Out of My Head: Five Songs I Listened to This Weekend

feat. Kevin Gates, Nicki Minaj & Your Old Droog

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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I tried getting into some new Christmas music, alas: Idina Menzel and Seth MacFarlane aren't making the cut. The only Santa I acknowledge is Kevin Gates, whose second mixtape of the year, Luca Brasi 2, comes just early enough for me to burn and ship physical copies of it to three relatives by December 25. Same with Nicki Minaj, whose Pinkprint is two-and-a-half stars better than most folks' expectations would have insisted. Young Money done snuck up off the naughty list.

Also, Miguel is back, Makonnen is weird, and Ezra Koenig is inspired.

Your Old Droog "On the News"

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Released: Nov. 25, 2014

The easy knock on Droog is that he sounds like Nas. My more astute way of putting it is that Droog sounds like Game sounding like Nas, with Slick Rick's nerve, over MF Doom beats. Nonetheless, Your Old Droog is one of the year's funkiest, cheekiest, most charismatic projects, so I can't bother with complaints about mimicry and influence, really. "On the News," a standout track that first popped up a couple months ago, is about as goofy and magical as Bishop Nehru may one day become.

Nicki Minaj "Four Door Aventador"

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Released: Dec. 12, 2014

Nicki Minaj may well be the most catastrophically managed rapper #brand since Bravehearts-era Nas. She's a monster nonetheless. While the first 15 minutes of the century-delayed Pinkprint had me gasping for oxygen and feeling microwaved by Drake-styled catatonia, Nicki comes through in the middle third, flexing low-key with Beyonce on "Feeling Myself" and landing a 4-star B.I.G. impression on "Four Door Aventador," one of Nicki's suavest hits yet: "Meet me at the Rucker, take the Bruckner/It's just me and Young Yucka, taking suckers/For they money and they whips, putting kitten on lips/Dividing the dividends: get the money and dip."

Kevin Gates "Sit Down"

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Released: Dec. 16, 2014

More than a few rappers waited till December to come and shut the quarter down. Kevin Gates, who'd already flourished with the release of By Any Means back in May, now drops Luca Brasi 2, a late contender among the year's best mixtapes. "Sit Down" just so happened to hit me at an ideal moment: while I was Christmas shopping in the Village on Saturday, filled with contempt for the hundreds of upper-middle-class pedestrians: "[...] Bullets in your car/You ain't want it; had it on you, tried to pull it but you lost/War never knew mercy; Our Lady of the Lake won't receive you with open arms/You in yellow tape." It's Christmas, ya dig.

Miguel "Coffee"

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Released: Dec. 19, 2014

Less than a week after D'Angelo dazzles the Gen Xers with his first new album since 2000, Miguel drops a twinkling, three-track EP for the young lovers: "We talk street art and sarcasm/Crass humor and high fashion/Peach color, moon glistens; the plot thickens," he sings on "Coffee," a dreamy narration of date night shenanigans and subsequent pillow talk. Here's your weekly reminder that Miguel is the R&B voice of a generation.

iLOVEMAKONNEN "Down 4 So Long" f/ Ezra Koenig & Despot

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Released: Dec. 20, 2014

I'm not quite "here" for Makonnen to the extent that the rest of the Rap Internet is down for dude. If he keeps flirting with this David Bowie karaoke lane, however, I will happily reconsider. On the remix of "Down 4 So Long," originally released in July, Makonnen sings about lost friends, post-traumatic hallucinations, and resilience; with Vampire Weekend frontboy Ezra Koenig pulling a Holden Caulfield on the track: "I'm leaving New York, I don't wanna pay the tax/I move to Monaco but now I can't relax/I hate myself: I think Americans are wack/But other countries leave me feeling weird like afternoon naps." Is this alternative R&B? Weirdo rap? The future?

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