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Hip-Hop Tastemakers Weigh-In on G.O.O.D. Music's 'Cruel Summer' Singles

With G.O.O.D. Music's debut album, Cruel Summer, scheduled for release next Tuesday (Sept. 18), VIBE tapped a handful of the hip-hop blog's top tastemakers for some honest opinions on the LP's singles released thus far. We know the "leak" is making its rounds but read what these rap experts think about the official releases.

@NavJosh (Navjosh) From Hip-Hop-N-More

"Mercy" was the first official single to be released from G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer and definitely stands out from the rest for me. The Lifted-produced song, which samples Dancehall legend Fuzzy Jones received a mixed response from critics and fans upon its release but eventually ended up being the biggest single from the album, topping the radio charts a couple of months ago. I call this one “annoyingly catchy”.

Kanye West, Pusha T, Big Sean & Jadakiss put a spin on Chief Keef’s street hit "Don’t Like" while Kanye and Pusha T rapped hard on "New God Flow." Both served as appetizers for the album but none of them stuck like "Mercy." While fans including myself ended up appreciating the latter, the single surprisingly failed to set the iTunes charts – or even my iTunes playlist ablaze.

"Clique" is the latest and obviously the biggest release so far because of a Jay-Z feature but again falls short of my expectations. While I would refrain from calling it “wack," it definitely sounds over produced. Sometimes as a fan, I just want to hear some normal stuff and not always over the top tunes which are screaming to be “different” from rest of the music out there. Kanye has been foreign to the former in the past few years.

@Aqua174 (Alvin Blanco) from HipHopWired

"Mercy" is the clear winner, for now. This joint was one of the summer's biggest records with every artist on the track killing his verse. "Clique" is just too new to include any "best" commentary, but Jay & Kanye on a song, with Big Sean holding his own, will at least be a contender. "New God Flow" is a lock for my second favorite because Pusha T goes bonkers on that joint. Word to Ric Flair.

@KarenCivil from KarenCivil.com

The build up to Cruel Summer has been, for the most part, a solid one. G.O.O.D. managed to do an exceptional job of letting their music do the talking and never flooding the market with an excess of tracks, thus always guaranteeing the demand remained higher than the supply. Having said that, the releases they did drop were hot (even though "New God Flow" never caught on as many initially expected). However, every leak paled in comparison into what was arguably the song of the summer, "Mercy."

-- First and foremost, the beat was as infectious as any part of the song. And the hook? Try hearing it at any club/cook out/any social setting you attended this summer and not rapping right along with it.
-- All the verses were like fingerprints. By that I mean, they were all different and each brought a distinguishable component to the song. Sean's erratic flow set the song off in perfect fashion (swerve). Pusha came with nothing but bars. The breakdown for Kanye's verse was damn near perfect. And 2 Chainz...
-- If people still found themselves under a rock after "Spend It," this was definitely the song which welcomed 2 Chainz into the pop world. Say whatever you will about Tit, but "Catch up to my campaign/Coupe the color of mayonnaise/I'm drunk and high at the same time/Drinkin' champagne on an airplane..." still stands as one of the most recognizable lines of the year, let alone summer.

So yes, for those reasons and more, "Mercy" gets my vote.

@SowmyaK (Sowmya Krishnamurthy) -- (VIBE, RollingStone, MTV)

"Mercy" is not only the biggest song that G.O.O.D. has leaked to date; it's the biggest hip-hop song of the year. LA, NYC, no matter where I go, this song gets played on the heaviest rotation. You may still not know what Fuzzy Jones is saying but MY GOD, this is one of the most sonically fresh songs I've heard in ages. Swerve.

@Daydog (Datwon Thomas) from VIBE

From what we've heard so far Kanye has three missions with the five songs (bolded below) he's allowed for leak release connected to Cruel Summer.

