in Southern black culture.

I’d like to draw your attention to a moment in Lavish Lullaby, one that I caught myself rewinding back to (right around 1:45 seconds). Masego shift the piece towards these layers of contrapuntal melody between saxophone, piano, and violin. The transition is effortless. A minute ago it was an urbane trap beat at best, and now we're on a terrace listening to Masego serenade us with his cello, literally drooling because he's just that good. I might be getting carried away… the point is he managed to effortlessly add a classical dimension to a trappy track that's about laying with models.

Before I move on to the next song, I'd like to mention the Lady Lady nominees for the roundup; Queen Tings ft. Tiffany Gouché, Silk, and 24hr Relationship. 24hr Relationship is this sweet exchange between two fresh lovers, and it's just adorable. Go listen to it.

3. White Bronco: Action Bronson

Words cannot describe how much I love this food-loving ginger rapper. I've been following him since he released Dr. Lecter in 2011, and I will continue to praise his music because I'm that loyal.

My loyalty aside White Bronco is a fire track. Ariyan Arslani, better known for his stage name Action Bronson ( or Bam Bam, Bronsoliño, Mr. Baklava) announced the White Bronco project) in April when he left Atlantic Records, which is a big move for him. We know that Action was eager to go independent when he tweeted all his frustrations. The Flushing-native has come to a point in his career where he needs to take full control of his creative projects and god knows he’s earned it. 

Now back to my loyalty, I've been a dedicated fan because Action consistently delivers style, class, and ingenuity in his music. His taste in music matches the sophistication of his culinary palette.  For those of you who don't know, Action is also a gourmet chef with two shows on Viceland. What I love most about his music, is the contrast between these funky jazz loops set by side with his raw NY flow. Action isn't just a rapper, he's a curator; most of his songs have instrumentals that could stand alone. The musicality is never overlooked and Action never fails to release music that he himself would want to listen to. He's loyal to his style, his fans and his tastes which is why I am equally faithful. I look forward to hearing the rest of White Bronco, love you Bam Bam. 

4. DISTRICT: BROCKHAMPTON

If you can find me a band that resembles BROCKHAMPTON in style and character, I would give you 100$. I say that because I believe that there is no one like BROCKHAMPTON in the hip-hop world today. This boy band has 15 members, some musical some not, and mainstream media has barely scratched the surface of how each member contributes. Kevin Abstract, visionary, rapper, and artist founded the collective in 2015. The group consists of self-motivated young men aiming to redefine the image of an American boy-band.

DISTRICT is the 7th track on the newly released album iridescence. Despite having had overwhelmingly positive reviews on their last 3 projects, iridescence isn't getting the best reception. I'd like to note that during the creation of iridescence BROCKHAMPTON's founding member Ameer Vann left after the group ousted him for lying about details related to allegations of sexual misconduct. Ameer was one of the sharpest lyricists in the band, so the crew suffered a creative loss. Despite that, they released this project, which I believe should be commended on its own. Personally, the bar is set so high with BROCKHAMPTON than even if they drop a few notches ( and I do believe they did), they are still one of the most thought-provoking bands in my library.

DISTRICT may be the most accessible track on the album, only because it feels the most organized. Kevin's flow is relatable and maintains the aesthetic of some of their other successful hip-hop tunes. BROCKHAMPTON is known to tread the line between hip-hop and grunge, if anything they are the only BAND that I know of that tread those lines so gracefully. DISTRICT is definitely more hip-hop than grunge, which may be why I appreciated it the most. Other tracks I considered from the album were WEIGHT & HONEY.

5. Balenciaga Challenge: 6BLACK (ft. Offset)

Atlanta native 6LACK re-enters the trap/R&B spotlight with this sophomore record East Atlanta Love Letter, released through Interscope.

Picking a track from 6LACK’s new album was an easy choice; Balenciaga Challenge is one of three songs that could be dubbed as the hits from East Atlanta Love Letter, but in my ears it was the clear winner against Pretty Little Fears (feat. J. Cole) and East Atlanta Love Letter (feat. Future).

I also find that it’s the most natural collaboration between the three. I may be biased towards Offset’s staple Migos flow, but it just fits so perfectly on top of Singawd & ONLYXN’s racy instrumentals that I put aside my love for J.Cole (which I am definitely a bigger fan of that Offset).

East Atlanta Love Letter is getting a moderately enthusiastic reception, 6LACK sticks to what he knows best in this new project, building on his brand so that the outcome is this polished, bouncy journey through this young man's creative process.

6. Still Want U: ZHU

To be frank, I've never been a big follower of ZHU, but this song has earned its spot on the roundup. With its seductive magnetism, Still Want U n tempts me in an towards an evening of vices and indulgences. I was introduced to this track in a context that lends itself to appeal, and reminiscing on my memories, I replayed the song the whole damn week. Hence, earning its spot.

Most of you will know ZHU's hit Faded which sparked his journey to fame. Before that Steven Zhu, a.k.a ZHU was releasing his music anonymously with that acronym but no other credits. Faded was the track that encouraged him to step out into the light, but he already had an established reputation within UK'S electronic music scene. Still Want U is off of his most recent release RINGOS DESERT (both Pt. 1 and 2) which has several features with Karnaval Blues, a British producer so low-key that I can't even find a name (but here's a Soundcloud!)

7. Yernin: Sevyn Streeter 

I discovered this song when Nicki Minaj posted herself jamming to it on her Instagram story. I should say that I am a big follower of Nicki Minaj, not because of her music, but because of her. She’s just a badass b**** and I love me a badass, like for example, Sevyn Streeter. 

Sevyn released her debut album Girl Disrupted last year, which came after years of writing songs for artists such as Chris Brown, Ariana Grande, and Alicia Keys. Girl Disrupted is a mix of R&B and Pop which seems to be the style that Sevyn sticks to, or so you would think until she dropped this. Yernin serves as the first single off of her forthcoming sophomore release, and it’s clear that she’s dabbling with trap beats and vocal style. I personally enjoy this track; hence it being on the roundup, but I do recognize that it’s not that great a tune. There isn’t much variety in the production or the verses, the only thing going for it are Sevyn’s vocals. Talented as she is, I don’t think this sound suits her but I respect that she’s trying new things. Translation is one of my favorite tracks by her, just incase you want to compare.