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Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

With the way individual tracks are now consumed, the idea of what constitutes a single has shifted dramatically in the last half a decade, and its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. Up this week: Drake, New Order, D∆WN, Keith Ape and more.

Angel Haze – ‘Impossible’

Son Raw: You know it’s time for a new Kanye album once the rest of the rap world has internalized the ideas from his last one. Angel Haze can rap, no doubt, but everything from the distorted vocals to the tribal/industrial drums sounds feels pilfered from 2013. (5)

Akash Chohan: It’s far darker than producer TK Kayembe’s usual Shlohmo-ey beats, jarringly so – the screams sound out of place. They’re most definitely not a running feature on his boring SoundCloud channel (unlike the Supreme Majestic Casual YouTube aesthetic), also home of this misguided Migos remix, all of which I just can’t separate. The track ends up being overall disappointing, which is a shame because Angel Haze leaves this track for dead as anticipated. (3)

Anupa Mistry: I really want to like Angel Haze, she’s smart and lyrically creative, unafraid to be aggressive and she chooses beats that are quite different from what other rappers work with, but ‘Impossible’ spools all of her flaws into one song. There’s that same monotonous flow mixed to sound as abrasive as a scouring sponge, over a beat that’s just a racket with zero charisma – which is basically her career to date. (4)

Tayyab Amin: Blaow! I stopped paying attention to Angel Haze’s movements round about the Dirty Gold release mess, and I’ve definitely missed out because I forgot she goes in! The flows on this are strong. Loud listening only. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld Angel Haze can spit, man, and is just generally smart and productive. Her commitment to telling her own truth is unwavering – her version of Eminem’s ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’ still haunts me. I wasn’t expecting this to get political in the way it did, outside of being a self-empowerment anthem, and I do wish she went a little bit harder, especially after rapping that she’s a “junkie for semantics.” It goes, though. (6.5)


Drake – ‘Back to Back Freestyle’

Akash Chohan: Despite having “Milly Mills” back like “Uncle Phil” like Drake said in ‘5AM In Toronto’, these two extremely insecure fools aren’t achieving more than providing cannon fodder for Twitter. I wish they’d left Onika out of this. Meek too, should’ve kept quiet over Drake’s relationships in the meager ‘Not-Even-1-Bar And Runnin’ reply. Structurally, it’s similar to a grime track, the song being built behind that one reload line. However, that it involves Nicki in another “you ain’t the best rapper even in your relationship” quota voids it; Nicki didn’t have to be in a relationship with Drake to upstage him on ‘Up All Night’. Genius artwork though. (4)

Son Raw: The best thing that ever happened to Drake was his coming to terms with the fact that he’s a huge asshole: the passive-aggressive “nice-guy” persona he was clinging onto isn’t a fraction as fun as this vicious, no holds barred cyber bullying. It’s no ‘Hit ‘em Up’ but you’ve got to appreciate this in context: the guy actually sent Charlamagne bottles! He donated 75 grand to Meek’s school! He used a picture of the Jays vs Phillies series! Fuck a Summer Jam screen, this is how you beef in the internet era. (8)

Anupa Mistry: I was out of the country when ‘Back To Back’ surfaced, which means that I’ve encountered more of the social media commentary about this than I’ve had time to listen to the actual song. So I’m experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance here; it’s not the music itself, but the actual thought of a feud that has everyone turned up right? Because neither Meek nor Drake’s raps are anything on the level of ‘Ether’ or ‘Superugly’, or even Mariah Carey’s ‘Obsessed’ – or most of the other great dis records of our time. Drake’s baiting out his late night texts from Meek’s gf Nicki Minaj, and clowning Meek’s opening slot on her world tour. It’s just as petty as Meek trying to incite Twitter beef with a guy who barely tweets; I want high-level dissing, conceptual dissing with a personal kick, not a Media Takeout headline couched in a bunch of lukewarm boast talk. I like ‘Back To Back’ as a track, but a high-profile clapback should leave you feeling embarrassed for the other guy. Instead I just want it all to stop. (6)

