The Washington Post
New R&B and hip-hop singles that captivate
With the region’s hip-hop and R&B scene in a state of perpetual invention, area artists continue to generate music worthy of national attention and hometown adoration. This column rounds up some of the most captivating, entertaining and essential new songs, projects and music videos coming from the DMV — from Northern Virginia to Baltimore and everywhere between.
Brent Faiyaz featuring Tyler, the Creator, “Gravity”
Singer Brent Faiyaz, who was raised in Columbia, Md., has made a career out of articulating the angst one feels while falling in and out of young love, and how that often collides with the pursuit of becoming great at your chosen craft. On the hook for GoldLink’s platinum-selling “Crew,” Faiyaz thwarted a woman’s attempts to connect because he felt that her efforts — swayed by his money and visibility — were disingenuous.
In one of his more recent tracks, he’s a bit more thoughtful in his rejection of intimacy. “Gravity,” produced by DJ Dahi (Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Drake and others), finds Faiyaz appreciative of being supported by a love interest with whom he’s trying to cut things off. Nevertheless, he still feels that he has to cut ties with them because they’re only happy when he’s physically present — which isn’t something he’s willing to provide more of at the moment. There’s some guitar play here that feels reminiscent of early 2000s N.E.R.D. which is the perfect fit for the song’s featured artist Tyler, the Creator, an avid fan of the superstar Virginia Beach trio.
Dyyo, “Run Away”
Silver Spring native Dyyo blurs the lines between punk, soul, funk and rap. Last March, he released the eight-track “Live!” which was essentially an existential crisis put on display. It featured Dyyo airing out the things about himself that he wanted to challenge and do away with while also urging people who thought they knew him to second-guess whatever assumptions they may have had. You could easily listen to the album without focusing on any of this — it’s fashioned to feel as if you’re watching him perform in a cramped tavern with circular tables and dim candlelight. But it’s best absorbed when you listen to Dyyo self-reflect and ask yourself what things you’d like to confront about your own shortcomings.
Dyyo continued that internal work in October with “Run Away.” The song doesn’t share the punk elements of the music on “Live!” Instead, it takes on a more pensive, soulful approach in which Dyyo opens up about his fear of entering uncharted territory. “I run away every time I see your face,” he repeats throughout. In the video, which was released earlier this month, he runs through central Baltimore (where he’s based), drives around aimlessly and keeps himself company (via split screen) as he enjoys a joint in his living room. Dyyo’s music is refreshing in that it makes you feel less alone in the pursuit of being a better version of yourself, especially since that journey is often a scary and painful one.
Cheakaity featuring Kelow Latesha, “It’s Ok”
In his short catalogue, Cheakaity has shown an ability to add a cheeriness and catchiness to whatever song on which he appears. That was true when he
contributed to the hook on Ciscero’s “Function” in 2018, a song that’ll get stuck in your head. On local standout Matt Mcghee’s 2020 track “444vr Starts from Now,” he channeled his inner Raheem Devaughn to yearn to receive more love. And throughout his “Grown Man” album from last year, he did a masterful job of making a seductive brand of R&B where impassioned vocal runs were just as important as the verses he sang.
“It’s Ok” is Cheakaity’s latest offering, and if you don’t pay close attention, you won’t realize that the playful track, which features fellow Prince George’s County native Kelow Latesha, is an upbeat acceptance of expired love. The song’s bounciness makes it feel as if it’s ripe for a go-go remake, especially with the singer repeating, “It’s okay, we don’t gotta talk no more” on the hook.
Big Flock featuring Pooh Shiesty, “187 Shiesty”
Deep in the depths of DMV social media, fans or artists will debate about who pioneered the “DMV flow” — a triplet rhyme pattern that is accentuated by an often aggressive vocal delivery and a “punch in” style of execution — every few months. The discourse happened again most recently in early February when Prince George’s County native Shabazz proclaimed that no one showed signs of that style before him. Q Da Fool and Big Flock are often thrown into that mix of originators. When asked about his role in its origins in an interview with popular hip-hop outlet Dirty Glove Bastard, Flock replied: “Now the DMV has a sound. It’s between three people who made that sound, and I’m one of the three. I’m cool with that,” in an attempt to give everyone their due.
You can hear that flow on Flock’s new track “187 Shiesty,” which features Memphis rapper Pooh Shiesty. In production, the song is more in line with what Shiesty’s music sounds like than Flock’s — horror-film-like piano strokes and the signature bounce that has shaped Memphis brawl-inspiring music since the early days of Three 6 Mafia. The track’s lyrical content mirrors the gore that’s implied in the production. Big Flock starts the song by telling a story about a friend whose violent past paralyzes him every morning, and later goes into how close friends are typically the people who have betrayed him. The rest of the song (I’ ll save the bloody details) is about what he might do when he ever catches up with those people or anyone else who has ill intentions.
O-slice featuring Laik, “Sweet”
O-slice’s music, with its intertwining of sweet, captivating melodies and raps that are noticeably linked to spoken-word poetry, feels as if it’s tailormade to be absorbed through platforms like NPR’S Tiny Desk series. In fact, she had an at-home performance video go viral on Twitter last year with a caption that read, “One day I’m gonna have my own Tiny Desk episode. Till then, it’s concerts from the crib.” The song meshed the aforementioned musical elements and even interpolated TLC’S career-defining hit “No Scrubs.”
The Prince George’s County native hasn’t released much music since that moment, but right before Valentine’s Day, she resurfaced with a new track titled “Sweet” that features local singer Laik. That song sounds just like the title suggests: At moments it feels like an Afropop love song, with the two serenading each other about how it feels as if they knew each other in a past life. By the song’s end, O-slice begins rapping a short, flawlessly executed verse about being so head over heels that she’ll square up with any woman who even sets eyes on her lover. It’s the perfect song to add to whatever playlist you rely on to wind down at the end of the day.