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

With the way individual tracks are now consumed, the idea of what constitutes a single has shifted dramatically in the last half a decade, and its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, SoundCloud uploads and more. Up this week: Craig David and Big Narstie, Erykah Badu and the return of Missy Elliott.

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Missy Elliott – ‘WTF (Where They From)’

Chris Kelly: It can’t be understated how great it is to have Missy Elliott back, but let’s not overstate the quality of this song. The verses are solid but the chorus is ho-hum, the beat is Pharrell-by-numbers and, no, Skateboard P is not and has never been Optimus Prime on the mic. The problem with being ahead of your time is that the future eventually catches up. (5)

Tayyab Amin: There’s been a resurgence of paying Missy Elliot her dues in 2015, appearance at the Super Bowl onwards, and what a way to top off the warm-up! The video’s one of the best this year and the song’s damn good too. Missy’s flow is as good now as it was back then – a strange familiarity amongst a futurist aesthetic. Pharrell’s uncle get-up pays off much more on something this fun compared to ‘Finna Get Loose’. (8)

April Clare Welsh: ROBOMISSY IS BACK, SO PUT YOUR TONGUE AWAY MILEY! (9)

Son Raw: Hear that? That’s the sound of my generation collectively losing its shit over Missy Elliot coming back. And what a comeback! This is almost embarrassing for current emcees claiming her as an influence, cause none of them are matching that flow or crafting singles so infectious. Her fountain of youth treatment even extends to Pharell, who sounds more genuinely excited than he has in years, even in puppet form. The only way this one’s getting better is if they wrangle Q-Tip and Luda for a remix. (9)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The Internet has a short capacity for memory, so let me remind you of the previous Missy comeback attempt that consisted of ‘9th Inning’ and ‘Triple Threat’; two near self-parodic Timbaland collaborations that were truly boring, the last word you’d expect to associate with the two Superfriends. The difference between those songs and ‘WTF’ is that we now have a visual component: Dave Meyers, the genius director who ensured that one day we will hang a running loop of ‘Work It!’ and ‘Gossip Folks’ in the Louvre, does the most he can with the modern day video budget and its predilection for having the star dance in close-ups for a headphones company. It plucks nostalgic heartstrings, is endlessly gifable (puppet Pharrell!), and allows lapsed fans to email fellow lapsed fans and excitedly type “SHE’S BACK!!” But all that aside, the song is boring, and with the talent at the helm, that’s actually pretty unforgivable. (3)

6.8

Aris Kindt – ‘Rutti’

Joel Golby: Oh, this is good. You’re waking up from one of those deep sleeps you only really have when you’re on holiday – you’re in one of those old country houses, on holiday, one of the ones with a warren-like system of corridors and grand dusty halls with thick green velvet curtains in them – and you’re on a big feather bed and you’re just stirring awake, and you can sort of hear people downstairs making you breakfast but you can’t hear-hear them, and yeah: the sound of that, the heavy sound in your head, that’s Aris Kindt’s cover of ‘Rutti’. (8)

Son Raw: As far as womb-like walls of sound go, this one’s pleasantly all enveloping. I had to Google Slowdive, which says all you need to know regarding my knowledge of the original, but taken on its own, I could see myself playing this at an ambient gig. A nice addition to my “Fact Singles Club heroin jams” playlist. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Blissful, reverential, dull, dull, dull. (4)

Tayyab Amin: I’ve been awake since 4:30 am until right now, midday on a Sunday. It’s a time that’s rarely existed for me as part of my day, a strange, intangible pocket of stillness in the world. This cover suits it – subtle and incidental, yet captivating in hindsight as sands slip away and blurs become focused under a slow-moving light. (7)

April Clare Welsh: About a third of the way into Slowdive’s original of this song, there are these crystal-clear guitar lines and brushed percussion bits which create texture and drama. Admittedly, it’s no baroque masterpiece, but there are elements of the theatrical, however modest these may be. This reworking is totally devoid of all drama, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. To me, it’s the aural equivalent of those skeleton leaves you see littering the ground in winter; a ghostly slip of a thing that, like the aforementioned natural phenomena, can so easily be crushed underfoot. In a world bursting full of Massive Pop Statements, these kind of delicate, intricate gasps (in this case, the dying breath of a Benedictine monk) have the ability to lift us way above the leaves and the detritus of modern life and take us to a meditative place. (8)

6.8

https://soundcloud.com/erykah-she-ill-badu/phone-down-by-erykah-badu

Erykah Badu – ‘Phone Down’

April Clare Welsh: Holy smokes, this is hot! It’s definitely the femme-friendly ode to Drake I wished I could have made myself. And is it ok to say that I prefer Erykah Badu’s version of ‘Hotline Bling’? As mother-and-son duos go (actually, remind me of some others?), this is one of the better ones and it certainly makes me feel all warm ‘n’ fuzzy about my own family. CAINT wait to hear the mixtape. (8)

