R&B/Hip-Hop Fresh Picks of the Week: BJ the Chicago Kid, Sinkane, Kevin Gates, Elmiene & More

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Nothing stops New Music Friday — not even Grammy nominations.

Although 2023 MVPs like Ice Spice, 21 Savage, Drake and Nicki Minaj racked up the rap field nominations for the upcoming 66th annual Grammy Awards, last Friday (Nov. 10) offered a litany of music beyond those four 2023 Billboard Music Awards finalists. Last week saw new albums from the likes of Brandy, YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Kodak Black, but those weren’t the only notable releases to update your weekly playlists with.

With Fresh Picks, Billboard aims to highlight some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop — from BADBADNOTGOOD’s gorgeous rework of an Elmiene standout to BJ the Chicago Kid and Chloe Bailey’s sultry, synthy link-up.

Be sure to check out this week’s Fresh Picks in our Spotify playlist below.

Freshest Find: Sinkane feat. Tru Osborne, “Everything is Everything”

For his first new song since 2019’s Dépaysé album, Sudanese-American singer Sinkane chose to ground his lyrics in the harsh realities of the Black living experience. Written and composed by bandleader Ahmed Gallab with vocal contributions from Harlem-bred artist Tru Osborne, “Everything Is Everything” is an amalgam of free jazz, Sudanese pop, gospel, funk and rock. A hearty choir provides a strong anchor for the arrangement, while Sinkane and Tru’s harmonies add splotches of color throughout the track. “The tides of change / Serve great purpose in our every day / My people, we will find our way,” Sinkane sings, with a hopefulness that consistently permeates the darker truths that the song explores.

Elmiene, “Marking My Time (BABDBADNOTGOOD Edit)”

Elmiene dropped off his debut major label EP, Marking My Time, last month, and to continue his promotion of the project, he’s released a reworked version of the title track, helmed by Canadian experimental jazz collective BADBADNOTGOOD. Here, the group reimagines Elmiene’s original with heavy splashes of R&B and psychedelic, specifically of the ’70s persuasion. Elmiene’s vocal is predicated on allegiance to subtle dynamism, and it’s that steady build that grounds the winning remix.

Rick Ross, Meek Mill & Cool & Dre feat. BEAM, “Go To Hell”

Hip-hop heavyweights Rick Ross and Meek Mill unleashed their highly anticipated Too Good To Be True joint album last week (Nov. 10), and this collaboration with BEAM and Cool & Dre is an immediate standout. Heavily nodding to Tears for Fear’s “Shout,” “Go To Hell” finds the two rappers deep in their braggadocio as they trade bars about their wealth, their escapes from the feds, and how much status and clout they have in whatever room they choose to walk into. “Bitch boys run to social media / Rich n—a, name in Wikipedia / If I f–k her once, she wanna f–k me twice / All the real n—as clique up, let’s get rich tonight,” Rozay raps.

Kevin Gates feat. B.G. & Sexyy Red, “Yonce Freestyle”

In a way, Kevin Gates and Sexyy Red are perfect foils: two devil-may-care rappers who are unafraid to embody and celebrate the grimiest parts of sex and sexuality, with a healthy dash of humor to add some levity to the whole affair. On “Yonce Freestyle,” the pair’s new collaboration which also features NOLA rapper B.G., the two maximize their similarities — even if the end result is a bit tamer than what some may expect. “Yonce Freestyle” is a well-crafted club banger, with a murky Southern hip-hop beat courtesy of ProdByJM, EJ Grimes and Juko, and a perfect laid-back ratchet tone from Sexyy.

BJ the Chicago Kid feat. Chlöe, “Honey”

BJ the Chicago Kid also released an album last week (Gravy), and that project featured loads of collaborations for R&B lovers. Among those impressive duets is the Chloe Bailey-assisted “Honey.” Landing squarely in the disco-tinged pop that has dominated mainstream top 40 for most of the young decade, BJ and Chlöe deliver a sexy, synth-laden collaboration that balances come-hither euphemisms with some outstanding harmonic choices. Between a surprisingly smooth vocal blend and a bright, clean mix, this just might be Chlöe’s best release of the year.

Ben Hughes, “What Was It For?”

For the opening track of his forthcoming Manha EP, UK musician Ben Hughes opts for a breezy guitar and drum-forward groove. “What Was It For” fits nicely in the landscape of contemporary British R&B, and Hughes’ careful vocal approach works alongside the instrumentation instead of towering over it. It’s a very soft and lush number — an air that offers a smart counterbalance to the melodrama of the lyrics. “Bring me peace / And heal my wounds / I’m bleeding out / Just for you,” he croons.

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