Sunday’s Best Pt. XXIX: 2013 Downloads

Welcome to another edition of Sunday’s Best! Today we’ll be discussing some of our favourite downloads from this year so far. Light a candle. Enjoy your stay. Cassie’s eponymous debut positioned her as r&b’s ingénue –barely twenty years old at the time, her voice trembled across slow jams like “Kiss Me” and “Not with You” with a vulnerability that, although compelling, left a lot to be desired technically. Since then she’s racked up three or four albums’ worth of unreleased material , a treasure chest which lays claim to some of her finest work. But with only a patchy string of singles adding weight to her official discography (most of which failed to chart), even the most ardent Cassie fans began to give up hope of a successful follow-up. Comeback mixtape “RockaByeBaby”, which dropped in April, puts those doubts to rest and serves as her ‘I’m still here, your patience will be rewarded’ letter to fans. Her first major effort in seven years, Cassie embraces the time that has passed instead of trying to pick up where “Cassie” left off. The tape reflects her growth as an artist and as a person; she’s swapped the saccharine-sweet Ryan Leslie pop for street anthems from a production roster that includes Rob Holladay, Young Chop and Da Internz. She’s also hung up her breathy quiver in favour of an icy hard-edged staccato – as on “Take Care of Me Baby” where she trades bars with Pusha T over a Mike Will beat. Yep, Cassie’s got flow! “RockaByeBaby”’s title track sees her spitting in double-time either side of a chorus which boasts ‘we be shining like a diamond that your money can’t buy’, whereas the way she drawls on lead single “Numb” is so laid-back it would make Roc Marciano look twice. A naivety marked the lyrics on “Cassie”, but there’s nothing passive or submissive about what she’s singing now (‘you fuck me?/fuck me like you mean it’ –  “I Love It”). It feels like she’s clawing back ownership of her musical and personal identity, confronting the gaze that has framed her career since “Me & U” and bending it to her will. As she told the Fader in an interview about the tape: “I finally got to deliver myself to people in the way that I want them to see me.”

There’s a wealth of guest spots on the tape – French Montana, Fabolous, Rick Ross, Too $hort, Ester Dean and Meek Mill all contribute – but only rarely does it feel unnecessary or distracting. Even Wiz scrubs up nicely for his verse on “Paradise”, a searing cocktail of sirens and twinkly synths. Jeremih lays down an impressive vocal on “Sound of Love” – almost too impressive considering Cassie’s shortcomings in that area. Nevertheless, their duet is a highlight and Jeremih’s angelic falsetto complements rather than dominates. But our favourite is “All My Love”, which closes the tape with a playful spring in its step. Clocking in at less than two minutes, our only complaint is that it should be longer (though Kingdom has layered it over “Fogs”, added some extra crunch and doubled it in length here)! As we wrote back in January, ‘any fan of Cassie has already drily accepted [the second album’s] potential to be a complete trainwreck’. This stifling doomed-to-disappoint narrative that comes hand-in-hand with Cassie’s allure is partly what makes it so damn satisfying that “RockaByeBaby” pays dividends. It documents Cassie’s small but confident steps into rap territory, not least on the “m.A.A.d City”-referencing “I Know What You Want”. If it’s indicative of the vibe she’s chasing for the sophomore LP, then maybe the seven years’ worth of reschedules, delays and false starts have been a blessing in disguise.

Stream: Cassie – Sound of Love (feat. Jeremih)
Download:Cassie – RockaByeBaby (via DatPiff)

While it seems like digging 90s era north-east rap seems to be becoming cool again, few of these newcomers mining that era seem to be willing to mine the darker parts of it. Enter Retch’s “Fly Away” with a beat that sounds like it could have been on War Report, it’s timeless paranoid but-still-hustling-rap music. The kind of track that fits right at home on your pound the pavement playlist and is a highlight of Retch’s tape, “Delinquents & Degenerates” which features an excellent array of sounds but Retch sounds a lot better over throwback “classic” sample based beats. He’s not the first rapper to lose himself when they lean a bit more towards a more electronic sound (“Nazareth”, “Newport Music”) but thankfully he does a good job of balancing the tape out soundscape wise. Retch is one to watch going forward and if his appearance alongside Action Bronson (Riff Raff, Sean Price and Meyhem Lauren too!) in the “Strictly 4 My Jeeps” means some secret co-sign or alliance then we’ll definitely be seeing more of him.

