Mic Drop: Let's Take a Genre Trip

Mic Drop: Let's Take a Genre Trip

Genesis Owusu – Gold Chains
Genesis Owusu – Gold Chains
Screenshot: YouTube

Whether it’s personal growth, stories of the past, love or jealousy, music has a way of pulling us in. From pop-rock to hip-hop to soul and R&B, this week’s releases explore a variety of emotions, voices and unique points of view on multiple important topics.

Lava La Rue, a British hip-hop/R&B artist takes us on a journey through London’s underground all the while expressing her feelings on matters such as the Black Lives Matter movement, ‘Me Too’ and LGBT+ movements. ANoyd and Ghetts, artists who fall into completely different genres, each give us a glimpse into their come-up in the industry, the toll it has taken on relationships and even ask some questions the listener might be thinking of themselves.

R&B drops of the week include tracks from Justine Skye and Mahalia, who each draw on technology to give depth to their music videos, but on opposite ends of the technological spectrum: one uses equipment like old boxy television sets and VHS cameras while the other puts more emphasis on neon lights, long-distance online manipulation and self-driving cars.

Also, Timbaland gives us a mid-90s throwback and I’m really here for it.

All in all, the music released this week embodies every emotional high and low that Black History Month encompasses. Each song pulls the listener in and does what music does best: bring out the hard-hitting emotions within.

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ANoyd – “If Not Now, When?”

ANoyd – “If Not Now, When?”

ANoyd truly asks the important questions in his newest single If Not Now, When? The song goes into some of the deeper insecurities that some face when they’re figuring out how to be successful on their own. Lyrically, the song might resonate with many and ANoyd’s clear delivery makes the impact of the words stronger. The production feels inspired by ‘90s and early-2000s hip-hop with its use of repetitive autotune background vocals, high-pitched synths and record scratches between verses. The other unique instrumentals used in the song give it a depth that adds to the slightly pleading yet determined cadence and rhythm of the vocals.

February 16, 2021, Audio BRGNDI/Eighty HD (Hip Hop)

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daydream Masi – “Can I Be The One?”

daydream Masi – “Can I Be The One?”

What do heavy drum lines, pitched voices and twinkling bells have in common? The most recent ethereal R&B track from daydream Masi, Can I Be The One? More and more, R&B music has an airy quality to it, using more devices to add layers to the instrumentals and vocals. The song starts slowly with just deep drum beats, a keyboard and vocals. As it progresses, different vocal tracks and instruments are layered until the hook, which climaxes into bass, drum machine, keyboard and shimmering bells that echo when the song ends, leaving you wanting to hear it again.

February 19, 2021, Interscope Records (R&B)

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Genesis Owusu – “Gold Chains”

Genesis Owusu – “Gold Chains”

Genesis Owusu has been called an “unspecified artist,” meaning his work falls under a variety of genres and moves through them progressively throughout each song. Gold Chains is absolutely no exception to this classification. When I first heard it, the introductory electric guitar, drumline and vocals were so soulful I figured, “this is a soul song, through and through.” But boy, was I wrong. This song embodies R&B, hip-hop, soul and even a little rock. Owusu breaks the conventions of how music fits into boxes with his flow, synths and vocals. Black History Month has been all about Black joy at The Root and the video that accompanies this song is a visual embodiment of Black joy. Think of all of the gold chains you’ve seen someone wear, then multiply it tenfold. Then add some Black suits, an inflatable pool and gold streamers and you have a fraction of the magic that is this video.

February 18, 2021, House Anxiety/Ourness (Genre Unspecified)

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Ghetts – “Autobiography”

Ghetts – “Autobiography”

Telling stories through music is a huge part of what connects the artist to the listener. On February 19, 2021, Ghetts released his new album, Conflict of Interest, with 16 songs and features artists such as Skepta, Stormzy and… Ed Sheeran? The wide range of musical talent on the album lends to the storytelling of Ghetts’ upbringing, with most of the music fitting into the very hard and sharp grime genre—but Autobiography has a softer flow and quieter instrumentals. The song closes with a vocal harmony on top of rapping while pulling in a string section. Autobiography details the relationship he has with his family, mental health and provides perspective into the process of making it in the industry.

