And, we’re back! As the industry recalibrates itself from the holiday rush, the hip-hop and R&B worlds are slowly getting back to their weekly tidal waves of new music. The options are a bit sparse this week, as January is typically a slow month for new releases, but there are still some standouts. Even as Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday 2, Jack Harlow’s “Lovin on Me” and Drake’s For All the Dogs continue to rule the charts, there are few new remixes and singles that could very well grow into the first smash hits of 2024.
With Fresh Picks, Billboard aims to highlight some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop — from Fivio Foreign’s fiery new drill anthem to Megan Thee Stallion’s swing at hip-hop musical theatre. Be sure to check out this week’s Fresh Picks in our Spotify playlist below.
Freshest Find: Erick the Architect & George Clinton, “Ezekiel’s Wheel”
Erick the Architect of Flatbush Zombie has a solo album on the way, and if “Ezekiel’s Wheel” is anything to go by, we’re in for a stunner of an album. Alongside the legendary George Clinton, Erick blends notes of ’90s East Coast hip-hop, reggae, funk and soul for a song that recounts his experiences growing up in Brooklyn, New York and growing into the rapper he is today. Lyrically, the track is anchored by an allusion to the Biblical story of Ezekiel’s wheel; “Everyone’s keepin’ secrets for oilin’ / Have Ezekiel’s wheels gone squeaky?” Clinton asks in trademark scraggly voice. There’s a gentleness in Clinton’s delivery that nicely offsets the chugging nature of Matt Zara’s production, a wonderful study in sonic contrast.
ScarLip feat. NLE Choppa, “Blick (Remix)”
For the remix to her latest hit, rising Bronx rapper ScarLip tapped “Slut Me Out” hitmaker NLE Choppa. “Blick” has already been gaining traction on TikTok thanks to a viral dance, and this new remix is sure to give the track an extra boost. Most of the original “Blick” track remains unchanged, ScarLip’s gruff tone anchors high-energy verses and a danceable hook alike, so NLE Choppa smartly adapts his style to her formula. “Shake a n—a down like booty and cheeks/ I’ma Summer Walk s–t down, shout out Lil Meech
Call it abuse how we beatin’ the streets/ Jumped off the porch, you was beatin’ your meat,” he raps in his signature blend of sexed-up humor.
Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine & The Alchemist, “F–k & Get High”
Over a luxurious, drum-heavy instrumental courtesy of The Alchemist, Westside Gunn & Conway the Machine trade verses that prioritize a certain kind of lustful braggadocio. In between their relatively heady proclamations of wealth and success, they use the hook (a notably sparse “All I wanna do is f–k and get high/ That’s all I wanna do”) for some breathing room. It’s a lightweight track, but the depth of Alchemist’s production provides a sturdy foundation for their ruminations on some of the finer things in life.
Sdot Go, SweepersENT, Jay Hound, Sha Gz & Jay5ive, “I Like to Party”
This song has been going viral on TikTok for months as a snippet, and now it’s finally here in all of its glory. Sdot’s opening lines — “I like to party, but I need b–tches/ Clap-clap to the beat/ Up, I’m tryna see if she wit’ it” — are something of a manifesto. His gruff semi-growl immediately signals the track as a drill anthem (as does the pounding production, courtesy of Ajellz, Nxxre, Bullo Producer and YoJelly) — but, more importantly, his tone is the track’s entire center of gravity. There are a slew of artists on “I Like to Party,” but no one’s voice is as commanding or as charismatic as Sdot’s. And that’s why he can score hits whether he’s behind bars or not.
Ama Louise, “Send Your Loving”
Rising R&B Singer Ama Louise delivers a slinking, sultry ode to the security of true love with “Send Your Loving.” A quiet storm of twinkling synths and keys soundtrack her pleas for a lover to send their “loving” so she can create some sense of safety for herself. “So send your loving to me tonight/ ‘Cause only you can save me from my mind,” she croons in her honeyed timbre. From the production to Ama’s vocal performance, “Send Your Loving” is an incredibly intimate affair; it’s warm and inviting, but the ache and longing that course through her background vocals are what truly pull the song together.
UMI & V of BTS, “Wherever U R”
As the BTS boys continue to fulfill their respective military duties and await their long-anticipated comeback, fans have found solace in each group member’s solo endeavors. Last year, Layover, V’s debut solo studio album, reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 thanks to its tight blend of pop and R&B. Now, the BTS star is kicking off 2024 by throwing an assist to UMI on the tender, guitar-backed “Wherever U R.” “Even on the days, I ain’t right by your side/ I’m keeping my promise that/ I will be wherever you are,” he sings. The duet is incredibly lush in the way UMI’s and V’s voices marry across the tasteful instrumental arrangement. Likely V’s last musical release until he completes his military service, “Wherever U R” is a heartfelt “see you later” to his fans that doubles as a heart-melting anthem of commitment for lovers.
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