Download: Retch – Fly Away (feat. Sha Hef)

Chicago native Sir Michael Rocks of The Cool Kids fame announced at the beginning of the year that both him and partner in crime Chuck Inglish would take an indefinite hiatus to focus on their solo careers. After the success of his previous tape “Lap of Lux”, he’s been plotting his upcoming “Banco” EP is set to consist of ten tracks that feature the likes of Twista, Jeremih and Trinidad James. The EP has been a long time coming, but it seems that we’ll have to wait a little longer as Sir Mikey has decided to wet our appetite with his “While You Wait..” project until the Banco drop. First up from this endeavour is a collaboration with top dawg Ab-Soul who delivers a clean, harsh and effortless verse as we’re used to seeing from Soulo. But perhaps the real star of this four minute spectacle is who’s behind the buttons: Mac Miller hides behind his alias Larry Fisherman as he cooks up a remarkably dark and mystical beat for the two, which is sincerely bound to make even the deepest of Mac Miller cynics give the boy another chance. If “In A Minute” is a steady indication of what’s to come for Mike this year, we’ll happily camp out in the waiting room a little longer.

Download: Sir Michael Rocks – In A Minute (feat. Ab-Soul & Dash) (Prod. by Larry Fisherman)

This trunk-knocker comes from the founder and co-founder of Atlanta collective Two-9, Curtis Williams and his brother Key. It’s a brief joint, laced with a beat that sounds like a polyphonic ringtone accompanied by a bass that bounces true to the ATL music scene. Key alludes to one of Atlanta’s major players in the opening verse with the line  “I think I’m Snowman, I’m a go-getta” referencing Young Jeezy and even throws in Jeezy’s signature “Yeeeeeaaaaauuhhhh” adlib. The song has the right mix of catchiness tailored to the summer, even though it was released 6 months ago, while touting money-making as most these songs do. “I’m a hearthrob and she know that” kicks off the hook, and the rest of the song sounds just as good as any Migos (also an ATL crew getting summer buzz) track you’ve heard.  Curtis Williams just dropped his mixtape  Half Forgotten Daydreams on August 3rd, and Two-9 should be releasing new music soon.

Download: Curtis Williams x Key – Income (Prod. by Key)

SertOne’s been busy making juke, beat-generation-inspired cassettes and playing festivals, and now he’s back on his remix game. RAP (Remixes), his first work with Cosmonostro, was slated to be a four-track release of different remixes, but sadly sample clearance put paid to that. What we’ve got, however, are two sublime remixes of Little Dragon and Med and Blu. “Little Man” is possibly the “poppiest” track Sert has done do date, wrapped in a lush haze of sound, shifting the jerky energy of the original to a bright, lilting pace. At the same time, we’ve got those hip-hop staples, sci-fi sound effects and crisp drum-machine rolls. “Belly Full” on the other hand opens with nervous, upwards shifting scale before heading back towards snarling basslines and winking organs. “Slow it down,” a voice says. As instructed, those scales shift in tempo before. It’s a nice touch, before a series of instrumental flourishes round out the track. It’s a shame the full package, featuring Action Bronson and Freddie Gibbs, didn’t make it to the release, but if you look hard enough it’s floating around out there. It’s worth the hunt, especially for that Bronsolini rework – it features some of SertOne’s best improv to date. The four instrumentals are on the way too, so we’ve that to look forward to as well.

Download: Little Dragon – Little Man (SertOne Remix)

Across an impressive if so-far brief discography comprising of two EPs and a track released as part Long Island Electrical Systems’ American Noise compilation, Brooklyn-based artist Terekke has demonstrated a masterful ability to make dubby, analogue house smothered with tape hiss. While rich in atmospherics and characterised by a languid tempo, his first release ‘Damn / Pf Pf Pass’ was a somewhat more jacking affair compared to his second EP on L.I.E.S. Yyyyyyyyyy, arguably one of the standout releases from the label’s consistently impressive catalogue, tended that little bit more towards the ambient side of things, with the chugging drums being more withdrawn and with even more cosmic atmospherics. This tendency is also reflected (and amplified) in the track ‘atba’ that Terekke had uploaded to his Soundcloud page and recently made available for download. Billowing pads comprise the majority of this hazy ambient piece, with only a slight hint at anything percussive echoing from deep within the mix. Like the rest of Terekke’s music, the result is as beautiful as it is understated.

Download: Terekke – Atba 

Words by: Sophie Kindreich, Donny Marks, Sindhuja Shyam, Kyle Brayton, Aidan Hanratty & Eradj Yakubov.