Our weekly Friday fresh list reeling in some of our favorite catches of the day.
A Bitch Curious (feat. Sam Truth) - AG Club
This group is oh-so Bay Area: in-your-face, wild, funky, and raw. I love that you can hear that in rap. Even though AG Club is very much in a lane of its own, it is, at its core, a Bay collective. Rap is so honest like that, it’s hard not to have your background influence the music you make (that could be where you grew up, the friends you made, whatever, but for the longest time in hip hop it’s been where you’re from). I’m enthralled with the group’s dynamic and it’s comforting to have another genre-bending collective knowing that BROCKHAMPTON is coming to an end. The album from which “A Bitch Curious” comes from is top-notch ganache all the way through, characterized by a rowdy, hype energy (if you liked SATURATION, this project is for you). I was immediately pulled into the track by its moving sample and scrum-diddly-umptious bassline (which makes the line “all we do is dance real slow, basslines” even more enjoyable). I stuck around for the backup vocals on the verses and that insanely catchy hook (an attribute of practically every song on the album), until I was caught by surprise when they flipped the beat. I never would have guessed they would venture into an up-tempo house groove, going from a complete vibe, to a dance piece, and then returning to the leaned-back iteration . The whole listening process is so rewarding. This song is a great example of the wide range of sounds we can expect from the group. The collective’s name, AG Club, short for Avant-Garde Club, and the album name, Fuck Your Expectations Pt. 1, suggests even more experimentation. Avant-garde is an art movement with very general parameters; it just has to be new/weird and boundary-pushing. The opening track of the album is a good place to start if you’re looking for the avant-garde stuff, and I’m curious to listen to more of their work to see how the avant-garde idea plays into their catalogue as a whole  .
Chef Gabe’s Known Nose Notes:
 I love that they took a second to explore an alternate permutation of this song. That’s something I love doing as an artist. I write a song and if I’m not in love with it, or just curious really, I speed it up or slow it down and you get an entirely new track with new pitches, tempos, and grooves.
 The freedom to experiment and diverge from an established sound makes me think of folks like Dominic Fike and Sufjan Stevens, who have so many ideas and sometimes certain projects live in one world and the next album will be a 180. I think, with AG Club, this album could embody the overarching sound they’re going for and the collective’s name just means that their sound is different from the people around them, but I’m inclined to think they also intend to continue to experiment in their work.
 This album sounds like a finely-tuned mosh pit, they get there with a strong mixture of genres, and that gumbo pot of styles that makes it avant-garde. I think the rest of their catalogue will follow through on that expectation and the more I dissect the construction of their pieces the more I see it, like those backup vocals I mentioned and the pairing of singing with raw, more experimental flows that lie in limbo between rapping and singing.
Big Boss Rabbit - Freddie Gibbs
I don’t even know what to tell you, this is just absolutely masterful writing. Freddie Gibbs delivers a truly impeccable rhyme scheme in the opening of the first verse (see lyrical analysis figure 1 pictured below). There’s crazy bars throughout this song, like his amazing technique on the hook, but this was the crème de la crème. This piece is grounded by Gibbs’ precise design at the top with the abridged hook and first verse. The song then flourishes as a result of his ability to relinquish his tight grip on the rhymes and interject more fluid sections. Even the lines that don’t beat you over the head with carefully constructed phrasing are embellished by the rapper’s awareness of the patterns he creates, like when he finds ways to mirror a line’s internal rhymes with a new vowel sound in a proceeding bar (see figure 2, notice the internal rhymes). All of his lyricism, as is true for his performance on all his recent singles, is so interesting to hear over this beat because his last three albums have been collaborations with producers (his last album, Alfredo, is him and The Alchemist all the way through), and six of his other projects did the same thing (so the musical identity of 9/12 Freddie Gibbs albums and EPs are composed of beats from a single producer each time (1 album = 1 producer)). That history is why I positively relish hearing his distinct voice in these varying musical backdrops.
Chef Gabe’s Known Nose Notes:
Really interesting adlib placements. Most of the time they’re pretty intuitive, but he also layers some adlibs over the ending of his lines.
I would think this would weaken the listener’s reception/comprehension of the lyrics, but all the adlibs are very well balanced, subtle, and spacial (just a cool production technique I noticed).
