Listen Up

Hip-hop, acid jazz, retro soul, R&B and more in music this week

MF DOOM: Rhymes Like Dimes

Elusive, enigmatic and immensely talented, MF DOOM (born Daniel Dumile, aka Zev Love X, King Geedorah and Metal Face) has passed away aged 49. A cult favorite known for his intricate rhymes, off-kilter topics and clever wordplay, Dumile began rapping in the late ’80s as Zev Love X in KMD, a group he formed with his brother Dingilizwe Dumile. The same week his brother tragically died at just 19, KMD was dropped from their label and he dropped out of the industry until reappearing at Manhattan’s Nuyorican Poets Cafe, performing at an open-mic event while wearing a stocking over his face. Soon after—now with his trademark mask and new name, a nod to the Marvel villain Doctor Doom—he released 1999’s masterful Operation Doomsday. He went on to create albums under various monikers, and took part in several beloved collaborative projects like Madvillan (with fellow rapper Madlib) and Danger Doom (with DJ Danger Mouse). While they traverse from existential to playful, niche to universal, DOOM’s lyrics are clever, witty and weird; his dexterity and artistry always gleam on any beat. 

Celeste: Love is Back

From Not Your Muse, the forthcoming debut full-length studio album by California-born British singer-songwriter Celeste (aka Celeste Epiphany Waite), “Love is Back” ushers some uplifting, soulful spirit into the start of the year. With Waite’s vibrant vocals guiding a lavish retro production, the track sizzles from start to finish.

Bakar: Having A Good Time, Sometimes.

British recording artist Bakar (aka Abubakar Baker Shariff-Farr) closed 2020 with three consecutive releases: two collaborations with artist Lancey Foux, “Play” and “Poison,” and a solo effort called “Having A Good Time, Sometimes.” The latter, an R&B/indie tune, relies on generated drums, filtered accents and a screeching guitar crescendo. Paired with a video focused on Bakar and his dog, the track proves personal though riddled with advice for another: “I know you don’t like to listen, it’s OK / ‘Cos there’s only one life to live so it’s OK / I hope you know that it’s all OK / Sometimes you just gotta tell yourself it’s OK.”

River Tiber: Rainbow Road/Hypnotized

Canadian recording artist River Tiber (aka Tommy Paxton-Beesley) tackles vocals, bass, guitar, drums, tambourine, vibraphone, synth, rhodes, violin and cello on his double-sided single, “Rainbow Road/Hypnotized.” The sprawling songs pull influences from several genres, while referencing previous releases. There are tinges of acid jazz, hair metal, lo-fi and electronic alongside moments of ambient energy and snippets from cinematic scores. It’s an altogether mesmerizing effort.

Navy Blue: Moment Hung

Navy Blue (aka skateboarder, artist and model Sage Elsesser) balances light and darkness on his newest track, “Moment Hung.” The Jacob Rochester-produced song relies on a slow-burning, laidback beat, while Elsesser addresses heavy subjects without dimming the song’s energy. “I’m moving graciously through all the nonsense,” his first verse begins. This line embodies the track, which was released alongside a Ryosuke Tanzawa-directed visual treatment via Freedom Sounds.

Listen Up is published every Sunday and rounds up the new music we found throughout the week. Hear the year so far on our Spotify channel. Hero image courtesy of MF DOOM / Metal Face Records