Claire Lobenfeld I thought Drake was kind of full of shit when he rapped, “I haven’t had a good time in a long time” but I can tell here that he is definitely extremely bored. You drove to the studio blasting AR-Ab? You don’t want to hear about Meek and Nicki ever again, even after she comes to you needing support if they break up? “Trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers”? Are you saying you’d rather be shot over a ghostwriting accusation than have someone talk shit about you? Here’s a line from ‘The Takeover,’ an historically non-boring diss track, unlike the two snoozers you dropped while Meek was making people cry during the tribute to his dead dad on his “girl’s tour”: “We don’t believe you, you need more people.” (n/a)

Tayyab Amin: Drake gets an (n/a) or a (0), whichever you feel like. Meek Mill gets the same. Nicki Minaj gets a (10) for dealing with this, the VMA situation (10), the Taylor Swift situation (10) as well as her tour (10) which is probably fire (10). Plus (10) for ‘Four Door Aventador’ and ‘Trini Dem Girls’ (10) which I’ve been rinsing recently (10).


Shriekin – ‘Red Beach’

Akash Chohan: Part of the charm of Murlo’s NTS shows and live sets is that his own tracks and remixes and the songs he has curated by other artists are virtually indistinguishable from each other. To say that ‘Red Beach’ unedited would fit this bill is the highest compliment. (7)

Tayyab Amin: Subconsciously gave this several SoundCloud reloads, ‘cause this is a pleasure to scroll the Twitter timeline to. I remember seeing a few names getting heavy support by Boxed before this year and I would be a little bit skeptical, simply because I’d only seen bits and pieces from them. Shriekin had ‘Bananas’ of course, but I knew it was *JME voice* serious when he did the 100% production Boxed mix. The versatility on display was staggering. Sometimes I find the exoticising aspect of sinogrime a little sickly (aesthetically speaking; social implications are a debate for another day, that day being from last year) but the range of textures involved helps this one wash down nicely. (8)

Claire Lobenfeld Donkey Kong Country goes grime. I’m here for it. (7)

Anupa Mistry: This is quite tranquil. If I were to ever open a spa, I’d have this playing softly in each treatment room instead of the drum-free trash they’ve got now. (7)

Son Raw: Grime’s first generation drew inspiration from Mega Drive [Genesis] memories and you can hear that era’s 16 bit sounds in countless records, so it’s unsurprising that the latest producers to take on the form would update the template to reflect their own childhood years in front of a game console. I have no proof that Shriekin’ owned a PS2 or played many Dynasty Warriors games, but his expansive sino-grime sure sounds like he did. And while this lost dub is a tad less polished than some of his subsequent material, that rawness works to its benefit, tempering his proggy tendencies with a genuinely “grimy”, off-the-cuff rudeness. (8)


D∆WN – ‘Roses’

Claire Lobenfeld Dawn Richard has come a long way from her Danity Kane origins, and Blackheart, the album she released earlier this year, is innovative without being cloying, one of the most interesting entries in the new wave of R&B that has been bubbling for the past few years. This is a slow-burner, not as exhilarating as the LP, but her voice is still so beautiful. I’m not grabbed by this one the way I am by, say, ‘Blow’ but I’m just happy we have her around. (6)

Anupa Mistry: A beautiful song that…. kind of goes nowhere? It sounds almost like an interlude, but as a track it feels incomplete floating out in the world untethered. (7)

Akash Chohan: Exceptional. Producer Cronos on the soft pull flamethrower trigger, dousing the vocal with low lying synth flames licking already charred petals ‘On an Autumn day’; its lyrically on a level to peak ‘09 Jhene. I can’t say for sure how much more magic can possibly be layered onto it, but the full version of ‘Honest’ cannot be released soon enough. (8)

Son Raw: At the risk of exposing myself to some serious hate mail, I’ve never listened to an entire Dawn Richard album, and this isn’t the song that’s going to incite me to make that leap. Pitched-down R&B vocals are this decade’s cranked-to-the-max Auto-Tune and I’m zoning out by the second minute here. (4)

Tayyab Amin: I just found myself nodding my head and yawning at the same time. It’s cool, it’s slick. Still, it’s just not at the level of vivacity I’ve come to expect from Dawn Richard. Which likely reflects on me more than it does her. One thing Blackheart emphasised was her versatility – I’m expecting the unexpected for the most part at this point. Just not a SoundCloud cut that sounds like it could never be more than a SoundCloud cut, but hey, her voice is fantastic, the production is decent and that outro is a delightfully sensual touch. (6)


