Back in the day, maybe ten years or so ago, releasing music involved a lot of commercial labour. An artist might work on a few songs over an extended period of time, then shrink wrap them into a nicely packaged CD. And while this process still exists (the amount of records that are floating in the ether with release dates extending into the latter end of this year is ridiculous), there’s a whole new format: the loosie – a track that is of the moment, uploaded to YouTube, to Spotify or Bandcamp, and not tied into a future project’s release strategy.
This format has been around for a minute (shout-out to anyone who used Soundcloud during its golden years). Right now, though, it’s being utilised in a brilliant way by, say, Tyler, the Creator, who has over the past few months released a bunch of new tracks (read: verses) that’ve further coloured the ambience of his last album, 2017’s Flower Boy. The latest of these tracks arrived on Tuesday in the form of “PEACH FUZZ” and "GELATO" (listen below), and let’s be honest, they sound like summer personified: of crushing hard in the sunshine, perspiring in the golden hour heat.
“GELATO”, in particular – in which Tyler raps over an instrumental of Jacquees’ “No Validation” – is soaked in the potential of the year’s best months. The combination of the smooth airy guitar and pumping bass from Jacquees’ OG version combine with Tyler’s Call Me By Your Name-referencing lyrics (“Ain’t gonna lie I’m feeling you / You got me on tippy toe / So who’s Oliver? Who Elio?”) to create a distinct atmosphere, one that’s probably best explained by the references above and the YouTube video artwork. Then there are his other loosies from the year: “OKRA” (a one-take rap song), “BRING IT BACK” (a remix of the Drake featuring track of the same name by Trouble), “Rose Tinted Cheeks” (a smoooooooth song intended for Flower Boy) and “435” (another rap tune).
Of course, Tyler isn’t the only one to drop a loosie. Perhaps most famously, despite not releasing an album, Frank Ocean ruled 2017 with his run of one off songs (“Chanel”, “Lens”, “Biking”, “Provider”). And, sure, the loosie isn’t a new concept at all (remember “Four Five Seconds”, or Drake’s “Hotline Bling”, which was only added to his album Views for streaming purposes). Inspired by, of all things, cigarettes (in the United States loosie is a term used to define the illegal purchase of one single cigarette), the format has long been a staple in rap music, where MCs would send their tunes off to radio stations. Or, y’know, any time Jay Electronica decides to emerge and do something, like when he released that “We Made It” remix with Jay Z.
That said, more than ever, we’re existing in an era where releasing a loosie at the right time can either be prime real estate, a way to keep up momentum, or simply to fling a piece of music out into the world. Ultimately: it is a more freeing form of creative expression. With that in mind, here are some of the other good loose tunes that’ve been breathing their way into 2018 (and hopefully beyond).
Blood Orange – “Christopher & 6th”
There was a time when it felt like Dev Hynes was always about. Whether he was striding down Brick Lane in thick-rimmed glasses with a guitar slung behind his back in the mid-2000s, or years later, on the cover of magazines like Dazed and The Fader following the mammoth success of Blood Orange’s Cupid Deluxe. These days, though, he very, very rarely surfaces other than to release one huge project, like his last album Freetown Sound, or the soundtrack to the film Palo Alto.
