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So Necessary: Chance the Rapper’s Rereleases, Brittany Howard’s Yowl, and Freddie Gibbs’s Triumph

Also in music this week: Key!’s moment of clarity, Clairo’s captivating voice, and Chaka Khan’s complaint

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:

Chance the Rapper re-releases Acid Rap

Three things: First, for a time, Acid Rap had a presence on the charts despite it being a free release. There was an unauthorized upload of the album for sale on Amazon Music and people flocked to it by the tens of thousands. Second, it’s finally, officially available (along with 10 Day) on your preferred streaming service. Third, listening to it I got selfishly wistful about the days when Chance had fewer answers than he does now.

Brittany Howard’s voice modulation on “History Repeats”

The most distinctive thing about any Alabama Shakes song is Brittany Howard’s voice—it’s like the jam preserve and the spoon raking the bottom of the mason jar. Though it’s here, in the present, her heavy yowl feels as though it escaped from the past somehow. It’s also urgent: It grabs you and sets you down in your seat. So it’s an interesting choice, on the first single from her forthcoming September solo debut Jaime, for Howard to submerge her voice in the mix, and bathe it in reverb.

“History Repeats” stands apart from her earlier work—it’s looser and funkier and busier, and rides like an initial take from a jam session that came out well enough to be pressed and shipped. While it sounds sunny, “History Repeats” deals in penitence and reflection—“I mean, I done cried a little,” Howard sings. “Tried a little, failed a little.”

Key!’s moment of clarity on “Yes or No”

Last month Key! released the exquisitely whiny “Miami Too Much,” and this week we learned that it was the first single off of an EP titled So Emotional, his first release in a calendar year having nothing to do with 2018’s habit-forming 777. So Emotional serves as an object lesson in how no one currently working in hip-hop or R&B can plead quite like Key!, but on “Yes or No,” he puts his foot down: As a matter of self-preservation, he needs to know, once and for all, if this woman is down or not.

I’d argue the most affecting part of the song comes when Key! sets a threat down next to an odd romantic gesture: “Buy her a baby Glock / Tell that nigga stop playin’ ’fore you get him shot.” Don’t worry—ultimately, he comes to himself. “Nah, that’s not my energy / I’m slidin’ to the money, brother, you are not my enemy.”

Freddie Gibbs’s triumph on “Situations”

Imagine Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s Bandana as a reel of movie film melting away at the edges from intense heat. Gibbs largely continues to blaze through Madlib’s abstruse soul breaks, but he also does that singin’ shit. “Situations” is one of two songs that take a conventional shape and sound current in the broadest sense; the other is “Half Manne Half Cocaine.” The second verse on “Situations” is specific and autobiographical: Gibbs recalls Pollo Loco dinners, state housing, and smoking roaches after moving to Los Angeles. Listen to the end of that verse where, like an exhale after a long and arduous climb (and a knotty verse about Jeff Sessions and the LAPD), Gibbs announces that he doesn’t owe anybody shit. “Not no explanation, not no conversation, Drug Administration, suck a nigga dick.”

The bridge in Clairo’s “Closer to You”

In feel, “Closer to You,” the second single from Clairo’s forthcoming debut Immunity, is a pretty big departure from the first. “Bags” is a pop song that’s tactile, analog, and amber. It’s a head rush resulting from an unexpected hand touch at sundown. “Closer to You,” on the other hand, is sad robot music. She can sing plenty well on her own—see the hook—but it’s in the bridge, when Clairo’s voice is pixelated, that “Closer to You” is most captivating. Clairo relates to the familiar feeling of being at the end of your rope but unwilling to start over with someone new. “Shut up, don’t wanna hear now I’m fed up / Wish I could say it was enough to make me walk away.” She starts out frustrated and ends up somewhere near resignation, but she never quite sounds angry.

BONUS: Chaka Khan’s distaste for Kanye West’s “Through the Wire”

Well, more specifically, Chaka Khan’s distaste for how her vocal sample was used on Kanye West’s “Through the Wire.” The storied singer-songwriter appeared on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen earlier this week to discuss a few things, including but not limited to Kanye’s first single as a solo artist. As the story goes, she agreed to clear the sample after West explained over the phone that “Through the Fire” had helped him through the rough aftermath of that fateful car crash, but when she heard the finished product she did not, and still does not, fuck with it. She said—while holding a bedazzled hand fan, which seems like an important detail—that she found Kanye’s chipmunk soul kind of insulting. She then corrected herself: “No, it was stupid.”