Something so compelling about the repetition at the end of his first verse.
He repeats the b-word. The b-word is actually mentioned at least once in every line after the fifth.
Repetition of a single word pops up in rap a lot, I think helps to solidify his rhythmic and lyrical pocket.
It can be really meaningful when you choose to repeat a word over and over, especially at the end of your line (my favorite example would be the repetition of the n-word in the verses of J. Cole’s “A Tale of Two Citiez”). In this case, I would say Gibbs definitely achieved the intended effect, which would be a display of dominance. I can’t support his use of a word that always devalues women, but its inclusion as an end-of-verse refrain accurately paints a portrait of the figure he is trying to embody, a man who holds himself higher than everyone else. I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing, shitting on women obviously is, but I’m pointing out that that’s how Freddie Gibbs wants to come off (I believe that’s evidenced by the way he talks about women earlier in the verse “Step out with your lady, shoot some babies on the Maybelline” (maybe this isn’t disrespectful, but IDK dude) and his second-to-last line “I’m a gangster, not no lover, bitch”) and he did just that. I guess the big part of this is basically he’s displaying dominance, it’s not good, but that’s what that word inherently does. I don’t think the point of using the b-word was to put down women, I think it was to put down everyone, so right intentions with undesirable symptoms, but those symptoms are actually part of what makes the verse effective.
City In A Bottle (Live @ 2023) - Shakey Graves
Instantly enthralled. I don’t know any other way to describe the feeling I had as this album, Roll The Bones X, fell into my lap. The gritty horns (I don’t even know how to describe the dissonance heard) mixed with the guitar plucking sucks you in like a vacuum to a speck of dust, all at once without any warning. The residual suckage comes with each word exalted in a raspy bluegrass way (his voice is truly an instrument). Even if you wanted out, the chorus pulls you back with even more force as the graspy belting begins blowing you away. It gets folkier and funkier, causing me to clench every crevice of my body and make an “oh shit” every time I listen to it. I’ve never heard anything like this. I don’t want to even try to give a parallel. I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone were to play a washboard during this song because all I can picture is this being played in a musty bar, while guys with handlebar mustaches drinking dark stouts begin clinking drinks and getting a little bit rowdy. Please give this song a listen so you can be transported on this peanut-shell-lined-journey (epi pens provided).
Closure - Hayd
Love songs are obviously immensely popular. You could probably name 10 off the top of your head easily. You could also, most likely, think of 10 songs about falling out of love. One of my favorite falling-out-of-love songs from the last few years is “Good Things Fall Apart” by Illenium and Jon Bellion. “Closure” reminds me of “Good Things Fall Apart” and greater Jon Bellion in more than one way. Let’s start at the very beginning. Kendrick Lamar, Jon Bellion, and now Hayd have all started off a song with their own distinctive music device: Kendrick used the crackling of a record player to begin To Pimp A Butterfly’s beginning track “Wesley’s Theory.” Jon Bellion used the beep of a recording device as the opening sound of The Human Condition’s opening track “He Is The Same,” and even transformed it into being part of the song's beat. Hayd here has an 8-track or cassette being placed into a player, whirring up, and then the song begins. We also hear the sound of seagulls, transporting us into our car facing the beach, with soothing sounds embodying a sunset glow over the crashing waves. The melody, through all its intricacies, puts the listener in a state of melancholy. As the words begin, the cadence is comparable to “Good Things Fall Apart,” with the use of twice-repeated, three single-syllable words followed by a multisyllabic punch line (8 for “Good Things Fall Apart” and 7 for “Closure”) (see bottom for the opening verses). The use of triplets in music has recently picked up a lot of traction and has since been dubbed the “Migos” flow or the “Versace” flow due to Migos’ 2013 track “Versace” and the Drake remix in 2015. Snoop Dogg spoke on this in a video entitled “G-G-G-G-G-G-GN-UnIT” with 50 Cent on his YouTube channel where he sounds the flow out as “huh huh wah, heh heh hey, hah hah huh.” The use of this flow in rap is to allow the artist to give a barrage of words in rapid fire succession, using just a few beats. Drake’s verse in “Versace (Remix)” exemplifies this notion with the lines:
“Born in Toronto but sometimes I feel like Atlanta adopted us (go!)
