“Don’t You Love” – Lil Silva


It’s not quite the British Invasion of the 60’s but UK acts are still making waves in the states from The Arctic Monkeys and Charli XCX to Hudson Mohawke, James Blake, and SBTRKT. Lil Silva may soon be in the mix. The Bedford-born producer just released his EP, Mabel which brought him from behind the boards and into the spotlight as a vocalist as he continued to show off his brooding and immersive sound. On “Don’t You Love” Silva teams up with frequent collaborator Banks. Both singers gently croon over the wobbly bass as it slowly intensifies. Their voices and earnest but short lyrics make for an ambiguous emotive impact that can easily be labeled as contemporary RnB…or whatever you want to call it.

“Dope”- Jeremih & Shlohmo


I’m pretty sure Jeremih is still best known for his birthday presents, but over the last year couple of years he’s been making a quiet resurgence by popping up on the radio hits here and there while releasing mixtapes. “Dope” comes from the collaborative EP No More with L.A. producer Shlohmo behind the soundscapes. The concept of a lover being addictive like a drug you need a needle for isn’t new but it’s usually effective. This is another one of those cases. Distorted background vocals follow Jeremih’s yearning lyrics across the sparse beat for a little under three minutes. By the end of the song it sounds like a lonely creepy obsession but the guy happens to have a sly voice with a falsetto hook. An unsuspecting victim of when the good good is too good.

“Backyard” -Travi$ Scott


You’ve heard Travi$ Scott even if you don’t recognize the stylized name. He’s produced on Cruel Summer, YeezusMagna Carta Holy Grail, and smaller albums in the past few years. Now he’s moving from behind the scenes again after dropping his second mixtape Days Before Rodeo. “Backyard” lifts the second half of the tape with rag to riches rhymes over a driving bass heavy instrumental. It’s also an example, along with other tracks, of how the XXL Freshmen can adopt different styles (this could’ve been a Kendrick or A$AP song) and flows while keeping a distinct sound. Expect to be hearing more from the Drake approved Scott when he puts out his LP Rodeo later this year.

You can download both of his mixtapes below.

Owl Pharoah 

Days Before Rodeo

“Sophisticated Goon Shit” -Greg Enemy


Kansas City rapper Greg Enemy took TLC’s Creep and refashioned it into a style all his own. His smooth flow is filled with sneaky wordplay and high brow vista imagery. The song drops references ranging from Sigmund Freud and James Baldwin to pirates and Burberry beatle boots into cohesive bars. It’s easy to hear his influence from Outkast and Tribe Called Quest (and I do mean easy). He’s also been associated with Bear Club Music Group founded by P. Morris. You can download Enemy’s album xtra small here.

“We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue” -Curtis Mayfield


Many people can’t weave social issues like “team light skin vs team black skin”, street violence, economic empowerment, and racial unity into a lyrically concise six minute song. Well, that’s unless you were one of the leading voices in funk and psychedelic soul during the Black Power Movement. Mayfield’s vocals and words carry a deep conversational tone that leads straight into a DPJ approved percussion solo by Henry Gibson (not the actor, but that would be crazy). The horns, bass lines, and socially conscious lyrics heard throughout Mayfield’s debut album Curtis showed his evolving style from his days as the lead singer of the Impressions. Powerful and poetic, the song elevates above being preachy and instead inspires.