Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

This week, YG enlists white rappers against Donald Trump, Major Lazer recycle their winning formula and a vaporwave figurehead drops a nine-minute epic.

Plus, Desiigner shows he might be more than just a Future clone, Mykki Blanco airs her dirty laundry and Chuck D’s political supergroup beam in from 1994.


Major Lazer – Cold Water feat. Justin Bieber & MØ

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: This works fine as a bonus track for Purpose, effortlessly flitting into its Diplo-inspired mix of pop, R&B and world club sounds. There’s a hint of Afrobeats in here, a little more of that reggaeton lilt from ‘Sorry’, and it’s utterly fine. Which is why it’s a Major Lazer single instead of a Justin Bieber single. *Plays ‘I’ll Show You’ for the thousandth time and floats on blissfully* (6)

Claire Lobenfeld: Major Lazer finally figured it out on Peace is the Mission, but this lukewarm effort makes me think they’ve already lost the thread. If anything, it just proves that Skrillex is the one doing the heavy-lifting, as far as making the Bieber bangers go. Sigh. (4)

Tom Fenwick: With Ed Sheeran lyrics, Diplo production and Bieber/MØ vocals, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more anodyne summer-dominating jam this year. Those synth horns are catchy as hell and Bieber remains at the top of his game – it’s just not very interesting. But when the sun’s shining it’s hard to find too much shade to throw. (6)

Son Raw: Bieber’s continuing fascination with dancehall is the aural equivalent of a blonde teen getting cornrows on a Caribbean cruise: you’re left hoping someone gets sunburnt. Lost in conversation about cultural appropriation is how so much fantastic global culture emerged from the collision of different ideas and sources, but there’s no excuse for this bleached “tropical house” bullshit when so much fantastic dancehall is getting made on the daily. (4)

Tayyab Amin: After Bieber’s 2015 hat-trick and of course Major Lazer’s ‘Lean On’, this is disappointing. Diplo is a cultural black hole and this is how we end up with an Ed Sheeran riddim. I only have room for one ‘Cold Water’ and that’s Tom Waits’. (5)

Chris Kelly: Hopefully all the appropriation thinkpieces have been written, read and digested, because it seems that “Major Lazer and Justin Bieber doing dancehall” isn’t stopping anytime soon. Bieber’s vocal performance is more Journals than Purpose, which is a pleasant surprise. Benny Blanco and Ed Sheeran have credits on this one, making it the product of the neve-rending song machine that first turned its gears for Ace of Base. We’ve come a long way, baby. (7)

5.4


Vektroid-616x440

Vektroid – ‘Enemy’

Haley Potiker: Remember when Rihanna appropriated vaporwave? (Or was it seapunk? Or is seapunk a genre within vaporwave?) [The haircuts are different – Seapunk Ed.] If anyone knows the answer to these questions, it’s Vektroid, the Queen of the Windows 95 screensaver aesthetic. Early PC nostalgia spawned a million subcultures, but at least vaporwave feels less snobby than, say, the nostalgia that pushes a 29-year-old man to use a typewriter. (5)

Tom Fenwick: Lush sonic beats, skittering footwork, touches of vaporwave and hints of rave: Vectroid drops more ideas into one track than most manage on a full album. The effect is like a shimmering waterfall of elemental mercury that lasts for over nine beautiful minutes, but could flow on forever. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Like last week’s brainbuster from Motion Graphics, ‘Enemy’ is a busy-busy digital playground, all nu-age synths ruptured by skittish vocal samples and traphouse hi-hats. At nine minutes, it gently goes through movements, from reverent water-level video game sonics to tense, slow motion club music through a sinister ending that recalls deep house as much as it does action movie scores. A lot happens at a careful pace, and you rarely feel as though Vektroid is simply building sonic architecture for herself – it’s a beautiful composition, the type of music someone can make once they’ve mastered control. Nine minutes of music rarely feels just right, but this does. (9)

Claire Lobenfeld: Vaporwave is only a boys’ club if you let it be. (8)

Son Raw: Considering Floral Shoppe is now officially one of this decade’s touchstones (get those top 100 lists ready), it’s great to see Vektroid return to the space that made her name. This floats by pleasantly without making much of an impact, but that’s the point of this stuff, right? What I’m really excited about is hearing someone rap over this. (7)

7.4


Mykki Blanco – The Plug Won’t

Tayyab Amin: I can’t figure out if this track is a personal address or simply an airing of dirty laundry out in public over a killer beat: “I don’t see your best friend on the text agreeing with you.” [Throbbing bass triplet] Dancing to the drama, I’ve got time for that. (6)

