Because he has nothing better to do with his time, each Friday Micah Peters riffs on the most awe-inspiring, confounding, addictive, or otherwise hilarious moments from the week in music. This week: Stella Donnelly waltzes, Schoolboy Q stomps, and South London rapper Dave sprints.
Stella Donnelly’s wildly charming “bettah” on “Tricks”
Stella Donnelly lilted into internet consciousness with 2017’s “Boys Will Be Boys,” which sliced rape culture longways to bare its disgusting innards in quaint but emotionally affecting terms. “Your father told you that you’re innocent / told you women rape themselves,” she sings. The words are searing, yet the soft, waltzing melody sells safety and comfort. The idea, maybe, is that safety and comfort are just only ever nice thoughts.
Not all of the 20-something Perth native’s debut, Beware of the Dogs, is quite as heavy, although she maintains her wildly congenial fuck the bullshit standpoint. “Tricks,” for one, starts as a cheery middle finger to hecklers who badgered her to play Cold Chisel covers at her shows (“you only like me when I do my tricks for you”). That scenario is unique to a musician, but everyone can relate to a cheery middle finger directed toward a hoggish drunk.
What makes this all work is how uninsistent and breezy Donnelly’s voice is, and how pleasing it is to hear the r’s drop off of her words. From the first minor fall, or the first “bettah,” you’re hooked.
Pretty much everything about Schoolboy Q’s “Numb Numb Juice”
On Wednesday, Schoolboy Q, who hadn’t released new music since 2016’s Blank Face, began rolling out his newest album by bitch-slapping somebody to hell. I’m going to tip-toe out on a limb here and say this qualifies as a strong start.
After three years of silence, what we (I) hoped for was something compulsively listenable; “Numb Numb Juice” may not be as enduring as “Figg Get Da Money” or “Raymond 1969” or “John Muir,” but damn if it isn’t fun. The earliest version of “Numb Numb Juice” was crafted by Sounwave, Cardo, and Baby Keem, but was soon mired in the dreaded bog of sample-clearance issues. As with the second half of Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA.,” one of the Ear Drummers was called in to build something around the vocals, but instead of Mike Will Made It himself, this time it was newcomer DJ Fu. The result is a single that sounds like pure animosity. Fu’s hazy menace is a suitable playground for Q, whose gift for zany shit-talk sparkles through. “Y’ALL ON MUTE, AIN’T NO BACK-TALK ON MY BLOCK, NIGGA,” Q barks near the aforementioned bitch slap, making everything feel a little better and look a little brighter.
Juice WRLD’s “Who Shot Cupid?”
Juice WRLD is a rapper from Chicago who warbles as if he were from Atlanta, and he gained wide notice for a song called “Lucid Dreams,” which samples a Sting song and idles in generic teen expression of deep feelings. “Can’t take back the love that I gave you / it’s to the point where I love and I hate you,” he moans.
Even the title of his studio debut—Death Race for Love—is melodramatic, and the cover, modeled after the casing of a PlayStation One video game, gestures toward how he got acquainted with emotional guitar music. He’s one of a generation of rappers who fashioned a musical identity around Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and datpiff.com, and Death Race is a 72-minute exercise in hybridization. “Who Shot Cupid?” blends a gentle, picking acoustic guitar and strip-club drums to dizzying effect. On the hook he leans back on standard composition notebook fare: “all girls the same, same, same.”
Dave’s gruff life-coaching on “Streatham”
The thing about South London rapper Dave’s debut album, Psychodrama, is that it alternately sounds right for the squat rack at the gym and the couch at a therapist’s office, often in the space of eight bars. An example: On the album opener, “Psycho,” he raps, “Brother, I’m a humble, careful, reckless, arrogant, extravagant nigga / probably battlin’ with manic depression / man I think I’m goin’ mad again / it’s like I’m happy for a second then I’m sad again.”
“Streatham,” the following song and a letter to his hometown, is uncomplicatedly inspiring. Listening to Dave rap, you’ll notice that it’s as if he gets more powerful as a song goes on. On “Psycho” he continually dips into newer and more surprising pockets. On “Streatham” he grows in confidence and precision as his sermon reaches its conclusion: “and I’m still tryna tell man, “fuck the Audi switch it for a Benz” / when you tryna make it out the ends / friends of enemies are enemies / and enemies of enemies are friends.”
Channel Tres talking his shit on “Brilliant Nigga”
Channel Tres hails from Compton and makes Detroit-style house music. Listen to the low, stolid confidence in his voice when he almost whispers, while wrapped in darting flutes and buoyed by a toe-tapping bass line, “because you’re in a trance / you might have missed your chance.”
BONUS: Roddy Ricch not having to sing a single word of “Die Young” in London
Roddy Ricch, also from Compton, had a performance stopped early in London this week. A fight broke out and three people were stabbed, and Ricch—according to Ricch—may not be allowed back in the city at all. But for a time, his first London show was perfect.
Honestly, I could watch videos of American rappers performing massive hits to adoring audiences overseas all day.