What the fuck is you talkin' 'bout?
Saw this shit comin' like I had binoculars, boy
Hayd and Bellion use the triplet in the opposite way. The listener clings on to every word, every syllable, as we feel each part of the question in a crystal clear flow. By incredible design, the lines are repetitive in syllables while giving the most attention to the phrases that aren’t three syllables long: the punch lines. The content is also similar as these are both songs, post-love, that spend the majority of the time questioning the circumstances of the ending of their past relationships. Something “Closure” does masterfully occurs halfway through the song. There’s a background audio clip of a birthday party with people singing. This highlights exactly why the cassette sound is so important. With all the questioning of what happened with the relationship, Hayd is constantly rewinding these moments the way one would need to for a cassette. The inclusion of the low-fidelity audio gives an obsolescent feel to the relationship; it’s now outdated and a relic more than anything else. While the relationship ended without any closure, I hope Hayd has found internal closure.
“Closure” Opening Verse:
Did we both (3) fall in love (3) before we were ready? (7)
Or did we (3) both give up (3) before we were steady? (7)
I don't know (3), I don't know (3), all I know (3)
Is that now (3) I'm alone (3)
“Good Things Fall Apart” Opening Verse:
Did I say (3) something wrong? (3)
Did you hear what I was thinking? (8)
Did I talk (3) way too long (3)
When I told you all my feelings that night? (10)
Is it you? (3) Is it me? (3)
Did you find somebody better? (8)
Someone who (3) isn't me (3)
'Cause I know that I was never your type (10)
Never really your type (5)
Chef Ethan’s Eccentric Eliminated Emotions:
Ending of a relationship due to a variety of reasons all related to age. Young love here fails because they fell in love when they weren’t mature enough to handle the distance of the relationship, which could be seen as college or work. Potentially it’s not so literal, feeling that they’re drifting apart as a result of growth and development.
This was most likely a rapid breakup as there are so many unknowns about it shown through the consistency of the “I don’t know”s and “now I’m alone”s.
deja vu - Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo has stepped, nay ran, nay sprinted into the scene and has no intention of stopping. When I work on songs for Poke Bowl, I have to listen to them a lot on repeat and in my car and now I just, I fucking get it man. This song portrays so much ache and pain. All my middle school angst came back, I wanted to recluse in my room and jam out to “deja vu” for the lyrics, her delivery, and those guitars. This definitely expands on the heartache from her debut single “drivers license” (which will obviously go down as one of the greatest and biggest singles maybe ever) of there being another girl (Sabrina Carpenter *cue the groggers*) post-relationship with her ex-boyfriend (Joshua Bassett). While the first verse has the fantastic line “I bet she's braggin' to all her friends, sayin' you're so unique, hmm,” the second verse is INSANE!! The entire section is a massive gut-punch. It absolutely calls out the “unique” parts of her ex’s new relationship as being so fundamentally rooted in Olivia Rodrigo’s interests. The verse touches on how Olivia Rodrigo introduced the music of Billy Joel to Josh and now he is probably singing “Uptown Girl” with his new girlfriend. The ending line of the bridge drives this all home by citing “a different girl now, but there’s nothing new” as being the reason she knows Josh is experiencing déjà vu.
Olivia Rodrigo has come up in so many conversations as of late. And these aren’t music conversations or gossip conversations, they’re almost like being proud of a friend. She has established this incredible kinship with her audience by making her songs incredibly personal and accessible, two things that typically go hand-in-hand. When an artist opens up about an experience, it is typically shared (oh shit, did Chef Ethan just foreshadow another song from this week?!). This allows for one of the basic psychological needs to shine through perfectly: relatability. No one is alone when an experience is shared and that’s exactly why so many deeply personal songs are some of my favorites. [Chef Gabe, this should be a Lazy Susan] While writing this, I was so tempted to call her Olivia, as I feel like I know her (and her fans that watched High School Musical: The Musical - The Series would feel this connection on an even deeper level). The relatability she has created with her fans speaks to the interconnected nature of social media created between fans and celebrities, allowing entertainment to reach the audience in a greater and interpersonal way.