Joel Golby: If you ever need proof that we’re living in one of the wrong alternate universes, look to the career of Erykah Badu: in any other of the infinite splinter realities out there in the abyss, Badu is considered the greatest musician to ever live, can barely leave the house without having to put her hands in hall-of-fame wet concrete or accepting a hundred Grammies. Instead we live here, where Badu is quietly churning out low-key banger after low-key banger, mainly on Soundcloud ahead of her mixtape drop. Badu’s seven-minute onion-layered ‘Hotline Bling’ was arguably better than the original; ‘Phone Down’ is the short, smooth, semi-sequel. (8)

Son Raw: Erykah Badu forever! Drake better watch out or he’ll be the next one wearing crocheted trousers and knitted caps — that Baduizm is no joke and has ensnared rappers stronger-willed than a guy who got a BBK tattoo 6 months after discovering grime. This is a vamp and minor be design, but I’d listen to this woman sing the phone book, I mean, I just listened to her sing a minor Drake hit, right? (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A simple demand – pay attention to me – repeated over and over to make sure it is followed. Sexy as all hell. (8)

Tayyab Amin: There’s nothing captivating here for a song that’s about it. I don’t think Badu shows enough character on here to justify the level of lyrical repetition, as much as I dig that closing line, “Your mama probably think you’re out here missin’.” The beat’s nice, but it’s more of a warm-down than anything else and overall this is a drowsy sort of lukewarm. (6)

Chris Kelly: Is anyone else nervous that Ms. Badu’s mixtape is just going to be a bunch of Drake covers? (4)

6.7

Craig David x Big Narstie – ‘When the Bassline Drops’

Tayyab Amin: I definitely liked this a lot more from around my third listen. I just don’t think it’s explosive and exciting enough to do a Craig David return proper justice. Craig David does it so effortlessly that it feels almost throwaway, but then so much of his old stuff felt like throwaway bangers too. The drop and hook is so weak but it’s headed in the right direction. Big Narstie sandwich line — I’m never gonna look at a Tesco Meal Deal the same way again. (6)

Son Raw: Between this and Missy, I’m getting misty-eyed here! This is perfectly timed, combining those techy chords to the kind of adventurous 2-step drum-patterns I’ve been thirsting for in UK house music, but the real story is Craig David still sounding as silky smooth as he’s ever been. Sure, this is basically another variation on the same song he’s always done, but no one wants him sounding like Fetty Wap, right? I wish Big Narstie would have brought just a little bit more of that over the top fan boy enthusiasm from the Mistajam session though. (8)

Joel Golby: Craig David’s 2k15 ‘Fill Me In’ on the 1Xtra show last month was arguably our generation’s JFK moment: we’ll all know where we were when we that ‘Where Are Ü Now’ bass bullet first hit. Only blot on that performance was Big Narstie – grime’s perennial competition winner – shouting all over it. They clearly got on, though, heading into the studio almost immediately afterwards for ‘When The Bassline Drops’. It’s very ‘school disco got a little bit out of hand and exactly one policeman had to be called’: Big Narstie threatens to eat a girl like a sandwich and David says ‘Ooh’ a lot. (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: I was growing up in Glasgow around the time of the garage boom, and have spent most of my time since moving to London asking ex-ravers what the experience was like, my knowledge being built on mostly second hand accounts like Simon Reynolds’ April 2001 report for Vibe. Big Narstie’s verse consists of the type of nostalgia that usually riles me up in regards to hip-hop (cue empty platitudes about gold Cuban links, cassette players, breakdancing etc) but he sounds so joyous that it feels like reportage: cocoa butter, blue jeans, Ben Sherman shirts, two bottles most likely full of Alizé. It’s glitzy and cuddly, but helps to build a historic time in British music that we take for granted. That last sentence applies to Craig David too – stop hating and go listen to ‘What’s Your Flava’ again, it’s great. (7)

Chris Kelly: This one’s for the ravers! I love this but probably not in the same way as my British peers. Currently searching for the German word for “nostalgia for something you didn’t actually live through.” (7)

April Clare Welsh: Dear Craig,

I first heard your velveteen voice floating through our sixth form common room speakers way back when. Sadly, I never got the chance to see you in the flesh but it’s fine because now you are back and you’re stronger, fitter and better than ever before. Last month, I was the luckiest girl in the world because I had the privilege of seeing you live twice in one weekend; you killed it in Hackney Wick with your acapella jungle rave. I actually saw you ducking out of a blacked-out car shortly before your set and very nearly ran over to say hi, but I was smoking a cigarette and I thought you may disapprove of my dissolute lifestyle. I later learned that you followed Hackney Wick with a set at Fabric, probably because you are a #eatcleantraindirty fighting machine. You were also a very welcome addition to the Major Lazer show at Alexandra Palace where I was surprised to see so many young people under 28 going batshit crazy over you. But I think the kids have woken up to your legacy, and about time too. So this new track is just wonderful; it sounds as fresh as anything you were doing way back when and yes, I am totally one of your ravers. UKG Y2K16?!

