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  • Writer's pictureEvan

Listens for the Week #40: DeeeP, Janelle Monáe, Big Noah Genesis, Justice Samurai, billy woods

Finally back from a fortnight abroad in Italy, I’ve missed out on so much new music, but I’m slowly catching up. Although I haven’t had a chance to check out the latest LPs from PJ Harvey, Coi Leray or Young Hachi, I’ve made some room for a few 2023 gems, with the debut album from DeeeP quickly becoming one of my favourites this year.

My Favourite Albums This Week

Something New

DeeeP – DeeP (2023) [Dance, House, Drum & Bass]

Having heard “Sick Boy” months ago – the lead single from DeeP – I knew I would love this album, but it still managed to exceed my expectations. Crammed full of heavy basslines, intricate drum patterns and hypnotic sample loops, every track is a head-bopping masterclass in electronica. While each song has its distinct strengths, they all melt together to form this languid, dreamy atmosphere where ambient synths juxtapose a thunder of percussion. The aforementioned “Sick Boy” encapsulates all the strengths of DeeP, where a haunting chorus floats over a wave of synths, given impact by the ever-changing drums which meander through the track’s runtime. “Sxlk” is a more traditional house cut where these faint synths echo throughout, evoking the sense of being submerged underwater, while a set of hi-hats add some much-needed punch to the instrumental. “Border Patrol” is another mesmerising highlight where these swirling synths harmonise with some angelic backing vocals, creating an almost ethereal atmosphere contrasted by the foreboding, pitched-down rapping throughout. Creating some of the catchiest dance tracks of the year and contrasting them with some truly immersive, ambient cuts, DeeeP’s debut album has quickly risen to one of my favourite albums this decade.

Something Classic

Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (2010) [Art Pop & Contemporary R&B]

One of the best pop albums I’ve ever heard, The ArchAndroid is never brought up enough when it comes to the greatest albums this century. Janelle’s blend of R&B and pop is phenomenal, injecting each song full of rich textures and summery layers while maintaining the catchy essence of pop perfection. After the grand, orchestral opening, the three-track run from “Dance or Die” to “Locked Inside” is perfect, with seamless transitions between each fast-paced banger to keep the momentum going and lead the listener into the heart of the album. Vocally, Janelle is a versatile master of her craft. Whether it be the whispered spoken word passages of “Dance or Die”, the eccentric, high-pitched vocals of “Wondaland”, or the theatrical balladry of “BaBopByeYa”, Monáe tackles a range of styles and pulls each one off perfectly with the confidence and versatility of a true performer. Janelle has had plenty of quality records over the year, but none match the vibrance, eclecticism and consistency of The ArchAndroid.

Something I Love

Big Noah Genesis – 226 (2023) [Hip Hop]

MC Big Noah Genesis caught my eye with his work in 2nd Cousin, a rapper-producer duo with beatmaker Act Won. 226 is his first outing as a solo artist, though Act Won still supplies a few beats, alongside new faces like Mills P and Ahmad JeanLouis. From a production standpoint, 226 is excellent, showcasing Noah’s keen ear for beats with highlights like the bass-heavy “FREE!” and the luxurious soulfulness of “Uplifted”. Noah himself is as confident as ever, dominating the mic with an impassioned delivery that makes up for his occasionally questionable bars. He’s lyrically unfiltered which makes for a range of emotionally potent moments, but a few head-scratching lines here and there fall into clichéd imagery and references, making me wish some of the fat had been trimmed from the verses. Overall, 226 is a promising debut from Noah where his unwavering energy keeps me engaged throughout. Going forward, all I can hope for is that his abilities will sharpen further, and that he maintains his ear for slick production.

My Favourite Songs This Week

1. Justice Samurai – “It’s Me” (2023) [Conscious Hip Hop]

The latest single from rapper Justice Samurai is a motivational anthem where the Samurai lists off all his strengths and aspirations through a range of tight rhyme schemes. His flow is steady, adding emphasis to his lyrics where his seemingly simple bars are packed full of intricate wordplay and meticulously arranged rhymes. The production is a simple blend of piano and bass serving as a groovy backdrop to Justice’s sharpest release this year.

2. DeeeP – “Sick Boy” (2023) [Dance, House, Drum & Bass]

Ever since listening to DeeeP this past Friday, “Sick Boy” has been looping in my head ever since. The repeating vocals are the perfect fit for the instrumental, with the ominous vocals catchy enough to hook me in yet sinister enough to blend in with the dense, frigid atmosphere. The ever-changing percussion makes the song feel like a journey, not looping the same ten seconds like so many uninspired house tracks do, but evolving naturally over the five-minute runtime. One of my favourite songs of 2023, I could play it a hundred times and never tire of it.

3. billy woods & Kenny Segal – “NYC Tapwater” (2023) [Abstract Hip Hop]

The more I listen to Maps, the more confident I am in calling it my hip hop album of the year. “NYC Tapwater” is the emotional climax of the record when billy finally returns home from touring the world, only to find his hometown is an alien place. The vivid imagery, emotive descriptions and dry delivery from billy evoke a raw sense of melancholy, illustrating his conflicted emotions without having to spell it out. billy woods may not be for everyone, but no MC is close to matching his supreme ability when it comes to describing a setting.

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