February 19, 2021, 679 Artists, (Grime/Hip Hop)

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Jansport J – “See Me Through”

Jansport J – “See Me Through”

I’ve always been a fan of low-fidelity (LoFi) music. I find it very calming to listen to and it’s also the type of music that can be played in the background while I’m working, cooking, you name it, since it is all instrumental but uses a wide range of techniques to give the song depth. Jansport J released a new album on February 19, 2021, titled Save My Soul II. The album features 13 songs that all fall under the LoFi genre. Though each song is instrumental, some have quiet, autotuned vocals during the intro, giving See Me Through a lot of depth, enhanced by its use of traditional instrumentation with bass lines and looped guitars that give it a very swaying and easygoing vibe.

February 18, 2021, All Attraction, No Chasin’ Co (LoFi)

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Justine Skye – “Intruded (prod. Timbaland)”

Justine Skye – “Intruded (prod. Timbaland)”

Let’s talk about the retro magic that Justine Skye has created with her new music video for Intruder. The song itself is very much of the “smooth R&B” subgenre, using a harmonizing electric guitar and synths to accompany her vocals. Okay, now the video: From cameos with Bella Hadid and Lil Yachty to the major Aaliyah vibes, the video is all over the place and will have you fucked up within the first minute. She keeps it current with bright colors and stylish costumes—but what else can we expect from the singer/model/actress powerhouse? There is even a cover/sample of *stops myself* just go listen. Timbaland done did it again, that’s all I have to say.

February 19, 2021, Nynetineth (R&B)

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Lava La Rue – “Magpie”

Lava La Rue – “Magpie”

Lava La Rue is a west Londoner who was named “one to watch” by The Guardian in 2019 and has just dropped her most recent EP, Butter-Fly. The first track, Magpie has an accompanying video, which seems to take place on a hybrid spaceship/underground train and features a diverse group of people doing a wide variety of non-train sanctioned activities (think: stealing gold and shoving it into your pockets while smoking a cigarette). Everyone looks so happy and like they’re having the time of their lives, but behind them are messages advocating for various issues—If it’s worth fighting for, it’s on a sign and Lava La Rue is talking about it. Not only does the video have an eerie outer space vibe, but the composition of the music does as well. Reverberating synths create a symphony of vibrant but chilling melodies and instrumentals.

February 19, 2021, Marathon Artists (Hip Hop)

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MadeinTYO – “HUNNIDDOLLA”

MadeinTYO – “HUNNIDDOLLA”

This synth trap track from MadeinTYO is one of those songs where it’s hard to tell what’s what because it all melds together so perfectly. The song features synths (obviously) but also has leads, a type of beat that is more melodic than it is percussive. The drums come in subtly in the beginning and then get a bit more aggressive before the hook. One of the coolest parts of the song is the use of melody as percussion, something artists like KAYTRANADA have been doing for some time.

February 20, 2021, Comission Records (Synth Trap)

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Mahalia – “Jealous (feat. Rico Nasty)”

Mahalia – “Jealous (feat. Rico Nasty)”

Ah, revenge, a dish best served cold—or in Mahalia’s case, served in a boiling shower in a high-tech mansion shrouded in blue light and controlled by Rico Nasty. Jealous tells the classic tale of “guy does something dumb, girl gets hurt, girl realizes she’s better than the guy and then goes and steps on his neck.” The musical composition uses Spanish-style acoustic guitars, heavy drums and hard claps that drive the beat. The video features hyper-realistic cyber-tech, self-driving cars, and skintight leather outfits giving it a “futuristic-rich-bitch” feel. On top of her verse, Rico stays playing the puppet master and executes the revenge plot perfectly.

February 17, 2021, East West Records UK Ltd (Hip Hop/R&B)

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Trippie Redd – PILL BREAKER (feat. Machine Gun Kelly & blackbear)

Trippie Redd – PILL BREAKER (feat. Machine Gun Kelly & blackbear)

How do I even begin to talk about Trippie Redd’s country album featuring Machine Gun Kelly? I’m all for music-crossing genres, but this one has me scratching my head a bit. Trippie Redd has been talking about making a rock album since June 2020, when he announced he was recording his third album, Pegasus, released last October. This new drop, Neon Shark vs. Pegasus is a deluxe project and collaboration with Travis Barker, introducing 14 new tracks to the original Pegasus album. PILL BREAKER features Machine Gun Kelly and black bear and feels much more “pop-rock” because of the bouncy electric guitar and keyboard melodies that build during the hook. The song uses a mix of auto-tuned vocals alongside ones that aren’t mixed at all. It’s an interesting blend of rock and Redd’s traditional cadence, tone and delivery.

February 19, 2021, 10K Projects/Caroline (Pop-Rock)

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DISCUSSION