Music

R&B/Hip-Hop Fresh Picks of the Week: Beyoncé & Shaboozey, Doechii & JT, Tyrese and More

When Beyoncé drops, the world stops and listens. And that’s exactly what happened with the release of her incredibly ambitious 27-track Cowboy Carter LP last weekend (March 29). While the record is framed by Queen Bey’s exploration of the Black roots of country music and her own Southern familial roots across Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, there are still healthy doses of the R&B we all know and love from her, courtesy of collaborators ranging from Pharrell Williams and Raphael Saadiq to The-Dream and Nile Rodgers.

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Remarkably, a couple of artists across hip-hop and R&B were able to cut through the Cowboy Carter chokehold. Ye (fka Kanye West) predictably inserted himself in the DrakeKendrick Lamar back-and-forth, claiming that “there is only one GOAT” and that he “washed” both artists on previous collaborations. Tyla, who is currently enjoying the release of her debut studio album, covered the most recent Billboard print issue and revealed why pulling out of Coachella was “the right decision.” Of course, the Head Barb herself, Nicki Minaj, stayed in the news cycle with the announcement of her first sneaker collection, a winning performance at Madison Square Garden and an appearance at the Knicks game with her family (March 31).

With Fresh PicksBillboard aims to highlight some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop — from Beyoné and Shaboozey’s genre-obliterating shootout to Felix Ames’ soulful new single. Be sure to check out this week’s Fresh Picks in our Spotify playlist below.

Freshest Find: Tyrese, “I Would Still Say I Do”

A sweeping eight-minute tribute to the longevity of matrimony, Tyrese‘s “I Would Still Say I Do” is also a tender love letter to tasteful, old-school soul. The “Sweet Lady” singer has been teasing this track on his official Instagram account — where he’s also been subtly documenting the creation of his forthcoming seventh studio album — and it was absolutely worth the wait. Stirring strings and lush piano serve as the anchors for an arrangement that swells into a mini-orchestra, incorporating bits of jazz along the way. “How foolish would it be/ betting it all after losing everything/ And nothing here makes sense/ Love is worth whatever the consequence,” he croons in a tone that expertly balances yearning with true devotion. The subject matter is reminiscent of “I Still Do” from 2015’s Black Rose, but with even more finesse and gravitas.

Beyoncé, Linda Martell & Shaboozey, “SPAGHETTII”

“Genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they?/ Yes, they are,” country pioneer Linda Martell chuckles at the beginning of “Spaghetti,” a high-camp Western shootout soundtrack housed on Beyoncé’s latest opus, Cowboy Carter. Here, Beyoncé acts as a bridge between country’s past (Martell) and a fearlessly innovative future that ropes in notes of Southern hip-hop, by way of herself and ascendant country star Shaboozey.

With a rap verse that bears the unmistakable dual fingerprints of both Jay-Z and The Harder They Fall‘s soundtrack, Queen Bey asserts power and dominance over everything in her path. In the context of the album, “Spaghettii” is a smart sonic juxtaposition and a thematic complement to its preceding track, which finds Bey carrying out a murder fantasy — the “I ain’t in no gang, but I got shooters and I bang-bang!” lyric is the bridge between the two — while combining the sounds of country and classical music. Oh, did we mention that she’s also doing all of this over a Brazilian funk sample?

Doechii with JT, “Alter Ego”

An Ayesha Erotica sample + a Tampa-Miami link-up + an Azealia Banks-esque flow = a bop. The equation really is that simple. Are the “Show Me Love”-esque synths a bit predictable? Yes, but that doesn’t mean they’re still not a worthy addition to the song. On “Alter Ego,” Doechii and JT join forces for yet another bad bitch anthem, but with one foot in the world of house music and the other dipping its toes in histrionic Miami Bass-laden hyperpop, the track sounds fresh, even if its subject matter is far from it. Although “Alter Ego” is less immediately accessible than “What It Is,” it’s still a winning showcase of both ladies’ verve and personality. “Fuck these n—as and these b–ches/ I come through and it be crickets/ I come through and moods be switchin’/ I’m the problem, I’m the villain,” JT spits.

Felix Ames, “Mr. Weatherman”

As the Milwaukee hip-hop scene continues to bask in its moment in the national limelight, Felix Ames is holding down the city’s soul scene. With “Mr. Weatherman” — which serves as the lead single for the forthcoming deluxe version of JENA, his 2023 debut LP — he sings of both life’s more aimless moments and the search for reassurance and comfort that there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel. “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going fast,” he croons before begging, “Mr. Weatherman, tell me something better.” For New Yorkers, those lyrics will feel particularly impactful given spring’s reluctance to stick around for more than two days at a time. For everyone, “Mr. Weatherman” evokes consolation the world is craving in the face of times that are as tumultuous as they are unprecedented.

Machine Gun Kelly & Trippie Redd, “Beauty”

With this new track, Machine Gun Kelly and Trippie Redd try to navigate finding “beauty” in the breakdown. The Ohio-bred duo returned to bring the emo raps for their genre : sadboy joint project and track two is an early standout from the 10-song project. Built around a pitched-up Frou Frou “Let Go” sample, MGK does most of the heavy lifting on the hook and his numbing verse, while touching on substance abuse, addiction and depression. “21 days clean that won’t break a habit/ 22 days later, I’m a f—-g addict/ Lost a real one, so I went and got him tatted/ Can’t eat, can’t sleep, life doesn’t matter,” he raps. MGK and Tripp join forces looking inward to face their demons and turn those harrowing experiences into cathartic art. 

DJ Premier & Snoop Dogg, “Can U Dig That?” 

Inject this into hip-hop purists’ veins. DJ Premier’s signature scratches mixed with Snoop Dogg’s West Coast style make for a laid-back boom-bap rap cocktail here. It’s a sight to behold when a pair of the genre’s dignitaries are still raising the bar three decades into their Hall of Fame careers. “We been doing this s–t, mane, ’bout 25, 26/ S–t, I don’t know, we just been doing it,” Snoop reflects on his lengthy relationship with Preemo, in what’s typically been a young person’s sport. The Doggfather ashes his joint while cruising in his low-rider, and takes a second to show love to Cali peers who also changed the game, like 2Pac, E-40, Ice Cube and Eazy-E. Unfortunately, “Can U Dig That?” appears to be a one-off rather than the lead into a collab project from Snoop and Preemo. 

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