Bout to Blow: 10 Dope Songs You Should Be Hearing Everywhere Soon

These are the songs to watch for this month.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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Do you remember? The very first night of September? You're headed back to school and we've got a bunch of a records for you to play until the teacher takes your earbuds and stuffs them in her desk drawer.

This column has two goals:

1. To use the many tools available to us today to get some idea of what songs were really bubbling with "the people"—in other words, to insert some science into the process.

2. To contextualize that information, because raw numbers in a vacuum would have you thinking an anonymous rapper dropped onto a stellar track was hip-hop's next big rap star when he was more like an empty, tattooed vehicle for a dope beat and a hook.

The post is obviously intended to be somewhat predictive. There's also an element, though, that is cheerleading. Many of these songs might be flourishing in certain markets, but could use wider exposure. They're tracks where the metrics suggest some forward momentum, even if the clubs and radio play don't reflect that. In August, we saw a bunch of new faces on the hip-hop side; in the pop world, Justin Bieber made his triumphant return with a low-key future hit. Meanwhile, in R&B, two of the genre's biggest heels are angling for comebacks.

All this and more, in this month's edition of Bout to Blow: 10 Dope Songs You Should Be Hearing Everywhere Soon.

Colonel Loud f/ Young Dolph and Ricco Barrino "California"

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Raleigh, N.C., rapper Colonel Loud (...that name!) has scored a major record with "California," a song that channels old school R&B and up-and-coming Southern nightclub circuit rapper Young Dolph for a feel-good summer jam salute to the left coast. Perhaps the concept was inspired by the song's thick groove, which seems closer to Mustard's ratchet sound than a traditional North Carolina hit; much like the Migos' "Fight Night," an outsider's version of the West's production style finds new wrinkles in a familiar formula. In this case, the Mr. Hanky-produced beat draws a connection between new Cali and the sparse sound of 1980s funk and R&B. The sample is "We Are One" by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly (shoutout to @jozenc for the ID), and it feels like the spiritual son of Leon Ware's "That Is Why I Came to California." Hard to say what this song will mean for the future of Colonel Loud, but it's a definite winner for anybody's party playlist. It's also kind of funny that Dolph's only real stop in L.A. is at the Laugh Factory.

Justin Bieber "What Do You Mean?"

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After a soft-release R&B "compilation" album—the main difference between it and a "real album" is that it wasn't heavily promoted nor were its numbers released by Billboard—Bieber took a few PR hits (probably—I've mostly tuned them out, but I think there was something to do with South American hookers?) before roaring back on the surprisingly solid Skrillex/Diplo collab "Where Are U Now." The song was a major success, due in large part to its producer's prescience. With OMI's "Cheerleader," Major Lazer and DJ Snake's "Lean On," and last year's Robin Schulz/Mr. Probz hit "Waves," the most popular EDM has turned down. For what? For a more casual style often called Tropical House, derived in part from Northern European producers like Kygo (whose remix of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" is now getting play in the States) and Matoma, who's been releasing tropical versions of hip-hop classics to considerable success overseas.

It's easy to see Bieber's "What Do You Mean" as a laconic cut in this mold, an understated record that could help Bieber slyly sidestep the uphill comeback narrative he'd been forced into. Co-written by his frequent collaborator Poo Bear, the record is about romantic confusion, a feeling at once authentic to Bieber—it's not hard to imagine him seeming befuddled in general—yet dissociated from his likely lived experience of romance. Despite this contradiction, it's a strong record, likely his best since 2012's "As Long As You Love Me."

Steph Lecor "Saturday"

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Saturday also happens to be one of my favorite days of the week, along with Friday and (challenging opinion alert) Tuesday, so it's cool to get a song about it. Steph Lecor's single is no "Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays," "Get Down Saturday Night," or "Saturday (Oooh! Ooooh!)". But it does have a reference to her man eating the booty on Saturday, so it's definitely more of-the-moment. DJ Khaled does it again.

