DJ Khaled’s Grateful album has officially rolled out on streaming services, just an hour after the 41-year-old artist presented the project on We the Best Radio.
The early premiere was a nice surprise for fans who’ve been waiting on the 23-track album since Khaled announced it back in February. Since then, we’ve received a handful of singles off the star-studded project, such as “Shining” with Beyoncé and Jay Z, “I'm the One” featuring Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne, as well as “Wild Thoughts” with Rihanna and Bryson Tiller.
The rest of the album will include guest appearances by everyone from Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj to Nas and Travis Scott to Drake and Calvin Harris. Khaled’s infant son Asahd also landed a credit as executive producer.
“He is credited as executive producer, and his attorney has his points and royalties, everything,” Khaled explained during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “Listening to the songs, going over the business part of it, [deciding] if the vocals are right, if the beats are right, if the energy’s right. When he [rocks and grins], those are smash hit records, when he [looks deep in thought], that’s the real serious records but hits with substance.”
Grateful is now available to stream on Apple Music and can be purchased on iTunes. To celebrate the project's release, Khaled also dropped a video for the album's intro, “I'm So Grateful.”
Like most Knicks fans right now, Stephen A. Smith is pretty upset about all of the Kristaps Porzingis trade rumors that are flying around at the moment. But don’t just take our word for it. Instead, check out how animated he got at the start of his The Stephen A. Smith Show on Tuesday afternoon when he launched into a passionate tirade against Phil Jackson right at the top of the show:
And believe it or not—OK, you believe it…—SAS has only gotten more upset over the Porzingis rumors since then, especially since Jackson is now talking like a guy who is actually considering the idea of trading Porzingis at some point in the very near future.
But on Thursday morning’s episode of ESPN First Take, SAS let his emotions get the best of him, and he said something that’s probably not going to sit real well with former NBA star Lamar Odom. While discussing some of the questionable transactions Jackson has made since joining the Knicks in 2014, SAS brought up one of Jackson’s very first moves as Knicks team president, which involved him signing Odom—who hadn’t played in the NBA at all during the 2013-14 NBA season—to a contract with the Knicks. It was a confusing move at the time, and it looked even more confusing when the Knicks waived Odom less than three months after signing him.
But while talking about Jackson’s decision to sign Odom, SAS said this:
The New York Daily Newshas also pointed out that signing Odom was not Jackson’s first move as Knicks team president as SAS said. He actually signed Shannon Brown to a contract through the remainder of the 2013-14 NBA season about a month before extending one to Odom. So outside of being disrespectful while discussing Odom, SAS was also just plain wrong.
SAS went on to try and downplay his comment about Odom. “I love Lamar Odom the person, and God bless him, and we’re wishing nothing but the best,” he said.
But something tells us that love might not be reciprocated the next time SAS and Odom cross paths.
In 2012, Rhuigi Villasenor designed a black/white paisley bandana T-shirt. “It was a nod to West Coast culture,” says the 25-year-old L.A.-based designer. It was the very first thing he created for Rhude, the brand he founded a year later, and the piece that helped catapult the label.
Villasenor had no intention of selling the T-shirt at first. “I didn’t want anyone else to have my look,” he says. But he eventually gave it to Lamar, who wore black and red versions to the BET Awards. “It was beautiful,” he says. “It changed my life.”
At the encouragement of his friends Chris Stamp and Guillermo Andrade, designers of Stampd and 424, respectively, Villasenor also made the bandana T-shirt available to the public. “Chris was like, ‘If you don’t make the shirt, I will,’” Villasenor says with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Oh shit! I gotta make this.’” Soon, other brands were making knock-offs of his design.
Since then, Rhude has built a solid fanbase. The brand, which has expanded from tees to a full line, is one of the best men’s labels around. It’s been worn by celebrities—Big Sean, ASAP Rocky, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Offset, Future, Bella Hadid—and sold at dozens of the best retailers, such as Barneys, SSENSE, Patron of the New, 424, and Union.
Born in Manila, Philippines, Villasenor was always interested in clothing but a career in fashion didn’t seem viable. His father, who was an architect, wanted him to work in the medical field. “The arts is something they frown upon in the Filipino culture,” he explains. “So I didn’t think about that at all.”
