Here we are again, audiophiles! Another Friday, which means another installment of ESSENCE’s The Playlist.
The first week of May has been a mixture of highs and lows, hasn’t it? The streets are still buzzing over Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s “Savage” (Remix), ESPN’s The Last Dance soundtrack is on every sports fan’s must-hear list, and we pour out some libation for one of the pioneers of Afrobeat, Tony Allen, who passed away recently at the age of 79.
All in all, your new (and hopefully growing favorite) audio adventurer, Kevin L. Clark (@KevitoClark), is excited we made it through this week safe and sound. After heading down to funky town with Brittany Howard and sharing 21 Savage’s secret with Summer Walker, this episode spotlights the alluring sounds of Rose Gold, London’s own Emmavie, and a humble, Playlist-exclusive premiere by the innovative and imaginative Shabazz Palaces.
1. Shabazz Palaces — “Thanking The Girls”
Ishmael Butler, the MC behind the futurist duo known as Shabazz Palaces, looks to his progeny on his latest project The Don of Diamond Dreams. From citing his son, pioneering emo-rapper Lil Tracy, as a profound influence to opening up about the death of his father — Ish (as well as Tendai “Baba” Maraire) channels a record that feels more human and down-to-earth than its predecessors. “As time whispers in our ears, we consider these truths and live with them distantly on our minds,” Ish shares with ESSENCE.
On “Thanking the Girls,” an ode to Ish’s daughters, the co-founder behind Digable Planets creates a touching lyric video that is pretty thoughtful and provocative. Directed by Josh Sessoms, the love Butler exhibits to his kin unfolds coolly over a beautifully off-kilter soundscape. “I dropped [Josh] a direct message after coming across his work on Instagram,” Ish says. “At first, [I wanted] him to design the cover art for the single and also buy a piece of his work for myself and my family because I like his style so much. When we spoke on the phone, [we just went over] cursory stuff for him to gauge what I wanted, but I also wanted him to do [the lyric video] whatever way he saw fit.”
Overarchingly, “Thanking the Girls” is a message that anyone who has someone special in their life can relate to. “Life is a garden of forming paths,” Ish shares when asked what listeners should take away from this song and lyric video. “And down every road at every intersection special women, whether family or those we meet along the way, bring joy and challenge and love and depth and richness to us that we carry with us forever.”
Brimming bright with a dedication to the women in Ish’s life, “Thanking the Girls” is a wonderful tribute that proves that this slick-talking, experimental rap bohemian is still a real G that should be protected at all costs.
2. Gregory Porter — “Phoenix”
This two-time Grammy Award-winner makes a solid return to form on “Phoenix,” a new single from his forthcoming album ALL RISE. Following his gospel-tinged, praiseworthy cut, “Revival,” Porter sings about “the undying, irrepressible spirit of love,” and gives a bit of hope to those who have gone through a great blow to the heart. [Ed. Note: Rest in Peace to his brother, Lloyd Cornelious Porter.]
3. Rose Gold — “Stay Down” (ft. Like)
2020 is poised to be a breakout year for Rose Gold. A staple in the music scene out West, this Baltimore original steps onto center stage with “Stay Down,” which was produced by and features Pac Div’s own Like. Imbued with a few key samples—namely Junior M.A.F.I.A. and some funky Erykah Badu drums—”Stay Down” is a mellow groove that follows her previous single, “Purpose II,” and ramps up anticipation for her debut album, set for release later this year.
4. Emmavie — “I Hope We Never Break Up”
Emmavie is a London-bred singer-songwriter who I first showcased on my health-and-music newsletter, #KevitoSays. Her captivating style and luscious vocals make her a standout future star from the U.K., while “I Hope We Never Break Up” follows in line with her “free from boundaries” style of creation. “The song is about when you first start seeing someone and you’re infatuated with them,” she shared via email. Despite this being her second music video ever, “I Hope We Never Break Up” is a very strong introduction by an artist I hope you all can connect with.
5. Run the Jewels — “Ooh LA LA” (ft. Greg Nice & DJ Premier)
If you heard this song before its pre-pandemic release, then you’re a real fan of the Netflix series Ozark. “Ooh LA LA” marks the bombastic return of everyone’s favorite anti-establishment, ride-or-die rap duo, Run the Jewels. The video serves as a commentary on class divisions and capitalism, which have been painfully revealed through this coronavirus crisis. A utopic and raucous cut, “Ooh LA LA” is a people’s party worth keeping on repeat until RTJ4 comes out.
6. KEM — “Lie To Me”
It has been six long, agonizing years since we’ve last heard from KEM, but now the multi-instrumentalist returns with a beautiful song called “Lie To Me.” Written by the Grammy-nominated singer, along with Anthony Hamilton, Salaami Remi, and Roots member James Poyser, “Lie To Me” is a smooth tune about loving that special lady in his life for who she is and not for who others want her to be. As a newlywed, settle into this new season of Kem’s life by listening to this song on repeat.
7. Teenear — “Come See Me”
Hailing from Miami, Florida, by way of Jamaica, Teenear could definitely use some company after her long trek. On her latest single, “Come See Me,” the singer-songwriter offers her genre-bending vocals over this smooth, mid-tempo track produced by AVB, Clint Ford, and Keyz, which would be the right choice for anyone’s Red Light Special playlist for those late-night cuddle sessions.
8. Little Simz — “one life, might live”
Little Simz is one of my favorite MCs in the game. Her music is born out of dark times and arguably 2019 was a banner year for the Top Boy actress. “one life, might live” comes via her new EP, Drop 6, her first new material since the Mercury Prize-nominated GREY Area, and written, recorded, and produced within one month under quarantine. The bass-driven cut really slaps as she raps about the need for self-love and honest-living.
9. Ric Wilson & Terrace Martin — “Breakin Rules” (Corbin Dallas)
“We don’t want that weak sh*t no mo’,” Chicago’s own Ric Wilson professes on the opening track of this two-step-inducing groove called “Breakin Rules.” The activist and rapper, who is a Young Chicago Authors alumni with Noname, Chance the Rapper, Saba, and Jamila Woods, connects his natural jubilance with Terrace Martin’s otherworldly production to create, They Call Me Disco, a disco-inspired six-track collaborative EP that will have you wanting to take your freedom to have fun to new heights.
10. Joyce Wrice — “That’s On You”
By now, there shouldn’t be too many who love music who aren’t familiar with the dulcet tones of Joyce Wrice. A favorite of both those in the streets (“The Rivington,” ft. Conway and Westside Gunn) and those in the sheets (“With You” ft. Devin Morrison) — this LA-based talent musters the courage to ask the important questions over a plush electric guitar. Wrice sounds heavenly atop the track’s sparse production, so play this one a few times and like Calgon, let her take you away!