*Not Poke, Carp and Bass Bowl
ghost town (voice memo) - Chloe George
The Night Before with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie has one of the greatest karaoke scenes I’ve ever seen. The three of them sing Kanye West’s “Runaway” while playing the piano from Big. Now, I have done karaoke and plugged in “Runaway” to sing it with people I played ultimate frisbee with. To those that may not know “Runaway” that well, it’s a 9 minute song with a rather long pause in words. It may be fun to yell the chorus with buddies, but it’s too long to just sing. Enter Chloe George. 2018’s Ye by Kanye is 7 tracks long which has several singable, 4 minute max, songs that could be done at amateur night for karaoke. Chloe George is no amateur and this is no karaoke. Between the time of the release of this version and when this Poke Bowl was released, the beautiful singing version has blown up, which absolutely makes sense. When you take a song that is on everyone’s radar after the initial wave of covers is released and put your own flair into it, with access to one of the biggest musical tipping points ever created (TikTok) , then you get a smash hit like this one. The platform has become a staple of social media outreach along with being a predictor of the Billboard charts.
 For those that are unaware, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a phenomenal book titled The Tipping Point which discusses epidemics (both social, such as fashion, and health, such as syphilis) and how they gain the traction to spread. TikTok utilizes many of the methods of spreading discussed by Gladwell: those that inform us of incredible creators are “mavens,” anyone that sends a TikTok to a friend contributes to the word of mouth epidemic, and content on TikTok can tip at a moments notice. This is a book that deserves a sequel to capture all the moments that have tipped in the last 5 years.
Hustle - Sons of Kemet, Kojey Radical
“N-E-G-U-S definition: royalty; king royalty.” For a lot of us, Kendrick Lamar’s album version of “i” was the first time we had heard the term “negus” and a thorough background. It’s an Amharic (Ethiopian) word that means exactly what Lamar says it does: royalty. In spite of etymologists’ refutation of the claim that “negus” is the root of the n-word, everything Lamar says is the truth. It’s not hard to see why someone would trade a derogatory word in English (a colonizing language) for a reverent word in Amharic (for some, a home language (certainly closer to home than English)). The point Kendrick Lamar is making is that Black people should be united, and using the n-word, like it’s an undesirable thing, actively hurts all Black people (and oneself). He’s imploring his community to avoid tearing each other down with language and, instead, empower one another by using “negus” as a term of positivity (although I believe he doesn’t care if Black people say the n-word, so long as they mean royalty, because we’ve heard Kendrick Lamar use the n-word since this recording, but never to sincerely put down any Black person).
Both Shabaka Hutchings, the bandleader of Sons of Kemet, and Kojey Radical make use of this term in “Hustle.” Starting with Hutchings, if the Genius is correct, his use of the n-word juxtaposed with “negus” is an unbelievable display of language mastery. “Took my n****s off the block, pulled my negus off slave ships.” In only one line, Shabaka Hutchings invokes all the historical and cultural significance of the terms explored in Kendrick Lamar’s “i,” and provides new commentary in the process. He’s recontextualized the “n-words” on the block as royalty on slave ships. “The block” is a slave ship. It’s the modern iteration of enslavement to be confined to specific spaces (and lives) because of the way a white-designed society is set up.
I view Kojey Radical’s verse as a direct response to the white perspective. He’s talking about how white people pose and posture with everything. We can see posturing as appropriation in how we (white people) live, act, talk, present ourselves, what we think is attractive, the art we engage with, everything. But, posturing is also how we contort ourselves and our perspective to be convenient. That could be “woke” white people who think they’ve done their growing, or envelop themselves in Black culture or the fight for Black liberation and they “kiss and they cuddle” and “forget that they cut you.” It becomes a posture when you forget that all that history doesn’t go away or when you can no longer recognize that your racial identity plays a role in how you affect others. I also just have to point out Kojey Radical’s impeccable word choice. The last portion of his feature revolves around sharp consonants, first as a telling contradiction to the affectionate imagery of kissing and cuddling and then falling in line with cutting. His articulation is a perfect storytelling device that slices deeper and deeper into us verbally.
This song is stripped-away, human expression. It’s about who you are when you take everything else away. But, ingrained in this message to the listener is Shabaka Hutchings’ and Kojey Radical’s experiences as Black British men. They explore the faculty Black people are forced to express in order to be successful. Framing every powerful sentiment shared is the reality that the world is pitted against BIPOC people from the start. That’s what “born from the mud with the hustle inside me” means.