But during his senior year of high school, he started working with TISA, the clothing label by producer and Kanye West collaborator Taz Arnold, helping in any way he could. (He met Arnold at one of TISA’s parties in L.A.) “I was consulting, I did videos and campaigns,” he says. He wasn’t being paid, but he considered the experience valuable. “At the time, I thought TISA was the first driving force in L.A. ever. Prices were increasing, and kids were purchasing. After [TISA], it was like a domino effect. You couldn’t see kids spend just $20 on a T-shirt anymore.”
From there, he began taking pattern making classes and assisting stylists for guys like Big Sean. At 19, he interned for British menswear designer Shaun Samson. “At the time, [Comme des Garcons designer] Rei Kawakubo had just said he was an influential designer so I was like, ‘Damn. If Rei Kawakubo is calling him that then I gotta pay attention,” he says. “Shaun taught me so much about design.”
Growing up, his family had very little money and he couldn’t afford the clothes he wanted to wear. So, he decided to make his own. “It was hard to get fresh,” he says. “You had to create your own, start boosting, or wear bootleg. I wasn’t about to be the kid that wore bootleg.” In 2013, he launched Rhude.
Rhude borrows from Villasenor’s personal stories and relationships. The moniker itself honors his family’s tradition of names that start with “Rh.” Many of the collections are extensions of his emotions and experiences. The Spring 2016 “Sugarland” collection—ripped jeans, tees with cigarette burns, and logo-heavy jackets—was inspired by a breakup with a girl he spent a lot of time with in Texas. “I envisioned a kid who was trying to break out of a small city but didn’t really know how to find a way out,” he explains. “The kid ends up joining the military, comes back with PTSD, and is lost.” The theme bleeds into Rhude’s Spring/Summer 2017 “Electric Eather” and Fall/Winter 2017 “Motorpsycho” collections. “‘Electric Earth’ would be the recover from that breakup,” says Villasenor. “‘Motorpsycho would be the, ‘I’m done. I’m hanging out.’ It’s like I’m writing volumes.”
Rhude is still a relatively small operation, with only a staff of six full-time employees. But Villasenor has big plans for his brand. In a few weeks, he’ll release Rhude’s trendy track pants, which ASAP Rocky has already been seen wearing. Later this year, he’ll expand the brand to include womenswear and footwear, as well as a possible collaboration with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White label. “Virgil and I are figuring that out,” he says. “That Off-White x Rhude.” (The pair recently made tie-dye hoodies for friends and family only.) He hopes to someday open a flagship store in Sugar Land, Texas, but one more similar to the Prada Marfa, a permanently installed sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset also in Texas, than a traditional brick and mortar.
The way rappers are dressing is evolving again. What once was relegated to baggy denim and gold chains has been upgraded to tailored designer wear, trendsetting sneakers, and obscure street and skatewear. What hasn’t changed, though, is how much these artists influence mainstream culture; they’re truly the innovators. It’s no wonder that high fashion is finally acknowledging rappers and making them global ambassadors or faces of their brands— if anything, it was long overdue.
But it isn’t just rappers who are contributing to, and even dominating, the style conversations today. Actors and athletes are too. Think 21-year-old Moonlight star Ashton Sanders and UFC champ Conor McGregor.
But who are the best-dressed men today? Some choices are obvious—ASAP Rocky and Pharrell—but there are some who surprised us this year. There are also a few people who we left off this list. That isn’t to say they aren’t well-dressed, but they were either super low-key (as in, we rarely saw them in the last few months) or were just not having a good year so far. Things will change though, we’re sure. But at the halfway point of 2017, here are our picks for the most stylish men of the year.
Harry Styles has the perfect pop star name, excellent pop star hair, and a time-tested pop star demeanor that seems to always suggest he was up all night having sex with someone beautiful. He also, of course, has a killer wardrobe that complements all of those elements quite well—especially the sex part. When Styles throws on a Gucci suit or a silky Gucci shirt, it often looks like he just picked it up off the hotel room floor, kissed a sleeping supermodel goodbye, and barely had time to button it before sauntering onstage.
