R&B/Hip-Hop Fresh Picks of the Week: 42 Dugg & Lil Baby, Ovi Wood, Ken Carson & More

Now that 4th of July festivities are in the rearview mirror, we’re officially smack in the middle of summer. Despite arriving in the springtime (May 4), Kendrick Lamar‘s “Not Like Us” continues to dominate the cultural conversation, with the track’s excellent new music video hitting YouTube on Independence Day, subsequently sending countless cookouts into a Kung Fu Kenny frenzy.

Naturally, only an event like Essence Fest could cut through the mountains of additional discourse sparked by the “Not Like Us” music video. Featuring eye-popping sets from Usher, Janet Jackson, Victoria Monét, SWV, Lil Wayne, Charlie Wilson and more, Essence Fest rocked New Orleans with a sprawling collection of performances that bridged several generations of R&B and hip-hop. Of course, rising hits from recent major album releases — like Megan Thee Stallion & Yuki Chiba’s “Mamushi” and Camila Cabello & Drake‘s “Hot Uptown” — continue to make waves across the Internet as the summer heat continues to intensify.

With Fresh PicksBillboard aims to highlight some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop — from 42 Dugg’s and Lil Baby’s new link-up to Ken Carson’s ode to Emmy-nominated actress Sydney Sweeney. Be sure to check out this week’s Fresh Picks in our Spotify playlist below.

Freshest Find: SAHXL & Kaash Paige, “Negligent (Remix)”

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, R&B/hip-hop artist SAHXL has been making major waves in R&B circles, and the new Kaash Paige-assisted remix of his moody “Negligent” track is sure to continue that momentum. On the Sid Mallick & CRATER-helmed track, Kaash Paige sings from the perspective of the “pretty but messy” woman SAHXL waxes poetic about on the original song. “You be calling me like 4 in the morning/ I don’t see why your ass be so annoyed/ I don’t answer, your ass be paranoid/ And that’s just so not cool,” she croons menacingly, expertly playing up the emotional immaturity and overall toxicity that grounds the aptly titled song. Though the two singers don’t actually end up harmonizing together, that stands as a smart artistic choice that underscores their refusal to move as a unit in a romance with a flimsy foundation.

42 Dugg feat. Lil Baby, “No Love“

The ominous 42 Dugg whistle has returned. The Detroit native reunites with his “We Paid” collaborator Lil Baby, as the duo looks to make another standout entry into their joint catalog. Baby sets the tone by comparing himself to prime ‘06 Gucci Mane and lets the rap game know he’s ready to get active, even with an alleged nine-figure net worth. That number might need to be fact-checked; either way, it sounds good. Then the 4PF boss passes the baton to Dugg, who is surprised to find out it’s the women – allegedly – snitching with loose lips since he’s been getting reacclimated to the free world. 

Khalil, “Cancer”

In a past life, Khalil was a close associate to then-labelmate Justin Bieber. Now, with his atmospheric new “Cancer” single, the Sacramento singer emerges as a fully-realized artist in his own right. “Can’t look into your eyes, ’cause I’m blind, girl,” he gently croons over desolate acoustic guitar strums. Less of a full-bodied song and more of a snapshot of the feeling of being drawn to someone who ultimately harms you, “Cancer” uses its moody guitars to mask the bite of lyrics like, “I still want you to stay tonight/ Don’t care if you’re no longer mine.” Khalil isn’t relishing this situation at all, but it’s his ability to showcase truly anguished vulnerability that makes “Cancer” such a captivating listen, if only for just over two and a half minutes.

Ken Carson, “SS”

Ken Carson decided it was time for more disorder when he returned to tack on seven more tracks to his A Great Chaos album, turning it into A Greater Chaos. “SS” serves as an ode to film and TV star Sydney Sweeney, and he somehow compares her voluptuous breasts to the drum mags attached to his gun. X Man even hopped into her IG comments, appearing to shoot his shot with the actress. The Opium rapper then moves on to detail his Paris Fashion Week romantic escapades, and ends the journey by dissing Rolex and anyone rocking with the luxe Swiss brand. “I can buy 15 Richard Milles, why would I cop a Rolex?” he scoffs.

Ovi Wood, “Problems”

Across a murky soundscape built around skittering hi-hats and brooding synths, Ovi Wood attempts to explain the mental torment that prevents him from showing up as the lover that he would like to be. “When my anxiety goes through the roof/ I’ve been hurting bad and I feel so consumed,” he sings, squeezing each word out as if he’s trying to fit them into the gasps of air that punctuates a good crying session. On one hand “Problems” is a song about working through anxiety as it relates to romantic relationships, on the other, it’s a disarmingly honest ode to the solace that music provides. “Music the only thing to get me through/ Music the only thing to heal my wounds,” Ovi sings in the final chorus, perhaps the only time he sounds certain about anything in his life on the track.

Shordie Shordie feat. 03 Greedo, “Ride With You”

Shordie and Greedo’s “Ride With You” passes the car test and the breezy Cali bounce provides the perfect soundtrack to a summer sunset cruise in the Baltimore rapper’s baby blue Corvette. “Come over you can slide too/ I just need something I can ride to,” the Warner signee melodically raps with a raspiness washing over his flow. If only the ride from Shordie’s Baltimore to Greedo’s Watts, California was as smooth as their freshest team-up. The Captain Hook rapper delivered a pair of projects in 2023, and he should have more heat in store for 2024’s second half.

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