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New Order – ‘Restless’

Anupa Mistry: Great drums, but I turned it off halfway because the vocals (and the lyrics) are so insipid and weak. It’s like they took the vocal track from an emo teen boy’s MySpace and put it over New Order production. Blech. (3)

Son Raw: Must… slate… old… rock band… gaaaah! I can’t do it. It’s New Order! And they sound good! Even without Peter Hook! This is absolutely inessential and I’m pretty sure my dad can play it while “taking a drive” but I’d rather hear Bernard Sumner than the multiple generations of melancholic offspring he fathered. (7)

Claire Lobenfeld: The title is a little too on the nose for how I feel about the song. I didn’t really know what to think when I heard last year that they were making music again and now I am scared for the full-length. (2)

Tayyab Amin: This feels like a warm up. They’re just stretching their limbs surely, ‘cause it’s a bit too bland and beige to seem like they’ve even glanced outside of the comfort zone. I can picture someone’s dad driving with the radio on and turning the volume up to this as he remembers the good old days, though. The lyrics are entirely forgettable. (5)

Akash Chohan: After spending the two minutes of this veering into in the hard shoulder without realising, I stopped at a mental Welcome Break service station. Refreshed, by the time I had continued through another 3 minutes of playback, as though eternally in that same hard shoulder, I’d achieved this level of consciousness sat behind the steering wheel.


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Keith Ape – ‘It G Ma’ (Remix)

Son Raw: They did it. They finally killed cloud rap. If this doesn’t convince the world that quasi-edgy drug imagery and trap beats cribbed off the A$AP Mob’s B-team isn’t worth pursuing, I don’t know what will. (1)

Tayyab Amin: I’ve been thinking about how wild 2015 has been. I seemed to have forgotten all the stuff that went down in the winter, it’s as if I only see 2015 post-If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. It was in that hazy period at the start of the year I saw the video for ‘It G Ma’, and since then we’ve had OG Maco more or less disown ‘U Guessed It’ – the spiritual predecessor to ‘It G Ma’. Meanwhile, all the white non-rap fans somehow know the lyrics to ‘CoCo’. Fast-forward to the present, and I’m swearing by ‘Classic Man’. It’s been a strange year, and it’s really good to see an ‘It G Ma’ resurgence, and one that I can actually try and rap along to at that.

Listen, I didn’t even make it through the first verse before I started screaming uncontrollably. Waka Flocka Flame started talking about, “It’s a offering now,” and I was gone. I’ve never been to the gym but this is an arm day track, I could feel it when I started swingin’ at ghosts in my bedroom. First you had a Korean parroting a black American artist and now A$AP Ferg’s up in the video rapping with chopsticks boasting, “Woke up in this bitch like I’m Asian” in a truly no holds barred affair. (10)

Anupa Mistry: LOL, this is cool. (9)

Claire Lobenfeld: What a beautiful collection of unfettered weirdos! At first blush, I thought this was perhaps a 2015 ‘U Guessed It’ but it is so in hook construction and nothing else. It’s great to hear Waka sounding like himself again, particularly after the nightmare that was his Good Charlotte collab ‘Game On’ from the Adam Sandler video game movie and so, so, so much EDM. Father’s casual nonchalance is oddly perfect here, despite the track calling for a bug out and Ferg finesses his Hood Pope crooning into the track’s crowning jewel. But for real, Dumbfoundead, I don’t know you, but I love you. You can rap your ass off. I haven’t been this excited about a posse cut since Mr. Muthafukin’ eXquire came out of the woodworks with Despot, Danny Brown, El-P and Das Racist on ‘The Last Huzzah’ and I’m delighted. (8)

Akash Chohan: I’m not the biggest Father fan, (though I’m thankful for the the ABRA feature on his last release) and this verse doesn’t make headway to convince me otherwise. Flocka and Ferg make up for the guest slots on a track that admittedly, has little lasting effect. (5)


Final scores:

Shriekin – ‘Red Beach’ (7.4)
Keith Ape – ‘It G Ma’ (Remix) (6.6)
D∆WN – ‘Roses’ (6.2)
Drake – ‘Back to Back Freestyle’ (6)
Angel Haze – ‘Impossible’ (5.4)
New Order – ‘Restless’ (3.6)

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