Haley Potiker: This is ultimately a very sad and very angry song, but that won’t stop me from having the hook (“The plug don’t love me like you / The drugs don’t love me like you”) stuck in my head for weeks. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: After listening to this for half an hour on repeat, I can attest to a few facts: Mykki Blanco is a very very skilled rapper, but is still privy to throwing out the kitchen sink in regards to songcraft. ‘The Plug Won’t’ is one half marble-mouthed drug lamentations, the other half a syncopated, snappy syllable takedown. It doesn’t merge, but there’s so much raw talent in Mykki that these mixed-up experiments are still fascinating. I listened for 30 minutes despite not loving it, because win or lose this is still a fascinating artist at work. (6)

Tom Fenwick: Mykki Blanco’s come a long way since those early releases when the sound was on point but the bars felt like they were chasing some sort of blog-scene zeitgeist. Skip ahead to 2016 and Blanco’s anti-love anthem proves their time has finally come: the flow’s are tight, the beats are minimalist and you could bounce on the bassline like a trampoline. (7)

Son Raw: That switch up between the verses’ gruff minimalism and the hook’s sugar-rush sweetness keeps this one from landing in sub-Run The Jewels noise-rap territory. Mykki Blanco is still searching for the key to capture his lightning bolt live-intensity on record though. [6]

Chris Kelly: Mykki Blanco has always had a gift for recontextualizing the sounds of contemporary rap and club music for his purposes, and ‘The Plug Won’t’ diffuses the palette of Yeezus into a woozy anti-love song that is suspicious about the value of love found in the club. (6)

6.3


Desiigner – ‘Timmy Turner’

Tayyab Amin: What is going through Desiigner’s head? I’m not exactly sure, but somewhere in there is an astonishingly comprehensive understanding of Future’s delivery. The track is pure pastiche – Keef-like ad libs, a twisted G-funk synth line, plus a Yeezy/Cudi-esque outro. But it does bang. I loved the freestyle version, and I think that’s definitely put a spin onto how people are hearing this one. Hopefully it means people will listen to Future with different ears too, ‘cause there are still levels to his craft going underappreciated. (7)

Haley Potiker: Remember when ‘All Day’, which had been anticipated for nearly a year by the time of its release, came out and did so little for Kanye that The Life of Pablo didn’t come out for another year? Desiigner’s ‘Timmy Turner’ traces that same arc in microcosm, with far more depressing results. Mike Dean’s production resurrects the doom and gloom that worked on Yeezus in the clumsiest fashion imaginable, shoehorning what’s supposed to be an evocative, piano-led emotional turn into an already cluttered slop of minor keys. Biting of [redacted] aside, Desiigner is yet to develop the technical or lyrical chops to cut through the haze and do anything distinctive. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The infamous ‘Timmy Turner’ freestyle for XXL is one of the more interesting left turns of the year, allowing a much-maligned Future clone to become a bluesy, saddened husk. He plays to the camera, knows where the shadows hit him, snaps his finger and croaks around the echoes about souls in the furnace. The song ‘Timmy Turner’ – not the freestyle – lacks the drama and simplicity of the original a cappella version, a mumblecore walk through hell that abruptly turns to unearned grandiosity. (4)

Claire Lobenfeld: If you haven’t heard Desiigner’s speaking voice (aside from that meaning you don’t follow FACT on Snapchat, tsk tsk) then you won’t be familiar with how much it is not his fault that he sounds like Future. If you have the same voice as some super revered rapper who raps in popular cadence, you’re going to get called out for pantomime. Even though New English was drill-trap mess, Desiigner has a lot more to bring to the table than just panda, panda, panda. Yes, this is covered in Mike Dean’s production chops, but it was the Brooklyn rapper who first, uh, designed the track. We still don’t know what he can do when he isn’t relegated to leasing beats off of SoundCloud, but this is far more promising than he’s being given credit for. No one’s taken the time to understand him anyway – they just hear someone that sounds like their fave and recoil, instead of thinking about the fact that this is a dude who was an impressionable 12-year-old when ‘O, Let’s Do It’ came out and shook up, again, how regional rap (specifically the South) can shake up national radio. Or that his completely unhinged performance style most closely mimics fellow New Yorker Nicki Minaj’s bugged-eyed bombast. But *frog emoji tea emoji* (7) ?

Son Raw: So many questions. What if I like this despite it being a complete Future bite? Does that make me a bad person? Does it help that the actual Future has been on autopilot all year? Can we get more G-funk synth leads over trap beats? What the hell is he talking about anyways? Is Mike Dean producing the whole album? Is that enough to carry Desiigner? And why’d he drop that terrible mixtape anyway? This is good, but I hate myself for admitting it. (8)

6


YG – ‘FDT Pt 2’ feat. G-Eazy and Macklemore

Tayyab Amin: This is not a good song, but this is also something we need more of. I don’t remember ever hearing white rappers having Muslims’ backs, so that’s really cool to me, and I’d never expect it to not be corny. The original track was better but it’s sick to see YG continue his solidarity tour after Nipsey Hussle. It’s more YG showing solidarity with white people about Donald Trump than the other way round though, a truly benevolent soul. I did cackle when he proclaimed, “Your own kind don’t even like you.” (6)

