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New Music Fridays: Cardi B Debuts and A$AP Rocky Recruits Moby

Also featured: Colombian American singer Kali Uchis and rappers Rae Sremmurd and Lil Xan in our weekly release guide

Cardi B, Kali Uchis, and A$AP Rocky Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Every Friday, we’re bombarded with a slew of new music releases vying for inclusion on our streaming playlists. To help cut through the fat, this column will assess the week’s most notable single and album drops and advise you to either stream or skip.

Order of Operations

Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
A$AP Rocky — “A$AP Forever (feat. Moby)”
Kali Uchis — Isolation
Slim Jxmmi — “Chanel (feat. Rae Sremmurd and Pharrell)”
Lil Xan — Total Xanarchy

The Headliner

Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy

What to Know: It’s finally here. Six months after “Bodak Yellow” hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Cardi’s debut LP has arrived, and she’s managed to keep the buzz alive with memorable turns on Bruno Mars’s “Finesse” remix and G-Eazy’s “No Limit.” Invasion of Privacy is supported by four singles, including “Bodak,” and almost half the songs feature guest appearances that were kept quiet until release day, including contributions from Chance the Rapper, Kehlani, and SZA.

Why Stream It: Despite blowing up seemingly out of nowhere, Cardi has shown flashes that suggest she’s worth keeping an eye on. Ghostwritten or not, the single “Be Careful”—in which she alternates between rapping and singing about being cheated on by her fiancé—shows a vulnerable side that not every artist can muster in their attempts at post-viral legitimacy. “Ring” and “Thru Your Phone” are R&B experiments in that same vein and serve as proof that Cardi has some artistic vision beyond chasing club bangers. Invasion of Privacy may not be her Lemonade, but it’s not 13 desperate attempts to recreate “Bodak Yellow,” either.

Why Skip It: If you found “Bodak” and follow-up single “Bartier Cardi” grating and her social media antics obnoxious, Invasion of Privacy likely won’t change your mind about Cardi. As promising as some of her ideas might be, the tracks run together and create a broken-record effect after a while, and the Migos-assisted “Drip” is an example of the direction she should avoid: The one-of-a-kind personality she’s displayed in her best work is absent, replaced with a paint-by-numbers flow.

The Queue

A$AP Rocky — “A$AP Forever” (feat. Moby)

What to Know: It’s been nearly three years since A$AP Rocky’s last full-length release, and he is almost ready to drop his third studio album, which he’s indicated will be titled Te$ting. Details are scarce, but it certainly feels like he’s ramping up for an album rollout—he put out “Bad Company” with BlocBoy JB last week and performed “A$AP Forever” on The Tonight Show on Wednesday.

Why Stream It: “A$AP Forever” will sound familiar to fans of the Mob, because it finds Rocky doing what he does best: riding a trippy instrumental and sounding cool while doing it. Moby’s appearance here is not really a feature as much as a prominent sample, but enlisting Moby on your comeback single is still an extremely “I’m not a rapper” move.

Why Skip It: Like many A$AP offerings, the visuals might be more interesting than the music itself. There’s also the fact Rocky stops rapping at the midway point of the track and lets the beat take over, which gives “A$AP Forever” the feel of an extended interlude.

Kali Uchis — Isolation

What to Know: The Colombian American’s debut album follows a mixtape, an EP, and some well-received collaborations over the past few years; she’s coming off of a Grammy nomination for her contributions to Daniel Caesar’s “Get You.” Fast-rising British singer Jorja Smith appears on Isolation, as do more avant-garde collaborators like Tyler, the Creator and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker.

Why Stream It: She may be best known for “Get You,” but Isolation has a lot more to offer than that brand of dreamy neo-soul crooning. Kali covers a lot of sonic and thematic ground on Isolation, and the result is an album that should appeal to a wide range of listeners, regardless of your genre of choice.

Why Skip It: If you saw the album title Isolation and though Kali Uchis might have created a To Pimp a Butterfly–style concept album about the time James Harden ran an isolation against Wesley Johnson and snatched his soul, you will be sorely disappointed.

Rae Sremmurd — “Chanel” (feat. Pharrell)

What to Know: Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi have promised a triple album this year: one side of solo Swae music, one side of solo Jxmmi, and one side of the duo. I’d be more skeptical of this rollout if the songs they’d released so far weren’t so damn good. Solo efforts “Hurt to Look” and “Brxnks Truck” are two of the catchiest songs of the year, and they teamed up with Mike Will Made-It for “Aries (Yugo) Part 2” last week.

Why Stream It: Slim Jxmmi gets top billing on “Chanel,” so you already know what you’re getting before you click: a club-ready, infectiously energetic record. If you’re on the fence because Pharrell features can be hit-or-miss, I can assure you that his contributions here get filed under the “hit” category.

Why Skip It: The absolute inanity of Rae Sremmurd’s song-crediting practices might make it worth boycotting their music entirely. They’ve alternated between listing songs as “Swae Lee featuring Rae Sremmurd,” “Swae Lee, Slxm Jimmi, and Rae Sremmurd” and “Slxm Jimmi featuring Swae Lee.” The only thing that would have made Culture II more unbearable is if every song was by “Quavo, Offset ,and Takeoff featuring Migos.”

The Wild Card

Lil Xan — Total Xanarchy

What to Know: If the name “Lil Xan” sounds like a satire of rap’s SoundCloud generation, that’s because he is essentially an amalgamation of everything people hate about rap in 2018. He looks vaguely like “One Time”–era Justin Bieber, he thinks 2Pac sucks, and he has a monster song (“Betrayed” has 155 million views on YouTube) right out of the gate.

Why Stream It: If you have a younger sibling or mentor at-risk youth in your free time, a working knowledge of Lil Xan could be helpful as a conversation starter. Also, there are some interesting nuggets of potential in his music—for all of its I’ve-totally-had-sex-before posturing, “Betrayed” takes a sincerely cautionary tone about addiction—but it remains to be seen how long he’ll stick around.

Why Skip It: Those nuggets of potential are surrounded by a vast ocean of cringeworthy bars and played-out melodies, and, while he’s hinted at changing it, his rap name is still “Lil Xan.”