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So Necessary: Playboi Carti’s Viral Hit, Steve Lacy’s Freestyle, and Mannequin Pussy

Also, in our weekly music roundup: J. Cole commits another theft and Valee keeps it slick

Getty Images/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:

J. Cole Eclipsing Young Thug on “The London”

It is with a heavy heart that I must report that J. Cole kind of ... ate Young Thug here? Make it make sense. The newest single from the artist formerly known as Sex, who was previously known as Jeffery, who is once again going by Young Thug, arrived Thursday afternoon. (It’s not the “Surf” song teased ad nauseum on Wednesday’s interminable livestream; thanks a lot, Frank Ocean.) “The London” is produced by T-Minus, features a listless, drowsy Travis Scott on the hook, and a ludicrously focused J. Cole, who makes everyone else here look kind of bad.

This follows guest verses on 21 Savage’s “a lot,” Jay Rock’s “OSOM,” his Dreamville signee J.I.D.’s “Off Deez,” and a few other instances of theft in broad daylight over the course of the past year. He’s been so much more fun since he’s become willing to talk his shit—he even uses Auto-Tune toward the end of his appearance here, and checks the stats on his feature run, saying “Just did the math it’s like $2,000 every word.” Counting the ad-libs and the throat-clearing there are 199 words in this verse.

Mannequin Pussy Speeding Things Up With “Who You Are”

Listening to the second single from Mannequin Pussy’s forthcoming third album, Patience, I was thinking about the time Oprah interviewed Prince, in 1996. It was a wide-ranging discussion about his creative process and his whole general deal, and at one point Oprah asks whether he’s ever regretted anything. “No, because I think it’s all part of the experience of life and growing,” he replies. “And it’s gotten me to this place. Take one thing out of that and the structure falls.” I think about it a lot, really. And Mannequin frontwoman Marisa Dabice must, too. She heaves inspiration at you, on the hook: “Oh who taught you to hate the way you are? / If I were you there’s not a thing I would restart / I love who you are.”

About a minute and a half in, the guitars stop shimmering and start to chug. Dabice drives home her point: “You don’t have to change.”

Playboi Carti’s Unofficial and Unreleased “Kid Cudi” Reaching No. 1 on the Spotify Charts

Further evidence that Playboi Carti is the songbird of Gen Z: An unauthorized and unreleased street single of his recently reached the top of the Spotify U.S. Viral 50 chart. If you find a full version of “Kid Cudi” anywhere, chances are it won’t be there when you check back for it. The search results are filled with recent uploads; there are reproductions and versions muddled by fan reactions on YouTube. But there is this small clip of Carti performing the song at Rolling Loud. Underneath the video: “We all helped this song go viral! Well done slimes.”

“Kid Cudi,” alternately known as “Pissy Pamper,” gained this sort of traction the way a lot of stuff does on the internet: through memes. As for why the song hasn’t been officially released, it may have something to do with clearance issues. The song samples “Tasogare,” a 1980 song by Japanese songstress Mai Yamane, whose name you might recognize from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack.

Valee on YG’s “I Was on the Block”

In addition to his lotus face tattoo, Valee has a teacup Yorkie named Furrari. In a Pitchfork profile, around the time we were all snapping our necks to “Miami,” writer Meaghan Garvey notes that one of the rare occasions on which the weight of Valee’s voice feels heavier than a tip-toe is when he’s disciplining his smol son. It’s often easy to imagine, when Valee is rapping—which is sort of like free-association nursery rhyme patter—that Furrari is asleep in his lap, and the Chicago whisper-rapper is trying his best not to stir him. His turn on YG’s spare and frosty “I Was on the Block,” from this week’s 4REAL 4REAL, is slick, and also coarse; gentle, but firm. Valee speaks softly, and wears jeans that cost $2,500. “I know all my ex bitches feel like shit today,” he says.

All of Steve Lacy’s “Outro Freestyle”

“N Side,” the first offering from Steve Lacy’s debut album Apollo XXI, was a full embrace of his newfound sex-symbol status. Like, as in, he sings about sex matter-of-factly, as if it’s something he’s having so much of that he’s nearly bored with it. If “N Side” is cool composure, “Outro Freestyle,” or at least its video, is meant to sow confusion—he’s almost rapping, letting loosely cobbled words chase his thoughts around a wonky beat, as the camera holds tight to two guys making out. Then Steve wakes up, next to his girl. Intrigue!