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 we get a few Halloween shocks as Skeppy teams up with the ever-bizarre Riff Raff and Ghostface Killah meets the alarmingly named Rich Chigga for a remix no one asked for but, it seems, some people enjoyed.

Also in our sights: Glasgow man-of-the-moment Denis Sulta, Emeli Sandé and illuminati mysteron Jay Electronica, and two flavours of West Coast rap from E-40 and Boogie.


Riff Raff feat. Skepta – ‘Back From The Dead’

Tayyab Amin: Did these guys miss out on Chief Keef’s mixtape series of the same name? I’m still not sold on Skepta’s hip-hop maneuvers; a third of Konnichiwa sounded overly A$AP and his flow still spells out their alphabet here. Whatever you think of Riff Raff, at least the guy’s brought on-brand quotables with him, such as “Versace gingivitis.” Riff Raff’s coke-fuelled freestyle out-raps this entire joint – no wonder most of the damn track is just the beat riding out. (4)

Chris Kelly: If you can set aside the appropriation that borders on minstrelsy (granted, a big ass if!), Riff Raff will occasionally surprise you – ‘Lil Mama’ still bangs, for example. I’m much more interested in his Halloween album than his country album and he steps it up here, donning a Juicy J costume for All Saints’ Eve. “Versace gingivitis, diamonds on my pacifier” is vivid; “throw the car seat out the roof” is playful. Meanwhile, Skepta does the bare minimum to collect a paycheck – not that you can you blame him. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Within a note of the music from Tetris, ‘Back from the Dead’ shows Skepta making the most of his throwaway guest spots, burrowing into the idea of his own funeral in a way reminiscent of every iconic Nineties rapper who ever visualized their own passing. Riff Raff uses the horror movie setting to come up with absurdist takes on Young Dro car metaphors, which is to say that he doesn’t at all. (5)

Son Raw: Lost in the Skepta lovefest is that he has kind of awful taste in American rap, from late period Puff to late period A$AP to 2016 Riff Raff, the rap equivalent of milk gone bad. There’s no point hearing these guys go through the motions over a beat this generic. (4)

Jibril Yassin: A misfire. Nobody but Cudi should be allowed to get away with moaning hooks, and though people tend to write off Riff Raff, ‘Back From The Dead’ is a track that could have actually benefitted from his vivid writing. Unfortunately he phones it in with a passable effort, and the less said about Skepta’s “chicken wing swing / ting” rhyme scheme the better. (4)

4.6


E-40 – ‘On One’

Son Raw: In 2345, cyborgs will rule the Earth, waging war against a race of genetically enhanced mutants… and E-40 will still be out rapping the competition. This harks back to peak hyphy, but instead of sounding retro it reminds us just how ahead of their time Bay rappers were in the late 2000s. (9)

Chris Kelly: Trunk rattler (noun): this song. A month shy of 49 years old and E-40 still brings it, while his better paid contemporaries are content to haggle over streaming service market share. Points for taking big-mouthed Compton upstart AD along for the ride. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: An underrated weapon in Earl Stevens’ arsenal is his ability to switch quickly into a toned-down speaking voice, a choice that once notified you of menace but has taken on something else with age: a mix of heartache, gratitude, most often wisdom. ‘On One’ is as straight-ahead a mid-album E-40 banger as they come, with its showcase of Californian talent (this time round it’s AD, yelping histrionics perfect for maintaining energy), a hyper-charged DecadeZ beat and a familiar, well-oiled flow. Yet it’s as consistent as any late period E-40 album track, a good song that never threatens to become transcendent, his aged hush offering a hook to hang on and recall later. Decades-long consistency allows that hush to resonate, no matter the message. (7)

Tayyab Amin: The chorus sounds like hip-hop’s answer to last year’s Jack Ü-propelled trend of quirky motifs as a hook, though it’s obfuscated by the vocals hitting you like a wave of shout-outs to no one from an overly gassed radio host. Regardless, everyone’s favourite guest lecturer E-40 is here to drop some wisdom and he ain’t tellin’ ya twice! (7)

7.5


Denis Sulta – ‘Nein Fortiate’

Chris Kelly: More like Denis Sultry, amirite? This one drips with late night sweat before that scintillating synth breaks the humid spell and drags you by the hand, deeper down the rabbit hole. (7)

Jibril Yassin: This has been a staple of Denis Sulta’s sets for quite some time, and hearing the massive bass that comes in halfway through, it’s easy to see why. The lead melody has a bouncy, airy feel to it but seem to gather plenty of weight about it when the beat drops; the elements are minimal, but for six minutes it doesn’t sound like there’s anything missing at all. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Certain to lodge in the brain. The cascading synths gently falling away into a pillowy thump near the end is a trippy pleasure – one of the well-defined small details that make ‘Nein Fortiate’ feel briefer than its six-minute length. (7)

Tayyab Amin: This track bottles the signifiers of an all-nighter come morning – ambience of birds and crickets, chilly blue-pink skies and a sort of vague wonderment at the fact that we are all here, living, on this planet, like wow dude, etc. It has everything but the magic itself, however, coming across as rigid in its programming. When tunes are this clear about wanting to manufacture some sort of liberating feeling, I can’t help but push against it. (6)

Son Raw: Sounds like something an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign would license as background music for the video pitch. Seriously though, if this is what dance music’s going to sound like moving forward, they may as well turn the clubs to condos. (3)

6.2


Emeli Sandé feat. Jay Electronica & Áine Zion – ‘Garden’