If comparing his style to vintage Mick Jagger is too obvious, consider this: Elle recently devoted an entire post to documenting how closely Styles' look mirrors what Fran Drescher wore on the '90s sitcom The Nanny. They aren't entirely wrong, which does make you wonder: Just how many models did Nanny Fine smash once those kids had gone to sleep? —Steve Dool
ASAP Rocky’s ascent to the forefront of fashion has been slowly churning over the past several years. His tendency to mix the weirdo uptown street styles of Harlem with today’s leading designers has been well-documented, but Flacko hasn’t slowed down in 2017 either. He became the face of Dior Homme, and he constantly mixes and matches styles from the likes of Raf Simons, Alessandro Michele’s Gucci, and J.W. Anderson with VLONE pieces made by ASAP Mob compatriot Bari or Japanese label Needles, grounding many of his looks with simplistic sneakers like Vans Old Skools. The end product is enviable, but uniquely his own. Five years ago, Rocky was just a blip on fashion’s radar. Now, he’s a veritable powerhouse. Hats off. —Skylar Bergl
When actor Ashton Sanders reached the end of the red carpet at the Met Gala in May, he was greeted by veteran Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley. “And you are?” Talley asked the 21-year-old star of Moonlight, declaring that he and ASAP Rocky both looked “so cool and so hot” in their head-to-toe looks by Calvin Klein by Raf Simons.
Talley is not the only one who’s become a fan of Sanders, as the young actor has quickly gone from a little-known name to one of the most exciting fashion risk-takers in Hollywood. In addition to the comfortable relationship he’s built with Simons at Calvin Klein—he also recently wore the label to the MTV Movie Awards and appeared in the brand’s Spring 2017 ad campaign—this year alone he’s repped red carpet looks from Public School, Yves Saint Laurent, and, famously, Fear of God, when he paired one of Jerry Lorenzo’s kilts with a Calvin tux and Vans Sk8-Hi’s. Not many actors can pull off both traditional and forward-thinking as well as Sanders can, and even fewer are willing to try. But Sanders makes it look easy, and yes, Andre, “so cool” too. —Steve Dool
We've seen a lot of sides to the L.A.-born actor over the past few years. Hilariously horny and clumsy-drunk high-schooler Jonah Hill. Money-hungry, arms-dealing war criminal Jonah Hill. And, most recently, we have gotten incredibly, stylishly chill Jonah Hill, who hasn't had to rely on sophomoric comedic relief to get his just due.
Hill's year in style has been his most consistent image he’s had and it doesn't even look like he's trying. Yes, the Palace ads have been hilarious and have garnered a good amount of attention for him and the British skate brand, but his affinity for minimalistic skate style and brands like Dime, Richardson, and Lotties is admirable. And he's also perfected his look, utilizing brands like Gucci and Saint Laurent, letting regular guys, like me and you, know we can also rock those brands without being gaudy. Jonah Hill is hope. —Nick Grant
The era of “Versace” Migos hasn’t disappeared completely, but the Atlanta rappers have grown up as their fame has blown up. Over the past year or so, the trio has been featured on what feels like every hit song and shifted their looks to include some of today's most coveted designers. Rest assured, there are still plenty of silk shirts, but Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset have all tested out a variety of looks worth noting. Their fur-loaded performance on Fallon and blacked-out suits with accompanying stacks of gold necklaces at the Met Gala are just the tip of the iceberg. In their regular rotation you'll find a steady stream of luxury labels like Gucci and Saint Laurent as well as smaller upstarts like Palm Angels and Amiri. They're also not afraid to flex their eyewear selections either, as Quavo and Takeoff frequently opt for circular frames and retro '60s-esque sunglasses. Not since the 1800s have spectacles been so stylish. —Skylar Bergl
In September 2014, when Travis Scott walked in Mark McNairy's NYFW show, it was both excitingly of-the-moment—at the time, Scott hadn’t released any studio albums, just the seminalmixtape Days Before Rodeo—and a foreshadowing, because he fit the environment so damn well. Fast-forward two-and-a-half years, and La Flame's fashion profile has risen concurrently with his position in music—critically acclaimed albums, Nike deal. Scott oscillates between streetwear fanatic with an unlimited Grailed budget and idiosyncratic choices like his affinity for weird camo patterns, wildly baggy looks, or whatever the hell he's doing on the “goosebumps” cover. It may not always work, but it's clear the same amount of precision goes into his style as it does his music. Which is to say, it always stands out. —Frazier Tharpe
Once upon a time—like, seven months ago—we praised Donald Glover for being a low-key style icon. He wore trucker hats, Nike Cortez sneakers, and every manner of graphic tee and made it look cool and authentically unbothered, suggesting he’d be dressing this way even if he weren’t one of the most in-demand multi-hyphenates in entertainment.
