Noname’s Room 25 may have dropped last summer, but the Chicago poet and rapper is certainly not done basking in the light that her sophomore album has brought into the world. Following up her special homecoming New Year’s shows, Noname brought Room 25 to the Tonight Show stage last night to perform “Ace”. Flanked by Smino and Saba, the whole squad showed out and delivered a breathtaking live rendition of the track, striking me as one of those performances that gives you a renewed appreciation for the song. Smino’s melodies sound even more buttery while Noname attacks the mic possessed with a mix of bliss and gall, and once Saba comes in with his verse, the crowd immediately meets him with applause. This one is a gem, so be sure to watch the three artists perform “Ace” below:
New York rapper CLICHE made waves in 2018 with his debut ‘Robot Jesus’ project. The EP introduced listeners to a rapper with a style marked by animated, imaginative lyrics delivered with a seemingly endless supply of bubbly energy. On his surprise mixtape ‘BUTTA !’, CLICHE keeps that same vibe going into 2019 and assembles in a tight roster of features to help him out. CLICHE continues to build upon his penchant for ridiculously catchy hooks on ‘BUTTA !’, stringing together new ad-libs that stick in a listener’s head instantly. The production on this tape also serves to amplify his presence, filling in gaps with 808s that act like springs for CLICHE’s natural bounce. With that said, the rising artist proves to thrive best off beats that are minimal in instrumentation—this becomes clear on standout tracks like “These Days !”, a beat built from almost nothing but drums. CLICHE chooses one collaborator for each track on this project, and his selectiveness ultimately pays off with new names like LATASHÁ, BIGG DOGG and more helping to make the mixtape feel more vivid.
Chicago’s own Nina Tech has returned with a menacing new track and an equally intimidating music video titled “Find Me”. As she rides around in a jeep draped in all black, the rising rapper comes through with her cold, drill-influenced style of rap over some heavy trap production. Director D_Roe translates the mood of the song seamlessly into this visual accompaniment, bringing Nina’s threatening and in-your-face aesthetic to the forefront of the video. One of the dopest shots in this video is when Nina sits out the window of the jeep, rapping with unbridled conviction straight into the camera. Combined with the video, “Find Me” is one of Nina’s hardest tracks to date, and hopefully, we can expect more new content from the Chicago native soon. Peep Nina Tech’s “Find Me” video below:
As the credits roll on 2018, Saba caps off the year with his 6th straight week of new music. “Where It’s At” is the latest in a series of new singles this month from the Westside Chicago rapper, and it features in-house production from PIVOT Gang’s DaeDaePivot and Saba himself — a formula for success, if you’ve been paying attention to recent releases. As he raps about finding peace of mind, it’s clear he’s come a long way following the release of his acclaimed album, Care For Me. In contrast to the darker, emotional tone of the project, “Where It’s At” and the rest of the singles Saba dropped this month have kept things more upbeat—indicative of the massively successful year he’s had so far. Care For Me has been popping up all over year-end lists, even coming in at #1 on DJBooth’s 50 Best Hip-Hop and R&B albums of 2018. Needless to say, the accolades are well deserved: the hometown hero triumphed through tragedy this year all while delivering more of the poetic storytelling and raw lyricism fans have come to love throughout his career. Take a victory lap with Saba on “Where It’s At” below:
Anderson .Paak’s new album, Oxnard, dropped just a few weeks ago, and the West Coast representative’s follow-up to 2016’s Malibu has already been met with acclaim from both critics and fans. This past weekend, Paak took his arsenal of funk and soul-infused sounds to the Saturday Night Live stage for performances of two fan favorites from Oxnard, “Tints” and “Who R U”. Paak never disappoints when it comes to a live show, and this performance was no exception. Kicking things off behind the drums for “Tints”, he brought out Kendrick Lamar and transformed the track into a full-blown jam session. From there, he turned up the visuals for “Who R U”, closing the show while moonwalking across the stage. Watch Paak’s impressive SNL performance below and if you haven’t yet, check out Oxnard here.
Singer-songwriter Grace Weber has been honing in on her forthcoming solo project, and she’s offered peeks at her creative process through a series of versatile singles over the past year. The latest song from the Milwaukee artist comes with an accompanying music video and features Chicago’s own Vic Mensa. “Mercy” showcases the soulful singer-songwriter at her most vulnerable—a zone she clearly thrives in as evidenced by this track. Layers of delicate harmonies create a warm one-woman choir, providing the base to hold up Weber’s airy inflections. The song seems to come to a halt when Vic enters the picture, and he sounds at home as he starts to unravel the type of unbridled lyricism he’s always been capable of. It’s a refreshing feature on this track and accompanies Weber’s vocals perfectly. Chicago’s Carter Lang and The Social Experiment’s Nate Fox and Nico Segal produce the song with trained ears, making sure Weber’s voice remains the main attraction. The video for “Mercy” captures the same sense of human connection and forgiveness Weber writes about, and you can see it for yourself below:
With a new EP slotted for Nov. 30, west-coast producer The Alchemist has dropped the project’s first single featuring Earl Sweatshirt. On “E. Coli”, the veteran beat-maker matches his ear for hazy, sample-based instrumentals with Earl’s timeless straight-bar style. Earl’s monotone, steady flow hovers atop the production with a weighty presence. Thoughts come out in a moment of lucidity, blending introspection with storytelling in a daydream like stupor. “E. Coli” feels like a quick smoke break of a song and an example of rapper and producer moving in tandem almost effortlessly. There’s also a music video that goes with the song, and thanks to director Jason Goldwatch, it’s actually so uncomfortable that I’d rather you just watch it for yourself instead of trying to break it down. So, peep the perplexing monster battle-inspired visuals for The Alchemist’s “E. Coli” below, and stay tuned for his ‘Bread’ EP coming Nov. 30.
Saba keeps the weekly drop streak going this Friday with yet another new song titled “Excited”. On the heels of last week’s Pivot Gang crew-cut “Blood” and the 2nd annual John Walt Day show, the West-side Chicago native’s work ethic seems to really be kicking into gear right now to end the year with a bang. On “Excited, Saba puts his flows on cruise control, navigating the beat with slick cadences that seem to come automatically for him. Always one to incorporate whatever’s going on in his life directly into his lyrics, he raps about the lifestyle of being on tour and being in a relationship and ties everything together into a warm, melodic hook. Frequent collaborators Daoud and DaeDaePIVOT handle the production alongside Saba himself, adding warm textures to his bars through soft horn sections and a steady bounce. Listen to “Excited” below, and be on the lookout for a possible new release next week from Saba as well: