Kendrick Lamar brings the heat with the rapid-fire "DNA" off of his powerful new album DAMN. Rising singer Bishop Briggs makes a case for trap-soul that won't get out of your head. The remaining members of TLC partner up with Snoop Dogg for a comeback track that's equal parts nostalgic and timely. Aussie musician Harts finds his rhythm as a spiritual successor to Prince in a new wave of funk-rock. And quirky British band The Kooks bring breezy rock back just in time for spring.
"DNA," Kendrick Lamar
Coming back with a bang, the rap luminary's new album "DAMN." is stacked with powerful tracks — opener "Blood" might even give you chills. But it's the staccato flow of the second song, "DNA," that really kicks things off. Midway through the dark, looping banger, Lamar splices in a clip of a Fox News reporter sharing his belief that hip hop has had a deleterious impact on African Americans. It's a suggestion that Lamar has roundly dismissed in the past. In "DNA," he takes another shot. "I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA/ I live a better life, I'm rollin' several dice," he raps, brushing aside critiques by standing up for the power of both his heritage and his music.
"Dark Side," Bishop Briggs
British-born singer Bishop Briggs plays with heavy downbeats and aching vocals in her soul-trap ballads, as on new track "Dark Side." Best known for last summer's viral hit "River," the former Coldplay opener's debut EP is a collection of songs that demands attention, thanks to her affinity for driving trap sounds and emotionally rich lyrics. The dark mood of the "The Way I Do" is the right soundtrack for catharsis; it feels like Briggs is excising demons as she sings.
"Way Back," TLC featuring Snoop Dogg
At last, TLC's Tionne "T-Bone" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas are sharing brand-new music, their first drop in 15 years — and long-time fans won't be disappointed by the nostalgic bop, which features a smooth verse from Snoop Dogg. The throwback song reminisces about the good old days, calling out stars of generations past like Prince, Michael Jackson, and James Brown. These artists represent a musical tradition that TLC fits right into, and will follow up on with a new album out this summer.
Aussie musician Harts is a Prince-approved artist and talented instrumentalist, playing every single element of his music himself. Already popular Down Under, he mounts an attempt at crossover success in the U.S. with "Peculiar," a funk-rock hybrid that feels both retro — it's a spiritual successor to Prince, complete with zesty guitar riffs — and fresh, thanks to sharp production. It's the lead single off his U.S. debut Smoke, Fire, Hope, Desire coming later in the summer, and should certainly whet the appetites of fans seeking that sweet spot between funk, jazz and rock.
"Be Who You Are," The Kooks
Funky British indie rockers The Kooks have a way with turning simple songs into toe-tapping ditties. "Be Who You Are," a new single from the decade-old group, is one of their most instantly likable tunes, winning favor with its hummable chorus and the quirky, upbeat singing of lead vocalist Luke Pritchard. Just in time for spring, there's something refreshing about their brand of sunny, uncomplicated rock.