Kendrick Lamar - "Backseat Freestyle"
Our man Kendrick keeps it raw here to an extent we've rarely heard from him (even rawer than on "The Spiteful Chant"), and it's a glorious sound to behold. His little Louis Armstrong impression near the end there is so intense. I was starting to feel worried about good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the Interscope debut Lamar is releasing next week, but this raised my expectations significantly. Dude might be rap's next great pioneer after all.
A$AP Rocky featuring Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar - "F---ing Problem"
Speaking of Kendrick Lamar's superiority: He runs laps around everybody else on this track, which maybe bodes poorly for A$AP's own oft-delayed major label debut. Some serious head-slappers among Rocky's lyrics here. Word from the publicist is LongLiveA$AP is now scheduled for a December release, though no official date has been nailed down.
Local Natives - "Breakers"
These L.A. fellows never impressed me much on record, only on stage. With "Breakers," the first single from their sophomore album Hummingbird, coming Jan. 29 via Frenchkiss, they've officially piqued my interest.
Nicki Minaj featuring Cassie - "The Boys"
So many colors! And music to match! This bridges Nicki's competing "rap star" and "pop star" personalities better than any song I've heard yet. It's a bonus track on the awkwardly titled reissue Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded -- The Re-up.
Ty Segall - "Femme Fatale"
As if Segall wasn't busy enough killing it with a wealth of original material this year, San Fran's MVP chips in a raging Velvet Underground cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico by Castle Face and Friends, in which Bay Area garage bands perform VU's classic debut album. It's being released as part of a 45th anniversary box set out Oct. 30 on Universal.
The Coup featuring Das Racist and Killer Mike - "WAVIP"
From Ty Segall to another, completely different side of Bay Area music. Boots Riley's revolutionary rap group The Coup has been quietly (well, loudly, if you're paying attention) doing their thing for a good many years now, and it's good to have them back in the picture. Also, getting these three acts on the same track is pretty much the underground rap orgasm of the season. The Coup's new LP Sorry To Bother You is out Oct. 30 via Anti-.
Toro y Moi - "So Many Details"
Here we have a hot bit of weirdo R&B that suggests Toro y Moi's next album, Anything In Return, will be worth a spin. It's out Jan. 22 on Carpark.
Bassnectar featuring Angel Haze - "Freestyle"
All this electronic dance music is starting to wear out its welcome with me, but Bassnectar is one guy who always keeps it fresh. And you can't go wrong with Ms. Haze, who goes hard here as usual. Bassnectar's new Freestyle EP is out this week.
La Sera - "Break My Heart"
La Sera, Frankie Rose, Dum Dum Girls and Best Coast all have great new releases to their names this year. Glad to see none of them are looking like passing fads. La Sera's Sees the Light is out now on Hardly Art.
The Stepkids - "Sweet Salvation"
We close out with smooth sounds from psychedelic soul band The Stepkids, whose new album Troubadour is out next year on Stones Throw. "Sweet Salvation" could be an outtake from Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, which means it's rad.