Chef Gabe’s Known Nose Notes:
I wanna fucking dance (P.S. I FUCKING DID. I went into my garage, put “Hustle” on the JBL speaker my mom bought me, and danced my freaking heart out (quickly followed by “Onederful” by Armani White)).
That feels like it’s coming from some future plane.
i’m loving your vibe (feat. Leslie Guardado, Hannah Bautista, AmayD) - Xavier Goodman
The playfulness of the lyrical content and delivery, combined with all three of the ladies’ incredible vocal work, makes this an innovative, instant classic. TheStudioHo, the song’s producer, makes use of a beautiful sample and, in a particularly enjoyable moment (1:00), Xavier Goodman lets the track breathe as TheStudioHo expands on the sample with the original vocals. It opens the song up in a really special way where we get to enjoy this as a modern rap record and as a soul ballad soundscape. The stutter-step transition back into the hook creates a brilliant through line, along with the production on the perfect backup vocals, which blends them seamlessly with the vinyl feel of the sample. Many aspects of this track harken back to the stylistic decisions of “See You Again (feat. Kali Uchis)” by Tyler, the Creator, but Xavier Goodman is changing the game with his own approach. I first found him on TikTok, where he makes funny, clever, and impressive videos of himself performing, showcasing great freestyles, and previewing of songs. In fact, all these artists have TikToks that you should check out and that platform is the reason this song exists as we know it. It’s worth noting how young all these folks are, Goodman is 21 years old, Guardado is 14, Bautista is 17, and AmayD is 18. The age differences are astonishing. I have no reason to suspect there was anything wrong with their working relationships. My understanding is that the whole collaboration effort was TikTok duets back and forth. That’s probably the most interesting aspect of this song’s creation. The track seemingly takes all the backup vocals directly from TikTok duets, and I don’t think any of the creators knew each other before they decided to film backup vocals in response to one of Goodman’s posts. TikTok has proven it is an important artistic resource for this generation. This song’s genesis is fascinating and a great case for the ingenuity the internet offers us. We’ve seen it with Soundcloud rap, Viners like Shawn Mendes, and, now, TikTok.
The Song’s Timeline:
Chef Gabe’s Known Nose Notes:
Incredible lyrical chops.
If all of the featured artists recorded their vocals with their earbud mics in the videos, that’s absolutely incredible because the fidelity of the recordings is phenomenal.
Love 2:30 on, the sort of rushed, off-beat flow is awesome. I love the mix of the technical with the loosey-goosey stuff.
The line that really caught my attention was “Am I saying words, speaking in cursive. Nobody is better than me. Don't think there's nobody who buying veteran beats, better than me. Check out my wrist, nothing. Check out my neck, shining like diamonds. But, I don't got diamonds these crystals, they blinding, they shine in they eyes.” Specifically “Nobody is better than me. Don't think there's nobody who buying veteran beats, better than me.”
He hit on such real shit there. As a rapper, when I’m not producing my own music it feels like my job gets minimized like crazy and I’m wondering “what am I actually doing here? I know I’m good, I know I’m better than other musicians, but am I just better at picking beats?” hahah!
I love the cool, detachment that lets him laugh at himself and still recognize all that he brings to the table.
PORCELAIN - morgxn
If I were asked which material I would want to feel like, porcelain would be near the end of my list. The fragility that would accompany my every movement to ensure security would be exhausting. People would probably want to be a metal or diamond, maybe a non-biodegradable plastic to be immortal. Why would morgxn propose perplexing porcelain? After years of not being able to step out of their own skin and be themselves, morgxn was forced to be as sturdy as possible and near invisible like plexiglass. Porcelain is delicate and fragile which describes just some of the feelings the TGNC (transgender and gender-noncomforming) community experience throughout adolescence, especially for an individual without a support system. Those may have been the feelings for morgxn as a younger person, but they’ve shifted. morgxn no longer wants to “play it safe” and wants to feel “brand new again” by not having that pressure anymore. They want to feel as treasured as an iPhone without the case: unrestricted. The canvas that is morgxn had been dulled for so long, as seen in the music video, and “PORCELAIN” is the explosion of emotion in the most anthemic way. The song is a little grainy, reflecting the inner turmoil felt throughout this transformation. It’s a yell for inner change that is inclusive to anyone wanting to feel brand new.