1. To make Big Sean a star. He's featured the Detroit tiger on "Clique", "Mercy" and "Don't Like (Remix)". Saying Big Sean is the future was a major statement, so Ye wants to keep his young gunner of the crew "in your face like a can of mase, baby." This constant exposure is making the rap "Booi" step up his game.
2. Make Pusha T your favorite street rap supplier. Pusha Ton has also been featured on three selections from the leaks ("Mercy", "New God Flow" and "Don't Like (Remix)"). All verses meaner than the last. With his confidence sky high from a little lyrical sparring earlier this year with Young Money Makers, Drake and Lil Wayne, King Push is feeling like the Kingpen he claims to be on his rhymes. And
3. That Kanye is still the best rapper in the game, period.

Instead of letting his crew handle some of the driving since it's a compilation album, Ye in-turn takes the wheel on every leak that's hit the streets, blogs and high-end bars that he does pop-up listening sessions at. From the reaffirming brashness of "Cold" with DJ Khaled, to the intricate detail of his new style life and love with the recent "Clique", Ye continues to twist his vivid imagination into his storybook lifestyle like no other (with arguably the exception of his "Big Brother"). The rest of the album will have the tough job of selling us on the added characters (aka features) and the extended delay of the music into the beginning of fall. But if anyone can turn in a quality project with pressure beyond measure, it's Kanye. Just this time he'll have a little bit of help, not that he needs it or anything though. Just ask Hov.

01. To The World – Kanye West, R. Kelly
02. Clique – Kanye West, Jay-Z & Big Sean
03. Mercy – Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz
04. New God Flow – Kanye West, Pusha T, Ghostface Killah

05. The Morning – Raekwon, Pusha T, Common, 2 Chainz, CyHi Da Prynce, Kid Cudi & D’Banj
06. Cold – Kanye West & DJ Khaled
07. Higher – The-Dream, Pusha T & Ma$e
08. Sin City – John Legend, Travi $ Scott, Teyana Taylor, CyHi Da Prynce & Malik Yusef
09. The One – Kanye West, Big Sean, 2 Chainz & Marsha Ambrosius
10. Creepers – Kid Cudi
11. Bliss – John Legend & Teyana Taylor
12. Don’t Like (Remix) – Kanye West, Chief Keef, Pusha T, Big Sean & Jadakiss

@RealLifeKaz (Kazeem Famuyide) from HipHopWired

I think the G.O.O.D. Music leaks have tempered with each release. As each song dropped my anticipation for the project lessened. "Mercy" was exciting and something new. I believe the "I Don't Like (Remix)" added something new to a track that was already great. They are both contenders for the "song of the summer," in my opinion. I think "Cold," or "Theraflu" or whatever they feel like calling it this week was a big song as far as Kanye talking about Kim openly for the first time, but it isn't a song I listened to a lot on my own accord. I think "New God Flow" would've been way better without the incessant chanting at the end of the song. Pusha T. was spitting like his life depended on it. As far as songs go, I'd still give "Mercy" the stamp as the stand out song from the leaks with "I Don't Like" as a close second. "Clique" is going to be a grower, I believe Hit-Boy really put his foot in that beat.

Once more, I believe these songs did more for Big Sean than it did for anyone else. The leaks made people take the kid seriously as a legitimate song wrecker. As in, he'll get on a song with anybody and completely take over and make it his own. He's held his own with some of the best rappers in the game and stood out in a way that only he could have.

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Megan Thee Stallion is truly prepping for a hot girl summer. Following up the highly-anticipated release of Fever, the Houston-bred rapper has officially released the visuals for the project's opening song, "Realer."

Red-headed Meg and her friends brandish toy guns, high karate kicks and body rolls as she talks her sh*t. And, much like her project's artwork, there were flames—both literally and figuratively—to be had all around.

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🐎 🔥 https://t.co/54S59MQ8fx

— Wale (@Wale) May 21, 2019

Watch Hot Girl Meg's spicy "Realer" video up top.

