“ALL THESE CHANGES” — Nick Hakim
Nobody fulfills the title of multi-instrumentalist quite like Brooklyn artist Nick Hakim, who handled songwriting, drums, guitar, piano and mixing on this track, which opens his boundary-pushing, genre-less album “WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD.” He attended Berklee College of Music, and his work sounds like he only looks at the world through a kaleidoscope because his lyrics and instrumentals are consistently colorful and deeply dimensional. For example, this beat is gorgeously constructed and each minute layer is audible and necessary, and if you listen to “ALL THESE CHANGES” with your eyes shut, you will visualize a world he sees us all living in one day, when the damage the human race has done to the planet becomes irreversible. “All the limbs in her are changing / Growing pain, the hope is fading / Can we bring her love back to health?” He continues, singing “We’ve been guests here for a while / The mortal power lives in style / But everything comes to an end” and imagines the world as we know it submerged in water, with Hakim able to see the skyscrapers of New York beneath him.
“Wishing For A Hero” — Polo G (feat. BJ the Chicago Kid)
Here’s what I learned this past weekend: Polo G is a supremely talented storyteller and he is not mentioned enough in discussions about what some may call conscious hip-hop. In this tear-jerking, soul-speaking song the Chicago rapper samples “Changes” by the great Tupac Shakur and pays homage to the legendary rapper while creatively making the instrumental his own. Although his flow, cadence and overall approach were different than Tupac’s, the message is all the same: the struggles that come with being black in America, as well as how we can unify and treat each other better. This song is the outro to Polo G’s 2020 album titled “THE GOAT,” and it’s one of the best rap songs of the year — it concludes with a cute message from the rapper’s younger sister who praises her big brother for making it in the music business. This is what hip-hop heads live for: A young rapper perfectly executing a song that both beautifully concludes his own solid album, while also paying homage to a trailblazing legend.
“Dead Horse” — Hayley Williams
Hayley Williams is making solo music! The former orange-haired rockstar and remaining lead singer and frontwoman of many-times-platinum rock band Paramore is one of the most beloved names in all of music. She just released her first musical effort as a soloist, a three-part album titled “Petals For Armor.” In an interview with Apple Music, she told Zane Lowe via FaceTime that the album’s title derives from vulnerability, and I believe it to be one of the most clever in recent years. The peak of “Petals For Armor” is “Dead Horse,” a song where Williams is transparent as ever, disclosing details and inner problems of her marriage that ended in a divorce. Williams has always been an outstanding songwriter, and this track simply proves that alone or with Paramore, she is going to produce music of the highest quality, no matter what.
“Why Worry” — Isaiah Rashad
Music has been waiting to hear from Chattanooga rapper Isaiah Rashad since “The Sun’s Tirade,” the 2016 masterpiece project that the Top Dawg Entertainment signee strongly established himself with. Right away on this single, he explains his hiatus: “Too busy livin’ big / Too busy checkin’ off my list of s**t I never did” and for the remainder of the song he raps with the confidence and unapologetic attitude he has always brought to his songs. Rashad says he has a list of parts of his life that are ordered in level of importance, with his family members topping that list. As Rashad uses the duration of the song almost as a diary or a space to rant, the instrumental loops a vocal that repeats the song’s title about every five seconds, which I interpreted as Rashad reassuring the listener to be as patient and carefree as he is. Even if this song was recorded in 2017, it sounds modern and relatable just as Rashad has always been.
“THE SCOTTS” — THE SCOTTS
Travis Scott and Kid Cudi are THE SCOTTS, a newly formed hip-hop duo whose name is a combination of the two rappers’ names. For those unaware, Kid Cudi was Travis’ favorite artist growing up and the second half of Travis’ stage name comes from Kid Cudi’s government name, Scott Mescudi. THE SCOTTS premiered a self-titled, opening song to their catalog via a Fortnite event in late April, which assisted in getting the song to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a short while — Travis’ fourth and Cudi’s first. These two are longtime collaborators as solo artists, regularly appearing on one another’s solo albums and also collaborating on “Guilt Trip,” a track from Kanye West’s polarizing 2013 project “Yeezus,” where Cudi was featured and Travis handled production duties. “THE SCOTTS” is tons of fun and heavy-hitting — and for those who have subwoofers installed in their vehicles: THE SCOTTS made this song with you in mind.