Listen Up

Classic hip-hop, experimental soundscapes, sample-heavy tunes and more in our musical round-up

Rapsody: Ibtihaj

Named for Ibtihaj Muhammad (the first American to wear a hijab when competing for the USA in the Olympics), new single “Ibtihaj,” from North Carolina rapper Rapsody, heavily samples GZA’s “Liquid Swords” and also features the Wu Tang member. Unlike the 1995 track, this release includes the immediately recognizable vocals of D’Angelo. The infectious groove will appear on Rapsody’s upcoming album EVE, which features songs that pay homage to legendary black women, from Nina Simone to Aaliyah, Whoopi Goldberg and second historically-confirmed woman pharaoh Hatshepsut.

Khushi: This Is, Pt. I

Drawn from London-born, LA-based artist Khushi’s debut album Strange Seasons (out 13 September), “This Is, Pt. 1” volleys precise, charismatic electronic arrangements against emotional lyricism in a match of great depth. Khushi wrote, produced and sang on the track, which was recorded in an East London shed and mixed by James Blake. Part two will appear on the album.

Sig Nu Gris: To Un​-​know

Melbourne-based sound designer Sig Nu Gris has just released her rich and textured “To Un-know”—an enthralling, jungle-inflected ambient tune. The track is equal parts dreamy, distorted and haunting, with a vocal sample weaving in and out along the way. “To Un-Know” is her debut release (care of Spirit Level) and she says, “When making music, part of me tries to create something that will tickle the ears of other people and produce an interesting sonic or emotional experience. The power of every frequency in a song has always been super-intense to me, so I’ve always wanted to relay some of those spine-tingling emotional experiences onto other people.”

Björk: Losss

Björk has collaborated with digital artist Tobias Gremmler for her most recent video, “Losss.” Predictably, the visuals and audio (which first appeared on 2017’s Utopia) are quite transcendent, with Björk explaining, “We based the visuals on the conversations between our inner optimist and pessimist. When I recorded this, I tried to sing in a deeper tone for one of them in the left speaker and a higher optimist in the right and if you listen on headphones, it will match the imagery.” The psychedelic video seems to blend emotion, art and science to create textural animation that’s both mind-bending and moving.

Chinatown Slalom: Where U At?

Off Liverpool-based Chinatown Slalom’s debut album, Who Wants to Be a Millionare? comes “Where U At?,” a collage-like highlight reel of the band’s sound. The four-piece (Liam Nolan, Jake Brettell, Mikey Woods and Ricky Crawford) leans into the madness of their psych influences and displays an uncanny ability to create a dynamic sound. “Where U At?” features strange samples, filtered-until-unintelligible vocals, stunning harmonies and plenty of hip-hop references. After earning comparisons to The Beatles, The xx and others, Chinatown Slalom is certainly worth keeping tabs on.

Papa Bear & His Cubs: Sweetest Thing on This Side of Heaven

Founded in 1963 by Eddie Disnute Sr, Papa Bear & His Cubs was a family band—Disnute Sr and his six kids—from Hampton, Arkansas. The group toured, recorded at SugarHill Studios and produced an LP—though only two tracks ever surfaced from those sessions. Our favorite, “Sweetest Thing on This Side of Heaven,” is a rich and soulful gospel-influenced track. Disnute Sr taught the kids to sing and play instruments. They would play together until the early ’80s, as their releasing labels Athens of the North puts it: until “the cubs were bears themselves.”