In An Attempt to Listen to Anything But Drake
It’s late November of 2018, Spotify users are rejoicing around the world as they read through their listening data via Spotify Wrapped. It’s one of those occasions where we let all the surveillance and data tracking slide because we’ve been given a cute personalized graphic for our social media. As someone that fishes through a lot of mediocre music in the name of journalism and just being ahead of the curve, it’s often a toss up as to who my most listened to artists will be in any given year. In 2018, I was devastated.
Drake. As if being at the top of Billboard all the time wasn’t enough, he had to be at the top of my list too. How did this happen? The album he put out that year, Scorpion, is one of his worst. If this had happened in say 2015 after If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and What a Time to be Alive, or even 2016 after “Controlla,” “Feel No Ways,” and “Too Good” it’d be one thing but 2018? I expect better from myself.
I went into last year determined not to let it happen again. No matter the catchy single or tongue-in-cheek meme, I was not going to succumb to his hit-making. Since he’s such a massive figure in pop culture, I listened to his singles once for cultural context and then never came back. And sure enough, he wasn’t even in my top five last year. The mission was accomplished however it felt like I did it on easy mode. Drake didn’t put out an album last year and his biggest single was “Money in the Grave.”
This year’s a bit different. Drake’s releasing a high volume of music in 2020. From Dark Lane Demo Tapes, the two DJ Khaled tracks, the Future, Headie One, and Lil Durk collaborations, to the announcement of another album expected before the year’s end. The Drake Law states that if a popular artist puts out 50 songs in a calendar year, a handful of them are going to be good. So I have to admit, I’ve been listening to a lot of Drake this year. With only three months left until 2021, I have a lot of work to do to ensure that this year is not a repeat of 2018.
So if you, like me, have been listening to too much Drake, or too much of anyone for that matter, I’d like to present you with a list of alternatives for the end of this year. These are not artists that sound like Drake by any means. They are just relatively smaller artists that I think are good at what they do.
Young Dolph – In the slickest virus prevention campaign since the pandemic hit, all of Young Dolph’s past album covers have been retroactively outfitted with masks on streaming services. And after a number of catchy singles this year, one of which features Megan Thee Stallion, he dropped Rich Slave, one of his best showings yet.
Bbymutha – One of the single hardest rappers out right now. Her Muthaleficent project from earlier this year is a good introduction, but I want to showcase her appearance on the brand new Black Noi$e project: “Mutha Magick.”
Whyandotte – Producer/Rapper Whyandotte has gotten some recognition as a member of two hip-hop collectives, the Detroit-based Forever Golden and the worldwide Cemetery Drive but his solo work continues to exist under the radar. My favorite tracks being “Hark,” “41,” and “Sweetie.”
Fousheé – After Fousheé’s “Deep End” was sampled by Sleepy Hallow, it became his most popular song by far and catapulted Foushee into the spotlight as well. She handled it very well by putting out an EP called Relative Motion and giving a proper release to the aforementioned “Deep End,” which is genuinely one of my favorite songs of the year.
Liv.e – After bubbling up last year with features on Earl Sweatshirt and Deem Spencer projects, and then again this year with the beautifully complex singles “SirLadyMakemFall” and “LazyEaterBetsOnHerLikeness,” Liv.e has followed it up with a full length album that sounds to me like some of the most mature music in the indie/r&b genre right now.
Hook – One of the most interesting rappers out right now is Hook. Her influences are hard to pinpoint because she’s done such a good job of creating her own sound with the help of producers Nedarb and 2thousan9. With two great projects under her belt already this year, I’m eager to see what she does next.
Lil Keed – Young Thug protege turned Atlanta’s most consistent is Lil Keed. Last year’s Long Live Mexico turned out to be one of the best rap albums of the year and it seems like his showing this year won’t be much different. Trapped on Cleveland 3 is another balanced project with strong features and heartfelt solo tracks.
Here are some Chicago organizations that are doing great work toward justice and equity: The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, the Chicago Torture Justice Center, Assata’s Daughters, Good Kids Mad City, BYP100, SOUL Chicago, Blck Rising, Black Abolitionist Network, Brave Space Alliance, and Invisible Institute.
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