That Way- Lil Uzi Vert
After the release of “That Way” last week, I asked my followers on social media if Lil Uzi Vert was a top-15 mainstream rapper at the moment and about 55-60% said they thought he was. I’m happy to report that those people will, in the future, be regarded as being on the right side of history. Lil Uzi Vert is one of the most enjoyable rappers alive and “That Way” might be the best song he’s released since his ubiquitous “XO TOUR LLIF3” from 2017.
As of writing this, his latest album, ETERNAL ATAKE, has finally been released (it’s one of the best rap albums of 2020 so far and you’ll be able to read about it here in the coming days), but I still can’t shake how mesmerizing “That Way” is. It interpolates the famous hook from the Backstreet Boys, which absolutely feels like something only Uzi could pull off rapping over and it embodies and captures everything that makes Uzi great: It’s self-aware and clever, it always seems like Uzi is winking and grinning at his listeners as he’s rapping, and it feels like a song made for kids from the Vine era.
It’s rare that Uzi ever sounds like he’s not having as much fun as humanly possibly as he raps. Bars in this like, “And he dropped an album?? Thought it was trash day.” and “Yeah, I’m slimy like a snail, but I ain’t no slow poke.” capture that perfectly. Uzi is such a jubilant personality and feels like he’s beaming on this track, and therefore, listeners can’t help but be invested as they’re invited in to experience the joy he’s feeling.
Uzi’s voice is elastic in the way it snaps and bends over every beat he raps on. He’s magnetic when he croons and let’s his voice stretch over the beat, but he has this incredible way of bouncing right back in and rapping witty and potent bars dexterously. The delivery on “That Way” is especially reminiscent of his earlier work (think: LUV IS RAGE and LIL UZI VERT VS THE WORLD), but Uzi is a far more talented rapper than he was five years ago, so he’s able to merge his dreamlike melodies with fun and energetic bars more effectively now. And Uzi’s somber “They laugh at me because I’m emo” bar is one of the most perfectly hilarious Uzi deliveries in quite some time. Incredible song.
ringtone (remix) (feat. Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, Kero Kero Bonito)- 100 gecs
I mostly started this blog because in 2019, I really wanted a place that I could write a long essay about how Charli XCX released one of the best albums of the decade (CHARLI) and how she’s one of the most essential artists making music right now. Though I still have yet to write that piece, I can say with confidence that she hasn’t stopped delivering in this new decade.
“Ringtone” is a 100 gecs song from their 2019 album, 1000 GECS. 100 gecs is the online LA duo that makes very… millennial music, which will either be an appealing description to some or a disastrous turn-off to others. But their millennial sound is what makes their song “ringtone” perfect to be remixed by one of the most prolific millennial artists of our time, Charli XCX.
Charli is an astoundingly brilliant artist. She’s effortlessly charming and also self-deprecating. She takes things seriously enough, but she also makes it clear that nothing in life REALLY matters and with that in mind, why would she ever make music that’s miserable and droning? Even some of her more difficult songs to grapple with, like “Gone” (from CHARLI), are infectious and feel like something that anybody could dance to. There’s something very millennial about being able to find comfort and solace in dancing to a song about terrible anxiety and mania.
On the “ringtone” remix, after delivering her buoyant first verse, Charli is mostly responsible for delivering the dizzyingly fun chorus (the hypnotic chant of, “My boy’s got his own ringtone, it’s the only one I know, it’s the only one I know). It’s catchy as all hell and why Charli excels at making pop music… Her hooks are impossible to get out of your head and they’re never pandering.
The “ringtone” remix feels like it builds up to Rico Nasty’s verse, who most people probably know from her incredible 2018 album, NASTY. On this track, Rico gets a true opportunity to show off how incredible her pop sensibilities can be and she absolutely shines. She raps with the fervor of a 17-year-old high school cheerleader in love with the star quarterback of her varsity team. It’s not the usual Rico, which is usually hilariously raunchy, but it works wonderfully because the pulsating beat from 100 gecs and the inescapably sunny hook from Charli set up the perfect atmosphere for this type of sound to thrive. Both Charli and Rico continue to never miss.
Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E.) (feat. Future and Miguel)- Jhené Aiko
Jhené Aiko makes music for girls who make tweets like, “Jhené Aiko makes music for girls who cheat on their boyfriends and then blame their zodiac sign.”, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t often make compelling music, mostly about relationships and the difficulty and triumphs that come with navigating the world of romance in your late 20s/early 30s. Her latest single off of her new album, CHILOMBO (which just came out and is solid enough), enlists Future and Miguel to help her make a song about people that aren’t hoes just because they know what they want.
Jhené has never not been an incredible singer. All through her newest album she continuously displays that, and “Happiness Over Everything” is no different. Her voice is airy and sultry, and as she sings that she isn’t a hoe but that “the print in the sweat pants has her weak off in her knees”, she gives listeners the feeling of lustful haziness. She slinks in and out of the song, riffing around with Miguel periodically, which works exceptionally well. She never feels like she’s forcing anything, which is high praise.
Future does exactly what you would expect on a song with Jhené Aiko called “H.O.E.”. As time goes on, I become more certain that he’s one of the 20 greatest rappers ever. One of the most remarkable bits about Future is how comfortably he can make heavy, drug-addled, nihilistic music as well as he can make deliriously effective pop music. Though Jhené usually makes wavier pop music than say, Charli XCX, it’s still pop, and Future is absolutely in his element here. In what feels like the same breath, he likens himself to being worshipped like Jesus Christ and how people try to crucify him AND also how he likes it when his girl does Pilates.
Miguel is one of the more underrated artists of the past decade. His voice is warm and expressive and he oozes sensuality and tenderness when he sings. The hook he provides here feels like the anchor that keeps the song grounded and balanced. He puts as much passion into every word as he can muster and vocally, him and Jhené are a lovely and fully realized duo, topped off by Future adlibbing chants of “Freak, freak, freak” underneath them. It’s a trio that makes so much sense that it’s almost shocking they’ve all never collaborated before.