Tate Kobang "Bank Rolls"

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As was reported in Al Shipley's extensive piece for The Fader magazine on Tate Kobang, "Bank Rolls" is a remake of Tim Trees' 2000 record of the same title. While the original gets the edge as the true classic, Kobang's cover has taken off, keeping Kobang busy booking shows and blanketing Baltimore radio. The song's bass-heavy beat was produced by B-More club legend Rod Lee, and, according to Shipley, the original hadn't left local radio since it was released a decade and a half ago; the new version, a hookless freestyle a la "Hot Nigga," may now have a shot at wider success, thanks in part to investment from Lyor Cohen and Todd Moscowitz's 300 label.

Lil Cray "Kyrie Irving"

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Lil Cray is a young Cleveland rapper with a viral hit that doesn't sound too far off present-day Atlanta. It's been catapulted to success on the back of one of the more charming vines of our time, where a kid in his boxers on the front porch knowingly mimes along with the song. It sounds dumb, but it's actually pretty funny. The song's also gotten a boost from viral Vine dancer Denzel Meechie, whose version of the record is more popular than any of the official YouTubes (although Cray's SoundCloud version has over a million plays, making it the main destination for the record that isn't on Vine). It sounds like a Zaytoven record, perhaps something from Gucci's '08 run, but in fact the beat is produced by DaVinci and Bighead. It may not change your life, and a basketball concept isn't groundbreaking, but the record does show how a new generation of street rappers are still making themselves into local stars by knowing their audience and growing organically.

Baby E "Finessin"

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On the opposite side of the spectrum from Lil Cray is singing white rapper Baby E. He's also a songwriter, one who's been ghostwriting for artists and working behind the scenes in the industry for several years. He recently signed to Young Money, at least according to this Instagram taken alongside Drake. His latest single, "Finessin," is far better than his earlier work, like this strange record where he was bicycling in a floppy silk shirt. His general hesher vibes suggest he should be selling dime bags of weed rather than "moving weight" as he raps in the song, so depending on your tolerance for drug dealer flights of fancy that might be a stumbling block for some.

The song's soft-focus melodicism might remind folks of Post Malone, the Caucasian warbler behind "White Iverson"—one of the biggest songs in Atlanta right now, the way Shazam tells it. But "Finessin" is a more traditionally well-written pop record, so good that the remix verses by Kevin Gates and Lil Bibby feel like a diminishment. Its chorus may remind some of Speaker Knockerz "Flexin and Finessin," a more original record. But really "Finessin" most owes a debt to Fergie's "Glamorous," so much so that one practically expects him to rap about eating drive thru Taco Bell, raw as hell.

Mozzy "Bladadah"

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In Northern California, and to the many cities under its influence, one gangster rapper has seen his street fame snowball in the past year. Mozzy, who was releasing tapes as early as 2010 under the name Lil Tim, is a rapper with a particularly dark and violent perspective. A representative of Sacramento's rough Oak Park neighborhood, Mozzy (the name is short for mozzarella, as in cheese, as in money) takes a lyrical approach almost entirely centered around first-person violence. It makes no qualms about this being its singular focus, explicitly drawing attention to its glorification: "Hella niggas started dying, I'm the one influenced that," he says matter-of-factly on "Bladadah," his most popular single to date now nearing 1 million views on YouTube with little to no media coverage. This style might remind listeners of drill music in its ceaseless fixation on violence, a violence that feels so purposeless and depressing. But in fact, there's a long tradition of dark gangster music in Sacramento; the moral and ethical complications of the way the music bleeds into reality have been present since at least C-Bo's heyday. The other thing that differentiates him from Chicago's scene is that he takes this narrow worldview and presents it over contrasting smooth, almost lite jazz (see the "You Are My Starship" saxophone of "Love Slidin") production on his latest album Bladadah, rather than the complementary cement-block beats of Chicago producers. This creates a strange cognitive dissonance, as the music underlines a bleak worldview in sunset colors.