So when he uploads a lil track to Soundcloud now and then, it feels like a real treat. “Christopher & 6th” is definitely one of those treats. Released in February this year, it’s a sensual, acoustic gem in which his voice glides over the top like condensed milk on cake, with Ian Isiah coming in halfway through with some sumptuous vocals. He put out “June 12th” around the same time too, but this one’s my personal fav. Daisy Jones
Sorry – “Twinkle”
Unfortunately it’s been two weeks since I last banged on about north London band Sorry, and I’m here to do it again. This lot love a loosie. They can hardly stop releasing loosies. Though the sort-of grunge, sort-of garage rock four-piece have put out two visual mixtapes – Home Demo/ns Vol I and Vol II – they’re also kept squeezing out a life-giving drip feed of 7-inch singles. “Lies,” in which singer Asha Lorenz laughs in your face for thinking she was actually into you, arrived with “Wished” late last year. Banger “2 Down 2 Dance” then followed, paired up with “Harmless” in March. And now they’ve shared “Twinkle,” a fidgety reflection on someone you can’t stop thinking about. As ever, its vocal melodies wind their way around a piercing guitar line that sounds like every layer of the teenage angst you ever had when your limbs were growing out of control and your brother just wouldn’t fuck off. Gorgeous stuff (see also: B-side, “Showgirl”). Tshepo Mokoena
Vince Staples – “Get the Fuck Off My Dick”
It is law that YouTube top comments rarely, if ever, lie. So, yes, ‘no’ (how ironic), I agree with you: “the Christian woman will legit get a heart attack after hearing this ” (and if you’re not sure who the Christian woman is head here). Either way this is a perfect example of a loosie. After a brief (and failed) GoFundMe campaign where Vince agreed to shut the fuck up in exchange for $2 million, he capitalised on the moment and unleashed this track. On it – as explicitly stated in the title – he asked people (namely: critics, haters, etc) to “get the fuck off my dick”. A real stroke (no euphemism) of brilliance. Ryan Bassil
Kojey Radical feat. Mahalia – “Water”
Okay, to be fair, this might turn out to be an album track – if so, come back to me on Twitter in a few months’ time and tell me I LIED or whatever. Anyway. Kojey Radical and Mahalia have both been Noisey favourites for a while now, so seeing them collaborate here feels like one of those actually organic link-ups. At a time when Cardi B can offer a slapdash verse to Maroon 5 and no one blinks, it feels refreshing to see two artists get together motivated by more than label dollar-signs-in-eyes. Kojey released “Water” as part of a nine-minute film featuring Chewing Gum’s Michaela Coel and spliced with single “If Only,” but its a beauty on its own, too. The song opens with a deceptively chill plucked guitar line and lounge-y bass hook, but Kojey dives right in with observational bars about life today, including the sharp “name a single trend that didn’t end up like a gimmick.” Like the best political songs of its style, it delivers a message with style, duping those who aren’t listening into bopping to lyrics that see through the bullshit of hyper-consumerist society. Blessings. Tshepo Mokoena
Uffie – “Drugs”
Again, who knows, maybe Uffie – AKA the only person I paid attention to from that early 2000s French synth-pop scene – will release an album in the actual year 2018, and this will appear on it. But she hasn’t said that, sooo for now this still counts as a loosie!
“Drugs” is a sick track, full of bright, squelchy synth lines and sugary, crystalline vocals, with lyrics that are equal parts tongue-in-cheek and sincere. It’s weird how this song harks back to what Uffie was known for in the day, while also sounding exactly like something that would come out now. It basically goes to show how ahead of her time she was when she released “Pop the Glock”, and how ready we are for her today. Daisy Jones
Charli XCX – “5 in the Morning”
If you read our best British tracks of 2018 so far, you’ll have already heard me bang on about “5 in the Morning”, comparing it to some nice clean MDMA. Either way, here it is again, from the queen of loosies herself. Charli XCX has obv released a bunch of definitive albums and mixtapes over the years, but she really excels at these vivid, one-off, punchy pop tracks that make a dance-floor fill up when it’s flagging. “5 in the Morning” fits neatly within that mould, and deserves more than one shout-out for sure. Daisy Jones.
Lady Leshurr – “Black Panther”
Honestly Lady Leshurr goes so hard so consistently that it sort of hurts my chest to think about it. The Brummie rapper leans into her St Kitts roots, rapping in the Caribbean corner of her accent and speaking from her chest about anyone who might be foolish enough to doubt her skill. You probably already know about her history of freestyle loosies, from the various chapters of her Queen's Speeches (“brush your teef” and so on). And Wakanda-referencing, Missy Elliott-sampling “Black Panther” continues her tradition of letting her flow and lyricism speak for itself, paired with her trademark grin. When she rapped “I be at your door like a delivery from Asda”? I felt that. Tshepo Mokoena
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.