Saying farewell to Yvonne Staples, new tunes by Drake, Empress Of, Kid Cudi and more

Empress Of: Trust Me Baby

Three years since her debut album Me, Empress Of (aka singer/songwriter, Lorely Rodriguez) has released two new songs: “In Dreams” and “Trust Me Baby”—both written, produced, engineered and performed by Rodriguez. The latter (co-produced by LA’s Cole MGN) blends in some warm R&B to her usual synth-heavy, sparkly electronic style.

Drake: Nice For What

Drake’s new track (featuring Big Freedia and Letitia Wright on the bridge) “Nice For What” is a sheer celebration of women—specifically independent women—despite heavily sampling Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” which is about distrust of a lover. (Hill’s song samples Wu-Tang’s “Can It Be All So Simple,” which itself samples Gladys Knight + the Pips’ cover of Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were”—just for some serious song inception.) Essentially a song praising women for being self-reliant and truly themselves, the accompanying video features a bunch of women (from Tracy Ellis Ross to Issa Rae, Olivia Wilde, Tiffany Haddish and more) doing everything from riding horses to studying and partying. As a not-so-subtle nod, Drake echoes one of many feminist messages, repeating, “You gotta be nice, for what?”

Kid Cudi: The Rage

With a chorus drawn from the Smashing Pumpkins’ classic “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” Kid Cudi’s “The Rage” makes for a genre-smashing, mash-up-like banger. And all things considered, the sum is greater than the parts here. Once again the rapper delivers lyrics worth poring over, while the track possesses a rich warmth.

Dr. Dog: Heart Killer

Dr. Dog returns with “Heart Killer,” taking their signature vocals and guitar-driven grooves to a new level. A true demonstration of their musical talents, the song was recorded to a 16-track analogue tape during production, as were the other tunes on the their forthcoming album Critical Equation. It will be released on 27 April.

Okkervil River: Don’t Move Back To LA

Another clever, compelling work dedicated to thoughts of moving west, “Don’t Move Back To LA” offers Okkervil River’s laundry list of reasons to stay east—or anywhere else. Will Sheff’s lyricism—cast out through his recognizable gravelly vocals—toes a comedic line, addressing license renewal and alcohol intake. But it’s the video Sheff directs that makes the greatest case, featuring beautiful imagery of both New York and a New Hampshire farm. The video also acts as a call to action for donations to the American Farmland Trust, emphasizing the altruism at play.

Confidence Man: Don’t You Know I’m In A Band

With “Don’t You Know I’m In A Band,” Melbourne-based band Confidence Man offers a slice of dance-floor wit. The video, directed by Schall & Schnabel, features all four members traipsing through magazine spreads—posing, dancing and triggering some hearty laughs. The track appears on their forthcoming Confident Music For Confident People debut album.

The Staple Singers: I’ll Take You There

Yvonne Staples of soul trio The Staple Singers has died at 80 years old. Yvonne replaced her brother in the band after he was drafted into the army, making the group three sisters with their father on guitar. The song “I’ll Take You There” was a Billboard top 100 in 1972 (when it was released) and spent some 15 weeks on the chart. Later it was covered and sampled several times; perhaps most notably in Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex.” The upbeat track (oftentimes viewed as a kind of utopian anthem in which the civil rights movement was successful) is full of call-and-response, cheerful horns and approachable chords.

ListenUp is a Cool Hunting series published every Sunday that rounds up the music we tweeted throughout the week, also found in Listen. Hear the year so far via Cool Hunting Spotify.