Instagram Soundcloud Spotify

The Avalanches, Death Grips And Pusha T: Andy Kirkpatrick’s Summer Singles Breakdown

Written by:

The summer is an especially big season for chart-vying singles. So many came out just last week alone that it’s taken me half of this week to actually put my thoughts about them into writing. In the interest making this article a bit more accessible for people just trying to look for summer jams, I’ve loosely put all the songs in ascending order in terms of how much I enjoyed them, so you can skip towards the bottom of the article to get to the good stuff. If you’re in it for the long haul, enjoy and listen along to these dozen singles.

YG – “Still Brazy”

I’m sort of surprised this is at the bottom of the heap of this week’s singles. West Coast MC YG has been on a roll with the promo tracks for his imminent sophomore release Still Brazy — the thumping G-funk of “Twist My Fingaz” and unexpected “FDT” (that’s Fuck Donald Trump) gave me high hopes. The project’s newly-released title track tempers those expectations a bit. From the repetitive, overly bassy, DJ Mustard-style instrumental to YG’s almost completely nondescript lyrics, this track is numbingly generic. Frankly, it almost sounds like someone parodying YG’s sound. Not a good look.


Rihanna & Mike Will Made-It – “Nothing Is Promised”

Want to know how I can tell when a popular artist has taken a song written by a less popular artist for their own? When I can still hear the original artist’s vocal overdubs in the background. If the lyrics and melody on “Nothing Is Promised” weren’t a dead giveaway that the song was originally by Future but hijacked by Ri Ri, then surely the fact that one can still hear Future’s adlibs floating around in the background is enough proof. In spirit, the song is another banger from Fewtch, but damn if it isn’t disappointing to think about how much better it could’ve been had he kept it for himself.


Gucci Mane (feat. Drake) – “Back on Road”

In a post-Outkast world, Gucci Mane is one of the most important forces in eccentric Southern hip-hop. After a nearly two-year stint in jail, Gucci’s regained his freedom, and has come out from behind literal bars with some of the best non-literal bars of his career. Due to some poor mixing, Drake’s hook just sort of smashes into Gucci’s verses, but those verses are truly exceptional. When Guwop comes out of the gate with “I’m just an East Atlanta n**** with a body on his belt / I done had a million beefs but I ain’t never call for help,” you know you’re in for a treat.

The Avalanches (feat. Danny Brown & MF Doom) – “Frankie Sinatra”

They haven’t put together a whole lot of material, but The Avalanches are nonetheless up there with DJ Shadow, J Dilla, and Madlib as the foremost purveyors of sampling wizardry. On a technical level, “Frankie Sinatra” (their first single in about fifteen years) is pretty great, as the crew mixes up a demented brew of calypso, swing, and hip-hop grooves. The whole thing is anchored by a heavy tuba bassline and a vocal sample from a Wilmoth Houdini song, and honestly it sounds like something off a slapstick cartoon soundtrack. Given this, Danny Brown and MF Doom are great choices for features, as they comfortably match the song’s eccentricity with animated and bizarre contributions of their own. Like the Gorillaz circa Plastic Beach the song is extremely impressive on a technical level, but that ambition is unfortunately put towards what amounts to a goofy novelty rather than something with real replay value.


Drake – “4PM in Calabasas”

Why the fuck wasn’t Drake rapping like this on Views? And why the fuck didn’t he get Frank Dukes and Vinylz to make more muscular trap beats like this? Drizzy continues to be one of the most frustrating and confounding superstars in hip-hop history, but this song is the best thing he’s put out since What A Time’s “30 for 30 Freestyle.” As per usual, he spends most of the song taking aim at his many detractors, but for the first time in a while, he sounds confident enough to look right past his haters rather than become embarrassingly defensive.

Statik Selektah (feat. 2 Chainz) – “Smoke Break”

Last year’s Lucky 7 was supposed to be Statik Selektah’s final compilation album. But the legendary Boston beatmaker seems to be back at it again with “Smoke Break,” which is rumored to be the lead-in single for his eighth compilation. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Statik’s records; each one is a lengthy and unfortunately inconsistent piece of work — the highs are high (see: “Bird’s Eye View”) and the lows are shockingly low (see: “Bodega!”). But “Smoke Break” is worth getting excited about for a couple reasons. First, it shows Statik continuing to run with the bright, synth-driven production style he introduced on last year’s excellent Lucky 7 single, “Beautiful Life.” Second, it marks his first collaboration with ATL spitter 2 Chainz, who’s proven to be one of the funniest lyricists in the game; only a monster could dislike bars like “So many acres my kids can’t trick or treat / Because them neighbors stay on a whole ‘nother street.”


Pusha T (feat. Jay Z) – “Drug Dealers Anonymous”

Pusha T has been president of GOOD Music for less than a year now, but he’s already scored the label two successful EPs and it’s first #1 single (Desiigner’s “Panda”), in addition to finally getting the crew to begin work on the long-awaited Cruel Winter (more on that literally one paragraph down). Suffice it to say, King Push has quite a knack for turning new music releases into a big event. Cue “Drug Dealers Anonymous,” a song which would’ve been a big deal simply on paper due to the fact that it features Jay Hova himself. The song has gotten even more buzz, however, due to the fact that Jay Z’s verse is actually good. In fact, Push basically lets him take the track over. In some sense, letting Hov take the spotlight is worth it, since his bars are the best they’ve been in years, with mindboggling double entendres like “Before reasonable doubt [Reasonable Doubt] dropped / the jury [jewelry] hung.” Goddamn. Still, it’s uncharacteristic of Pusha T, who typically crushes every MC he collaborates with, to let someone else dominate his track. As a collaborative piece, “Drug Dealers Anonymous” is great, and it certainly provides yet more proof that everyone’s favorite former cocaine kingpin is extremely adept at pushing those around him to step their game up. Hopefully he continues to challenge himself just as much.