Yours forever,
April

(9)

7.3

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Pusha T – ‘Untouchable’

April Clare Welsh: “Let’s take the scenic route / I can show you the strange fruit, it’s looking like Beirut.” Yep. (7)

Son Raw: This is 96 Canal Street mixtape ready. In fact, it lands closer to material by Mobb Deep and (sample source) Biggie than Pusha’s own peak-period Clipse output, which leaned on sounds more digital than dusty. That alone is probably enough to doom it in the eyes of anyone who instinctively flinches at the idea of 90s rap styles maintaining relevance today, but if Future gets to be dark and broody, why not Pusha? I prefer a rap world aligned on darkness and hermetic coded language over one on tempo or era – which is to say I prefer this to Joey Bada$$ and Fetty Wap both. (8)

Chris Kelly: Pusha jabs with a pun about YouTube/U2, setting you up for a left hook — “the left is Patek, Philippe’s replaced by Matsuhisa” — that will have kids searching Genius faster than you can say YUGH. Here’s hoping that King Push learns the lesson of My Name Is My Name: let Pusha by Pusha and get out of the way. Now, if Timbaland could just stick to Empire and leave musicians I care about alone… (7)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Pusha T is great! Let’s not forget this. He was part of the group that made Hell Hath No Fury and Lord Willin AND We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2! Push has brought more joy into my life than many other artists, but as a solo artist, something still doesn’t click. Even with Timbaland’s slightly-drunk drums (continuing the producer’s boom-bap fixation developed on Jay-Z’s Magna Carta) and a Biggie sample functioning as a sort of anointment to rap’s upper echelons, there’s no replay value here. Look at the Pitchfork header for when the lyrics were released last week: “Lyrics Referencing U2, Donald Trump, Cash Money’s Baby, CrossFit”. That’s all well and good, but those words and the references they build don’t count towards anything stirring, clever though they may be. Pusha – one of the genre’s finest writers – gradually became just another Guy That Raps and that’s depressing. (4)

6.5

https://soundcloud.com/otflildurk/lil-durk-feat-dej-loaf-my-beyonce

Lil Durk & Dej Loaf – ‘My Beyonce’

Son Raw: Major label singles are like sausage – best not to see them being made. No I.D debating how to best position this one for maximum crossover appeal only reinforces how depressingly anodyne this song is – it’s the exact opposite of why we all got excited over Durk and the drill movement in the first place. Extra disappointing considering how fantastic Vince Staples’ album was. (3)

Chris Kelly: Rap power couple Lil Durk and Dej Loaf share a lane — Auto-Tuned street rap that mixes menace, melancholy and melody — and they both shine here. I could use another Dej verse, but the way Durk says their names like he’s writing them in a heart in his notebook is adorable. (8)

April Clare Welsh: Talk about keening! Sorry, I know I’m a fine one to talk (see my love letter to Craig David), but something about this makes me feel icky. (4)

Tayyab Amin: It’s like they’re writing their own fanfic, I love it! I mean, Durk’s slight references to Dej and she comes back with, “This ain’t what he want, I told him that.” Then there’s the way they champion themselves together as “Durk and Dej” through the hook. It all sounds like fan service, and they’re their own biggest fans. (8)

Joel Golby: Do we really need another slurry rapper telling us how much a girl he’s watching dancing makes him want to renounce all other women and/or maybe buy her a diamond? Apparently so. I mean, put it on your autumnal sex playlist, but don’t think too much more about it. (6)

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: Dej has an endearing drawl, Durk a fun bleat and C-Sick (the man behind one of the best shoulda-been-a-hit jams this decade, King L’s ‘Val Venis’) pulls in a cute twinkle of a beat, but this only really gets intriguing once you research the love triangle rippling through this song. It involves deleted IG posts, threats to out someone and Durk using a plentiful amount of emojis. Don’t ever say FACT doesn’t bring you the gossip. (6)

5.8

Final scores:

Craig David x Big Narstie – ‘When the Bassline Drops’ (7.3)
Missy Elliott – ‘WTF (Where They From)’ (6.8)
Aris Kindt – ‘Rutti’ (6.8)
Erykah Badu – ‘Phone Down’ (6.7)
Pusha T – ‘Untouchable’ (6.5)
Lil Durk & Dej Loaf – ‘My Beyonce’ (5.8)

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