It’s a little early to tell but RATKING may have released one of my favourite albums of 2014 so far. Their debut album, So it Goes, was released on XL Records today and to launch proceedings they release a new video for the LP’s lead single ‘Canal’. Watch up top and get that album.

Drake

Despite finishing his takeover world tour just last week Drake is clearly not keen on slowing things down. This week has already seen the release a new Lauryn Hill-sampling freestyle called ‘Draft Day’ and now today, he lets loose another new cut titled ‘Days in the East’. Produced by fellow Canadian PARTYNEXTDOOR, the new slow jam features Aubrey’s astute melodic word play that this time even sees him shouting out our beloved Erykah Badu (“remember one night i went to to Erykah Badu house, she made tea for me, we talked about love and what life could really be for me”). Take a listen.

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XL Recordings’ RATKING has offered up a full stream of their debut album So It Goes ahead of its April 8th release. The new album builds on the bands already acclaimed New York grime-rap sound and features previous singles ‘So Sick Stories’ featuring King Krule  and ‘Canal’. RATKING’s approach to stuttered beats is met with unapologetically hardened verses. Listen up – this is beautiful.

Head over to NPR to listen to So It Goes in full.

Even  three years after his passing the power of Gil-Scott Heron on record is still palpable. ‘Alien (Hold On To Your Dreams)’ is the first single taken off Heron’s forthcoming posthumous album Nothing New which will be released by XL Recordings on Record Store Day (April 19th). The album will consist of material recorded during the I’m New Here sessions in 2008. The LP will consist of stripped-down renditions of some of Heron’s best known tracks and will be packaged with personal notes from XL Recordings founder Richard Russell. Only 3,000 copies will be available to buy on the day, so if you want one you’ll need to be quick… And herein lies the difference between good and bad posthumous releases.

As for the track – just listen, you don’t need me to tell you how awesome it is.

After delivering the dreamy visual to ‘Babylon‘, SZA is back with a brand new track called ‘Child’s Play’ which features a well executed verse from Chance the Rapper. SZA’s sweltering, golden-flow vocals float over the instrumental laid down by producer XXYYXX on his smash single ‘About You‘. It almost seems inevitable that these two are on a track together; it works.

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Drake opened the final leg of his Would You Like a Tour show last night at London with a display of confidence and charisma befitting the superstar he has become. Through a well thought-out, crowd pleasing set list Aubrey reminded us of the journey he’s been on since quietly [relatively speaking] releasing So Far Gone in 2009, the mixtape that first sparked his global grip.

Relying mostly on material from his third and most recent album Nothing Was The Same, Drizzy poured over hit after hit from across his discography and dedicating a section to his extensive feature repertoire: ‘The Language’, ‘Tuscan Leather’, ‘Worst Behaviour’, an extended (if not slightly over indulgent) rendition of ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’, ‘From Time’ assisted by R&B’s rising starlet Jhene Aiko, ‘Take Care’ (sadly sans Rihanna), ‘Over’ and the shows encore ‘Started From the Bottom’.

The overwhelming response to which was: “shit, Drake has hits!” – something that is perhaps a little easy to underestimate between twitter-memes, Drake shake apps and teary eyed tumblr gags that populate timelines and feeds on a hourly basis.

But its undeniable at this stage and has been for a long time now – hip hop’s reigning prince is also one of pop’s biggest superstars; Drake is without question a global artist who can shift huge numbers, balance die-hard fans with casual radio-listeners and sell out stadiums around the world. It wouldn’t take a lot of arguing to assess Drizzy as a poster child by-product of a post-Kanye world (even down to his elaborate, awe-inspiring stage set), but giving credit where credit is due – Drake is sitting confidently at the top of his game with very few competitors eyeing for his spot.

Boy did good.

17 year-old Atlanta rapper Raury turned heads with his genre-bending debut ‘God’s Whisper’ a few weeks back. Citing the likes of Kid Cudi and Andre 3000 as his influences, Raury manages to blend the raw, rugged flow in his verses with the swooping indie atmospherics to perfection. The accompanying video sees the artist/songwriter/producer at a bonfire in his hometown neighbourhood; donning a nifty, wide-brimmed floppy hat. There’s a full-length long player on its way too, it’s called Indigo Child, watch this space.

After announcing the release of their debut album, So It Goes, RATKING team up with label-mate King Krule on this album cut called ‘So Sick Stories’. The track, along with the Eric Yue-directed visual, sees the boys in their element as they do their thing over a smoothed out, slightly jazzy beat, whilst roaming the streets of New York.

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British producer Evian Christ has shared a stream of his latest EP ahead of its March 18 release on Tri-Angle. Featuring four new tracks, Joshua Leary’s mind still seems to be occupying the space it was in during his Yeezus experience. Truth is ‘I’m In It’ is child’s play compared to these grimacing rap beats. Built on industrial 808’s, icy snares and with enough aggro to warrant a few rounds on GTA – our guy is not fucking around.

Head over to his website for a full stream.

LE1F’s success over the past year or so isn’t surprising to me, but the cultural significance of him performing on one of America’s biggest talk shows is actually a little mind blowing, considering. Despite large parts of the world or rather huge sections of America still harbouring bygone prejudices against the LGBT communities, artists like LE1F, Mykki Blanco and Frank Ocean et el continue to thrive. LE1F has continually proven his talent for fast-whipped, sharp-tongued rap and his performance last night on Letterman reinforced and certified those efforts.

Make sure you grab LE1F’s new Hey EP – out now on XL Records.

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