Jay-Z- $100 Bill
Jay sounds pretty lively on this one. Recalling some of the stop-start flows he used on Watch The Throne's "Who Gon Stop Me", Jigga reminds us that his tasteful rhythmic approach to rapping is one of his best qualities as an emcee. The arpeggiated keys compliment the vocal samples on the beat quite nicely, and provide an appropriately grandiose, but still hard hitting backdrop to Jay's iconic delivery.
I know what you're thinking-- what the hell is Juicy J doing on a track called "Young Niggas"? Turns out he's aware of his age, acknowledging the concept of "Young Niggas" as people he surrounds himself with, rather than something he identifies as. His self-awareness may be one of the reasons he continues to make music that is in tune with where rap is right now, without it seeming like a reach or a pose.
Schoolboy Q- She Like
This year's freshmen list seemed a little behind the times, indicating that internet hype may have replaced the need for such a feature-- surely most of the rappers on the list have and will catch a bigger break riding their online followings than appearing on the cover. Schoolboy is easily among the best of XXL's picks this year, but with a couple of hot full length releases already under his belt, you can't help but think he should've been on LAST YEAR's cover. Either way Q's hype has continued to grow exponentially (with or without the cover), and the material he's been putting out recently holds great things ahead for OxyMoron.
J. Cole is a very good rapper, but it's no secret that he can be less than exciting a lot of the time. Much of this is to do with his production choices, which tend to safe at their best, and yawn-inducing at their worst. This one at least injects a little more energy into the beat, bordering on dare I say "fun". It makes Cole a lot more engaging, as he definoitely has the ability to demand attention when he's on a great beat (See his scene-stealing verse on "Looking For Trouble" from G.O.O.D. Fridays), and 2 Chainz does pretty ok for himself as well.
The great thing about "Females Welcomed" is the slap in the face that is the beat switch up halfway through the track. Two part songs are definitely getting more of a shine these days, but few actually surprise you the way this one does, generally because they have very obvious segues or breaks. The dark synth-trap beat that comes through at 1:34 also serves as the introduction to Juicy J's feature, making it the clear highlight of the track, seeing as Juicy was born to rap on this kind of instrumental.
Mikky Ekko is getting quite a push from RCA. The Louisiana songwriter showed up on Rihanna's "Stay" earlier this year (which is pretty much the biggest exposure an artist can get) and now shows up even more surprisingly on a French Montana cut. Mikky's hook and the production is enough to carry the song on it's own, and while the midtempo introspective number isn't French's strongest suit, he manages to hold it down reasonably well.
Mystikal is the rapper we didn't know we missed. His furiously animated double time flows have aged incredibly well, and so has 'Kal as a rapper. The beat is actually a take off of a pre-No Limit Mystikal track, and it serves as a great backdrop for everyone (including the consistently underrated Young Dro) before Mystikal's scene-stealing finish.
Staff picks for the week of April 29th to May 5th.
This new 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 J. Cole, Juicy J, T.I., 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.