Mixtape: The Weak After Next (Unreleased)
Producer: Unknown

Oakland singer Adrian Marcel released his tape 7 Days a Weak last year to nominal attention. A protege of the legend Raphael Saadiq, Marcel's likely to get a few more listens off top, just because of that affiliation. (Shit, he recently sat next to Quincy Jones at the Grammy Awards.)

His latest single hasn't made much noise yet, but you don't have to squint to see its potential. "2AM" is built upon the smooth Cali "ratchet"/"function" axis that has everyone from the Bay to L.A. riding a distinct, slumping West Coast groove. That slightly delayed snap provides consistency to the club-friendly beats, letting songs shift while the mix retains a similar rhythmic bed. It's not too hard to envision a DJ sliding "2AM" out of Kid Ink and Chris Brown's similarly honeyed "Show Me," for example. Or shifting moods suddenly, into, say, IamSu's latest, the coolly menacing "Only That Real." And the whole time, the beat stays steady.

When tracks like "Rack City" and "Function" first broke, there was something conservative and nondescript about the West Coast's new sound; in contrast with the increasingly radical benchmarks of Atlanta's strip club science, subdued relative to the spazz-y Rick Rock Hyphy era, these tracks were a little same-y. That weakness, though, was also a strength; the interchangeability of the beats became a framework which made minor variations feel like revelations. (Think: the woozy guitar figures and retro synths on DJ Mustard's "Nothin Like Me," or IamSu's reinvention of 2Pac on Kool John's "Summer Jam.")

Because of the dry, aseptic feel of the "typical" DJ Mustard or IamSu beat, R&B's foregrounded, lush emotionalism is a perfect match and contrast: witness "2AM," which even teases the hook's delirious stomach butterflies in its opening seconds to ensure the listener waits around during the sparse, minimal verses for the chorus' sugary reward. A cocktail of cockiness balanced by Marcel's earnest yearning, the song captures that ambiguous zone between crushing and confidence.