Track Reviews: Blue Hawaii, Chance The Rapper, Run The Jewels, Sleater-Kinney, T.I., The Weeknd

Blue Hawaii – “Get Happy/Get Happier”

Montreal duo Blue Hawaii has been relatively quiet since the release of last year’s excellent Untogether. Save for the few DJ sets from Agor, the duo hasn’t performed or released anything as Blue Hawaii. However, this week, Blue Hawaii released “Get Happy/Get Happier,” recorded earlier this year. “Get Happier” is the faster, more warped version of the more simpler “Get Happy.” Together, it’s an incredibly dreamy pairing that takes the overall feeling of Untogether to a more ethereal place with Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s vocals twirling in and out perfectly with the glistening beat. – Sofia Luu

Chance the Rapper – “No Better Blues”

“No Better Blues” is the latest track from Chance the Rapper, who emerged into the hip hop spotlight in 2013 when he released Acid Rap. Chance the Rapper and the Social Experiment (his backing band) have been releasing songs that explore different sounds and themes to expand on his repertoire.

“No Better Blues” and “Everyday Wonderful,” the two latest tracks in this project, reflect a duality that encapsulates Chance’s personality. In contrast to the optimism of his cover of the iconic Arthur theme song, No Better Blues is a depressing track. From the very beginning, Chance croons, “It just don’t get no better.” Two full verses follow of Chance rapping about things that he hates. What makes this song particularly impactful is its cynicism and despair, which take away enjoyment from things that are supposed to bring joy, like pancakes and milkshakes. In this interpretation of the song, No Better Blues becomes a reflection of depression and cynicism in a simple song without a political or social message – a constant theme in hip-hop since the genre’s beginnings.

But then, how can you take Chance seriously when you realize that the things he hates on are ridiculous and contradictory? Chance himself has mentioned that the song is more of a parody, a pure joke meant to ridicule the critics of his Arthur cover. While Chance likely meant the song as a joke, I still can’t shake the feeling that this song is imbued with cynicism. Perhaps the song doesn’t have to be either/or. This is where “No Better Blues” succeeds – its ambiguity over the core theme of the song. It makes me excited for what Chance has in store for us next, demonstrating that he is maturing slowly but surely. – Angelo Mateo

Run the Jewels – “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” (ft. Zack de la Rocha)

Run the Jewels are “killin’ ‘em for freedom cause they tortured us for boredom” in their upcoming album Run the Jewels 2. Even so, “Close Your Eyes” is not by far one of their best tracks. Despite the killer rhymes and Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha’s contribution, the song doesn’t hype you up to stand up and count to fuck. The beat, mixed in with De La Rocha’s “run them jewels fast” as the background creates a layer on layer feel, diverting the attention from the lyrics. Instead of having all components into one, the listener is aware just how separately recorded the song is and that creates an unnatural rhythm. The message is clear, Killer Mike and El-P certainly brought the 90s back to hip hop and I certainly hope Zack is here to stay. Hopefully the rest of the album will kill it. – Kalina Nedelcheva

Sleater-Kinney – “Bury Our Friends”

Nearly a decade ago, Carrie Brownstein sang “I took my money / and bought a TV / TV brings me closer to the world.” It was for a song on The Woods, Sleater-Kinney’s final album before breaking up in 2006. It proved prophetic too: with Brownstein’s success on Portlandia, it’s easy to forget that she was in one of the most influential punk bands of the 90s and 00s. But with “Bury Our Friends,” Sleater-Kinney’s first song in nine years, they sound just as vital as ever. It might be one of their most danceable tracks yet, fuelled by clanging guitars, forceful drumming, and Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker trading vocal duties. The song’s chorus goes “exhume our idols and bury our friends / we’re wild and weary but we won’t give in.” Our idols haven’t returned – they’ve been fully exhumed, and “Bury Our Friends” marks a new chapter for Sleater-Kinney. – James Li

T.I. – “About the Money (remix)” (ft. Jeezy, Lil Wayne, and Young Thug)

London on da Track’s summer jam “About the Money” is one of the hottest beats of the year, and this latest remix turns it into a posse cut that features three of Southern rap’s elder statesmen and one of its biggest rising stars. With a line like “I step into this bitch like Moses / damn right, motherfucker, Red Sea got departed,” Jeezy immediately sets the tone for the rest of the track. T.I. closes the track with the same aggression: “we send ya bullets the size of a football / I got a youngin’ with a shotty charge a hundred for a body / I’ll pay that to see a monkey fuck a football.” But the track shines most in the middle. Lil Wayne delivers one of his best verses in years, spitting non-sequiturs like “I get M’s like mmm-mmm-mmm.” If anything though, this remix is a showcase of Young Thug’s potential, as he upstages three rap veterans with two eccentric verses that reference pasta and shout out Manu Ginóbili.  Jeezy even emulates Young Thug’s flow, and Lil Wayne’s delivery mimics Thugger’s as well. – James Li

The Weeknd – “Often (remix)” (ft. Schoolboy Q and Rick Ross)

Rick Ross and Schoolboy Q’s remix of the Weeknd’s “Often” is a welcome variation from the original track. Abel Tesfaye, the man behind the Weeknd is definitely extremely talented and brings a new sound to the game, but his voice gets a little grating after hearing it for four solid minutes. The remix, which features both Ross and Q, includes Tesfaye’s original intro and allows for an establishment of the Weeknd’s classically moody R&B. Then, the song launches into the rappers’ hooks, which are definitely not lyrically variant (a couple of stanzas don’t even attempt to rhyme and just repeat the word “pussy” at the end of each verse), but break up Tesfaye’s voice to make a much more exciting and interesting song. – Emily Scherzinger

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