Music

R&B/Hip-Hop Fresh Picks of the Week: Beyoncé, Flo Milli, BigXthaPlug, Antha Pantha & More

Did anything else happen in the past week besides the premiere of Beyoncé‘s Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé? The music icon’s latest concert documentary vogued to the top of the weekend box office with $21 million — the biggest opening for a film on this historically sleepy first weekend in December in 20 years. With a pair of star-studded (Taylor Swift! Lupita Nyong’o!) premieres in Los Angeles and London, Queen Bey dominated all things music last week.

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Nonetheless, the hip-hop and R&B worlds had plenty happening outside of the Renaissance rush. Debates around who belongs on the “mixtape Mount Rushmore” dominated social media, while other conversations continue to deal with the barrage of high-profile lawsuits filed under New York State’s recently-expired Adult Survivors Act.

On the music side, Sexyy Red repackaged her breakout Hood Hottest Princess tape with a tracklist that doubled the size of the original, Lil Wayne joined forces with Shabba Ranks and Buju Banton for the lead single for the forthcoming Book of Clarence soundtrack and Usher commemorated the close of his Las Vegas residency with his appearance on the remix of Jung Kook‘s “Standing Next to You.”

With Fresh PicksBillboard aims to highlight some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop. Get into these seven new picks and be sure to check out the rest of our recs in the Spotify playlist below.

Freshest Find: Antha Pantha feat. A$AP Ferg, “Catwalk”

Harlem native Antha Pantha unleashed her debut album, Feline Season, last week, with guest appearances from A$AP Ferg (twice!) and HuntDawgg. Ferg lent his talents to the album’s second track, “Catwalk,” an electric tribute to the late ’90s New York hip-hop. He interpolates DMX‘s iconic “meet me outside” chant from “Party Up,” and uses it to evoke the brash energy of the late rapper and his era of high-octane party-rocking crossover hip-hop hits. Antha Pantha skates across the track with the flirtatious charisma of classic-era Lil Kim, always tempered by her own comedic idiosyncrasies in her lyricism and tone. New York’s female rappers just keep on winning.

Beyoncé, “My House”

Would it be a Beyoncé film event if we didn’t get a new song? Just like the Queen’s winning cover of Frankie Beverly & Maze’s “Before I Let Go” accompanied her Homecoming documentary, “My House” arrives as Beyoncé’s bonus treat for the Renaissance doc. Equal parts marching band-infused dirty South trap and ballroom-ready house, “My House” is Beyoncé’s signature (and somewhat literal) take on house music. Between her animated vocal delivery and those ridiculously lush vocal stacks, the track is unmistakably Beyoncé despite featuring the singer at arguably her most experimental.

BigXthaPlug, “Back on My BS”

On Friday (Dec. 1), BigXthaPlug capped off his banner year with the release of a new EP titled The Biggest. “Back On My BS” opens the project with a swaggering combination of jazz brass and skittering bass. “The one who put all this together/ They gave me somethin’ good and I made that s–t better/ Turnt up the notch, my watch changed up the weather/ I’m bigger and better, shit bigger than ever,” he spits on the single-verse track. Between his charismatic cadence and Tony Coles’ smooth beat, “Back on My BS” is a knockout opening track.

Dee-1, “Lines Drawn”

Hip Hop 50 has been wracked with conversation regarding the current scope of the genre’s messaging, the state of hip-hop culture at large and the alleged precariousness of its current position in the music industry. Dee-1, a NOLA rapper, has been vocal about his opposition to the redundancy of mainstream contemporary rap and its glorification of violence. On his new track “Lines Drawn,” which will is presently exclusively available on Audiomack, Dee-1 demands more from both consumers and creators in hip-hop: “I said that glorifying murder in our music is bad/ Now people saying ‘Stop speaking up, we like to hear that!’/ If that’s your preference, that’s cool, but when you get on the defense/ That lemme know my spirit irritatin’ your demons,” he spits over a chugging trap-infused instrumental.

Flo Milli, “Never Lose Me”

The Alabmama rapper’s long-gestating “Never Lose Me” is finally here — and it was, in fact, worth the wait. A snippet of this song went viral on TikTok, amassing over 100,000 posts in just under two months. The new track, and latest taste of her forthcoming Fine Ho, Stay album, finds Flo delivering smooth, sultry bars over a sample of Babyface Ray & 42 Dugg‘s “Ron Artest.” “Yeah, he my man, he was never your type/ If you try me, ho, it’s on sight/ He totin’ the Uzi, but he actin’ real bougie/ I like to fight over d–k, ho, don’t get hit with the two-piece,” she spits over the synthy instrumental, using her sweet tone as a Trojan horse for hard-hitting barbs.

Tyla, “Truth or Dare”

As the newly Grammy-nominated South African breakout star continues to rides the waves of “Water” to new commercial heights around the world, she’s already racing to her forthcoming eponymous debut studio album. She released three strong new tracks last week (Dec. 1), including the sensual standout “Truth or Dare.” On the mellow new Afropop-infused track, Tyla employs a staccato delivery in the verses to glean the truth from a lover who got away, ultimately delivering subtle riffs and ear-candy harmonies in the chorus. “Truth or dare? Is it true you care?/ Now that you can see the love from everyone,” she croons.

Hillari, “Blind Then”

Backed by mournful acoustic guitar, rising Filipina-Norwegian artist Hillari spends “Blind Then” parsing the difficulties of prioritizing music over certain relationships in her life. “Wish I would’ve noticed I was/ Blind then, silenced/ But I never noticed you was/ Right there, beside me,” she sings. It’s a simple arrangement — mostly reliant on a soulful collage of guitar and drums — but it’s Hillari’s weighty voice that illuminates that simplicity. Each quiver of her vibrato rings with the doubt, frustration and yearning she describes in her lyrics.

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