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VIBE Debuts New Podcast On Battle Rap Culture, 'The Chosen' (Hosted By Nunu Nellz)

THE CHOSEN Podcast, hosted by the battle scene's stage Queen, Nunu Nellz, is a show that highlights the artists, entrepreneurs and personalities that shape Hip-Hop battle culture. A lot of success stories may look like they started overnight, yet took many years of hard work and dedication...we will showcase that journey through their stories.

The first episode of THE CHOSEN is with SMACK WHITE, the leader of MC battle culture as founder of the  Ultimate Rap League (URL). This Queens, NY native is a great opening act for what The Chosen is about, success against all odds. A man who took the positive from his neighborhood and helped to create a global platform for people to exhibit their talent through battle rap.

And for some added flavor, the intro beat to the show is produced by none other than the infamous himself, Havoc of Mobb Deep.

Check the first of many great episodes to come of The Chosen Podcast.

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😢 THANK U to @smackwhite @beasleynyc @urltv for embracing me with nothing but love from the first day I met u guys. Thank you for making NUNU NELLZ a house hold name. From my start on “ battle rap arena “ on 15moferadio to writing my first column “what’s hot what’s not “in battle rap for 100barsmag then taking that same column to a printing magazine ( rydermagazineboss ) where it was sold at train station, online and at the legendary black star, I just been blessed. I been able to travel the world and meet so many great ppl bc of u guys. Thank u for any league that ever book me to host their event . Thank u to my fiancé @mr.guercy for pushing me to be the greatest woman I can be and introducing me to the editor and chief of @vibemagazine, @datwon . Thank u to @datwon for believing in the vision and giving me my very own show on the vibe platform #THECHOSEN. This is so BIG and I’m so excited about this new journey . I love media . I love learning about ppl grinds and how they became successful . It was so important to me to grab that @nickiminaj #vibemagazine cover for my first interview . I won’t allow anyone to give me pickle juice (barbs will catch that 🤣) but thank u to all those saying congrats . When the first interview drop im open to all feed back to be the best I can be for the people 💯 Hair @beautiibyday thank u for always stopping what u doing to get me together . I appreciate u

A post shared by URL Princess (@nunu_nellz) on Mar 28, 2019 at 8:11am PDT

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Bradley Murray

Jamila Woods Resurrects Legends On ‘Legacy! Legacy!’

Three years ago, Jamila Woods entered the scene as a woman grounded in her self-hood on her debut HEAVN. The album is a memoir of her upbringing on Chicago’s South Side and her introspections are comfort food for anyone on a search for their center. She digs up memories such as pride in games she played growing up on “Popsicle (Interlude)” and runs down why she’s worthy of all good things on the healing self-love anthem “Holy.” The sound is dripped deeply in neo-soul and hip-hop, in the family of her Chicago peers Saba, NoName, and Chance the Rapper.

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“I thought of it not so much as writing songs about these people, but thinking of the songs as self-portraits,” she explained to Pitchfork in an interview. “I was looking through the lenses of these different people, their work, things they said.”

The result is 13 tracks of her soothing lullaby, free-flowing melodies, and sing-songy raps of gratitude for each of the lessons she learned from these greats.

There is “Betty” dedicated to Betty Davis, an unsung funk musician whose empowered spirit was ahead of her time and caused her to be shunned from the spotlight. Davis was also married to jazz pioneer Miles Davis, who she influenced in the latter part of his career. The marriage ended in a rocky divorce and Jamila considers whether this hindered Betty’s success by flipping her story into a song about guarding her light around toxic masculinity and men who could interrupt her growth. “Let me be, I'm trying to fly, you insist on clipping my wings,” she sings over the piano-led track, produced by Chicago producer OddCouple.

