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Princess Nokia – Gemini
Since her first full-length studio release in 2017, Princess Nokia has been one of the most thrilling young individuals to watch across all music. In late February of this year, Nokia simultaneously dropped two projects of opposite effect in “Everything Sucks” and “Everything Is Beautiful.” The conjoined albums do well to display Nokia’s exciting range of genre and consistency as a young artist. The few hit tracks from each project have performed spectacularly. Of all the hot tunes from the two projects, “Gemini” stands as a personal favorite song of 2020 thus far.
Jhené Aiko – Tryna Smoke
Three years after her sophomore album “Trip” was released, the 20-song 63-minute “Chilombo” was released in early March of this year. The project, with top-tier features from Nas and Future to John Legend and Miguel, ranks as one of the top albums released this year. A number of the tracks stand as some of Jhené’s most thrilling songs to date. Of all the album’s charting songs, it’s the cannabis-focused, happy beat-banging, smoothly-vocalized “Tryna Smoke” that helps lessen the solitude of quarantine.
Jay Electronica – Shiny Suit Theory
After 10 years of scattered features and hints at a new album, Jay Electronica came back strong with “A Written Testimony,” including an especially confident Jay Elec strutting his stuff on “Shiny Suit Theory.” Over a ringing beat, Jay claims his rapping ability stands on the shoulders of thousands of years of human accomplishments, creating an infectious aura of inconceivable talent. Amidst reports about his own self-consciousness, it’s great to hear him gloat and brag.
Sunkissed Child (feat. Jill Scott and Iguocho) – D Smoke
Following his success on Netflix’s 2019 hip-hop competition Rhythm and Flow, D Smoke came out swinging with his first full-length studio album in February. At 16 tracks, “Black Habits” provides the first close look at what this bilingual multi-instrumentalist aims to achieve across his promising career. The album is bursting at the seams with elite features, top tier production, stunning verses, and first-class instrumentation. Alongside Jill Scott and Iguocho, “Sunkissed Child” is the prime example of all those qualities.
Let Me Know – Brent Faiyaz
Off his 2020 album, Faiyaz screamed “Fuck the World,” an increasingly relatable statement. The album is laced with angsty, brooding themes, perhaps most clearly present on “Let Me Know,” a track defined by Faiyaz’s insecure feelings. Toss this beat on if you’re looking to sulk in quarantine and feel completely validated about it.
“Who can I love when they tell me I can’t love myself?
How in the Hell could I possibly love someone else?”
Love is Love – June
After a couple of months including most of the band departing the formerly titled Band of June, young singer and instrumentalist Jared Dougall is looking to make waves under the pseudonym June. And with “Love is Love,” Dougall proved there are no harsh feelings after Band of June’s re-rostering, preaching that love is all around us. It’s an important message in these times, and Dougall’s stripped-down instrumental style on the track is one I’d like to see going forward. This track is great for needing a friend or pick-me-up in quarantine.
Minding_My Business (feat. Durand Bernarr & Rose Gold) – Knxwledge
“Minding_My Business” is the pensive closer to Knxweledge’s new album “1988,” a wonderful down-tempo album perfect for a rainy day. The track, featuring Durang Bernarr, fresh off a legendary performance on Kaytranada’s “Freefall,” who bursts on the track with such soaring emotion, perfect for curling up and finding shelter from the world’s stress or dancing your heart out on an end-of-night dancefloor.
Itkanbe[Sonice] [feat. Anderson .Paak & NxWorries] – Knxwledge
Another rainy-day song, NxWorries link back up to create one of the better songs off “1988,” a low-fi, bluesy tune. .Paak and Knxwledge are a match made somewhere near heaven, as .Paak’s soaring, loving vocals pair with a sorrowful and loopy beat from Knxwledge. Toss it on after a Backwoods or when you need your dear friend Anderson .Paak to pick you up.
ATTITUDE! (feat. StarrZ) – Deetranada
Deetranada is coming straight out of D.C. with something to prove, and she takes her time on “ATTITUDE!” to tell you exactly what the fuck she’s about. On the accompanying music video, Dee flexes on her haters and causes a stir, showing she’s not into constricting any aspect of her personality or attitude in her rise to fame.
12.38 – Childish Gambino
“12.38” is a goofy track among many confusing ones on Childish Gambino’s new album, “3.15.20.” Hidden in the dense jungle of experimentation, Childish Gambino and 21 Savage provide a moment of comedic relief, as Gambeeny opens the track with a story about himself and a mysterious lover ingesting some special fungus and having a special time.
The 21 verse is equal parts nonsensical and critical. Two couplets on the verse portray it well:
Carefree – Mick Jenkins
In the common discussion regarding the most underrated names in hip-hop, one artist that should be repeatedly mentioned is Mick Jenkins. Across the years, the water-loving, love-spreading rapper has consistently released stellar projects, and 2020’s “The Circus” is no exception. The EP is seven songs long, the most intoxicating of which is “Carefree,” which stars a relaxed thumping beat and characteristically smooth verses by Mick.
Missed the first installment? Check it out here.