Gang Signs
"Gang Signs" Freddie Gibbs, featuring ScHoolboy Q
Well folks, what can I say? It’s been a rough week… at least we’re not Texas? One of the only good things going on right now is that music artists have been dropping lots of heat for us to enjoy during the never-ending pandemmy—much more than I have room to share here. Please take a deep breath, get a glass of water, stretch your weary limbs, and dive into these seven new music releases from locally loved and nationally known artists.

“Gang Signs,” Freddie Gibbs featuring ScHoolboy Q

Grammy nominated rapper Freddie Gibbs teamed up with Top Dawg Entertainment’s ScHoolboy Q for this new single “Gang Signs,” and it’s pretty great. I particularly love the first verse, where Gibbs Raps “I just wanna be legit/Fuck a bad Insta bitch/ Bunny Rabbit off the rip/Bunny Rabbit wrist is lit/'Mighty-'Mighty know it's lit/All is well in this bitch/Hundred shells in this bitch/ fifty shells in this bitch/Never tell in this bitch, fuck 12, suck a dick/ fuck 12, suck a dick.” It’s laced with jazzy trumpet throughout, and both rappers’ rhythmic flow and witty lyrics go perfectly over the top.

“Black Magic,” Kelly Rowland

Right in time for Valentine’s Day, Kelly Rowland recently put out a new single called “Black Magic.” The four-minute song is a sonic celebration of Black love and what it breeds (“Black Magic, baby”). It’s almost like you can hear friend and former Destiny’s Child bandmate Beyoncé’s notes come through on the track. “I heart you in stages/Keep my heart beat racing/Finding us is too uncommon/Bury love like Tutankhamun,” Rowland sings. “When it all falls down/They gon’ write they books about us/When it all goes down/How will they world look without us.” The music video is also a must watch, with Rowland’s pregnant belly being painted into a work of art, and her three-week-old newborn son Noah gets a starring role.

“Fight for You,” H.E.R.

R&B singer/songwriter/guitarist H.E.R. has a new song on the Judas and the Black Messiah soundtrack. With just a taste of ’70s soul influence palpable here, the song’s production is reminiscent of something Marvin Gaye would be singing over. And its lyrics feel like they could be written from the perspective of Chicago Black Panther and activist Fred Hampton, who, as the movie will tell, was shot and killed in his bed during a police raid after the FBI identified him as a radical threat. “All the smoke in the air/Feel the hate when they stare/All the pain that we bear/Oh, you better beware/Their guns don't play fair/All we got is a prayer/It was all in their plans/Wash the blood from your hands,” sings H.E.R, who also performed the song recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

“Chinatown,” Bryson the Alien

It seems like a great time to mention my boo boo’s new single “Chinatown,” especially so close to Valentine’s day. On February 12, the Sumalienz collective founder dropped a second track from his forthcoming album BTA World 64 , which drops March 1. On top of production that includes sounds reminiscent of video game, Bryson the Alien begins “I’m in Chinatown, my eyes low but my spirit’s high/Just ate the pad Thai, watching the moon rise.” New- and space-age references abound, and the song clocks at just under four minutes.

“Strangers,” Black Pumas feat. Lucious

This soulful cover of The Kinks’ “Strangers” by Black Pumas also features the voices from indie pop band Lucius. The song was recorded for the soundtrack to Life In A Day 2020, a crowdsourced documentary and follow-up to the 2011 film Life In A Day. They take a gospel approach for the collab, with Black Pumas’ Adrian Quesada playing organ while frontman Eric Burton harmonizes beautifully with Lucius lead singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. “Strangers on this road we are on/We are not two, we are one,” they sing. It’s also worth checking out this video that shows and explains how the collaboration came together, culminating in the final recording.

“River Running By,” Jeffrey Silverstein

Portland country-folk artist Jeffrey Silverstein just released this new track from his forthcoming EP Torii Gates, set to release on April 16 for Arrowhawk Records. In a recent press release, Silverstein says that “Ultimately, 'River Running By' is a sonic representation of blue mind, the meditative state we fall into when near, in or under water—in my case a summer spent searching for the crown jewel of swimming holes here in the Pacific Northwest.” And that definitely comes through in the fresh country track, which is mellow and soothing, with soft guitar licks, and Silverstein singing in his lower register.