After a rough couple of months where even Berner made the cut at Bout to Blow, things are getting interesting. June was a great month for new hip-hop singles, to the point where even surefire hits like Candice Boyd's "Damn Good Time"—a remake of Tamia's "So Into You"—were cut to make space. Established artists dropped major records and new stars found their footing.
Welcome to the July edition of Bout to Blow. This column has two goals:
1. To use the many tools available today to get some idea as to which songs are really bubbling with "the people"—in other words, to insert some science into the process.
2. To contextualize that information, because numbers in a vacuum will 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 of cheerleading, too. Many of these songs might be flourishing in certain markets and 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. After a harsh decision-making process, for July we narrowed a long list down to the 10 best records you have to know.
It's this month's edition of Bout to Blow: 10 Dope New Songs You Should Be Hearing Everywhere Soon.
DJ Luke Nasty “OTW”
He flipped a loop of Tony! Toni! Toné!'s "Whatever You Want" instrumental, but producer Mr. Hanky still deserves credit for helping return Luke Nasty to Bout to Blow and, ultimately, the pop charts. "OTW"—"On the Way"—makes great use of a classic beat, one that hasn't seen the light of day since Luda's "Splash Waterfalls" remix. It's "Whatever You Want" with a fresh coat of paint.
Luke Nasty's first hit—the Anderson .Paak-swiping "Might Be"—was a curious release; how did an unknown rapper hit the Hot 100 with generic bars over someone else's song? "OTW" is an improvement, not just because it's the better record but because it better telegraphs what people liked about Luke Nasty's verses in the first place. It's funny, lighthearted, and relatable—"I'mma be honest, I ain't even left the house yet" is maybe the most universal rap lyric you'll hear all year.
Young M.A “OOOUUU”
Like a number of artists, Brooklyn rapper Young M.A. built buzz with a "Chiraq" freestyle back in 2014. M.A. has undeniable skills, but no song to this point has quit connected like her latest record, "Ooouuu." She adopts Bobby Shmurda's flow from "Hot Nigga" over the course of a full song, and the production has an intense, coiled energy. But it's also more atmospheric, and lures you in. The seductive quality of the record is key: Suddenly the details of M.A.'s biography feel more resonant and worth investing time in.
June's Diary “L.A.N.C.E.”
Kelly Rowland's reality show Chasing Destiny is responsible for five-woman group June's Diary, and their first single "L.A.N.C.E."—"Lyin' Ass Niggas Cheatin' Every Day"—is a great anti-infidelity song with real staying power—not despite, but because of its silly, almost flippant tone. This is its great strength: the "C.R.E.A.M."—style concept sticks, making it the rare funny song about a zero-tolerance policy that is no less pointed for its humor.
Dew Baby f/ Visto “Bu$$in Sudz”
Writing this column, one quickly learns that many, many records that end up popping off do not necessarily announce themselves as smash hits on first listen, never mind in the opening seconds. "Bu$$in Sudz"—the product of DC rapper and Fat Trel associate Dew Baby and heretofore underexposed singer Visto—is the rare record which captures the listener instantly, thanks to an undeniable Akon-lite melody that could sell dish soap to Mr. Clean. The only limit on this record's success is the somewhat low profile of its stars.
Lil Uzi Vert “You Was Right”
Despite being sold as some kind of millennial horse whisperer, Lil Uzi Vert's strength is making mainstream-ed versions of the kind of music pioneered by Chief Keef circa 2013-2014. Uzi Vert brings the bad guy persona to boyish, approachable, Bart Simpson-on-a-T-shirt levels, and also seems willing to play ball with the industry. He doesn't have the most fully fleshed out personality on wax, but he makes up for that with a strong ear for hooks and a real vision for his songwriting. "You Was Right" works particularly well because of its novel concept. It's a song about giving too much of yourself, and regretting it—a fresh angle on a common experience.
Kid Ink f/ Jeremih and Spice “Nasty”
Kid Ink constantly drops club-ready records aiming for Bout To Blow status, but few are as good as "Nasty," which touches the zeitgeist in a less lazy manner than Tory Lanez (the solid Tanto Metro and Devonte-sampling "Luv") or, ugh, Tyga ("One of One"), thanks in large part to the inclusion of rising dancehall star Spice. (As for Jeremih, this is also, I would argue, a better song than Usher and Young Thug's Jeremih-esque "No Limit.") For a blatantly sexual record, it's a disarming, sweetly subtle summer jam.
T. Neal f/ Ricco Barrino and Colonel Loud “Come to the Money”
If you liked Colonel Loud's "California," you'll love "Come to the Money," a Mr. Hanky-produced follow-up that turns the soul sampling madness to eleven. This could become a whole subgenre and hip-hop would be better off. With Fantasia's brother singing his ass off about how money is like sex, "Come to the Money" feels more like a Ricco Barrino solo record than anything else, even letting him spaz out on the bridge. Although it might not be able to replicate the success of "California," no one can be mad at Colonel Loud and Ricco's return to the well if it's gonna sound like 600 rays of sunshine.
Jimmy Wopo “Elm Street”
There's a lot of nonsense generation-beef among rap fans these days, but the truth is, rap has always been a deeply historical art form. The reason the "6 in the Morning"/"Boyz N the Hood" flow works so well is here is the same reason it worked for Ice-T and Eazy-E. There's a subtle irony in that nursery-rhyme cadence. When extraordinary details of his life are rapped in such a straightforward pattern, the contradiction magnifies that intoxicating sense of nonchalance. As a result, the "Elm Street" flow feels as fresh today as it must have three decades earlier. It also gives Pittsburgh rapper Jimmy Wopo instant song structure, something his other records miss. There are no hook singers, songwriters, or expensive producers, yet "Elm Street" feels whole.
O.T. Genasis “Push It”
While everyone talks about whether Desiigner is a one-hit-wonder or a star with long term promise, O.T. Genasis is quietly releasing what may end up being his third hit. (Fourth, if you count "Touchdown," which you should.) "Push It" feels of a piece with records by Lil Cray and Lajan Slim in returning to a spare, ominous sound for trap music. The hook, meanwhile, has a hypnotic charm. There's only so much one can really say about a record like this, but it's more likeable (in a "Cut It" mold) than ridiculous ("CoCo").
Lajan Slim f/ Rob Zoe “Haitians”
Like a sort of midpoint between Lil Cray's "Kyrie Irving" and 21 Savage, "Haitians" is an extremely spare street record that promises to become much bigger, even though it goes against the grain of this month's selections. Where records like "L.A.N.C.E.," "OTW," or "You Was Right" aim for relatable, "Haitians" is (obviously) a statement of Haitian solidarity, homing in on a particular experience. Over a few keyboard tones, a tapping snare, and an echoing vocal sample, Lajan Slim spits some striking images: "Leave his head on the porch/But you won't hear shit about it/Boy, them Zoes move in silence/Won't hear a rat pissin on cotton, catch your ass slippin, be quiet."