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:
Tyler, the Creator’s Stealing Your Boyfriend on GoldLink’s “U Say”
GoldLink approaches rap as an augmentation of various dance cultures—2017’s At What Cost remained tethered to the DMV, while Diaspora, out next week, is poised to travel the world. “U Say,” however, is happening at a muggy, overpacked fourth-story walk-up just around the block. There’s something vaguely Caribbean about the song; the first line in it is a directive: “push out ya back, put ya butt in it.” Basically, it’s grown-and-sexy music for 20-somethings. Goldlink has a proclivity for this particular kind of come-on—on the lusty side of flirty, cocksure but not demanding, electronic yet tactile. Tyler, the Creator though, over something this loungey and bouncy, talking about swapping lip gloss while your boyfriend glowers? That comes as a bit of a surprise, even on the heels of something as formless and technicolor and left-field as Igor.
(Sandy) Alex G Empathizes With Hansel on “Gretel”
About a minute into “Gretel,” the lead single from (Sandy) Alex G’s House of Sugar, the Philadelphia songwriter invites you to imagine the classic Grimm tale from the perspective of the brother who was fattened up for slaughter. Or, uh, baking: “Did they bury me here?” His languid voice is shielded by an acoustic guitar and an organ winding downward, deeper into uncertainty. The song itself feels loosely wound around the only thing Alex G seems certain of—I don’t wanna go back. Like with 2017’s Rocket and most of Alex G’s work, “Gretel” is concerned with reconstructing a view of American life, without all of the mythologizing about how good and exceptional it is. Still, although it is haunting, I wouldn’t jump to describe “Gretel” as dark. “Good people gotta fight to exist,” he thinks aloud on the outro, as the song warps in mid-afternoon sunshine. It’s a trying life, but technically it is living.
When the Synth Hits on Channel Tres’s “Sexy Black Timberlake”
There’s an alternate universe in which Channel Tres is an EDM DJ soullessly flicking knobs and sliding faders on a stage in front of an ocean of tank tops and strobe lights. It’s pure dopamine hits like “Sexy Black Timberlake” that make me grateful that I live in this universe, where Tres might have discovered the perfect mix of Motor City techno—he credits Moodymann for his hip-house awakening—and sounds he heard out of passing cars coming up in Compton. Listen for the way the song opens up about a minute in, making room for that needling G-funk whistle sound, you know the one. Channel Tres meanwhile, is as cool as ever, if a lot ableist: “Bitches act crazy.”
Pusha T, and not Nas, on Kelis’s “Popular Thug”
After 18 long years, Kelis’s 2001 album, Wanderland, is finally available to stream in the U.S.; she’s just as surprised as you are. It was her second studio album, and in the time since its release, one of Wanderland’s best songs has become radioactive. In April 2018, in an interview with Hollywood Unlocked, Kelis recounted her ex-husband’s physical and mental abuse. So, the 2003 Clones version of Kelis’s “Popular Thug,” on which Nas raps about being “a sex crazed bastard,” is a little uneasy on the ear. This is fine, since the Japan version of the song featuring Pusha T was always better anyway. He, of course, raps about the past drug-trafficking life that’s never actually been that far behind him. “Never have to say ‘please gimme borrow’ / long as I got yay and two semi-autos.”
Future’s Cough on “Love Thy Enemies”
When Future shared the artwork for SAVE ME to Instagram, the location was listed, hilariously, as “Oh Fuck, I Have Made A Huge Mistake.” He spends much of the EP halfway between wanting to be saved and being gleefully unredeemable—which is to say that it’s a Future project. “Love Thy Enemies” is the bleeding heart coda; once again he performs open-heart surgery on himself and comes close to feeling something like remorse. He wonders how he’s going to explain all of his bullshit to his children, then coughs and continues thinking aloud. It’s tempting to think about “Love Thy Enemies” as being so exacting to record that Future refused to do another take.
BONUS: Skepta’s Colors Performance of “No Sleep”
Notice the way Skepta clasps his index finger and thumb as he banks around this line: “Saw me on the front cover of the magazine and she said it’s perfectly fine / now she got the bees and the birds on her mind.” It’s the literal picture of “precision.”