“4 Da Gang (feat. Roddy Ricch)” by 42 Dugg
After a breakthrough feature on hit Lil Baby track “We Paid,” Detroit rapper 42 Dugg had his first charting single as a lead artist with the Roddy Ricch assisted “4 Da Gang.” In all honesty, the song sounds like a joke, as it begins with a sample from Scorpions “No One Like You.” Rap songs with notable rock samples are rarely able to surpass the novelty of the interpolation (see Eminem’s “Revival” for the best examples”), but to my amazement, Dugg and Ricch defy the odds.
While the sample is admittedly corny, the bounce of the drums and the charismatic performances from both rappers make for a very fun listen. Dugg’s voice appeals to the same demographic as Kodak Black, who has yet to be imitated vocally by any new artists. Ricch is known for effortlessly changing between flows, and Dugg matches his with fun, melodic vocals. Some will call it a guilty pleasure, some will call it a non-pleasure; “4 Da Gang” is an anomaly in modern hip-hop.
“shots in the dark (feat. Trippie Redd)” by iann dior
Iann Dior is an artist that has failed to impress me in the past. I’ve never had a problem with the “industry plant” concept, as long as I can enjoy their music, but Dior has failed me on this — until now. “shots in the dark” is not far from the singer’s usual sound, but with a few key elements, he’s managed to score a very replayable pop song this year.
Dior’s music rides off guitar-driven beats and emo rap lyrics, blending to make an upbeat yet melancholy banger. While “shots in the dark” contains both factors, it’s significantly more happy-sounding thanks to praised producer Mike Dean’s trademark synth layering on the hooks. He adds a bright depth to the guitars that carries the rest of the song on its back. Trippie Redd also delivers character in his guest verse, along with a standout “Hennessy been liquid gold” bar that I quite like. If Dean’s chorus presence wasn’t enough, he ends the song with a Travis Scott-esque outro, proving that industry plants can flourish with the right building blocks behind them.
“4U” by Pierre Bourne
The rap issue of “5 Notable Tracks” continues with “4U” by Pi’erre Bourne, the producer behind the majority of Playboi Carti’s early hits. Despite releasing a fairly successful project in 2019 titled “The Life of Pi’erre 4,” he has consistently been known for his production work. His most recent track is believed to be the leadoff single for a new album this year, which can hopefully follow up the high standards set by “4U.”
After a short, boomy intro, synth chords reminiscent of a video game soundtrack come in, a possible relation to the 8-bit cover art. The song had also been titled “PlayStation” before it’s official release. The song rides on vibes as Bourne’s repetitive flows and beats float away. His agitated “damn” ad libs are instantly memorable, and the intricacy of the chords are impressive for a trap song like this. As the song progresses, more and more synth riffs build onto the beat.
“4U” is not a new sound for Bourne, but it is him at his best as a producer and a performer. He delivers what most Carti fans had likely hoped for on “Whole Lotta Red” last year, and the album they wanted could be on the way soon.
“American Honey” by Current Joys
I have broken the rules once again. This song came out March 31, but it absolutely had to be mentioned. “American Honey” has been one of the most daunting yet beautiful songs of the year so far. Current Joys is an alternative artist with a knack for expressive delivery, and with only a few chords and some strings, he has made an emotional punch of a song.
Simplicity is not a hangup for this track, similar to previous entry “4U.” The vocals are passionate and flattered with perfect minimal effects, and the guitars are somber and gripping. The real punch is the strings that enter on and off to create some of the most potent instrumental harmonies I’ve ever heard. The ideas of this song are not groundbreaking, but they are basic concepts done ideally to make raw emotion.
My only complaint is that I find this song intimidating sometimes; it’s not an easy listen for me. Despite that, I cannot deny how much I do enjoy this song when I choose to listen to it. In a difficult year, no other song has matched this in thorough feeling.
“Duo” by Sam Gellaitry
“Duo” is easily one of the best songs of 2021 so far. 24-year-old artist Sam Gellaitry is known as a producer, with multiple instrumental projects, singles and remixes on his Spotify and SoundCloud pages. Up until the release of “Duo,” Gellaitry had not made his debut as a vocalist. This single is his first step into the role of a pop artist, and the future seems to be unbelievably bright for him.
The groove on “Duo” is so contagious, with bouncy drums and a stiff bassline to contrast. The short stabs of keys are covered in fluttery synths as the chorus comes in, all performed by Gellaitry. His vocals are superb with creative and memorable melodies and lyrics, especially on the chorus. The duo in question has had some drama in the past, but he still “wishes her the best in all her future endeavours.”
Gellaitry’s use of vocab makes for lots of interesting rhymes throughout the track. This track is not simplistic at all; the complexity of the instrumental is a sign of a masterful producer, and the amount of texture and color the song has is mind-blowing. “Duo” ends up being one of the most satisfying and impressive songs of the year, clocking in at only 2:06 as well.