10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Shook by Tkay Maidza (2020)- This Australian rapper’s latest EP is about as good as I was expecting it to be (meaning it is damn excellent). Earning her a second place in this series in just as many weeks, Shook is the project’s catchy, banging and confident lead single.
2. A Lucid Dream by Fontaines D.C. (2020)- This Irish band’s sonic evolution in just over a year is utterly incredible, and few tracks show this as well as A Lucid Dream. Whilst the band’s signature post-punk is still intact on this track, they have fed it through a layer of psychedelic, making for a head-spinning, darker experience.
3. Snow Beach by RATKING (2014)- I discovered this abstract hip-hop number whilst exploring recommended artists on my streaming accounts and aren’t I’m glad I did. Like a collision between murky trap and classic East Coast rap, Snow Beach is an engaging and, in my opinion, incredibly unique rap track.
4. The Blacker the Berry by Kendrick Lamar (2015)- Probably the rapper’s most politically and socially rooted track (as well as one of his most hard-hitting), The Blacker the Berry is often the song critics point to when talking about this artist’s undeniable brilliance.
5. ROCKABYE BABY by Joey Bada$$ with ScHoolboy Q (2017)- A song indebted to classic boom bap, ROCKABYE BABY is just one of those rap bangers that are simply too good to resist, the combination of a steady beat and skilled rapping making for a staple in my hip-hop rotation.
6. Age of Consent by New Order (1983)- Formed out of the leftovers of Joy Division after Ian Curtis’s tragic suicide, New Order would go onto be one of the biggest acts of the 80s New-wave scene with their dance-floor filling synth-pop. But before that, the band released tense, anxious synth and guitar-driven tracks such as Age of Consent, a nervous love song that is almost confronting in its intimacy.
7. My Baby Just Cares for Me by Nina Simone (1958)- Jazzy, boppy, catchy and instantly recognisable thanks to its playful piano riff, Simone’s take on this jazz standard is pleasurable, relaxing listening that can please anyone. An effortlessly masterful performance from one of the greatest ever to do it.
8. El Scorcho by Weezer (1995)- The LevineLowdown is the only place where you can hear a playlist that has Nina Simone being promptly followed up by the living meme of a band that are Weezer. For the many jokes that surround this band, they have written some pretty good tracks over the years. One such is El Scorcho which, despite some uncomfortably confessional lyrics from River’s Cuomo, is a fun, sing-along emo and power-pop gem.
9. That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate by Mission of Burma (1982)- Though this Boston band are best known for injecting a sense of sophistication and experimentation into traditional punk rock, there was still plenty of room in their substantial discography for more straight forward takes on the genre, such as That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate.
10. Uneven Compromise by Lil Ugly Mane (2012)- Where this underground hip-hop artist’s cult classic record Mista Thug Isolation was a satirically dark deconstruction of the ‘gangsta’ image in hip-hop, his following project Uneven Compromise is a far more sincere take on the matter, especially in the second half of the track, telling the tragic tale of a criminal who’s desperation and action sees his entire life stripped away from him. This, complete with Miller’s signature experimental beats, makes for one surreal and menacing listen.
Listen to this week’s tracks here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5FC9AbrrdiNROQQ3KzymWQ?si=LHTU5-_JQDeqyC-tqufG5Q.
And because I left out last week’s playlist, here it is- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2jMSOHLtAiQX9VBcptuJSG?si=CZCuyyAqRNOtWoVGM9GQEQ.
No Pressure by Logic- 6.2/10:
Supposedly the East Coast rapper’s final outing, Logic has had a career plagued by some recently incredibly sub-par to awful releases, falling into the category of snarky, annoying “lyrical miracle” rappers. But with this his closing statement, a slight redemption is evident. So, is No Pressure Logic’s swan song? Honestly, I cannot answer that. The albums I have the most experience with regarding Logic are his two previous, which are now almost universally considered (at least on the online music community) as pretty awful, so it is hard to for to say where this sits in the broader discography of this rapper. What I can say is this, that whilst almost all the problems that have followed Logic throughout his work such as derivative production, recycled flows and cringe lyricism are still present on this LP, enough charm shines through to save this from being another total failure. Ultimately, I think Logic will be remembered as a product of his time rather than a true innovator, leaning heavily on his influences and being more controversial than impactful. What I am basically saying in a very roundabout way is that No Pressure is a pretty run-of-the-mill hip-hop affair that whilst not overly memorable to my ears personally, did leave me with that little feeling of satisfaction one gets after hearing an album that does more good than it does bad.
Best track: No Pressure Intro
What Could Possibly Go Wrong by Domonic Fike- 4.7/10:
Whilst the atmosphere and aesthetic of the album is consistent, Dominic Fike’s debut record What Could Possibly Go Wrong is simply too dull to make any sort of lasting impression on me. He sounds like what would happen if popular gen z artists such as BROCKHAMPTON and Billie Eilish would if you mixed them in a blender and reduced them to their most basic components, that being an eclectic mix of generic, sleepy pop and alternative hip hop. I wouldn’t call anything on this record overtly terrible; however, it never seems to bother to try to be anything more than below average, with Fike’s lack of individuality and original ideas leaving What Could Possibly Go Wrong extremely forgettable.
