Isaiah Rashad — Why Worry
For his fans, “Why Worry” is like giving a bottle of water to a starving person stranded on an island. It certainly doesn’t solve the drought he’s been in since “4 da Squaw” was released in 2016, but it’s great to get an official release from the Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) rapper. “Why Worry” features a strong trumpet section, but Rashad’s return to the limelight overshadows anything else about the track. He’s one of the most talented rappers alive, and this is a reminder he’s not going away, despite the long drought.
SiR — Rapper Weed (feat. Boogie)
Brace yourself, this is only the second of several more TDE releases. SiR’s delicate delivery prances with the bumping bass, but Boogie steals the show once he takes the baton after a verse and refrain from SiR. Having a higher tolerance and not feeling high from a long blunt serves as a metaphor for Boogie’s relationship with an intimate friend. It’s a verse full of clever wordplay, and supported by SiR’s charismatic delivery, it makes for a song worth tossing on a playlist or two.
JME — 96 of My Life
He’d probably hate being included in a blog post, but this track is too good to be ignored. JME’s signature snarky attitude is portrayed cleanly on “96 of My Life.” It’s an intimate storytelling experience, over a gloomy, snappy grime beat, smoothly glided upon by the Tottenham MC. From his rough upbringing, watching people getting their face bashed in, to his ultimately incomplete university experience, check this track out for witty commentary on JME’s life as a black man in the UK.
Fake Tapes — Phenomenal Woman, That’s Me
An underground R&B/jazz outfit, Fake Tapes released their self-titled EP a few years ago, but their bright sounds resonate to this day. “Phenomenal Woman, That’s Me,” with a title inspired by the late Maya Angelou, is an especially joyful track, sending the listener on a short walk through a sunny garden full of beautiful flowers. The lead singer’s self-empowerment is infectious, leaving the listener with a lasting feeling of positivity. But any track from the “Fake Tapes” EP will give off that feeling, so don’t wait to check it out.
Smino — Chips & Juice
With “She Already Decided,” Smino added another project to his discography that, like other efforts, is full of fun, energetic verses made up of weed-and-liquor related boasts and clever wordplay. “Chips & Juice” is one of the most bubbly tracks on the mixtape, with every aspect of a signature Smino song: a ringing instrumental, goofiness: “Flintstones, all smokin’ yabba-dabba-doobies,” all delivered with the charisma of a person that says he “got the juice” and really does mean it.
Zacari — Edamame
The world is still waking up to Zacari, and that’s alright. He’s had a slow come-up despite an awesome feature on Kendrick Lamar’s “LOVE.” The beat is reminiscent of something that could’ve been on the Black Panther soundtrack, making “Edamame” a radio-friendly track that’ll catch the ear of anyone that’s enjoyed his features in the past, whether it’s the better-known “LOVE.” or the sleeper hit “Mood,” by SiR. The track doesn’t make any deep impact, but it nonetheless gets a spot on Quarantunes for its worry-free feeling.
Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes — “Storm Before the Calm”
This track concludes a doozy of an album, showing off the incredible talent of Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes, a pair of South Londoners born for jazzy improvisation. “Storm Before the Calm” brings together themes throughout the album, with Dayes’s drumming brilliance taking center stage at several points, and featured saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi takes over later on to serenade the audience, likely in entranced paralysis at this point in the album. It’s missing Tom’s nimble artwork, but “Storm Before the Calm” is a succinct outro to jazz-fusions current 2020 AOTY.
Kali Uchis — Honey Baby (SPOILED!) & Angel
Kali’s alluring lullaby voice is in full effect on these tracks, backed by soothing instrumentals that’ll comfort you more than a hot cup of cocoa in a snowstorm. At several points over the years, most notably on “Isolation,” Uchis has provided the gold standard for bedroom pop, and the newly-released “TO FEEL ALIVE” EP is another foray into her most dependable genre. Both of these tracks are gentle in nature, so toss ‘em on when you’re setting the mood or just looking to relax.
Dangeroopikawaa Freestyle — Ab-Soul
Oh, you forgot? Ab-Soul may be taking his time away from music, but he’s still the same Black Lip Pastor his fans have come to love. “Dangeroopikawaa Freestyle” was the first of this awesome week of TDE tracks, and it burst open the gates with flair. After a ringing beat switch, Soul turns up, sprinkling in braggadocio with his trademark silliness: “My lady built like she belong in a stable, I’m on my high horse.” It gets murky wondering exactly what the hell he’s talking about, but his confident delivery solves any tension of whether or not Ab-Soul is down with bestiality.
Terrace Martin — Almond Butter
The “Soul Juice” EP, released late March, is another tasteful pallet of jazz-fusion, but in contrast to Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes’s upbeat marches, Terrace Martin takes full advantage of the downbeat, smoothing over any dissonance with a heavy spread of almond butter. The track serves as a testament to the EP’s ability to polish any sharp edges, and “Almond Butter” sits as the project’s centerpiece with a calming saxophone solo that is gaseous in its ability to spread through any room and envelop it in its reassuring grace.