After you roll out of bed nursing a hangover in your Gucci Flip-Flop costume, you'll need a soundtrack for picking up the beer bottles and pizza boxes littering your apartment. That's what we're here for.
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. October was a solid month, with the return of two big stars, and the suggestion that one star might have unexpected longevity. Plus, a record from an older legend that might actually have a shot at fitting in effortlessly on radio, if he can get out of his own way. It's this month's edition of Bout to Blow: 10 Dope Songs You Should Be Hearing Everywhere Soon.
Chance the Rapper f/ Saba "Angels"
With "Angels," Chance the Rapper's long-awaited follow-up to 2013's Acid Rap looks like it'll strike earth sometime in the new year, and the record doesn't disappoint. With a guest spot from fellow Chicagoan Saba—you may remember him from Acid Rap's "Everybody's Something," and he released his own album ComfortZone last year—"Angels" recalls the uplifting tenor of Acid Rap's "Good Ass Intro." The song closes with a shoutout to the Chicago area's two primary "urban" radio stations, 107.5 WGCI and Hammond, Ind.'s 92.3 Power 92. Presumably, with Chance working outside the major label system, he has thrown both stations a free advertisement in an effort to get them to open up their playlists—to this day, despite a burgeoning hip-hop scene with playlist-ready artists, it can be an uphill climb for those artists to get support in their own city. Without a major deal, anyway—Vic Mensa's "U Mad" is one of the only local rap records to see regular rotation on WGCI. Power 92, which has always had a more flexible policy with regards to local artists, has added "Angels" to its rotation, although whether or not it's the kind of record the general public will pick up on has yet to be seen. Chance didn't build his fanbase off of radio the way many other artists do, so it will be interesting to see if he can make headway by this alternate path.
Rick Ross f/ Chris Brown "Sorry"
Living cautionary tale Scott Storch has been off the radar, give or take the occasionally depressing newspaper profile or cameo on Stitches' Instagram. So it was refreshing to hear he was behind the lush new Rick Ross single, which I swear is better than the last dozen failed Ross records tossed lamely against the wall over the past two years. Ross and MMG in general have had a tough couple annums, but thanks to Storch and Chris Brown's unexpected musical longevity, "Sorry" is an out-of-the-park piece of sleek pop-R&B in the vein of "Aston Martin Music." Just try to forget the fact that Chris Brown is singing to Karrueche.
Justin Bieber "Sorry"
Its "dance" video may ride an obnoxiously garish Terry-Richardson-at-Mad-Decent-Block-Party aesthetic, but there can be no doubt Bieber is three-for-three in 2015. "Sorry" marks a noticeable shift for American pop music, as seen through the grown-up phase of Bieber's new direction. Rather than looking to popular black American music, as Bieber did on his "unofficial" album Journals, his new work looks to international trends: "What Do You Mean?" typified the "tropical" sound of Northern European producers like Kygo and Felix Jaehn (which of course was in turn inspired by black music internationally), while "Sorry" rides a dembow rhythm (you know, that staggered groove common to reggaeton music) that seems Caribbean-derived. (It was produced by Skrillex and indie darling Blood Diamonds, but never mind that—it's millennial reggae through and through).
Katie Got Bandz f/ Jeremih and Chi Hoover "Make Me Rich"
The first time Katie Got Bandz was covered by a publication was by this writer back in 2012, when her "I Need a Hitta" became a local hit in Chicago high schools. At the time, comments (now lost in Fader's site redesign) seemed to think it was some kind of joke: Why was this unrefined teen being treated like a real artist? But Katie's stayed in the spotlight. 2013's "Pop Out" with King Louie became an indelible hit, getting national radio play and becoming a constant at Chicago nightclubs. Now "Make Me Rich," authored by Jeremih and former Louie collaborator Chi Hoover, is becoming a major local record, getting spins on par with the Weeknd and Fetty Wap on Power 92. Its sparse hook sticks to your ribs, an unforgettable, genuine hit record that proves real stars can come from anywhere.
The 1975 "Love Me"
The 1975 are an English rock band American rock fans don't take too seriously—seen as too "pop," too compromised by associations with Taylor Swift (lead singer Matt Healy was dating Swift, or something), the group hasn't received much attention on this side of the Atlantic from "respectable" music fans. Yet the group has never had a song as big and with as much potential as "Love Me," a sardonic record about the perils of fame that sounds like the 1980s in a way you haven't heard since the actual decade. Sure, lots of records sound like the '80s, you think—but this sounds closer to Robert Palmer or Peter Gabriel's "Steam" than the usual touchpoints. It's a punchy pop record that's hard to find fault with, unless that era and style are things you're predisposed to hate. Yet in 2015, the sound is so foreign that it can't be anything but refreshing.
Tink "I Like"
Timbaland may have put all his chips on Tink, but he probably should have just made his bet and got out of the way. Instead, his heavy-handed enthusiasm on "Million" and "Ratchet Commandments" seems to have only marginalized an artist who, in her Chicago hometown and beyond, is clearly seen as a real star. For many, the material hasn't matched her talent. Yet take a look at C-Sick-produced "I Like," a song released at the beginning of the summer that has slowly grown to become a major record purely at the grassroots level, without much airplay or a music video. It's unclear why Timbo is pushing "UFO," his solo record with Tink and Future instead; although the lineup is impressive, the sum is less than the parts. But this record is a genuine hit; here's hoping the suits at her label recognize.
Prince "1000 X's and O's"
Chief Keef "Bouncin"
Chief Keef's biggest hits in 2015 came from 2014: "Faneto" and "Earned It" had to swim upstream thanks to an indifferent media that hadn't recognized the rapper's continuing relevance. This year, "Sosa Chamberlain" and now "Bouncin" look set to replicate this feat. Produced by DP Beats, "Bouncin" was an old beat DP crafted as far back as 2011. But when Keef picked it up this year, it became a phenomenon online, in part thanks to lyrics like "I'm an anti-ass nigga, I don't speak for shit," and "I call my chopper gay, I pull it out the closet." Then of course there was his "something, something, something I forgot now" lyric, the recording session for which was playfully reenacted by YouTube star Nileseyy Niles.
Empire Cast f/ Yazz and Timbaland "Bout 2 Blow"
In golfing terminology, there's something called a "gimme"—a shot players agree counts without being played. "Bout 2 Blow" from Empire is a gimme for Bout to Blow, the column from which it may or may not have received its name. Not sure about the context of this song on the show—I'm one of four remaining humans on earth who watches neither Empire nor Game of Thrones—but the song is catchy enough for late-period Timbaland and has some real traction on Shazam. But hey, where's that co-writing credit?
PNB Rock f/ Fetty Wap "Jealous"
PNB Rock is an artist from Philly who was recently signed to Atlantic Records on the strength of his single "Fleek." Yes, that is a dated song concept. And yes, getting Fetty Wap on your hook for follow-up single "Jealous" is a dated idea, too—how to compete with all the other Fetty hooks out in the world? (Right now, its K Camp's "1 Hunnid" remix that may attract most of the shine.) Yet "Jealous" is a standout despite Fetty saturation, its beat a luxuriant polyphony of overlapping tones that create a sparkling effect. Being on the bleeding edge is important for an artist, but there's something to be said for just executing the best version of a familiar sound.