One of the most profound moments in the music video was morgxn hiding in the women’s restroom, crying on the “porcelain throne.” This hiding was an accumulation of many experiences portrayed in the music video: dreaming of being someone that the mirror doesn’t reflect, parents denying them the freedom to be themselves, school bullying, and having gender-specific bathrooms. I would imagine this isn’t an isolated incident for morgxn and many others within the TGNC community. Lambda Legal (“the oldest and largest national legal [nonprofit] organization” for “civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, [and] transgender people”) has a section on their website for “bullying and transgender and gender-nonconforming youth” which cites the National Transgender Discrimination Survey stating 78% of respondents reported being harassed, 35% attacked, and 12% sexually assaulted. Hiding in a bathroom, unfortunately, is a shared experience. Bullying is a reality that many have faced in their lives, which has led to their own experience of “hiding in the bathroom.” Hearing an anthem as powerfully beautiful as this one rings out more than a glimmer of hope as we listen to someone who overcame this trauma. morgxn transforms what has signified a terribly low point in their life and redefines what porcelain means to them. This recontextualization only furthers our hope as we can view porcelain through morgxn’s eyes. It’s no longer these excruciating moments, rather a symbol for being alive. Porcelain can be broken but, using the beauty of kintsugi, can leave the pieces even more beautiful than before.
I understand the privilege being a cis male affords me and am unable to speak on the transgender and gender-noncomforming experience. I appreciate the insight morgxn provides and the dialogue this song creates.
Tonopah - Vatican City Fight Club
A stirring story, relayed using a tasteful combination of innocence, nostalgia, and mature musical prowess. The writing jumps back and forth between past and present tense. We start with a reflection, “we made our way to Tonopah,” and then, in the chorus, we’re dropped into the moment we enter a river, “floating down with my friends.” Because the chorus takes place in the present, we can participate in the experience of not knowing if the river ever ends, where we’re going, or what will happen as we float down the river. We don’t know that the first reality we’re offered, that the river continues on forever, isn’t true. The line “never ends” is cut short the second time we hear it, and that’s us joining the band in an unexpected drop. This is followed by a reflection in the second verse that tells us what happened: we fell down the waterfall (shoutout to their song “Watercolor Falls” off this same album). A possible classification of this song would be traveling music. Categorizing art isn’t always valuable, but songs about moving around or physical journeys all share a purpose, or a drive. It’s something to focus our energy and thoughts on. We’re going somewhere and Vatican City Fight Club is taking us there. We get lost along the way and float down the river. Our adventure is centered around Tonopah, a small town in Nevada (the band members all met as students at University of Nevada, Reno). Tonopah sounds like a majestic city, and it’s because of the way they write about it. It’s a regular South-West name for a town, but they make it sound like a magical place where wondrous, life-changing things happen. Perhaps the most haunting part of “Tonopah” is how Vatican City Fight Club finishes the piece. The song, like the river, never ends because we end where we start: we made our way to Tonopah. In actuality, it’s just a hope that the tune won’t end, but, of course like everything else in this world, the song and the river both do.
Gabe’s Known Nose Notes:
These lyrics are overwhelming. I appreciate that I can get the lyrics straight from the source (visit the Vatican City Fight Club Bandcamp).
Love the way the bass and the guitar fills out the space in the second chorus
Feels like there are elements (the vibraphone and vocals) that are the waves/current on top, the bubbles on the water. And then there are elements (the bass and guitar) that are the undercurrent, the riptide pulling me forward unexpectedly. The drum set has a unique set of capabilities and responsibilities that allow it to serve as both the bubbles on the top (the cymbals) and the undercurrent (the kick).
The vibraphone on their album is out of this world. All of the percussion really (Sean Collins on vibes and Greg Lewis on drums).
Nothing I’ve ever heard, at least not that I can think of (Sufjan Stevens does come to mind, but the percussion is so unique).
Oh my, those claps at 3:59.
Polyrhythm? Not quite, but it’s so intricate and changes my awareness of the present pulses the way a polyrhythm would.
Everything fits perfectly (like everything is where it should be, it all sounds like sacred geometry, it’s meant to be).