Kanye West (feat. Quavo, Travi$ Scott, Gucci Mane, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Yo Gotti, & Desiigner) – “Champions (Round & Round)”

The first single for the long-awaited GOOD Music compilation album, Cruel Winter, has finally arrived. “Champions” began as a Travi$ Scott solo track, and it sounds like it; the instrumental is heavy, synth-laden darkness, and the structure is enticingly chaotic. We get a verse each from Yeezy, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, and Yo Gotti, while Gucci Mane gets two verses. La Flame, Quavo, and Desiigner, meanwhile, cycle through multiple bridges and choruses. Simply put, there’s a ton going on here, and the song may be a little too hectic for its own good considering everything is squeezed into a five-minute running time. When a song is this fun and energetic, however, it’s hard to complain. Nearly everyone contributes quotable lyrics, there’s some great chemistry on display (note how Kanye and Gucci’s verses play off each other) and the hulking beat from Lex Luger and A-Track seals the deal on what’s sure to be a summer anthem.


A$ton Matthews – “Hallelujah”

It’s been two years since BrickFlair himself, A$ton Matthews, released his excellent mixtape, A$ton 3:16. I’m hoping he puts out a new project soon, because his last few singles have been absolute fire. His latest, “Hallelujah,” might be the best yet; the cavernous beat is dreary, hopelessness and grit while A$ton’s bars are tough as hell: “You lookin’ at God up in the flesh / Ever since I walked across the water / And led up all the lambs to the slaughter / And knocked the world up out its order.” If the apocalypse were imminent, then “Hallelujah” would definitely be the number one jam of the summer.


ScHoolboy Q (feat. Kanye West) – “THat Part”

Black Hippy spitter ScHoolboy Q finally has a release date for his second major label project — July 8th. I’m not going to write about “THat Part” too extensively because I have a feeling I’ll be writing a lot about Q’s next (and as of yet untitled) opus once it finally hits. Between this latest single and “Groovy Tony,” Q seems to have tapped into a fascinating and consistent aesthetic driven by grimey production, dark lyrics, and wonderfully off-kilter flows. Here’s hoping the rest of the album follows this mold.


Death Grips (feat. Les Claypool) – “More Than The Fairy”

At this point, it’s become clear that Death Grips’ music comes in two varieties: catchy, dark electronic earworms and huge, gritty, disorienting punk rap. “More Than The Fairy” represents the latter category, so it makes sense why it was left off the band’s latest and most straightforward LP, Bottomless Pit. The song features a bassline courtesy of Les Claypool, and though his feature credit may attract new listeners, Claypool’s contributions are ultimately pretty inconsequential. As always, it’s the ferocious chemistry between Ride, Flatlander, and Zach Hill that takes center stage. Flatlander’s pulsing, brittle synths and Hill’s chaotic drumming leave MC Ride a veritable musical gauntlet to work through, which he succeeds in navigating with flying colors. He switches flows and cadences pretty frequently, and even pitch-shifts his vocals when the song hits its crescendos. Partway through the track, we reach the eye of the storm, where the beat drops out completely and MC Ride drops his wild vocal affectations and speaks like a normal human being, saying “I know it sounds crazy at the riverbank / Ain’t thought ‘bout shit for a minute mane.” Seconds later the song kicks back into high gear and Ride dives right back into his monstrous persona. In Death Grips’ bleak sonic world there is no time to stop and reflect; it’s animal instinct, not thought, that yields salvation.


Travi$ Scott & Young Thug (feat. Quavo) – “Pick Up The Phone”

Damn near every big name artist tries to make the Song of the Summer, the track we’ll all be blasting at absurd volumes to hear over the AC in our cars, blasting at absurd volumes at barbecues, and blasting at absurd volumes until the new year. Thus far, the strongest contender for this hallowed popular music prize is Travi$ Scott, Young Thug, and Quavo’s “Pick Up The Phone.” Produced by a dream-team of Vinylz, Frank Dukes, Allen Ritter, Mike Dean, and presumably La Flame himself considering some of the songwriting choices, “Pick up the Phone” would be a banger off the strength of its instrumental alone. The warbling tropical synth lead has been stuck in my head for days now, and it’s perfectly counterbalanced by a growling bassline and icy crooning that ensure it doesn’t lose its trap flavor. Much like another Scott-helmed posse cut, last year’s “Nightcrawler,” almost every moment on “Pick up the Phone” is catchy enough to be the hook; from Travi$ and Thugger’s sing-along chorus to Quavo’s immensely quotable verse (with lines like “Pick up the phone / Macaulay Culkin baby home alone” and “Birds in the trap singin’ Brian McKnight”) “Pick up the Phone” is pure anthemic bliss.