This week, BTS tapped Nicki Minaj, as their featured guest in new song "Idol" off their latest album. Moroccan-American artist Dounia doubles down on her fluid, melodic rap-singing style on the catchy song "How I See It." Alec Benjamin unwinds a story of lost innocence on the dark but sweet acoustic track "Death of a Hero." Queens rapper Anik Khan writes one championing the immigrants on "Big Fax." And Loretta Lynn, country legend, makes a comeback with her first new song off of a long-delayed upcoming album.
"How I See It," Dounia
Moroccan-American singer-songwriter Dounia moves so sinuously over her beats that she seems to never draw a breath. On "How You See It," one of her first releases since last year's dreamy alt-R&B debut EP Intro To, Dounia leans on a pared-down acoustic-forward guitar track, over which she sing-raps some of her smartest, most effortless lyrics yet, dripping with confidence. "Hieroglyphics when I go ahead and text him," she admits, "'cause you know I like to keep him second guessing." Dounia knows her love interest — and her fans — will be back for more, especially if she keeps up this kind of articulate, of-the-moment music.
"Death of a Hero," Alec Benjamin
There's something very intimate about the storytelling of Alec Benjamin, a 22-year-old singer-songwriter whose voice breathes youthful innocence but whose narrative-led lyrics have a world-weary grasp of reality. On "Death of a Hero," a sweet acoustic tune, Benjamin tells the story of growing up in specific, colorful terms. "I was in Pittsburgh when I saw Superman in the backroom," he opens. "I saw him doing things you shouldn't do with all that power / I wish someone would have thrown him in the shower." It's funny, but it's also cutting: "I tried to look away, but you can't look away from a train wreck." Benjamin's melodies are light and airy, but the mundane heaviness of growing up hits home.
"Big Fax," Anik Khan
"Damn, it feels good to be an immigrant." That's how Queens rapper Anik Khan opens up his bold new track "Big Fax," which bubbles with humor and confidence. He should know how it feels, too; his parents were Bengali immigrants. But Khan, who moved to Astoria where he was raised, is a New York artist through and through with his unhurried, potent delivery and commitment to the hustle. The sinuous, insistent beat is a solid platform from which he can deliver his message, peppering his verses with distinct cultural references that tell a story of a new type of rapper finding his way up the ranks.
"Wouldn't It Be Great," Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn may be 86 years old, but the country legend is in no way ready to call time on her iconic music career. She's starting up again with "Wouldn't It Be Great," a sweet, lovely ditty and the title track off her upcoming album of the same name, due out later in September. Summoning her distinctive energy and range, Lynn croons nostalgically over a tune to sway to. "Wouldn't it be fine if you could say you love me just one time with a sober mind?" she pleads. "The bottle took my place, love went to waste." Lynn delayed the release of this album due to a stroke last year; now she's back in fine form, and if "Wouldn't It Be Great?" is any indication, finding new depth in her voice.
"Idol," BTS feat. Nicki Minaj
K-pop group BTS dropped the final installment of their Love Yourself series on Friday — a 26-track repackaged collection of their songs, plus a few extras. One of the new tunes is "Idol," and as the closing track on the entire project, BTS got Queen rapper Nicki Minaj to guest star. (She's the only featured artist in the entire album, save for a behind-the-scenes Steve Aoki on two other songs.) Boisterous from the get-go, with a sax intro and plenty of whistle-blaring behind the driving beat, "Idol" puts BTS's rap chops front and center — and then unleashes Minaj on an energetic second-half verse.