We are officially in awards season. On Sunday, Billboard magazine announced the winners of the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, with Beyonce, Drake, The Weeknd, SZA, 21 Savage, Nicki Minja and Metro Booming reigning victorious in the rap and R&B categories. The 2023 Soul Train Music Awards were taped last night; singer/actress Keke Palmer will host the R&B-centric ceremony, which is set to air on Sunday, Nov. 26, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on BET and BET H.E.R. SZA, Summer Walker and Usher lead the nominations with nine nods each. In the midst of all the celebratory extravaganzas, New Music Friday proceeded with business as usual, dumping a plethora of new tracks to listen to over the holiday break. The Fresh Picks below highlight the some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip hop; from ScarLip’s fast rising new hit to Inayah’s tender, Fantasia-nodding jam. Check out the Fresh Picks below.
Freshest Find: Inayah, “For The Streets”
Since its release back in 2007, Fantasia’s “When I See U” has become a certified R&B classic — the kind of song everyone covers for fun but no one would dare try to truly make their own. Enter Inayah, a rising R&B star who flips an interpolation of the song’s lyrics and instrumental into a no-holds-barred takedown of ain’t s–t men. “I had your picture on my mirror/ I took that s–t down/ Finally see that you been a clown/ Been holding us down while you f–king ’round,” she opens the song. Inayah smartly delivers each line with a sneaky wink, nodding to the sublime amalgam of the unmistakably iconic aura of Fantasia’s original and the tongue-in-cheek gems of truths sprinkled throughout her own track.
41 & Jenn Carter, “Problems”
One of the new tracks from 41’s “11-track EP” 41 World: Not the Album, “Problems” is a Jenn Carter solo cut that is yet another reminder that she’s one of the most captivating voices coming out of the Brooklyn drill scene right now. The Touchamill-produced tracks find her getting a bit introspective as she waxes poetic about a relationship in turmoil. Sonically in a lane most similar to the most lovelorn snap-laden ballads of A Boogie wit da Hoodie and Lil Tjay, “Problems” proves just how versatile Jenn is. “Takin’ all my еnergy, tryna’ keep you next to me / Wе been through the worst, but I know you want the best for me/ Why you keep on testing me?/ Like, you know these bitches texting me?” she spits.
Jay Rock feat. Bongo ByTheWay, “Still That Way”
It’s been five years since Redemption, but Jay Rock has been making up for the lengthy wait between studio albums with a steady stream of new music this year. His latest offering is the Bongo ByTheWay-helmed “Still That Way,” a booming anthem that treads the familiar ground of celebrating success while still maintaining the grounding and authenticity of your roots. Triumphant brass and skittering hi-hats provide most of the instrumental’s background while Jay Rock’s commanding voice supplies the momentum.
Since becoming one of this year’s biggest new stars with her rousing late-summer anthem “This Is New York.” ScarLip has maintained a consistent musical and online presence. Last week (Nov. 15), the Bronx rapper unleashed “Blick,” her catchy new single that combines the raw intensity of her DMX-nodding breakout hit with the dance-facing rhythmic qualities of Jersey club-inflected drill. Already soundtracking a TikTok dance challenge, “Blick” is looking to become a sizable hit — one that smartly reveals the different shades of her artistic ethos.
Mannywellz, “Be Alright”
Appearing on his new Mr. Oúlala EP, Mannywellz’s “Be Alright” is a no-frills guitar ballad heralding peace and security in the knowledge that everything will eventually work out as it needs to. With a sweeping melody to add some weight to the simple lyrics in the chorus (“It’s gonna be alright”), Manny relies on the warmth of his tone and the idiosyncrasies of his enunciation and phrasing to add some dynamics to the song.
Terrace Martin & Gallant, “Tandem”
In this subtly funky slow jam, Terrace and Gallant use an extended metaphor of a tandem bike to croon about how they and their respective lovers fit perfectly together. “We’re in tandem like bikes, why don’t you take a seat?/ You’ll be riding all night, I’ll be rocking in sync/ We might fuss, we may fight, never lose chemistry/ We’re in tandem like bikes, why don’t you take a seat?” Gallant sings. Terrace’s lush production, which features notes of funk and doo-wop, provides a sensual backdrop for Gallant’s come-hither coos, but it’s the restraint in his vocal performance that’s most impressive.
No Guidnce, “Long Walk”
Rising British R&B boy group No Guidnce continues their ascension with a reflective new cut titled “Long Walk.” Sitting on the opposite end of the hip-hop-inflected R&B spectrum from “Spicy,” the quarter opts for a soulful drum-heavy beat courtesy of Ben Billions and Terrence Rolle. It’s a simple story about meeting someone new for the first time, but the contrast of the chugging drums with their yearning harmonies makes for a particularly immersive listening experience.