Ms. Lauryn Hill Returns to Rapping to Explain Her Absence

"I don't do the shit you do for popularity," raps the legend on Nas's "Nobody"

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Y: Nas featuring Ms. Lauryn Hill, “Nobody” – In the guest verse nobody saw coming, the elusive Ms. Lauryn Hill delivers bar after bar on “Nobody,” a track from her “If I Ruled the World” collaborator Nas’s new album with producer Hit-Boy, King’s Disease II. As part of her clear-eyed look at her decisions to effectively withdraw from the music industry at the height of her success, Hill explains: “I spent too many years living too uncomfortably/Making room for people who didn’t like the labor/Or wanted the spoils, greedy, selfish behavior.” So… now what? “Walk into the hole you dug yourself, fuck a projection,” she raps. Well damn, okay then. When Nas unveiled the tracklist for this album earlier this week, it seemed safe to assume that Hill would be singing, as she did on their previous collab. But here she is rapping, and the results are beyond. This is how you drop in and leave them wanting more. —Rich Juzwiak


I was impregnated by this music video: Aventura and Bad Bunny, “Volvi” – There is a moment in this music video where Romeo Santos has his hand on Bad Bunny’s shoulder and says, directly to camera, “So nasty.” It was in this moment I realized I was with child through immaculate conception. As for the actual song, it’s very true to Aventura’s body of work, with Bad Bunny providing that extra touch of relevance for the youngsters who didn’t grow up dancing crotch-to-crotch in basements to all of Aventura’s hits. —Shannon Melero


Eh?: The Weeknd, “Take My Breath Away” – And now for…some more contemporary disco prepared for a mass market. Go figure. It’s just how things are these days. Driving Chic guitars a la “Dance Dance Dance” are at the center of this stomper’s groove. Things get increasingly electroni-fied as it goes, hurdling past the boogie of the early ‘80s and toward the kind of grinding brutalism that Daft Punk and Justice were serving in the ‘00s. But despite the bluster, there’s something uneventful about this one, the first single from Weeknd’s The Dawn Is Coming album. “Breath” lacks the heart of the Weeknd’s more ‘80s inclined After Hours offerings and there’s a paint-by-numbers approach to the references. People have been doing disco in pop for a minute now; for all of the energy this musters, it’s ultimately just a lot of huffing and puffing. —RJ


Social justice but sexy??: Zach Matari, “Lately” – This track gives me conflicting emotions but in a good way. Matari’s songs always touch on his background but this one is as personal as he’s ever gotten, offering comments on recent events in Palestine and imploring the listener to not ignore the struggles of that nation and its diasporic community. I jibe with this and I like a jam that makes me think. But the beat underneath the lyrics is giving me a lot of slow-jam-for-summer-parties energy, which I feel guilty for bopping to because it is literally a song reminding people about cultural erasure. —SM


RIP: Paul Johnson, “I Need You” – Second-wave Chicago house legend Paul Johnson died this week at 50 reportedly after contracting covid. This is a tremendous loss. Johnson’s early work on the beloved Dance Mania label like “Feel My M.F. Bass” jacked with the best of them, continuing Chicago’s tradition of stark and unrelenting pummeling. As the years went on, his work became a bit easier on the ears, but also more reliably idiosyncratic, as he cultivated his sing-songy vocal style typified in his biggest hit “Get Get Down.” “I Need You” (above) is post-peak Johnson by any measure, but I always thought it was a rip-roaring good time—a slapstick ode to the music he helped maintain, house. The genre simply wouldn’t have been the same without him. —RJ

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