Mozzy's lyrical innovation is a disciplined style that is ascetically stripped down, laser-beam precise in its attention to the act of murder as a day-to-day, minute-to-minute obsession. Trying to make this music about something else—downplaying its fundamental glorification of violence in favor of its aesthetic properties—feels impossible. This purposeful writing leaves listeners hanging on his words, even as they prioritize directness over wordplay. That said, he does have a gift for subtly evocative turns of phrase and imagery ("Macintosh hanging from an Air Force shoelace," "All this fonk will have you fallin' off like a bike chain") and a self-awareness ("I know it ain't no future in this way of livin/The way we livin? Either death or on our way to prison/If you ain't shootin' you's a victim, make a decision") that reinforces a feeling of hopelessness. Understandably, Mozzy will not be for everyone. This is brutal music, and it forces you to confront that fact: There are no escape hatches. For those who wish to see Sacramento through eyes that are not so compromised, JR & PH7 and Chuuwee's The South Sac Mack takes a more traditional tack to great effect.

The Weeknd "Tell Your Friends"

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The Weeknd's new album transformed a previously dour singer with odd ideas about sexuality and a self-indulgent sense for songwriting into a dour singer with odd ideas about sexuality humbled enough to make Max Martin-produced pop records. For his fans, this might be a sell-out maneuver; for those of us willing to put up with a lot if the songwriting is there, it was a huge step forward. In an interview with The New York Times, his team suggested uptempo '80s pastiche record "In the Night" was his "Billie Jean." But that record feels forced, perhaps a bit of cocaine-induced hubris. Much more low-key yet startlingly effective is the Kanye West-produced "Tell Your Friends." With its carefully placed piano sample from Soul Dog's "Can't Stop Loving You"—a record also swiped for P.A. and Eightball's classic "Sundown"—the song suggests the accidental pop brilliance Kanye pulls off at his best, records that shrug their way into being much bigger than they should be.

Sevyn Streeter f/ B.o.B "Shoulda Been There"

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Sevyn Streeter, much like Baby E, has been a songwriter for other, more successful artists for many years. She's been aiming for solo crossover for some time, and although she's had a strong hit with the gold-selling "It Won't Stop," her star power still feels pretty low. I'd hoped her release earlier this year with Chris Brown, "Don't Kill the Fun," might find some legs, but it appears to have quietly stepped off stage instead, as did follow-up "4th Street." But now, with her hopefully-titled EP On the Verge out on iTunes, its title track does appear to be picking up some steam. It's a catchy record about breaking up with a guy who wasn't present, and it features her current boyfriend, B.o.B., a rapper who's had similar problems breaking through as a personality on wax. His guest verse here is strong, or maybe J.Cole has just really lowered the bar.

Robin Thicke f/ Nicki Minaj "Back Together"

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Robin Thicke took a total heel turn in the wake of his breakup with Paula Patton. It didn't exactly set the world on fire, but he's been underrated since "Blurred Lines," if only because his newfound pop fans didn't realize that he'd been a long-simmering R&B radio staple with great albums, rather than a one-hit-wonder. Nonetheless, his louche perviness and general shamelessness—yes, he's still singing songs about getting "Back Together"—can be charming if you're willing to embrace them for what they are, and this video does a good job playing with that dynamic, having Nicki Minaj turn him down when he makes a move while she raps about listening to Tupac in fishnet stockings.

Unlike his earlier disco efforts, "Back Together" is based around a filter-disco aesthetic that is more EDM than classic soul. Perhaps it's little surprising the song was produced by Max Martin and Ali Payami, the team responsible for similar electronic-disco pop smashes "Can't Feel My Face" (the Weeknd), "Style" (Taylor Swift), and "Love Me Harder" (Ariana Grande). This may be a bit minor compared to those three records, with Robin Thicke the least beloved of all these artists—even the Weeknd gets more respect—but it's nonetheless a funk record that will either succeed as a guilty pleasure, or get lost in the midst of an increasing number of soundalikes (think Jason Derulo's Max Martin-esque "Cheyenne").

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