I think one of the most significant progressions in my ways of listening to music over the years is that I've come to realize that chart positions and sales figures don't matter that much. They just indicate what is on high rotation at the moment, which is not necessarily all good. If I think a song is crap, its topping the chart doesn't change a thing. Of all of the hip-hop/rap/r&b stuff that currently reigns the single/album charts, most of which I'd never listen to again, or be bothered. That's not to say I'm ignorant of the genre, because there are still nicely-produced urban music out there pushing boundaries while still being respectably listenable. Here are some of the urban gems I've favored lately.
Poor Amerie. '1 Thing' will always come back to haunt her. Her new album 'Because I Love It' is full of instantly inescapable funk stompers (if you can look pass the balladry clunkers stuck at the end of the record). One of the best r&b albums that I do care for this year. She also showed big improvement on her vocal skills. But you know things won't turn out well when your album is released in the UK & Japan months before its US official release date. So if you like the tracks below, then the album should be a proud purchase. 'Gotta Work' is her next UK single, a track I can't get enough of and is alarmingly amazing to bits. 'Crazy Wonderful' is a '80s-influenced track that just oozes sexiness.
Amerie - Crazy Wonderful
Amerie - Gotta Work
I can't seem to find the words whenever I make an attempt at describing her music. It just makes people go...um, wild. I really like the new single Boyz, which she had shot a music video for (and in it she looked like a glammed-up Midwestern Gwen Stefani. Oh wait, she already opened tours for her). So far, little is known about her upcoming album 'Kala' except that her ex Diplo and Timbaland lent a hand with some tracks. Whatever, I would still anticipate it nonetheless.
M.I.A. - Boyz (Radio Edit)
M.I.A. - Sunshowers (from 'Arular')
M.I.A. - Everyday I Love You Less And Less (Kaiser Chiefs Cover)
Young talent. Spitting the rhymes with such ease at the age of 17, over little more than drums and two locker thumps. 'Lip Gloss' may be novelty, but it's fresh and powerful and carry a positive message. She already scored a spot on a remix of Avril's 'Girlfriend' (and she did it good). Let's hope she's not just another one hit wonder.
Lil' Mama - Lip Gloss
Avril Lavigne feat. Lil' Mama - Girlfriend (Remix)
I never thought I'd see this day. When Rihanna actually has a decent album where every song is good. That's the shocker of the year right there. So third time's a charm, they say. Second single 'Shut Up And Drive' borrows the verses from now-defunct New Order's 'Blue Monday', and it's a slice of mighty banging, metaphor-ridden electro r&b/pop.
Rihanna - Shut Up And Drive
Apparently, for Lauryn, it's okay to have an enormous career-defining album and disappear into the night for ten years, only to come back with a soundtrack single for a kiddie CGI movie called 'Surf's Up'. Not that I'm complaining, 'Lose Myself' is a sweet upbeat summery song and you don't get soundtrack singles this good these days anymore (take note, Snow Patrol...)
Lauryn Hill - Lose Myself
First, Busta Rhymes ripped off Daft Punk. Now Kanye West sampled Daft Punk. What the hell is going on? Everybody thinks it's cool to go 'electro'. Anyway, the sample is taken from 'Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger' and he actually managed to make inventive use of it. Certainly not the best thing he's ever done, but good, and refreshing.
Kanye West - Stronger