We’ve made it to another Friday which is always cause for celebration, yet it strangely doesn’t feel like the first Friday in May. Time is flying! It’s a special one too – with associate Editor Sam jumping on to collaborate on a B2B playlist dub. And what a week it is for this to occur! This week sees the long awaited return into the immersive world of Isaiah Rashad – a big return was teased by TDE last week, and it wasn’t who we expected, but, as shown on ‘Lay Wit Ya’ it’s exactly who we needed back. Little Simz continues her stellar rollout with some help from Cleo Sol and more familiar faces with her new cut ‘Woman.. London-based rapper/producer Feux brings in some funky, lo-fi, introspective bars on ‘STILL HIGH’. Don Toliver connects with Corbett and Grammy Award winning producer Hit-Boy to give you ‘What You Need’. Finally, South Londoner RAY BLK has something to say on ‘Dark Skinned’.
Isaiah Rashad feat. Duke Deuce – Lay Wit Ya (Damola)
It’s been five years since Isaiah Rashad’s stellar debut LP The Sun’s Tirade – and even that depends on whether you view the preceding Cilvia Demo as an EP or album. Rashad is a very unique rapper – an artist who tows the line between preacher’s son and chaotic self-saboteur. His music (and mystique) have always been wrapped in this duality. His storytelling, honest and transparent, fearless in his truth telling, it’s what has created such a loyal fanbase for the Chattanooga-born rapper. His struggles with addiction, with his faith, his familial relationships, Zay has never shied away from being raw. But on ‘Lay Wit Ya’, the growing pains he’s expressed on his previous work seem to have disappeared. He seems to be more comfortable with himself, and with his new found position. And he’s enjoying every second of it.
Opening in a house with him rolling up a backwood with a host of baddies, we spin into a cut-down jeep, reminiscent of the Maybach from Kanye and Jay’s ‘Otis’ video. Zay is chilling, teeth draped in 24k gold fronts, reeling off witticisms “last year you was my bitch / now you my baby girl” in his Southern drawl. Enlisting the support of one Quality Control Music’s emerging talents out of Memphis in Duke Deuce, the song and trippy visuals play out like a trip into a lean-infused rabbit hole. Isaiah’s flow here is reminiscent of the nihilistic rhyme patterns found on Cilvia Demo, where he was speaking from a place of deep emptiness. But it’s balanced with the clarity and self-understanding we saw on his follow-up, The Sun’s Tirade. Each one of Zay’s albums represent a clear moment in his growth as a musician, a father and a man. And ‘Lay Wit Ya’ looks like the beginning of his next major evolution. Roll on June!
Little Simz feat. Cleo Sol – Woman (Damola)
Little Simz has been one of the UK’s finest lyricists for a long time now. Her early albums showed a precocious writer who was still learning who she was as a person and artist. Her brilliant release Grey Area shot her into the limelight but most of us knew what a talent she was long before it. After a brief hiatus with a string of singles (one featuring Q-Tip), she’s back readying up for her next LP, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. ‘Woman’ comes with help from frequent collaborator, soulful songstress Cleo Sol, with Simz on rapid-fire form. Underneath lo-fi funk inspired production from Inflo, Simz opens up with a rip-roaring line “Naija women, got the melanin dripping / L-O-N-D-O-N, city girl living / In the back, looking like fire, chilli pepper / Yoruba girl tougher than imperial leather”.
Simz is making an art of opening lines – her last few songs have featured big statements that she more than follows up with. It feels like the Wonderland-era Simbi way of storytelling, perhaps a leaf straight out of Lewis Carroll’s famous book. But better than before. Because now she’s seeing her thoughts all the way through – resulting in much stronger, cohesive music. Cleo Sol carries the chorus beautifully, with a balance of strength and tenderness. You will see a lot of familiar faces in the visuals (directed by Simz), featuring the likes of Zeze Millz, Miraa May and Jourdan Dunn. When you listen closely, the song almost sounds like a B-side or a post-credits spin on Jay-Z’s ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’. It would be no surprise for Simz on current imperious form to have had the classic as sneering inspiration, on a sonic dartboard of sorts, as something to reclaim.
Feux – Still High (Damola)
Feux’s latest release DUBOIS features chillwave-inspired, lo-fi beats with introspective storytelling. It’s an artistic angle that has been popular for a while now in London, but Feux’s efforts are showing there are still new ways to deliver against that backdrop. With a funky bassline that sounds straight out of Mac DeMarco’s playbook, Feux makes space for his musings, inspired by the transience of lockdown. It’s a light-hearted cut, one for the hazy summer days.
Don Toliver – What You Need (Sam)
As part of Travis Scott’s growing label Cactus Jack, Don Toliver has become talked about for his impact and melodies, whether appearing by himself or on someone else’s song. Perhaps his 2020 debut album Heaven Or Hell went a little under the radar due to it’s release at the height of the pandemic, and possibly due to the influx of new releases we are subject to in the streaming era. In any case, the melodic wonder is back to spin the block with his latest effort ‘What You Need’. With assistance from the co-production efforts of Corbett and Hit-Boy, this one has a knock to it that is undeniable. It feels like he is building up to his next big project with his latest, it is over a year since he has dropped a project. With efforts like this and appearances on Dom Kennedy’s ‘Lovers Anonymous’ and Masego’s ‘Mystery Lady’, it is hard to ignore what the Cactus Jack cohort has been doing.
Ray BLK – Dark Skinned (Sam)
To round off this week’s 5, South London singer-songwriter and occasional rapper Ray BLK has dropped her second single of the calendar year. Titled ‘Dark Skinned’, this one is an ode to being an internal light as opposed to standing out for your exterior. Her mum telling her that she glows because of the content of her heart rather than for her dark skin is the affirmation that black boys and girls could do well to hear on a more regular basis. With revered production maestro PRGRSHN on the boards, his upbeat production is a welcome layer to Ray’s latest single as his track record with UK artists – WSTRN, Craig David, Tiana Major9 – shows something similar to a Midas touch.