Rod Wave – Pray 4 Love
Since bursting onto the scene in summer 2019 with the especially vulnerable ballad "Heart On Ice," Rod Wave has been redefining the boundaries of sing-rap.
His style is a mix of the gritty Southern street-rap heard from YoungBoy Never Broke Again and the fearless venting and emotionality personified by the late Juice WRLD. His differentiation, though, comes via a foundational singing talent that would've likely placed him in a gospel choir if heard during an earlier era.
Like YoungBoy, Wave garnered a following of young listeners on YouTube before breaking through on streaming platforms. At the time this article was written, "Girl Of My Dreams" was the #2 trending video on YouTube, sitting only behind Drake's "Toosie Slide."
Now, just five months after releasing his well-received Ghetto Gospel mixtape, Wave is back with a new full-length effort, Pray 4 Love. Recorded in the span of only one month, the 21-year-old artist originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, is eager to tell his story on standout tracks like "The Greatest" and "Thief In The Night."
Ride the Wave (sorry, couldn't help myself) if you're looking for some inspiration to get outside of the house – even if it's only for a little while. 🏃
Thundercat – It Is What It Is
2019 was a life-changing year for Thundercat as he dealt with the unexpected loss of his close friend and collaborator Mac Miller.
Learning how to come to terms with this kind of uncontrollable tragedy was one of the major influences behind It Is What It Is, Thundercat's first album in over three years.
“From [the time Mac passed], I was changed forever,” he said during an interview on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 show. “That’s just one example of it is what it is.”
While being stuck in quarantine isn't comparable to losing a loved one, some of the resulting feelings, like helplessness and impatience, are similar. On It Is What It Is, the multi-faceted artist seems to balance deep pain with his humorous, oddball personality, making for a cathartic collection of songs appropriate for the times we're living in.
You can hear this contrast on two of the album's singles, "Fair Chance," which doubles as a tribute to Mac Miller, and "Black Qualls."
“So hard to get over it / I’ve tried to get under it / Stuck in between, it is what it is,” Cat sings lightly on "Fair Chance." 🤝
Conway the Machine x The Alchemist – LULU
Like Thundercat, 2019 was also a life-changing year for Conway the Machine, but in a much more pleasurable way.
Griselda, the hard-nosed, Buffalo-bred rap trio comprised of Conway, Westside Gunn and Benny The Butcher, rose to national prominence off the strength of standout mixtapes like Benny's The Plugs I Met and Gunn's Flygod Is An Awesome God.
While Conway dropped his fair share of solo music as well, LULU represents his just due moment in the limelight. This idea is underscored by the fact that he's the first Griselda artist to do a full mixtape with legendary producer The Alchemist.
Driven by Al's signature cinematic instrumentals that place listeners in the backseat of a vintage Mercedes bought with dirty money, LULU is based off the persona of the drug dealer Luis “Lulu” Lujano from the 2002 film Paid In Full.
Beyond drug peddling know-how, Lulu and Conway share other mutual traits, like the tendency to move in silence. DJBooth's Dylan Green summarizes Lulu, and consequently, Conway, as "a deadly shadow operative, visible only when he chooses to be."
"Diss me, I don't respond, I ain't gon' give you the exposure / But the semi in the holster if the enemy approaches," Conway spits on "Shoot Sideways" featuring ScHoolboy Q.
Safe to say, you can replace your matinee with LULU. 🦈