As we get closer to Usher‘s highly anticipated Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, the worlds of hip-hop and R&B are back in full swing with major albums, singles and pop culture moments driving tons of discourse across social media.
From Kendrick Lamar‘s tease of new music to Megan Thee Stallion‘s surprise appearance on Saturday Night Live alongside Reneé Rapp in support of their Mean Girls collaboration, some of hip-hop’s biggest heavyweights used stealth to their advantage. In contrast, Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign‘s elusive Vultures joint album received yet another release date; this time, the record is slated to arrive on Feb. 9. — just two days before Usher is set to take the stage at Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, NV. There was also a hilarious meme acknowledgment from Drake by way of the rapper’s recreation of TikTok creator Drew Wall’s viral day-in-the-life Target run videos — soundtracked by the Grammy-winner’s “Virginia Beach,” naturally.
With Fresh Picks, Billboard aims to highlight some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop — from Anycia and Latto’s new outside anthem to Naomi Sharon’s gorgeous, acoustic paean for love. Be sure to check out this week’s Fresh Picks in our Spotify playlist below.
Freshest Find: Anycia feat. Latto, “Back Outside”
For their first official collaboration, Anycia and Latto skate over a horn-laden JetsonMade production that perfectly complements the laid-back-yet-urgent feel of each of their respective verses. When Anycia begins her pre-chorus with the deliciously cavalier, “Huh? I’m back outside/ Yeah, huh? N—a done made me mad,” her delivery immediately sets the foundation for a woman on a mission: she’s back outside and ready to get her lick back, but you’ll never see her sweat. As a fellow Atlanta rapper, Latto sounds right at home on the track, delivering yet another strong verse complete with funny punchlines (“And they sayin’ that I rap my ass off/ Turn around like, ‘I can’t tell’) and a healthy dose of shade (“Walked in, young b–ch, I’m turnt/ Got auntie hatin’, she burnt”).
Fivio Foreign & Meek Mill, “Same 24”
Reuniting for the first time since 2020’s “Demons & Goblins,” Fivio Foreign and Meek Mill get introspective over a drum-heavy beat courtesy of Saint Cardona and Lala the DJ. Worlds away from the Brooklyn drill that dominated his debut studio album, 2022’s B.I.B.L.E., Fivi opens “Same 24” with a stream-of-consciousness verse in which he exalts his tenacity and his maturation journey. “We got the same twenty-four hours, n—a / Why what’s mine gotta be ours, n—a? / Talkin’ ’bout n—as need help, n—as, I was “n—as” / But I rose out of the dirt, give me my flowers, n—a,” he spits. Meek adds a characteristically loud guest verse that celebrates his own come-up by way of slick double entendres; “My granny house a mil’, she ain’t even know I could rap my ass off/ You s–ttin’ me? I was super broke, I took that cast off,” he raps.
Rob49 & Lil Wayne, “Wassam Baby”
NOLA, stand up! In a week of stellar rap collaborations, Rob49 and Lil Wayne climb into the ring with thei rown “Wassam Baby.” Built around a gritty piano-anchored Mac Fly beat, the two New Orleans rappers wax poetic about their wealth and sexual prowess while spitting game at women from across the city, as Rob emphasizes in the chorus. If that hook sounds familiar, that’s because “Wassam Baby” leaked months ago and made the rounds as a viral sound on TikTok. With the addition of a strong Wayne verse — his balance of alliteration, punch lines and rhyme scheme variations are top-notch — Rob didn’t just give “Wassam Baby” a second wind, he gave it a completely new life.
Andra Day, “Where Do We Go”
It’s been nearly a decade since Andra Day’s Grammy-nominated “Rise Up” first entered the world, and in the time since, the multihyphenate has earned a slew of major industry awards and honors, including an Academy Award nomination for best actress in a leading role for her starring turn as Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Now, she’s back with the lead single for her second non-soundtrack studio album. “Where Do We Go” is a rousing exercise in the pacing of show-stopping vocal performance. Day’s sense of dynamics is on full display as she parses through the complicated process of seeking closure from a relationship she’s not ready to leave. “I see love inside your brown eyes/ Listening to ‘New Sky’/ Is everything an absolute, babe?/ Like, do we absolutely have to say goodbye?” she croons.
1K Phew & Zaytoven, “Let Go Let God”
For the latest chapter in the ever-evolving relationship between gospel and hip-hop, 1K Phew has finally unleashed his collaborative project with iconic rap producer Zaytoven. Titled Pray for Atlanta, the genre-blending set — which features collaborations with Hunxho and Jekalyn Carr — is a heartfelt address to the city from a rapper who clearly adores his hometown, and a producer who has helped shape the city’s modern sound. Focus track “Let Go Let God,” blends familiar Atlanta rap cadences with a hearty gospel message, finding the common ground between the secular notion of “trusting the process” and the sanctified notion of leaving things in God’s hands. “I been down if that’s okay, had to learn from yesterday/ Took a lot of L’s in my life, baby, and I ain’t goin’ back there, no way/ I got an iced out cross on my neck right now, tryna show him that he already paid,” he spits over Zaytoven’s trap production.
Destin Conrad, “WAR!”
Last Friday (Jan. 19), Destin Conrad dropped off Submissive2, the sequel to last year’s Submissive. “War,” the fourth track on the set, is a perfect blend of the rising star’s penchant for idiosyncratic Gen Z humor and lustful-yet-subtle R&B melodies. Obviously, the song is about the lengths one will go to for the person they want — rather the person they want to bag — but the trick of “War” is the way Destin plays into the innate melodrama of the concept. “I would smash the windows out your ex’s car without a second thought, baby/ I would gladly take the f–kin’ charge and that’s a criminal offense,” he opens the song.
It’s the chorus, however, that really drives home Destin’s shtick. He plays with his pitch and intonation to embody different characters across a melody that plays on the bounce-rooted “I’ll do [insert outlandish thing] for the d–k” punchline set-up. “I’ll sing Adele for that d–k / Rolling in the deep for that d–k,” the voices joke. It’s all fun and games until one voice proclaims that they’ll “pay for the d–k,” to which Destin comes back down to earth and ends the song, quipping, “Alright, you’re buggin’ (Yeah, b–ch, you dragged it) / You did too much, b–ch, too much.”
Naomi Sharon, “Nothing Sweeter”
Just a few months removed from the launch of her acclaimed debut album, Obsidian, Naomi Sharon has unveiled another new addition to her growing discography. “Nothing Sweeter” arrives as the latest evolution of the most Sade-influenced edges of Sharon’s sonic profile. The First Lady of OVO lays her elegant vocals over a sparse, delicate guitar-forward instrumental that allows her ample space to showcase her sense of vocal control. Lyrically, she extols the healing power of love while calling back to iconic R&B ballads of yesteryear, singing, “Uncover my skin, undo this pain/ Unbreak my heart/
Until I remember the way.”
The post “R&B/Hip-Hop Fresh Picks of the Week: Anycia & Latto, Rob49 & Lil Wayne, Andra Day & More” by Kyle-Brandon Denis was published on 01/22/2024 by www.billboard.com