In the Cut: XXL’s Song Picks of the Week 4/12

After complaining of a slow week last Friday, we’ve certainly had our hands full this week. We kicked off our Freshman of the Day campaign and gave you freestyles from ScHoolboy Q, Travis Scott, Ab-Soul and Joey Bada$$. Stay tuned in to XXLMag.com next week to see what the rest of the class has to offer and our class ciphers are on the way too.

In non-Freshman news, Cudi’s album leaked, Rick Ross lost his endorsement deal with Reebok, and we got new music from Jay-Z, Pusha T and Big K.R.I.T.

In our weekly column called In The Cut, the diversely-opinionated XXL staff celebrates another lively week in hip-hop and picks some of their favorite releases the past week. Some are songs, some are videos, all are incredible in their own way. See ya next week, rap world.

Jay-Z “Open Letter”

Every time Jay drops a new record (or featured verse), you can expect a grand spectacle. This here, is no different.  After 100+ spins (and counting) on my iPod since yesterday morning, I must say my favorite line off “Open Letter” has to be when Hov fires, “You know whenever I’m threatened, I start shooting...” That latter word, “shooting” is by far the perfect way to describe what he does over the Swizz Beatz and Timbaland production. After a week of controversial headlines and doggone rumors, the Bob Dylan of rap music gets into Brooklyn Bully-mode over the brooding cut—ruffling feathers with the cats in Congress (“Boy from the hood but got White House clearance/Sorry y’all, I don’t agree with y’all appearance“) and of course silencing those media naysayers (“Would’ve brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free/Except I made millions off it, you fuckin’ dweeb”). From start to finish, he moves all over this track with a sense of urgency—urgent to not only slam the tabloids but also to let us know, that the game’s officially under new management. That 12th studio album is coming ya’ll!Ralph Bristout, Associate Lifestyle Editor


Big K.R.I.T. ft. Wiz Khalifa & Smoke DZA “Only One”

Big K.R.I.T. recently dropped his latest body of work, King Remembered in Time. On “Only One,” which is produced by him, Krizzle doesn’t steered too far away from his southern player ways. Enlisting Wiz Khalifa and Smoke DZA, the trio drop rhymes about flossing and how they have got “getting money down to a science.” As K.R.I.T. explains, these other rappers aren’t the only ones running the game.—Eric Diep, News Editor

I’ve been consistently disappointed by Pusha T’s solo output as of late – Wrath of Caine found him playing it safe of standard issue trap-rap, while “Pain” is a tepid attempt at a first single. But “Numbers On the Boards” is a completely unexpected and unorthodox release from Push. Co-produced by Kanye West and Don Cannon, the song is hands-down the most gutter mainstream single to be released in over a decade. The Neighborhood Pusha snarls over jittery pyrex drums (those are a thing) and a subtle discordant bass line, creating an unnerving aura that sounds straight out the mobile meth lab from Breaking Bad. While it might prove to be a commercial flop as a digital single, it gives me hope that Pusha’s My Name is My Name is going to be a sleeper hit.—Sean Ryon, News Editor

Kid Cudi ft. King Chip and Michael Bolton “Afterwards”

When Cudi’s new album leaked last week he seemed to be totally okay with it, and with an LP full of super-catchy jawns on deck he was rightfully confident. “Afterwards” is crazy – it’s dancy, vibey, and extra summery. It’s also a 9-minute, 3-part pop saga, and features far-away vocals from the legendary Michael Bolton. I know it sounds weird, but it’s hands-down the album’s best cut.—Dan Buyanovsky, Associate Editor

Rocko ft. Future & Wiz Khalifa “U.O.E.N.O. (Remix)”

Amidst all the controversy of the original track featuring Rick Ross, Rocko made the conscious decision to drop Rozay’s verse from the original record. Now, the Atlanta rapper swaps in a Wiz verse for the remix. Wiz puts some effort into his verse here and impresses, though it’s hard beat Future’s show-stealing final minute. —Emmanuel C.M., Assistant Editor


Tyga ft. Future “Show You”

In the latest episode of “Future Saves The Day” Mr. Hendrix takes an otherwise boring Tyga song and turns it into something beautiful. I really have no idea what T-Raww is talking about in this song, but I’m willing to listen to it because it eventually leads me to Future serenading “I’m just now gettin’ to know you / There’s some things I wanna show you/ There’s a lot I wanna tell you / Me so scared of failure.” This song is even more fun when you think about him singing it to Ciara under the moonlight. Neil Martinez-Belkin, Associate Editor