But then, Glover met Gucci, and there is nothing low-key about that. Like Beyonce, Harry Styles, and 9,000 other celebrities, Glover has frequently been turning to the more-is-more, Italian maximalist fashion house for public appearances. There was his chocolate brown tux at the Golden Globes, his printed button-down at the brand’s resort runway show in Florence, and the Donald Duck cardigan that goes for over $1,000. Even when he goes British—as he did in a paisley Burberry tuxedo at this year’s Met Gala—it’s bold and loud. But the most impressive part of Glover’s style swerve is how effortlessly it works; he looks equally comfortable and natural going high and low. And Glover purists don’t need to worry: Those Nikes are still close by. —Steve Dool
Scott Disick has certainly not always been the most stylish guy around, but long gone are his preppy frat boy fits. He has figured out how to dress, and it looks like the transformation is here to stay. Disick keeps up with today’s best trends, and can pull them off almost perfectly. He rocksAdidas Ultra Boosts,Calabasas track pants, and oversized hoodies when he wants to keep it comfy. Pieces like distressed jeans, brown Chelsea boots, and solid-colored T-shirts are also always in heavy rotation. We’ve joked that Kanye West influenced the entire Kardashian family’s style. If that’s truly the case, we’d like to personally thank him for helping Lord Disick unlock his full potential. —Mike DeStefano
After a five-year hiatus, Frank Ocean finally released new music with the critically-acclaimed Blond. Still, the singer is pretty low-key about everything. The very few times we see him out in public it’s like spotting a unicorn. But make no mistake: Ocean’s fits are almost always on-point. From Bianca Chandon hoodies and a Japan-exclusiveGuess T-shirt, to more formal choices like his 2017 Met Gala fit, Ocean covers all sides of the fashion spectrum. Let’s just hope he sticks around a little longer this time to display more fire fits before he goes back into hiding. —Mike DeStefano
There’s no denying it anymore: The Weeknd is a star. Earlier this month, I saw him perform at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for his “Starboy: Legends of the Fall Tour” and the Canadian singer, who once preferred to stay mysterious, commanded the stage in an arena filled to the brim with tens of thousands of fans. His style has certainly matched his celebrity.
Little about the Weeknd’s style has changed from last year, but that’s a good thing. Instead, he’s continued to build on his rockstar, mostly black look. The labels he’s wearing are still only the finest money can buy—Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Gucci, etc.—but his looks aren’t so out-there that the regular guy can’t emulate it. It’s like they say: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. —Karizza Sanchez
Conor McGregor can really be best described as one thing: consistent. He has consistently destroyed opponents and won multiple UFC title belts. He’s consistently talked shit to and about undefeated welterweight boxer Floyd Mayweather, who he’s finally set to fight on August 26. And, in this year of our Lord 2017, The “Notorious” Irishman has consistently showcased some absolutely ostentatious fits that only he could pull off.
McGregor’s Instagram account has been the headquarters for his outward expression of his stunt-worthy lifestyle, pairing PJs with SL (Saint Laurent), and high-velocity speedboats with high-priced Louis Vuitton T-shirts. His flamboyant personality and love for pricey toys are only matched by his penchant for rocking the hell out of bright-colored tops with the good ol' invisible tie and designer sneakers. While McGregor has had his fair share of issues outside the Octagon, his exuberant style is undeniable and, quite honestly, refreshing when other athletes just can’t seem to get their look right. —Nick Grant
There are risk-takers, and then there’s Pharrell Williams, who is just way too advanced. Who else in hip-hop can pull off eyeliner? Or stand next to his wife, who wore full Comme des Garçons, at the Met Gala and not look mediocre in custom ripped jeans, a flannel, a leather jacket, and boots? (Although, to be honest, I would’ve appreciated a head-to-toe CdG outfit from the king of wearing Japanese brands.) Or make history and be the first man to be featured in a Chanel bag campaign? Pharrell beats to his own drum. He doesn’t follow trends; he starts them. Sure, his style may not be for everyone, but guess what? He couldn’t care less. Plus, it’s probably secretly how you wish you could dress, anyway. —Karizza Sanchez
Quiet as kept, 2 Chainz has been one of the rap game's best and most prolific artists over the last half decade. After shedding the Tity Boi moniker and starting fresh under his current name, the gaudy, fun-loving Georgia native quickly became one of the most beloved rappers in the business.
