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So Necessary: Billie Eilish, Cardi B, Flume, and the Week’s Best Moments in Music

Also: Lil Uzi Vert is free (sort of), Tree spits a California quotable, and A$AP Ferg goes electronic with NGHTMRE

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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: Lil Uzi Vert and Flume return, Cardi B apologizes, and Billie Eilish debuts a new album.


Uzi Free, Sort Of

Lil Uzi Vert’s situation is complicated, to say the least. After teasing the song for months in live performances and social media snippets, in September he finally released “New Patek,” the first single off his mythic (and still unreleased) debut on Atlantic, Eternal Atake. It’s an exhausting song, and I don’t mean that as a pejorative, but as an honest attempt at description—it’s physically exhausting. The song doesn’t so much end as plod off into the sunset at the conclusion of nearly six minutes; it was easy, for a week or two, to imagine that Uzi was out there somewhere still rapping over the same Death Parade sample, wishing your girl a happy birthday and regarding his many expensive watches. It was fun, and it was promising. And then in January, when there was still no album, Uzi announced his early retirement from music via Instagram, citing frustrations with label heads DJ Drama and Don Cannon.

Since then, Uzi has trolled the two on Instagram and aligned himself with Roc Nation management, so Uzi’s “retirement,” in effect, was more like a rage quit, which never sticks. On Thursday, he self-released a new song:

“Free Uzi” has more in common with Luv Is Rage than Luv Is Rage 2, spurning any type of melody for three full minutes of bars. It’s a freestyle over G Herbo’s “Gangway,” set to a Qasqiat-directed video of Uzi dancing in project hallways and corner store aisles. In other words, he’s moving like unsigned talent—which maybe he is now? Or isn’t?

Billie Eilish Mastering the Album Skit

If you would allow me, can I be a hater for just a second? Almost every album skit is bad. Or at least, nearly every album skit falls short of an artist’s intention. The idea is that I can learn something about someone from a voicemail where their mom says, “This is Mom,” that I can’t from listening to the music that surrounds it, but more often than not a skit just feels like an intrusion on the experience of the album, and suffers the sharpest depreciation of replay value. (A recently rediscovered exception: This one from a Ludacris mixtape where a John Legend song is turned into “Ordinary Negroes” instead.)

Anyway, I don’t know about its replay value, but the intro to Billie Eilish’s debut When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is actually a perfect album skit. There’s a bunch of gross and extremely audible slurps, and then she says, “I have taken out my Invisalign, and this is the album.” Then there’s a hearty cackle from her and what sounds like her brother, with whom she writes her songs. If you knew nothing about Billie Eilish before, in just 14 seconds you get that she’s: charming, not big on pretense, and probably a teenager. You don’t need to find her more interesting than that, which is precisely why it’s so interesting. No, I haven’t finished listening to the album yet.

Cardi B … Gains Further Credibility?

An Instagram video of pre-rap-superstardom Cardi B surfaced this week in which she talks about drugging and robbing men. This is a bad thing, if you need me to say so, but a “bad” distinct from Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby and R. Kelly by several orders of magnitude. There is a difference between this and preying on women and children from a position of power, for starters. “I made the choices I did at the time that I did because I had very limited options,” said Cardi, via a Notes app apology. Rick Ross, who famously lost his Reebok deal for rapping “put molly all in her Champagne, she ain’t even know it” on the “UOENO” remix, defended Cardi B on Snapchat. “In a lot of circumstances, that’s what comes with that lifestyle,” he said. “She never hid that. We all know that. Fortunately, I’m from Miami and I understand that.”

By the way, isn’t she in production on a movie about this exact same thing?

Slowthai on Flume’s “High Beams”

Flume returned with a surprise mixtape-slash-visual-album last week called Hi This Is Flume, pairing the Australian-born, L.A.-based electronic producer with other musicians fostering similar heterodox ambitions. There’s Sophie, there’s JPEGMafia, and on “High Beams” there’s Slowthai, an excitable grime artist from Northampton who raps as if he struggles to corner his thoughts—or better, raps like there’s somewhere else he needs to be in the next 10 minutes. And also, sort of like he’s playing patty cake with himself: “Months in this place of glum / food that I ate hit my tum / can’t settle fairy tale skin pebbles, raised in slum.”

When Tree Says “Hollywood Ain’t Shit” on “All I’ll Eva B”

We Grown Now. arrived on your preferred streaming service last Friday and stayed there for a few hours, but was eventually pulled back and herded to SoundCloud. Apparently Tree’s newest project wasn’t meant to be commercially released until this Friday, and as a testament to the Chicago soul trapper’s work ethic, there was immediately another new project you could listen to in its place, a joint venture with Vic Spencer called Nothing Is Something.

We Grown Now. sneaked back onto Spotify at some point this week, and it’s well worth your time as a soothing and substantive half-hour of music. “All I’ll Eva B” is a current favorite—Tree spends a week in California hacking through the fog of appearances and artifice, resolving that he’s just “a project nigga, that’s all I’ll ever be.” I laughed aloud when he said, “Just went out to Hollywood, found out Hollywood ain’t shit, cuh.”

BONUS: A$AP Ferg & NGHTMRE—“REDLIGHT”

I am including this collaboration between A$AP Ferg and electronic producer NGHTMRE for two reasons:

  1. Because the pairing works so well. In fact I think there’s a future—or at the very least a lot of money—for Ferg in that Ibiza corner that Pusha T vacated sometime in 2015, when he was finishing King Push.
  2. LOOK AT THE BLACK SWAN COAT FERG IS WEARING.