I can’t remember the last time so many equally great tracks appeared in the same edition of Bars. While each week features an excellent selection, some tracks are clearly better than others. I can’t sit here, lie to you and say Future can hold a candle to Missy Elliott. However, this week was different. Each of these five – carefully and skilfully selected – tracks are as catchy, original and barking mad as the other. Each dabble in the difficult expertise known as ‘making decent music in 2017’. Each venture outside their preconceived genres to apply the genius of styles both contemporary and antiquated. If anything, the past week was a teaser to the year ahead. Perhaps 2017 won’t be defined by any one artist or style, but rather a diverse, clustered and consolidated variety of crossovers and collaborations. While this isn’t a new concept by any stretch, it does suggest a change in how artists perceive and create music.
Vince Staples, Stormzy, Dirty Projectors, Anna Wise, Paul White, and Danny Brown are all mad geniuses
01. Anna Wise - 'Coconuts'
Anna Wise is rising above the constraints of being musically typecast. Though she is most well-known for collaborating with Kendrick Lamar on some of his best tracks (‘Real’ and ‘These Walls’ to name a few) the past few years have seen Wise evolving and moulding an exciting career trajectory of her own. For example, few other artists can successfully fuse pop, R&B, and jazz over a throwback trap beat and make it look like a piece of piss. Somehow, Wise does this and more on ‘Coconuts’, a hypnotic pop odyssey that blends so many styles it’ll make your head spin.
The fact that the production requires this much second-guessing only shows the extent of Wise’s expertise as a songwriter and composer. In fact, All Saints’ 2000 hit single ‘Pure Shores’ is the only other track that bears even a slight resemblance to ‘Coconuts’. At once, Anna Wise makes a summery crossover that can still produce cosmic hallucinations. Perhaps Wise herself knows as well as anyone how styles diametrically opposed can connect in an otherworldly fashion. “Everything is beautiful and ugly at the same time/It’s all how you see.”
02. Dirty Projectors - 'Cool Your Heart (feat. D∆WN)'
David Longstreth seemed doomed by heartbreak. The past few months have seen his Dirty Projectors project dropping gut-wrenching break-up pieces that do anything but curtail the hurt of Longstreth losing his long-time partner in Amber Coffman. Or perhaps that’s what he wanted you to think. ‘Cool Your Heart’ is a throwback to the Bitte Orca-era semantics of the band. The jittery timing and layered harmonics pose a time – for Longstreth and the band – that was both simpler and more volatile. It’s also no surprise that the song was co-written by Solange. The warm, reggae influence thrown over emotionally clashing ideas could fit snug in the middle of A Seat at the Table. But it’s D∆WN (aka Dawn Richards) who steals the show with her glittery vocals. “I wanna be where you are/ You’re the right one/ I wanna be where you are/ Cool your heart”. As far as breakup songs go, it’s astoundingly uplifting. As far as collaborations go, the final minute of Longstreth and D∆WN singing in unison is a heart-warming show of renewal.
03. Paul White - 'Accelerator (feat. Danny Brown)'
Danny Brown is the kind of rapper that could front a hardcore band, or a post-punk band, or a metal band. Hell, he could do Christian folk music if he put in the time. Likewise, Paul White is the type of producer who can drop a beat with anyone and drop it well. After announcing a collaborative EP, the duo of Brown and White have released their first single and music video for ‘Accelerator’. The name isn’t there for hyperbole. This track feels like a non-stop head-rush. In fact, it’s hard to categorise this thing as any more than two mad geniuses who did too much Adderall and found an empty studio. And here’s the crazy thing, it works. Thumping bass lines, mind-melting distortion, Danny Brown’s reckless lyricism and by-God the thing still works. Any other rapper would lose pace and crumble under the abrasiveness of Paul White’s direction. But Brown isn’t just any other rapper. And judging by the mind-scattering visuals this isn’t just any other collaboration. The fucking lunatics.
04. Stormzy - 'Big for Your Boots'
Stormzy’s name is synonymous with grime; a powerful genre that’s been growing and growing for years and is yet to falter. Since dropping a string of crossover singles and taking an extended hiatus, the London MC returns with best work yet. No shit, listen carefully. His. Best. Work. Yet. ‘Big for Your Boots’ is a non-stop grime banger. Stormzy is typically lethal behind the mic, but the catchiness of the hook takes the cake. Stormzy’s spitfire bars coil around the tumultuous jungle and garage-influenced production, barely allowing a pause for breath among its four-minute duration. In accompaniment with the excellent visuals (in which Stormzy proves he’s not only a charismatic showman but a cultural everyman as well) ‘Big for Your Boots’ is the perfect return for a young artist on the cusp of taking grime in an unheralded, albeit exiting new direction.
05. Vince Staples - 'BagBak'
Ever wondered what it’s like to have Vince Staples punch you in the gut? Well, here’s your chance. ‘BagBak’ is the Long Beach MC’s first track since last year’s excellent Prima Donna EP. It’s also his most politically driven cut to date. Staples – being the verbose wordsmith he is – spares no punches when outlining his position on the new Trump Administration. According to Staples, “We need Tamikas and Shaniquas in that oval office” and until the President understands the degradation of African-American neighbourhoods, “Vincent won’t be voting”. What’s perhaps even more muscular than Staples’ rapid-fire slandering is the heavy production courtesy of Ray Brady. This shit sounds like Yeezus looped over the filthiest, sludgiest, murkiest Chicago house track you can imagine. Rounding out this less-than-three-minute number is Staples’ chest-beating maxim for the one percent, the President, and the government to “suck his dick”. When Vincent Staples yells “We on now!” It’s best to climb aboard or jump out of the way. Quickly.