Woods continues to explore relationships on “Frida,” a funky boom-bap number produced by Chicago-based Slot-A, who produces most of the album. The track draws inspiration from the Mexican icon Frida Kahlo’s relationship with Diego Rivera. The couple lived in separate homes connected by a bridge while they were together. Woods uses this as a symbol for maintaining your own space to find self, whatever that may look like, even when you’re in a partnership. “Multiply my sides, I need a lot of area/A savior is not what I'm seeking/I'm god enough and you be believing,” she commands.

Although Woods shines on her own tracks, one standout feature is Brooklyn emcee (and current touring mate) Nitty Scott on “Sonia.” The track is inspired by a poem written by Black Arts movement poet Sonia Sanchez in the voice of an enslaved black woman who was finding power in detailing the trauma of her condition. Similarly, Scott lays out all her experiences with toxic relationships on a verse that should be studied by all young woman as a relationship manual. “All the women in me are tired/Listen, ni**a/My abuela ain't survive several trips around the sun/So I could give it to somebody's undeserving son,” Scott quips. Woods also describes finding clarity on relationship issues after talking them out with her mother, grandmother, and cousin. “I knew I could do it 'cause if my blood went through it/I knew I could endure it, I knew that I could heal it,” she croons.

When she’s not breaking down the personal, Woods takes on race politics. On the gritty “Miles” dedicated to the aforementioned Davis, Woods embodies his rebellious attitude toward racism. “You could make me tap dance, shake hands, yes ma'am/ But I'm a free man now,” she flexes on the track’s first verse. The song also tells of a man who took the oppression he faced and poured it into mastering his musicianship. Davis talks about this in a 1962 Playboy interview, where he explained that when he was in high school he knew he was the best trumpeter in music class, but all the white students would win the first prizes in contests. “It made me so mad I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn,” he recalls. “If I hadn't met that prejudice, I probably wouldn't have had as much drive in my work.” Davis went on to become one of the most influential jazz artists in the world. Woods calls on that pride he had in his genius, as she references Davis’s 1950 album Birth of Cool on several lines, including, “You can't fake the cool/I could do it in my sleep.”

The spacey-electronic “Octavia” echoes the late science fiction author’s notable ability to manifest her success through journaling. Butler was one of the most prominent black women to write in a mostly white and male-dominated genre, publishing dozens of books, and was the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant, among other awards. During Butler’s rise, she wrote out her goals in a series of affirmations that were put on display in an exhibit called “Octavia Butler: Telling My Stories” at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California in 2017. One of the notes read, “My books will be read by millions of people! I will buy a beautiful home in an excellent neighborhood!” On the chorus, Jamila borrows one stunning line from her notes: “I write it down, it happens next/So be it, see to it.”

Woods talks candidly to white Americans about their privilege and how it blinds them from reality on “Baldwin” in the same way James Baldwin did in his writings. Baldwin once wrote in a 1962 essay in The New Yorker: “Now, there is simply no possibility of a real change in the Negro’s situation without the most radical and far-reaching changes in the American political and social structure. And it is clear that white Americans are not simply unwilling to effect these changes; they are, in the main, so slothful have they become, unable even to envision them.” Woods keeps the same energy when grieving about gentrification — which is now a fabric of life in most American cities — and the stress it can bring black natives of big cities. “You could change a hood just by showing your face / Condo climbing high, now the block is erased / (You don't get it, get it),” she spits.

On Legacy! Legacy!, Woods took her ability to paint her rage with social conditions and complex emotions within intimate relationships to the next level, solidifying her as a modern day griot. Yes, this album on the surface is inspired by historical figures but, as promised, the songs aren’t simply biographies about their accomplishments. Woods studied what made each of these individuals human and transformed those insights into a cohesive oral history that connects the past to the present. It’s not an album to be digested in one sitting. She is inviting us to join her in remembering these legends more deeply beyond social media posts that dilute their legacies to soundbites, photos and quote posts on their birthdays. The eras from which these icons rose to prominence passed, but the lessons they offer are timeless. Count on Woods to keep them alive and make sure they’re told.

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