Tom Fenwick: The way YG feels about Trump is the way I feel about G-Eazy & Macklemore: sentiment 10/10, music 2/10. (2)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Regardless of our opinions on their music, Macklemore and G-Eazy are big names beyond hip-hop, with their whiteness opening doors that many people of colour in music still cannot wedge open. So it makes sense for this song to have a remix that will alert white listeners, because sadly, some rap fans still have race-related barriers that will have likely held them back from hearing the original (and better) song. But the more people that listen, the more people that learn, and hopefully the more people that protest and put their vote where it counts. And thank goodness this isn’t vindicating a saviour complex for the two guests – they’re effective speakers at their host’s rally. (7)

Chris Kelly:*Cracks knuckles* To be honest, I think the original ‘FDT’ is a little corny, but at least I could appreciate how it unified black and brown, Blood and Crip against fascist bullshit. But in the ultimate example of white liberal racism, here come rap’s towheaded stepchildren to whitesplain Donald Trump. Like two fratboys discussing politics between bong hits, G-Eazy counters Donald Trump’s misogyny by hitting on Ivanka and Macklemore delivers his trademarked eye-rolling punchlines (for the record, I like orange Starbursts). I think the worst part is that YG thinks all white people are like Macklemore and G-Eazy #NotAllWhitePeople (1)

Haley Potiker: You have to respect YG for recruiting two high-profile artists solely to slide in this line after they finish rapping: “Your own kind don’t even like you.” No one of any creed, color, or country should abide by fucking Macklemore saying “bool.” Remember when he ran one of his songs by 700 different activists to make sure he was woke? (5)

Claire Lobenfeld: A week after I wondered why Macklemore gets more flack than G-Eazy, the two appear on a song together — and I don’t know what to make of any of it. Like Donald Trump’s speeches, these new verses are loaded with rhetoric and regurgitated epithets you can read about Trump anywhere, instead of any real criticism. But how can anyone expect substance from someone (*cough* G-Eazy *cough*) who is going to end their verse on a protest song about how he’d still fuck Trump’s daughter? You have more in common with The Donald than you think, G-Eazy. (3)

4


Prophets of Rage – ‘Prophets of Rage’

Haley Potiker: This is one of the most vital protest songs of this or any year. Chuck D’s writing is intensely personal, yet contains within it centuries of grotesque oppression, channeling all of that directly at this country’s most oppressive forces. The production is lean, clean, unforgettable. It’s tongue in cheek –that opening line! — but dead-eyed when it needs to be. It’s difficult to imagine more fury, more humanity laid out in six minutes. This has been a review of ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos’. (4)

Tom Fenwick: It’s good to know that all those acts I liked in the early ‘90s still have political fire in their dad-bod bellies, but with no Zack De La Rocha this feels like Jive Bunny mashing-up RATM/Public Enemy. (4)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Tom Morello hasn’t actually written any new riffs since Battle of Los Angeles and has been kept in a cryonic chamber where he sometimes awakes to play rejigged Zeppelin licks before falling back into slumber. Chuck D is his roomie. B-Real deserves better but doesn’t know how to ask for it (reminder that this motherfucker was on fucking Stankonia, he doesn’t need this). Brad Wilk has one of the best snare poundings in the business, and even he’s playing like he can’t believe he’s still doing the exact same shit. Zack de La Rocha is somewhere far away from this slop, but at least he’s having fun! (3)

Chris Kelly: Middle-aged Gen Xers reunite just in time for this year’s Family Values tou–– er, Republican National Convention, delivering this anemic, uninspired bullshit on parade. (2)

Claire Lobenfeld: Prophets of Rage are just a cruel reminder that we only got an eight-year respite without the necessity of politically minded music aimed specifically at current or potential leaders. That said, Rage Against The Machine wasn’t for me, so neither is this, but now it comes with the added bonus of sounding so completely dated. I miss you, Fugazi. (2)

Tayyab Amin: This is just too sincere to get witty about. Activism can often be tiring and uninspired but you have to grind it out and persevere, because it’s hard to see what choice you even have. After the signature bass and Morello riffage intro, this starts to sound like perseverance in all its thankless monotony. Charismatic speakers motivate movements, and that’s the department this tune is definitely lacking in. (5)

3.4


Final scores:

Vektroid – ‘Enemy’ (7.4)
Mykki Blanco – ‘The lLug Won’t’ (6.3)
Desiinger – ‘Timmy Turner’ (6)
Major Lazer – Cold Water feat. Justin Bieber & MØ (5.4)
YG feat. Macklemore & G-Eazy (4)
Prophets of Rage – ‘Prophets of Rage’ (3.4)

Latest Stories

Latest Stories

Share Tweet
+