While it was marketed as a "Started From The Bottom" remix, or at least what began as one, simply looking at the list of parties involved in "No New Friends" makes it instantly clear that its intended as a sequel to 2011's summer blockbuster "I'm On One". The only missing member is T-Minus, who has been replaced by the sonically similar, but infinitely more interesting Boi-1da, and of course, the Timbaland to Drizzy's Justin, Noah "40" Shebib. 1da and 40 make a pretty unstoppable production team, as 40 provides a tastefulness and attention to detail that the "Headlines" beatmaker sometimes lacks, and 1da is able to make his beats bang in a way Shebib could never replicate. The production is definitely on point, but like every other element of the track, it mirrors "I'm On One" a little too closely to produce the same thrills the original provided.
The beat drop in the hook comes exactly where you expect it to, right where melodic, instrospective Drizzy becomes slightly harder, rappier, expletive-wielding Drizzy. It's a formula that's worked for Drake on plenty of hooks, but after the slurry curveball of refrain he threw at us on "Started From The Bottom", this seems a little slight. The Toronto rapper continues to deliver on his verses however, easily besting the sleepwalking Ross and Wayne (though at this point, snoozing Wayne is a welcome replacement for faceplanting Wayne). The 16s seem to come and go rather fast as well (I counted them out and they are full 16s, maybe the BPM is quite a bit higher and they're rapping half-time?), and again the hook doesn't quite stick like you want it to.
The decision to gift "No New Friends" to Khaled was definitely the right choice. Drake is really on another level as far as creating legacies, and themes around his projects. He's one of the few rappers out there who will make the banger of the summer, and leave it off his album, because unlike most rappers, that summer banger is far from his best material. Leading up to the release of Take Care, Drake similarly released a slew of tracks that didn't make the final cut, and he stressed that the songs, were just another part of the story of his career. The way Drake releases music is more about creating a tangent in his art that reads as more organic than many of the scattered collections that rap albums can sometimes exist in (not that those can't be great as well). So maybe "No New Friends" isn't "I'm On One", maybe it isn't even "Money To Blow" (ok, maybe it is). What it is, is another step in the increasingly interesting artistic path of one of the best artists in the genre right now, and another installment in what is becoming a tradition of radio takeover singles that exist as stand alone entities rather than part of a project, and that's pretty damn cool.
Lunice (aka one half of production duo TNGHT with Hudson Mowhawke) laces Rockie and Ross with an instrumental that keeps in line with the future-trap of his production duo, except where TNGHT's tracks build until they explode, this one sounds like it's melting. While the duo claim that their productions are all written with rappers in mind, they have a tendency to overpower vocalists, and this trippier take on the style works better for Ross and Rockie to weave in and out of without having to battle with the backdrop.
OK, this is track is pretty good, but I'm not buying the whole "phoenix from the flames" thing that Pharrell not so subtly drops in his first verse. Daft Punk is back, but they're not "BACK!" The groove is definitely solid, and while Skateboard P's verses are a little cheesy (though you could argue Daft Punk's whole catalogue is based on cheese), his hook is pretty undeniable. I would definitely like to hear some bigger builds, or more of an extended bridge, but seeing as this is the "radio edit", I may get just that when the album drops. Plus the track lengths (which were the first things to revealed as "news" in the Daft Punk-thirst driven blogosphere) suggest there'll be some 8+ minute jams, but let's not get too premature in our praise. Don't forget their last album was Human After All. But for now, we can enjoy it for what it is- a solid disco track, showcasing some of Pharrell's better vocal work. Just don't call it a comeback.
Girls love Drake, and it would be pretty easy to describe this one as a song "for the ladies", but I'm starting to think that expression is becoming dated, because dudes are definitely fuxing with this R&B shit more than ever. Also I'm pretty sure dudes are cool with Beyonce now too, but that's besides the point. Drake takes a note from his "one time" girl, Rihanna (who recently copped Ginuwine's "Pony" refrain on her track, "Jump"), and interpolates a classic R&B hook into his track. It works well, as Drizzy goes in on his first all-sung track he's dropped in the pre-Nothing Was The Same era. The chorus may seem a little heavy-handed at first, but it's small deviations from the original melody reveal themsleves over multiple listens, and it ends up being a very tasteful and rewarding rendition. Drake provides some nice vocal lines on the verses, despite getting a little too caught up in the moment when he examines his lifestyle mid-verse on some "where'd we learn these values?" type shit, only to go back to that "let me get your ass alone" type shit before the chorus hits. So basically this is the Drake-iest of all Drake songs. I ain't mad at it though.
Los drops one for the stoner crowd. While the rapper doesn't fit the mold of your typical weed rapper, he knows who to recruit when making a 4/20 cut. Los actually ends up outdoing Wiz, never embracing the smoked out persona fully, but well enough that he convincingly sells the track and impresses lyrically.
Mac Miller continues to enter a more experimental period in his career. The rapper is proving himself as a capable producer, and one who doesn't have to work within a conventional framework. He teams up with Ab-Soul, who is far from operating within the usual boundaries of rap, and alonh with the consistently underrated Smoke DZA, create a very interestingly structured piece.
Staff picks for the week of April 15th-21st
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 Drake, Rockie Fresh, King Los 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.