“GNF (OKOKOK)” by Polo G
New-gen rap superstar Polo G dropped his first solo track of 2021 on Feb. 5. “GNF (OKOKOK)” is Polo G’s second single released after his acclaimed 2020 album “THE GOAT,” and it can be assumed that another project is on the way by observing the cohesive artwork for his newest singles.
The acronym “GNF” stands for “give no f*cks,”, and this mindset is made obvious by the sound of the track. I haven’t been very attracted to this darker vein of modern rap, but “GNF” works for me because of its strong production and a memorable performance from Polo G. The drums are reminiscent of “Look Alive”-era Tay Keith; the hi-hat and snare combo sound great together. The soft, choir-esque pad underneath the piano is very ominous, and as Polo G’s aggressive shouting begins to stumble over the beat the intensity rises.
Each of his verses contain memorable lines ranging from gang violence to shouting out the late Pop Smoke. While many rappers lack the ability to execute vocals like these, Polo G has a way of delivering emotion in his voice that compliments this simple instrumental ideally.
“Exposure” by Shelley FKA DRAM
Back in 2016 and 2017, DRAM was unstoppable. His debut album, “Big Baby DRAM,” was outstanding and full of potential, character and hits. This effort was followed by one of the most incredible strings of singles I’ve ever witnessed. Now in 2021, the singer has returned under his real name Shelley to deliver a long-awaited sophomore album.
While most of Shelley’s “DRAM” discography was very modern hip-hop influenced, a few of his tracks exposed his talent as a soulful and powerful voice. His comeback single, “Exposure,” exemplifies a full dive into R&B. Shelley’s vocal performance comes off so earnestly as he pleads for his girl to trust his love. The instrumentals stay simple in order to highlight the many layers of harmonies, but sparse keys and synths help fill out the track, along with a bassline that shines especially bright on the first verse.
The tones of Shelley’s voice admittedly may not be for everyone, but his emotion and charisma are undeniable, specifically on the chorus. With ”Exposure,” Shelley has delivered on the hopes of long-awaiting fans, and with an album announced for April, all we can do now is wait.
“Rainforest” by Noname
By taking one look at Noname’s Twitter account, you can tell that this Chicago rapper has been at her most political recently (with good reason). Over the past few years, she has proved to be not only one of the most outspoken and educated artists on political matters but also one of the most skilled at blending these themes into her art. Earlier this year she stated, “I don’t even know how to promote myself as a rapper anymore,” and now at the end of February, we find ourselves with her new single “Rainforest.”
Noname flows over a jazzy instrumental that includes lots of very organic sounds like bongos and woodblocks. The drums are very crispy, and the syncopated guitar chords jump around. The chords are curious, and when Noname flexes her lyrical ability in her soft tone it feels wise, only to end her verse with the well-earned exclamation “man f–k a billionaire!” which drives home her main points. As a whole, the track feels smart, from the technical beat to Noname’s commentary on Black capitalism and suppression.
“Gasoline (feat. Taylor Swift)” by HAIM
I think that “Gasoline” is honestly my favorite song of February 2021. HAIM’s original “Gasoline” was released in June 2020, and now in 2021, a Taylor Swift assisted version was released as a “remix” (the only change is Swift’s vocals, all lyrics and instrumentals remain unchanged). Because of this, I feel reluctant to call this number one out of my five choices this month due to the minor differences from the 2020 original. Despite my nitpicks though, I can’t deny that this song has only gotten better.
The three Haim sisters showcase their underrated skills on all instruments throughout the track. The crunchy guitar groove is performed by Alana, which textures the verses over Este’s bass. The bassline is complex and varying; it’s fun to pay attention to while listening. The steady drums and catchy vocals are performed by Danielle. Swift’s appearance on the second verse is honestly more than just a star feature. Her vocal tones fit very well with a more filtered sound, it’s a flattering quality for her shouty delivery. The track delves into a phenomenal bridge and rides out the same drums, bass, and guitar it began with, circling through for a guaranteed alt-pop hit single.
“In Or In-Between” by Claud
With a trio of great tracks consisting of “Ana,” “Overnight,”, and “In Or In-Between,”, Claud’s debut album titled “Super Monster” was a pleasant surprise for me. Claud has recently risen in indie-popularity through 2020, and sports co-signatures by Spotify as well as friend and Shelly bandmate Clairo. Although I enjoy all three of the mentioned songs, “In Or In-Between” has grown to become my favorite.
Claud plays a confused character in a familiar situation on this track. Both people are obviously showing feelings for each other, but neither will make it clear to one another if they want these feelings to be addressed. The fast, skittery drums match the nervous feeling of the scenario, but before the chorus, these drums fade out as feelings intensify. Claud makes a move to pull their partner away into a more intimate spot and breaks the safe ignorance of the moment to ask for deeper feelings. It’s a very potent use of the instrumental, and the guitars, synths and bass form a great atmospheric sound. A pitched-down version of the chorus is tacked on for the last 40 seconds, which is a somewhat pointless but fun addition. Claud’s creation of the story through sound with “In Or In-Between” is impressive and relatable, which sets it apart from other songs on their debut project.