But it's not just his persona and his nature as a person that endears him to fans—this dude can rap. And he proved it once again with a freestyle over Kendrick Lamar's “DNA,” coasting on the beat for a solid two-and-a-half minutes while in-studio with the LA Leakers crew.
2 Chainz doesn't just float on one of the year's top instrumentals, he even mimics the rhyme scheme employed by Kendrick for roughly the first minute of the freestyle, splicing in rapid-fire bars and putting his own spin on the Damn track. He eventually relents, but even as he strays from the original style of “DNA,” he finds time to add his own hook to promote his upcoming album, Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.
Watching the video, you can tell 2 Chainz has been thinking about and listening to “DNA” a lot since it dropped. “Shout-out to Kendrick,” he said as he finished up, “he like the illest one doing it in the game, salute TDE.”
Pretty Girls Like Trap Music is set to be an experience only 2 Chainz can deliver. What other rapper in the game is offering an accompanying VR experience with strippers as part of their album? He's a true renaissance man.
You can watch the full video of the 2 Chainz freestyle up top, and sleep on Pretty Girls Like Trap Music at your own risk.
A concertgoer was stabbed in the ruckus following the on-stage sucker punch, and during an interview with TMZ last Thursday, XXX claimed the victim in question was his attacker, though local police disputed that premise. Rumors continued to swirl about the stabbing victim and any possible affiliation with Stone, and eventually the San Diego native saw fit to address the claims himself.
“I'm alive and well,” he said. “I didn't get stabbed, I didn't get stabbed, OK, I'm alive and well, just for all the people that was concerned about me getting stabbed. All my homies is alive and well, I don't know what the fuck that's about. But I feel bad for the person that did get stabbed.”
After establishing that the stabbing victim was not affiliated with him, Stone continued on, and seemed to send a direct message to XXX despite taking steps to make it sound like it was directed at a broader group of people.
“This shit is just getting crazy, and it's only going to get worse,” he said. “You can not sit and talk shit about people, or talk shit to people, y'all can't do that shit. I'm talking to everybody in the world right now, I'm not talking to a specific person. You can not sit and talk shit to motherfuckers and go to their city and not expect somebody in the city to feel some type of way about that.”
It's not immediately clear when or where the video emerged from; there's no trace of it on Stone's social feeds, but addressing the stabbing rumors in particular makes it appear as though it is from some point this past weekend, following a new diss track from Stone aimed at XXX.
As much as the on-stage knockout made for great meme fodder, let's hope things don't continue to escalate from here. It's one thing to trade shots on wax and on social media, but once someone resorts to physical violence, it's all downhill from there.
You can watch the full video below, and judge how serious the threat could be for yourself.
2016 was supposed to have been the crazy year for music; 2017 was supposed to be a break. But here we are, halfway through the year, and it feels like rap music is exploding. Many of the best MCs under 40—Kendrick, Future, and Drake—have released full-lengths, and no matter what you hear from the shrinking, fearful cohort decrying the rise of “mumble rap,” hip-hop is as filled with great rapping as it's ever been. This list is the peak of the year so far, the 10 verses that commanded attention, prompted multiple rewinds mid-bar, and had us quoting lines for months on ends (honorable mention to Giggs' verse on “KMT,” which fulfilled the last qualification, if nothing else). One caveat: The list couldn't be made up entirely of Kendrick verses. Here are the best verses of 2017, so far.
Black Thought, “Who Want It”
Verse: 1 Best line: “Otis used to sing how we should try a little tenderness/But they ultra envious, crazy disingenuous like/Who need a enemy if that's what type of friend you is?”