Jibril Yassin: Between Áine Zion’s (great) poetic contributions and Jay Electronica’s (meh) verse, this has the room for Emeli to let loose and try to turn this into an Event Song – but the restraint is real and mad respected. This could have resulted in her getting overshadowed by one of her collaborators but you can hear her snatching the song back as soon as that slinky, effortless chorus drops. (8)

Son Raw: I thought Jay Electronica was too busy getting paid hush money for impregnating illuminati heiresses to rap? The boom bap flow that was supposed to save hip-hop doesn’t sound half as impressive post-Kendrick. Emeli Sandé does that cool crooning she does with a few effects but doesn’t really do much to grab anyone’s attention here. (5)

Chris Kelly: Pretty standard issue electro-soul that I guess we’re listening to for the Jay Electronica verse. In that case, the elusive bullshitter drops some ho-hum Def Poetry. People were asking “what the fuck is a Jay Electronica” back in 2009 and the clock has run out on me caring about the answer. (4)

Tayyab Amin: The drums threw me off in a way that makes me consider the growing legacy of Rihanna’s ANTI. This instrumental is so cold for a love song, setting the tone for a tune that carries the caution of wisdom. Emeli Sandé sings with a graveness and trepidation, driving home the responsibilities of love. The spoken word and guest verse work really well, and I’m always down for a good poetic love note in the middle of my raps – that’s word to the Pharcyde. (8)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: After what can comfortably be referred to as “intense public over-exposure”, Emeli Sandé has had a hard reset, turning to murkier sonics, the slightly narcotic vocal pronunciation of her more net-savvy contemporaries, and an intriguing religiosity. Before, her songs felt like sermons; now they sound like mass. Her collaborator here is Jay Electronica, a mysterious messiah figure if there ever was one and an artist who wouldn’t know what a hard reset was. (That would require being turned on in the first place.) (7)

6.4


Boogie – ‘Two Days’

Son Raw: So post-Chance it oughta come with a Sox cap. Boogie’s at his best when he tempers the inspirational stuff with a bit of grit, but I can do without the happy rap. (6)

Jibril Yassin: Boogie has described himself as someone who “suck[s] at social media,” but it’s refreshing to hear him get technical with the details here, admonishing his ex-girl for unfollowing him when he had her back when it counted. “How you gimme paradise, then turn around and make me trip?” he asks, making the best of this caustic kiss-off. Also, any song that makes use of talkbox needs to be commended, it’s a rule. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: It’s a real joy to hear a song that would not have existed 10 years ago and that doesn’t feel like a desperate grab for attention. In ‘Two Days’, Boogie breaks down how digital life’s hypervisibility turns to ghost status in the blink of an eye, like a chapter from Aziz Ansari’s ‘Modern Romance’ writ large in flow. Bruised, amusing, bullish (as if women can only be “thots” on Snapchat or angels elsewhere, that standardised “good girl” argument), it’s a modern song that feels modern. It’s even brief: two minutes and little more, a tweet of a song. (8)

Tayyab Amin: Wispy, lispy, West Coast acid rap where less is more. I love the obviously purposeful cognitive dissonance in the lyricism, yet you never feel that the lover is aware of it at all. It’s a really well-written joint and the additional vocals are solid too. (7)

Chris Kelly: Of all the rappers who are part of the West Coast renaissance, Boogie might be my favorite – he’s certainly the most approachable of the bunch. There’s always been a touch of Chance the Rapper in his music, and ‘Two Days’ hits pay gold with that melody and – as ever – lyrics that honestly confront the difficulties of relationships in the social media age. (8)

7


Rich Chigga – ‘Dat $tick Remix’ feat. Ghostface Killah and Pouya

Chris Kelly: Who knew that Riff Raff wouldn’t be the most problematic rapper in one Singles Club? From his name onwards, this is just unforgivable, and the young Mr. Brian Imanuel makes Keith Ape look like an African-American studies major. NOPE. (0)

Jibril Yassin: I can’t believe this actually happened. But there aren’t any weak spots – all three bring commendable verses, even if diluting Chigga’s singular presence sacrifices some of that surreal mojo which gave the original such power (and obvious viral growth, let’s be real here!). (7)

Son Raw: While Riff Raff has clearly expired, the world still has an insatiable lust for novelty rap, so why not? The name is top trolling, the flow stolen thrice over and Ghostface is more “collect the check” than “protect your neck”, but Pouya does his thing and the video’s funny, so it serves its purpose. (6)

Tayyab Amin: Someone in the studio must have known that no one would pay attention to these bars, ‘cause even the censored version has got more hoes than your da’s Christmas puns. I love Ghostface but his verse sounds like its come from a Markov chain generator. (5)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: If it takes a viral star with odd claims to using racialised language to get Ghostface Killah to enter the 21st century, then sure, weirder things have happened. GFK is one of my favourite rappers of all time, and while he says nothing that interesting here (beyond “bro”, a word I never imagined to hear Pretty Toney himself utter), he is present over a simulacrum of modern-day SoundCloud trap beats. It’s as if those early noughties left-of-centre Ghostface remixes have been legitimised – somewhere, Prefuse73 and his ilk should be feeling smug. (5)

4.6


Final scores:

E-40 – ‘On One’ (7.5)
Boogie – ‘Two Days’ (7)
Emeli Sande feat. Jay Electronica – ‘Garden’ (6.4)
Denis Sulta – ‘Nein Fortiate’ (6.2)
Riff Raff feat. Skepta – ‘Back From The Dead’ (4.6)
Rich Chigga – ‘Dat $tick Remix’ feat. Ghostface Killah and Pouya’ (4.6)

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