This week, Meek Mill and The Game aired their grievances against "wack music." On Monday, the Philadelphia rapper tweeted prophetically, "This year wack music will perish." The next day, The Game aired his frustrations about what he thinks is the biggest culprit in promoting bad music: "The internet forces you to listen to wack-ass music," he tweeted. While we'd never try to defend "wack-ass music," you certainly have to admit that the industry needs balance. Good music wouldn't feel as fulfilling without being able to compare it to something absolutely horrible.
The internet does help signal boost complete garbage like BoyBoy West Coast's "You Was at the Club," but it also has the power to make deserving underdogs, like Lil Nas X and Roddy Ricch, superstars. In a month where Grimes' Miss Anthropocene tried to make climate change "fun," and Justin Bieber wouldn't shut up about how much sex he has on Changes, there are a ton of other musical moments that fall in between those extremes. Trace Mountains' lo fi rock and Pop Smoke's gritty drill music both coexist is Brooklyn. Music is still good, you just have to look for it. Here are 10 songs that VICE staffers couldn't stop listening to this month.
Pop Smoke featuring Quavo, "Shake the Room"
Meet the Woo 2, released nearly two weeks before Pop Smoke was fatally shot, was going to solidify the Brooklyn rapper as a star. "Shake the Room" is an indication of where Pop Smoke's career was headed. His charisma was echoing outside of Canarsie, and a feature with artists like Quavo and Gunna elsewhere on the tape proved he was being embraced by his peers. With his penchant for menacing productions and a voice so raspy it seemed unreal, he was on track to shake the world. —Kristin Corry
Katie Crutchfield recently told Rolling Stone,“I’ve become so obsessive about people like Lucinda Williams, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris. All these country powerhouse women. I wanted to step into that power a little bit.” She more than does that Saint Cloud, her fifth album as Waxahatchee, which leans heavily into country-inflected roots and twang. Backed by Detroit band Bonny Doon on the LP, Crutchfield sounds especially confident on single "Lilacs," where she sings, "I won't end up anywhere good without you / I need your love too." It's the best thing she's ever put out and bodes well for the remaining tracks on her forthcoming effort. —JT
Lala Lala and Grapetooth, "Fantasy Movie"
Both Lala Lala and Grapetooth had two of the most exciting Chicago LPs of 2018, but here they collaborate on a pair of singles that play to both acts' strengths. The groups make strikingly different music—Grapetooth thrives on synth-rocking rave ups where Lala Lala deals in diaristic indie rock—but together it's a compelling synthesis. The best of the singles is "Fantasy Movie," where Lala Lala's Lillie West broodingly sings of a new infatuation: "Just to be around you / Just to watch you talk / I know its not real but / Can we live in a song." —JT
Roy Kinsey, "Invisible Man"
Roy Kinsey brings a perspective that's unique even in the vibrant and eclectic Chicago hip-hop community. He's a gay black man who's been a librarian for over a decade and his music is deeply concerned with navigating his identity through personal and political reflections on the record. On "Invisible Man," he's at his most defiant, emotional, and confident over a menacing beat from Wildersee. —JT
Spike Chester, "Playa Wayz"
If you've never heard of Spike Chester, Milk N Honey urges you to get acquainted. "Playa Wayz," a standout from the 9-track project, is what the kids call "a vibe." The production is playful with a flirty flute that manages not to sound like a relic of 2017's obsession with the woodwind instrument. The song evokes frisky Friday night energy: "If I'm lost don't find me, I'm in the bathroom with lil shorty," he sings before a woman's voice, an uncredited artist named Auty Millz, joins him. What happens in the bathroom might stay in the bathroom, but "Playa Wayz" should spread like gossip. —KC
V.V. Lightbody, "If It's Not Me"
V.V. Lightbody, the Chicago artist who tours with Lala and performs as Valebol with Dos Santos drummer Daniel Villarreal-Carrillo, sings about her ex's new partner on "If It's Not Me." Where other artists have taken a more vindictive and bitter angle on the well-trodden topic, she approaches it with kindness: "If it’s not me, I hope she’s happy too / I never wanna hate another woman just because she’s out there livin'." It's a gorgeous single full of refreshing generosity. —JT
Trace Mountains, "Lost in the Country"
Trace Mountain's new song "Lost in the Country" has pastoral guitars and open road drive-ready arrangement but its emotional core comes from a mundane moment: sitting in a venue green room on tour. Dave Benton, the former LVL UP member who performs as Trace Mountains, writes of a time he played in the Netherlands and became overwhelmed with sadness. He sings, "I check my email twice as I sat and cried / The singer from the other band asked if I'm alright / And they sat with me for a while in the cold dark country." It's a small, awkward moment of kindness that carries the ambling indie rocker across six epic minutes. —JT
Diana Gordon, "Rollin"
Diana Gordon has a new rager on her hands. "Rollin" is fun and addictive, and quite frankly sounds like something you'd hear on an episode of Euphoria. Gordon is less wrapped up with being intoxicated ("Don't needa be high to be rollin'), she just wants to escape her current reality, even if that means putting your priorities on the back burner. "You got work tomorrow damn you really brave / Feelin savage turn to Travis when we rage." She might want to use some PTO just to be on the safe side. —KC
Young Nudy, "Cap Dem"
"Before you do anything, fire up you a blunt," Young Nudy instructs listeners at the beginning of "Cap Dem." It's the right move, because this song is meant to be listened to in an enhanced state. Heavily represented on VICE's 100 best albums and songs of 2019 lists for Sli'mere, his excellent collaboration with producer Pi'erre Bourne, the Atlanta rapper didn't waste any time releasing a tape full of more tranced-out raps on Anyways. "Cap Dem" is an exemplar of his infectious flow and impeccable beat selection. —Leslie Horn
You probably didn't wake up Thursday expecting to hear a beautiful interpolation of Rascal Flatt’s “Bless the Broken Road” sung by someone in a Saint Laurent bulletproof, gold fronts, and a ski mask. RMR’s “Rascal” is yearning, hopeful, and positively uplifting—the perfect salve for our troubled times. If you don’t choke up when he belts “every sleepless night,” I simply do not know what to tell you. Life truly is a highway! —Avery Mencher