Heat Check Roundup: Baby Rose, R.A.P. Ferreira, Arima Ederra and more
The Heat Check playlist is your source for new music from around the worlds of hip-hop and R&B with an emphasis on bubbling, undiscovered and under-the-radar acts. Who's got the hot hand? Who's on a run? It's a menagerie of notable songs curated by enthusiasts from around NPR Music.
This week's Heat Check selects features grounded wordsmiths, emergent L.A.-based chanteuses, auto-tuned misfits and songs of self-care. A rap thinker flexes his muscle, another reflects on his stereo past, an unlikely yet welcome soul collaboration bears fruit, a gaggle of nu-trap imitators try to replicate a singular star and more. Stream the playlist on Spotify. Check in.
Baby Rose, "Fight Club" (ft. Georgia Anne Muldrow)
On Baby Rose's latest single, in collaboration with genre-fluid experimentalist Georgia Anne Muldrow, the vintage vocalist embarks on a new journey. Propelled by detuned piano, tambourine and punchy, pulsing bass, "Fight Club" urges us to abandon comfortability, to take the risk. "I wanna run to my fears till I'm not afraid," Rose sings on the chorus, to which Muldrow responds, "Catch a current of fresh air to ride." Muldrow plays a catalyzing role here in a collab I never knew I needed. — Ashley Pointer
R.A.P. Ferreira, "ours"
Few rappers seem to love rap as much as R.A.P. Ferreira. The artist formerly known as milo is such a meticulous writer that his rhymes exude the care put into them, but he is also an allusive penman that is constantly thinking of other thinkers, the ideas they might bring to notions of rhythm and symmetry and lyricism, the lessons their work might imprint upon his — and anyone else's. "ours" is a prime example of studiousness becoming craft, the 10,000 hours manifesting. Over a wonky-sounding piano-mash, courtesy of Rose Noir, Ferreira performs with the looseness of someone relying on muscle memory. "Most disastrous motive, wrote this letter to them pacifist poets / In my bag is an understatement / Retract it, I keep ready to blaze like a matchstick / Blood-soaked cowboy, down to my last tin of Altoids / They'll say this was a stream of consciousness / I was simply a being, being honest," he raps. Even if you don't know he belongs among the greats, it's clear that he does. — Sheldon Pearce
Arima Ederra, "An orange colored day"
The Las Vegas-raised, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Arima Ederra makes gentle, swaying folk-tinged soul music that nods to influences like Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley. The title track from her new album, An Orange Colored Day, displays her propensity for making serious things light. She is a practitioner of a weightless form of R&B that simmers in the ether like incense, and here her voice seems to let sung phrases spiral until they dissolve. Her harmonies give the song an intangibility, as she sings of angels and heaven. About a minute in, the song erupts into a skittering barrage of drums. They recede, then return. But throughout the ebb and flow, her singing remains unwaveringly subtle and elusive. — Sheldon Pearce
Ruti, "Safe & Sound"
In a post-lockdown world, moving fast to make up for lost time can actually be more draining than redemptive. Ruti makes beauty out of that blah on "Safe & Sound." With scuffled UKG percussion and a wailing saxophone as her backdrop, Ruti's vocals ring so clearly, she's able to hit a sweet spot, leaving the listener both grounded and ascendant. This is a slow burner with more to discover on each listen. — Sidney Madden
Joyce Wrice, "Spent"
If you aren't up on recent Tiny Desk guest Joyce Wrice yet, there's still time to embrace her soulful music, which has taken a more buoyant turn lately, and bask in its richness. She performed several standouts from her new EP, Motive, during a stunning set, including the Kaytranada-produced "Iced Tea" and the lush "Bittersweet Goodbyes," but another cut worth visiting is the Afropop-inflected jam "Spent," which opens up for her to further showcase the range and nimbleness of her bubbly vocals. "All the time we, spent it way too fast," she sings, with the exasperation of a woman who is all out of patience. — Sheldon Pearce
ssgkobe, onlybino, xhulooo, spgwes, pourz, "patek"
parczy, "run it up!" (ft. ilymax and xravvvenx)
With all the chatter about rap's waning dominance lately — an overreaction to a slight dip in a few streaming metrics — it can be weird to see the exact opposite curve playing out elsewhere. There is a cadre of obvious rap stars existing beyond the reaches of popular culture, connecting with their audiences directly as everyone else ignores them, and none of these figures is more prevalent online this year than Yeat. Just spend 20 minutes letting stuff autoplay on SoundCloud and you'll start to feel his influence. All three of these songs are deeply indebted to him in some way. Half of the rappers on the "patek" posse cut seem to be miming the mummified Yeat flows and vocals. The rattling nascar and qwentcrazy production on "run it up!" evokes the work of beatmakers like Trgc. Even "SRT!" is playing into the same blurred-out, clouded-up aesthetic, which seems to scrub songs of any distinctive or defining traits. They all have their individual charms but they can only approximate Yeat's peculiar appeal. — Sheldon Pearce
KIRBY, "Take Care" (ft. Dave Guy)
The volume of "self-care songs" has certainly risen since the dark ages of the pandemic, yet KIRBY's new single "Take Care" still manages to meet the moment. There's much food for thought within this transportative neo-soul soundscape, produced by and featuring the trumpeter Dave Guy. Communal sounds of the outside — children playing, banter of neighboring families and friends — provide a nostalgic foundation for a rim-shot-led, pocketed drum groove, a dynamic bassline, soulful, muted horns and KIRBY's own smoky, Badu-esque vocals: "This load is way too heavy carried by yourself / Take care of momma," she sings, her voice wispy but unmistakable. "Know you gotta / Take care of brother / You gotta / Take care and hustle / But please take care of you." — Ashley Pointer
Open Mike Eagle, "circuit city" (ft. still rift and Video Dave)
The L.A.-via-Chicago rapper Open Mike Eagle looks backward for inspiration into the future on "circuit city," referencing the now-shuttered electronic superstore chain. The Madlib-produced song engulfs you in a soft, rock-tinged instrumental, as Eagle playfully raps, "I'm a brand new man doing the same dance / It only seems confusing because I changed pants." His longtime collaborators still rift and Video Dave hand off verses without interruption, pushing a constant flow over a steady, percussive beat. The song is just one flashback on Eagle's latest project, component system with the auto reverse, where he is at his reflective best — traveling to the age of clunky home stereos, boomin' '90s beats and recollecting his own past, reminding us to have fun while we're there. — Teresa Xie
Exotix, "Ton1ght" (Remix) (ft. j4M and Luvdes)
The singsong Atlanta rapper Exotix likes to overlay monotone, auto-tuned flows atop beats that lightly glow and flicker. He often seems zoned-out in his songs, as if he's dozing off beneath the gentle hum of a nightlight. "Tonight," his best-performing track yet, has the feel of a sleepy cradlesong sped up to 1.5x. Even moving in tandem with the like-minded rapper j4M, the cut just sort of chugs along, pleasantly unassuming. A new remix elevates it to something more than a sparkling bauble. The new version adds sweeping vocal runs from Luvdes, which not only bring texture but tone to an otherwise colorless affair. Even in the few moments where her voice is unsteady or cracking slightly it still feels thrilling because she is reaching for something dramatic. — Sheldon Pearce