The-Dream- IV Play
Despite the title of this track and his forthcoming album, The-Dream has no love for pre-coital rituals (though he does for puns). This "get straight to it" mentality extends to his musical output as well. While Dream has a gift when it comes to writing huge pop jams for top 40 pleasers like Beyonce, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, and Justin FUCKING Bieber, he's created his own lane when it comes to his solo material, and feels no need to preface his album with a chart-ready single. Instead R&B's resident auteur jumps straight into his signature stacked vocals, and synth swells, promising a new effort that will fit nicely beside his acclaimed "Love" trilogy. No better way to ensure your artistic integrity than a side hustle that earns you Bieber-money.
Pusha T- Numbers On The Boards
Kanye once defended the fragility of 808s with the claim that the "Say You Will" instrumental could be a Clipse beat. He likely used this example for a couple of reasons. 1- Hell Hath No Fury had dropped 2 years earlier, and Clipse was one of the primary acts associated with "pure hip hop", something Heartbreak was being accused of straying too far from, and 2- Yeezy seems to associate the duo's icy Neptunes production with distractingly loud clanks and beeps, because "Numbers On The Boards" and "Say You Will" share some noisy rhythmic flourishes.
Ye's view of Push representing, pure, lyric driven hip hop is something both him and the "Wrath Of Caine" emcee have been pushing since his G.O.O.D. signing. There's a good reason why Kanye gave him two 16s on "New God Flow", easily the most basic, but also one of the most engaging moments on Cruel Summer. It's important that a rapper like T, who excels on hookless, minimal tracks, bring all he can to his verses, as his performance will make or break these brightly spotlit songs. "Numbers On The Boards" sees him bringing the fury that the stripped down beat demands, maybe not quite on par with the '06 Pusha Ton, but really not much is.
Cassie- I Love It (feat. Fabolous)
Cassie can't sing. It's become quite clear from her disastrous live performances, and her 3-5 note range on record. Thankfully, you don't have to be able to sing to make a good song. Take it from Future, who has done his share of 2013 hooks with little to no technical singing ability, or Drake, who sings often, and reasonably well on record, but rarely breaks out a melody live-- he's pretty much the very first studio-singer. What these two lack in their live recreation of vocals, they make up for in songwriting. Cassie gains no points in that department, as she generally has little to no hand in the process, and I would even be hesitant to call almost any of the melodies on her new mixtape strong or even particularly memorable (which is not the fault of the songwriters, there's only so many things you can do with such a limited range). So why then does an artist who can't sing, write, or be written for, show up in the Top Tracks Of The Week you ask?
Well, everything around Cassie is meticulously placed to the point that her uninspired vocal delivery takes a backseat to the very impressive selection of production and features, not only on this song, but the entirety of the mixtape. In fact so much care has gone into the production end of the effort, that each song very elegantly seques into the next, in a way that I'm not sure has even been done on an R&B or hip hop project that houses tracks from a handful of different producers. So it seems as though building interesting songs around a rather banal artist like Cassie was a fairly conscious effort, and you can bet a lot Diddy Dirty Money went into it. But in the end, Cassie's vocals are not taking anything away from the songs, they just don't really offer very much. The production and features are top of the line, and this track is as good as any on the very cohesive tape.
Big K.R.I.T.- Only One (Feat. Smoke DZA & Wiz Khalifa)
KRIT's UGK worship is well documented, but his adoption of their ethos is just as prevalent as his homage to the classic Houston sound. Not every rapper is ready to part with an almost entirely self produced, 17 track mixtape for free download, especially with a large following already in tow. KRIT appears to be taking the Underground King approach to his music, focusing more on a respect and legacy than commercial success. Here the rapper hooks up with two collaborators he's been working with since his breakthrough tape, and proves that the sound he's been producing since that time is far from stale, mainly because of the level of care KRIT brings to each track.
Jay-Z- Open Letter
Jay-Z has reached a rare iconic status in rap where his work is often unquestioned. Jigga doesn't really say too much on this track, but his words hold more weight because he like, knows the President and stuff. It's always good to hear from Jay, but this track seems a little unnecessary. He dresses the song as if it's meant to be some sort of important statement, but we don't really gain anything from it. His lines aren't as provocative as he seems to think they are (politicians are liars!), though he does rap reasonably well, despite a couple corny lines, closing his final verse with "the new role model/ fuck this Zoolander shit."(get it? he's a model!). But at the end of the day, Jay is a charismatic dude, and even when he's a little below God-emcee status, he does pretty well for himself. Plus who else on this list gets a response from the White House when they drop a track?
Lil Wayne- I'm Good (Terrorists) (Feat. Meek Mill)
It's kind of a mystery why this track didn't make the final cut of I Am Not A Human Being II, as it would have easily been one of the better tracks on the lackluster effort. On first listen I was even fairly sure Wayne refrained from saying "pussy" for an entire track. On a quick scan of the lyrics
, it's clear that he drops his favorite word 3 times, but not to the face-palm level you'll find it elsewhere on his latest effort. He even manages to be funny again, with a line or two recalling Wayne at his most spacey and bizarre ("Two Xanax, I'm fantasizing about fat bitches' panty sizes" comes to mind). It's still not "mixtape weezy", as the Cash Money camp declared days before the release on IANAHB2, but it's certainly a lot closer than much of the scattershot project came.
Miguel- How Many Drinks (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)
If you know what you're doing, you're already very familiar with this song and the rest of Miguel's excellent album Adorn. You're also likely well versed in the work of Kendrick Lamar. If all of this is true, you already know that K-Dot lends a great verse, to an already great song. If for some reason you haven't explored the catalogues of these two artists, this is a good place to start.
Staff picks for the week of April 8th to 14th.
This feature highlights a hand-picked selection of some of the bigger tracks of the week. We have chosen a few of the tracks that landed within our top 25 most played, focusing on those that stood out, and left room for discussion. This edition features Pusha T, Jay-Z, The-Dream, and more! Take a look at the list in the gallery above, and feel free to let us know your own favorite tracks in the comments.