“I got the wordplay of Wallace, work ethic of Shakur, I was sent into the future with a message from the Moors.” Black Thought doesn’t ease into verses as much as kick in the door with them, going from zero to one hunnid instantly—then keeps the intensity all the way up, bar after bar, with internal rhymes and references flowing by so fast—”I got plans, I’m taking my revenge like Roxanne/My man swam here from Mississippi, goddamn”—you’re rewinding to the start of the first verse before the second even starts. David Banner brings it too—it is his song, after all—but you might never get that far. —Russ Bengtson
Joey Badass, “Amerrikkan Idol”
Verse: 1 Best Line: “So turn the kid raps loud, I'm about to spazz out/Watch out, another n**** runnin' in the White House”
The first verse on “AmeriKKKan Idol,” the last track on Joey Badass’s All-Amerikkkan Badass lasts nearly two minutes on its own, building to a crescendo around the minute-and-a-half mark—”Got a message for the world and I won't back out/So turn the kid raps loud, I'm about to spazz out/Watch out, another n**** runnin' in the White House”—before trailing off in frustration before the chorus kicks in. When the title of your album is a nod to one of Ice Cube’s best, you’d better bring it. With this anti-white supremacy lyrical assault—”Media's got this whole thing tainted, that's all fact/Feedin' you lies like this whole thing wasn't built on our backs”—he does exactly that. —Russ Bengtson
Future, “Might As Well”
Verse: 1 Best Line:“You will never know what I was in”
We all know that Future's life has had its valleys and peaks. But on “Might As Well” he spends less time romanticizing his rough time in the streets or providing flamboyant accounts of gluttony—instead he hopscotches over the Tarantino production, paralleling his tough past with his prosperous present.
Due in equal parts to his clear delivery, illustrative lyrics, and self-awareness he manages to poetically portray a rags to riches story, devoid of fantasy or Mafioso cliché. In its place are bars that are honest and relatable. —Brandon 'Jinx' Jenkins
Rick Ross, “Idols Become Rivals”
Verse: 3 Best Line: “Last request, can all producers please get paid?”
Man, Rozay sounds so disappointed in how Birdman handles business and his words hit even harder over a beat flip of Jay Z and Beanie’s deadbeat-dad ethering, “Where Have You Been.” Birdman has been, for the most part, quiet since this track dropped. We hope he can find it in his heart to make amends with the people he hurt over the years. Still can’t get over how the Boss felt when he found out the watches were fake and the cars were rented, smfh. —Angel Diaz
Offset, “Met Gala”
Verse: 1 Best Line: “Get to the top and we blew the ladder up”
It's always exciting when a recent real-life flex is flipped into a song. Offset and his Migos family storming the Met Gala just a few weeks ago was a major moment on the timeline, a nice example in a half-year full of them of just how far the Migos have come and how glorious it is to watch them shine. To hear Offset, on a track with Gucci Mane, wax poetic about it so soon after feels like breaking the fourth wall, like he read our tweets about posing with Celine Dion and said, “Yeah, I can't believe it either.” Except, with Offset, it just becomes a brilliant new shortcut for flexing. How good is life? It's Met-Gala-invitation good. —Frazier Tharpe
Remy Ma, “Shether”
Verse: 1 Best Line: “And to be the Queen of Rap, you gotta actually rap”
Nicki Minaj hasn’t been able to get anything to stick since Remy Ma released “Shether.” It's not the greatest song but as a verse—well, it didn’t shake up the game for an entire weekend for nothing (and 48 hours on Twitter is the equivalent of like nine human years). —Angel Diaz
Kendrick Lamar, “DNA”
Verse: 2 Best Line: “You mothafuckas can't tell me nothin/I'd rather die than to listen to you/My DNA not for imitation/Your DNA an abomination”
The second verse of “DNA” feels like a cathartic explosion of that side of Kendrick that we all want to see. The side that took the wheel on Big Sean's “Control,” who snapped during his BET Cypher Freestyle in 2013, and resurfaced most recently on the “The Heart Part IV.”
On “DNA” he's boisterous and superhuman, successfully distancing himself from further from his would-be peers. You can’t be him. He’s the Neo in hip-hop’s matrix. He’s dodging bullets and pulling triggers at the same damn time.
It's such an insane display, Mike Will had to build the beat around Kendrick's words—nothing else in his library could accommodate the barrage (and Mike is known for his massive library). This is rap as Olympic sport, but it doesn't sacrifice content for the sake of remarkable form. The verse is full of striking images (“Beach inside the window, peekin' out the window/Baby in the pool, godfather goals” and quotables (“You ain't sick enough to pull it on yourself”).
All while Rick James cries out for marijuana. —Brandon Jenkins andRoss Scarano
Drake, “Do Not Disturb”
Verse: 1 Best Line: They don't know they got to be faster than me to get to me/No one's done it successfully
“Stylin though.” A simple and catchy opening, the sort of line Drake excels at. The casual confidence in those two words is appealing; if you saw it on the rack you’d want to try it on—it’s plain, but you think you’d look great in it. Then back home, you find it doesn’t work as well as you wanted.