Best track: Come Here
A Hero’s Death by Fontaines D.C.- 9.2/10:
Dogrel was a fun, poetic, scrappy and highly energetic post-punk release last year and helped launch the Irish band onto international stages and into the ears of music nerds across the world. So, where can a group go from there? In the case of Fontaines D.C., it was to take their tried and tested post-punk sound and warp in through a portal of tumbling drums, hazy guitars and existential dread, and the results are fantastic. Dialling down on the more mischievous tone of Dogrel, A Hero’s Death feels like a definite sonic evolution. This record’s best tracks are easily the hazy, almost psychedelic driven numbers, tumbling past like a thunderstorm, and even if the ballads that dot this album don’t quite match up to rest, they still hold their own and add to the overall mood of this LP. Of course, the main attraction has got to be frontman Grian Chatten. The man’s love for poetry shines through as bright as ever, focussing on the inner-self and asking bug questions about love, family and freedom, all with an existential dread harking back to the likes of T.S. Elliot. Chatten’s vocal delivery is also something to really celebrate, making no effort to sound professional or refined, focusing on emotion and letting that gorgeous Irish accent shine through, further adding to the mood of this record. It is fascinating to see Fontaines improve upon their debut, sonically evolving and placing their mark on the title of one the most exciting rock bands in the world right now.
Best track: A Hero’s Death
This Week’s Feature- WAP and the Discourse Around Female Rappers and Songs About Sex:
In the last two weeks, the single by female rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, WAP, has become the latest viral sensation to rock the internet. This has mainly got to do with one thing: the track’s raunchy lyrics and music video. Packed with enough sexual innuendos to last the rest of quarantine and accompanied by a visual that you wouldn’t want to be caught by your parents watching, it has an attention-grabbing presence, to say the least. It has raised many questions about the existence of sexual promiscuity in hip-hop, particularly how we should react when it is women ‘promoting’ these sexually promiscuous ideals. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
First and foremost, what is my opinion on the song itself? Well… I don’t hate it, but far from love it. WAP is simple, undeniably catchy and does contain one or two lines that made me giggle in juvenile immaturity. But beyond that, it isn’t anything special to my ears—just another popular rap song from two famous rappers that just happens to have some graphic lyrics. But the actual quality of the song is not the reason I construct this feature, and ultimately, I will leave up to you the reader to decide what you think about it. No… I am here to discuss the massive impact this song has had and some of the issues it has risen regarding women in hip-hop. One narrative that has played out and been promoted by the likes of right-wing media personalities such as Ben Shapiro is that such presentations of sex, primarily when it is constructed by women, are harmful to young girls the world around. Songs such as WAP and figures like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, in general, are peddling ideologies of sexual immorality to the next generation of woman, teaching them that indulgence is ok. Whilst Shapiro has been endlessly mocked by the internet for his take on the track, this line of thought isn’t anything new. One only has to think back to the controversy that surrounded the release of Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda and the reaction it entailed to see this is nothing new in outrage media. So, do they actually have a point?
To answer that, let me point you to one crucial detail that is important when considering this question. That is, what about the blokes? It may shock some people to hear, but hip-hop songs about sex and the various reproductive organs of the human anatomy are just as commonplace, if not more so, in the male-dominated world of rap. One only has to take a quick glance at the discographies of prominent male hip-hop artists such as Kanye West and Drake to see a plethora of quite graphic songs about sex and other things you don’t want to mention around your grandparents. So, do we see the same amount of outrage directed at these artists for such practices? In my experience, no. Whilst some could point to the likes of Robin Thicke’s infamous Blurred Lines as an example to the contrary, I believe a song like that only provoked the reaction it did due to the full-frontal nudity in the music video (as well as some genuinely disgusting lyrics that would land you in court if you tried using them in a bar). By comparison, the scantily clad women and suggestive dance moves of WAP actually seem quite tame.
I believe the outrage caused by WAP can be boiled down to one thing. That it subverts the traditional presentation of sexuality in modern music by putting the power in female hands. The words and images of WAP are ‘graphic’ and forthright in their dealings with the act of sex; however, they are not uncommon. I will bet you a red frog that most major hip-hop releases in 2020 by men will deal with the concepts found within Cardi and Meg’s song in just as, in not more, graphic fashion than the two female rappers. Yet, it is WAP that will get all the attention. Again, because it is made by two female artists. Women controlling and having power over their sexuality is not something we see very often not only in hip-hop, but the music industry at large. They are usually there for aesthetic value, at the mercy of the men who desire them. It’s jarring for many consumers of popular culture to them see that subverted, as it was jarring for many to see black musicians’ music-videos being played on MTV the first time.
I will not try to downplay the importance of trying to change perceptions of the female body as an object and give control to those who actually exist within them. Having said that, I do believe the reaction to WAP (a remarkably unsensational and totally non-rare song about sex) is simply over the top, fuelled by a public that is still yet to fully comprehend that grown woman (which Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are) can have autonomy over their sexuality that sees them openly talk about it in the form of music, rather than pretend it doesn’t exist outside the fantasies and desires of men.