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So Necessary: Nipsey Hussle Memories, Anderson .Paak’s Smokey Collabo, and Vampire Weekend’s Best New Single

Also in our weekly music roundup: Juvenile’s Cash Money return with Birdman, indie pop from the Drums, and Billy Corgan rides a roller coaster

Ringer illustration

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: Juvenile and Birdman reunite, the Drums find being alive embarrassing, and Anderson .Paak teams up with Smokey Robinson.

Juvenile Kicks Into High Gear on “Filthy Money”

Juvenile’s last album on Cash Money, Juve the Great, was released in December 2003. If you were to look only at the cover art of his 2019 return, Just Another Gangsta—a poorly-Shopped, gold-plated assault rifle like you could buy in Army Of Two, with a rag tied around it—then his new joint mixtape with Birdman could’ve easily come out the week after Juve the Great. Or at least, comfortably before this current moment in music. Just Another Gangsta is good, if you need me to say so, if for no other reason than because it doesn’t try to do too much. “From Tha Block” is the obvious standout, and sounds most like a song two men like Birdman and Juvenile might make at ages 50 and 44, respectively. Prime for a cookout where no one’s gonna trip about cuss words; it’s drunk-uncle, I don’t measure the ingredients, I just eyeball everything music.

But what I can’t stop thinking about is Juvenile’s verse on the sparer and harder “Filthy Money,” wherein he settles into a breakneck rhyme pattern that feels too young for him by about 15 years. It’s like seeing your dad in skinny jeans. Impressive, but strange.

Jonny Pierce’s Pining Away on the Drums’ “Loner”

The Drums, an indie pop outfit from New York, make music that sounds like what your brain does at 3 a.m. when you’d give just about anything to be able to go to sleep. Every decision you’ve made that day gets replayed in uncomfortably sharp definition, and you think—a little too deeply—about things you might have done differently, or not at all. “Loner” appears on the band’s newest album, Brutalism, out Friday, a follow-up to 2017’s Abysmal Thoughts. Over whirring, zooming guitars and skittering drums, lead singer Jonny Pierce thinks aloud about someone so pretty and perfect for him that it hurts his feelings. But he performs it in such a way that when Pierce sings, “I wish there was more between me and you,” you have to wonder who shoulders more of the blame for the dead air between him and his would-be lover.

Anderson .Paak’s Vow to “Make It Better”

I feel like we can all agree that November’s Oxnard arrived a couple of months too late for summer and was just OK. So let’s read Ventura—coming out April 12, just six months after Oxnard— as something like a do-over. Of course, Ventura technically came from .Paak’s Oxnard sessions with Dr. Dre, but that’s neither here nor there. Behold! Ventura, in the distance, seems to be shaping up nicely! “Make It Better,” which details the ebbs and flows of a relationship, is just the right combination of strings, syrupy vocals, kick drums, and regret. Plus, Smokey fucking Robinson is singing backup harmonies.

Vampire Weekend’s Naming Their Newest Single “Unbearably White”

Let me begin by saying that no one else should title their single “Sunflower,” because—and I can’t believe I’m saying this—thanks to Post Malone (although most of the credit should go to Swae Lee), there’s room for only one “Sunflower” in public consciousness now. Anyway, Vampire Weekend’s “Sunflower,” the lead single for their forthcoming Father of the Bride, was like the earliest sketch of an eventually good song.

“Unbearably White,” the B-side to Vampire’s newest single “This Life,” also feels a lot like a bit, obviously, because of its title. Ezra Koenig sings about a relationship on the brink—“There’s an avalanche coming / Don’t cover your eyes”—but then there’s that title winking at you. I’m sure I shouldn’t have to explain why this is funny. In any case, and my colleagues Matt James and Cory McConnell both agree, this singles pack is the best we’ve heard of Father of the Bride.

Nipsey Hussle’s Second Verse on “Racks in the Middle”

Writing this column was especially hard this week, because I haven’t listened to much since Sunday aside from Nipsey Hussle. It’s impossible to overstate his importance—to the 60s, to Los Angeles as a whole, to the rap game—but it’s well-illustrated by the fact that very little new rap music was released this week, out of respect. I’m including this single featuring Roddy Ricch, from late February, because I must have heard it no fewer than 10 times at Monday’s vigil, and because Nip’s second verse has been playing a weird trick on me. Violence, death, and grief were recurring themes in his music, and I don’t mean to be too maudlin about this, but in a world without him, this feels like a goodbye: “If it was me, I would tell you, ‘Nigga, live your life and grow’ / I’d tell you, ‘Finish what we started, reach them heights, you know?’”

BONUS: Billy Corgan Rides a Roller Coaster

Life is short, cruel, and uncertain, so drink in this ridiculous video that has no objective other than to make you laugh.