Relatability is overrated beyonds its ability to lure the listener in. It doesn’t keep butts in seats. At this point, is anyone still listening to Drake because they think their life is like his, that their struggles are similar? It’s the ghost of a feeling you occasionally glimpse but at this point we’re here for the Drake show, for his logo splashed on the sound a la mode and the rare peek behind the curtain at what his true life. That’s what “Do Not Disturb” gives you. “Stylin though/Dissin but got pictures with me smilin though.” The line is a revolving door—you think you’re in only to be spun back out to the sidewalk to spectate. He’s very good at what he does, you should pay attention. Wait for the summary. —Ross Scarano
Young Thug, “Sacrifices”
Verse: 3 Best Line: “Growing up, I was a running back/You never made me ran once (goddamn)/I got shot, sweat started running/That shit was red like Hunt (ketchup)”
The Young Thug that emerges about halfway into “Sacrifices,” the demure posse cut on Drake’s More Life, is one we haven’t seen before. Thug’s rapping is typically elemental, it defies categorization; explaining what Thug rapping sounds like describing the weather. On “Sacrifices,” though, Thug sounds different. Sober, surgically precise storytelling. It’s such a different flow than what fans are used to hearing that it’s tough to capture how strikingly weird the language is before Thug explodes into a Technicolor croon—the Thug we’re used to, and still thrilled by. He reins it in, later, capitalizing this new, darting rapping with his inextricably melody-laced, throaty delivery. The end result is formless impressionism, a completely new delivery from a new breed of rapper that works about as well as it sounds. It’s a triumph but, because it’s Thug, it’s impossible to say if we’ll ever hear a verse quite like it ever again. —Brendan Klinkenberg
Kendrick Lamar, “Duckworth”
Verse: 1 Best Line: “Because if Anthony killed Ducky, Top Dawg could be servin' life/While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight”
Just when you think you've seen all of K-Dot's tricks, know all of the major tentpoles of his story, this motherfucker goes and ends an already impressive album by putting his entire life into a Sliding Doors, cosmic context via the intertwined biographies of the two most important men in his life. A grand destiny fulfilled that could've easily been another banal and wasted life tossed about by the caprices of cause and effect. A tale this cinematic and unbelievably true needs John Williams on the score—9th Wonder provided the web and Kenny spun it like he was Homer delivering a myth from the heavens. Best verse on the best album of the year. —Frazier Tharpe
The 26-year-old singer was kind enough to spend some time with the Everyday Struggle crew before Ctrl drops, and we learned a good deal about her during the free-flowing conversation. Here's what we took away from our interview with her, and you can watch the full episode above.
SZA is ready to come out of her shell
During the formative stage of her career, SZA self-admitted she was shy, which is not the most common trait in people who perform for a living. But after earning reps in the industry and coming into her own as an artist, it seems like the old, shy SZA is going to be a thing of the past.
“I was editing myself,” she said of her past reservations. “But now I've given up on that.”
SZA doesn't like to write for other artists
A lot of singers below the mega-star level make a ton of their money writing and producing for other artists. Get a songwriting credit on a hit song, and you're set to rake in the royalty checks for the foreseeable future.
But SZA admitted she's not totally comfortable writing music for anyone else, even if it's in her repertoire. “I don't like to,” she said. “I can't write someone else's truth. I've just started writing, I've only written for like Rihanna and Beyonce.”
SZA thinks the industry is too concerned with branding
Getting labeled a certain type of artist is increasingly useless in 2017, with hip-hop giants routinely crossing over into singing and R&B. SZA finds branding yourself in a particular way—as an artist or just in general—is way too big of a focus.
“We know a lot of Americans that are only brands. I only know what connects with people. I just have to be me,” she said. “Am I art? Am I branding myself? That's too much—I'd rather focus on the details.”
“Ctrl” is about the illusion of control
If you were wondering what the new album's focus would be, SZA elaborated on the title, telling Everyday Struggle what the meaning is behind the name.
“It's about analog and being at a time where we were brought information more slowly,” she said. “Control is a concept, you think about getting away from analog, control is an illusion, you try and force it.”
SZA believes artists have to focus on themselves
As she prepares to drop her debut album, SZA talked a lot about the creative process behind Ctrl. Though she claims you don't throw away all the musical inspiration that brought you here, she realized at a certain point an artist's work has to come predominantly from within.
“When you first make an album, you only have your favorite albums from your favorite artists,” she said. “And you don't come close to touching them. How do I satisfy myself sonically?”