R&B/Hip-Hop Fresh Picks of the Week: Wu-Tang Clan, Lola Brooke, Terrace Martin, Alex Isley & More

With new albums from City Girls and Sampha and a pair of big announcements from Megan Thee Stallion and Ty Dolla $ign & Kanye West, it’s been a characteristically busy week for hip-hop and R&B. New Music Friday (Oct. 20) unleashed a fresh batch of new R&B and hip-hop tracks to sort through as we count down to the announcement of the 2024 Grammy nominations on Nov. 10.

With Fresh Picks, Billboard aims to highlight some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop — from Yuna’s bilingual rumination on a relationship’s demise to Rick Ross & Meek Mill’s latest taste of their forthcoming collaborative project. Be sure to check out this week’s Fresh Picks in our Spotify playlist below.

Freshest Find: Wu-Tang Clan feat. Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Nicole Bus & Mathematics, “Claudine”

The 30th anniversary of Wu-Tang Clan’s landmark debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), is less than a month away, and the hip-hop legends are ringing in the celebration with a gorgeous new track. Featuring a pair of emotive, nuanced verses from Meth and Ghostface, “Claudine” recalls the chugging, introspective relationship-minded songs that peppered the tracklists of Wu-Tang’s classic records. A weighty hook from Billboard chart-topping R&B singer Nicole Bus brings things full circle; her soulful, raspy vocal evokes the Southern R&B records RZA used to sample to create some of the most intricate Wu-Tang beats.

Yuna, “Bad Intentions”

With this smooth combination of dembow, soul, and bossa nova influences, Malaysian R&B crooner Yuna delivers a bilingual ode to the all-consuming vengeance, hurt, confusion, and attachment that linger at the end of a relationship. The sparse production effortlessly embodies the emptiness that permeates the lyrics — from the devastatingly lush post-chorus to the hook, where she sings, “I know you love her/ Your new lover/ Will be the end of me/ It’s a cruel world.”

Q, “Hello”

Earlier this year, Q dropped off one of R&B’s best 2023 offerings with his stunning Soul, Present project. For his first single release since that set, Q has released “Hello” — a delightfully funky track about choosing to be your best and most authentic itself no matter what seemingly insurmountable challenges are thrown at you. “Feels like a million years since I got out of bed/ My brain’s fried from the lies I’ve been tellin’ myself,” he sings over an instrumental arrangement that further explores his penchant for Prince’s amalgamation of soul, rock, and funk.

Arin Ray, “Moonlight”

It’s been a banner year for raucous, sexually explicit music, but Arin Ray opts for a softer, more sensual angle for this cut from his new Phases III EP. With light vocal layering and an alluring tone, he’s able to bypass the innate raunch in lyrics like, “Put that a– on me, it’s ’bout to go/ I wanna see a f–kin’ show/ Baby been a freak/ See she came here in with no panties on.” It’s nice to hear Arin holding it down for R&B’s bachelors in a sea of toxic lovers and sad boys.

Rick Ross & Meek Mill, “Lyrical Eazy”

With a new joint project on the way, it’s only right that these two rap titans put their best foot forward. Enter: “Lyrical Eazy.” The follow-up to last month’s “Shaq & Kobe,” “Lyrical Eazy” finds Ross and Meek trading verses that flaunt their wealth and success while also reiterating why they believe they are at the very top of the hip-hop ecosystem. “N—a diss, I ain’t respondin’, I’m like, “Y’all ain’t even poppin’/ ‘Cause we’ve been mobbin’, flyin’ private, different hours/ And I ain’t lyin’, I got this money shit to a science/ Got your baby momma in the Bahamas actin’ different and she wildin’,” Meek raps over a beat that reimagines the same sample (Stanley Clarke’s “Got to Find My Own Place”) from Jay-Z’s “Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise).”

Lola Brooke & French Montana, “Pit Stop”

As she readies the release of her forthcoming Dennis Daughter project, Brooklyn rapper Lola Brooke has unveiled her new French Montana collab “Pit Stop.” Featuring her trademark playful intonation — which pulls from both Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown on this track, with a healthy dose of Lola’s own humor — “Pit Stop” is flirty back-and-forth between the two New Yorkers, one that plays on the city’s unique courting dynamics. “Ask me where my man at, n—a, I don’t know/ Say you wanna risk it all, I hope/ Could never play with ‘nani, mm, no-no-no/ Said he like me more than his b–ch, ooh, oh, no,” Lola spits.

Terrace Martin & Alex Isley, “2 Step in the Living Room”

Every week R&B’s brightest stars continue to prove that the genre is unquestionably alive and well. In this mid-set cut from the pair’s new joint I Left My Heart in Ladera project, this duo perfectly captures the lightweight, love-drunk mood of grooving in the living room to the soulful soundtrack of your life alongside the people you love the most. With a dash of vocoder towards the outro, the song pulls from Parliament’s most subtle funk-indebted tracks to create something a bit more subdued and hazy, all anchored by Alex Isley’s warm tone.

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