Beyonce | "Ring the Alarm"
It's not Beyonce's first dis track--on "Survivor" she shouted down former members of Destiny's Child--but "Ring the Alarm," from her forthcoming B'day (Sony), is the first time she's been pissed enough to swear. This time she's gunning for her budget-bin doppelganger, Rihanna, who's under the tutelege of Ms. Knowles's fiance, Jay-Z: the don't-you-dare is directed at them both. She's concerned about losing her man, as well as her chinchilla coats, VVS stones, and remaining dignity. Beyonce's dirty laundry is accompanied by an air-raid siren, a gunshot snare break, and actual yelling on the chorus--you best believe it's goin' down.
OutKast | "Morris Brown"
Idlewild, OutKast's brand-new (and much delayed) movie-and-album combo, is shaping up to be their Under the Cherry Moon, not their Purple Rain. The film's a pre-WWII period piece, and in keeping with that conceit the record leans hard on prebop sources for inspiration and samples. Andre 3000 sounds like he taped his drops in a medically induced coma, but as ever Big Boi comes from behind to steal the show. His "Morris Brown" is drumline doo-wop what-the-fuckery with a ramshackle beat, making for some of the greatest fardled pop klang since Trout Mask Replica.
The Rapture | "Don Gon Do It"
The Rapture's forthcoming fourth release, Pieces of the People We Love (on Motown--no, really), is such a mess it's unlikely to rescue what remains of their career, but "Don Gon Do It" is their best hope. Granted, the verses are lowest-common-denominator MySpace disco, and front man Luke Jenner sounds like Opera Duck UK, delivering lyrics so cheesy ("Pain of broken-hearted life / You are so fucked-up / I wish you'd die") they make Pete Wentz look like Slavoj Zizek. But the soaring chorus has a pure-platinum sheen worthy of Kylie Minogue--it'll make you forget the rest of the song even exists.
Girl Talk | "Hold Up"
Girl Talk's new Night Ripper (Illegal Art) doesn't live up to the "this year's Grey Album" hype, but it is a similarly obsessive cut-and-paste job. Each track steams manically through classic rock, pop rap, crunk & B, and 70s trash. The pounding barrage of "Hold Up" hits you with pieces of Nas, 50 Cent, Timbaland's "Indian Flute," and the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" all in the first 47 seconds--then lays in the vocals from James motherfucking Taylor's "Your Smiling Face." It's as much a stroke of genius as it is a show of kid nerve.
TV on the Radio | "Wolf Like Me"
"Wolf Like Me," the debut single from the forthcoming Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope), is art-punk's hottest zipless fuck since Sonic Youth's "Shadow of a Doubt." A sensual/sensitacho number, it backs Tunde Adebimpe's crooning cool come-ons ("When the moon is round and full / Gonna teach you tricks that'll blow your mongrel mind") with drony fuzz blast over an insistent double-dutch bump, then flips into a dark, drifting, melancholy bridge. It's like something from Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden kicked into sweaty, let's-cut mode.
The Pack | "Vans"
None of the stream of hip-hop songs touting allegiance to a brand or product and the lifestyle it signifies ("White Tee" and the like) has held my attention until now. "Vans," available online or on volume two of DJ Heat's "New Bay" mix-tape series, is an ultraminimalist track--just sub bass, finger snaps, and 909s--and the best shoe tribute since "My Adidas." Scorning indulgence in Nikes, the Pack's MCs outline the style, evolution, and early history of the pragmatic slip-on--"It's the $36 punk-rock shoe," goes one line. All that's missing are directions to Payless in the outro.
DJ Webstar featuring Young B | "Chicken Noodle Soup"
Though originally a Harlem phenomenon, "Chicken Noodle Soup" has been making the rounds on the Interweb, thanks in part to the dozens of people uploading cell-phone videos to YouTube of kids doing the accompanying dance. (It'll get a national release on Universal at the end of September.) The track's absurdist, mantralike hook--"Chicken noodle soup / Chick-chicken noodle soup / Chicken noodle soup with a soda on the side"--sounds just enough like a schoolyard taunt to remind you that, unless you're under 16 or can regularly be seen dancing on BET, you will never be able to do this dance. It's a more complex version of the Tone Wop, with leans, snaps, some Poole Palace wiggle, and a full back bend. The song, on the other hand, is dead simple, built on a dry, clicking 808 beat and this season's hip-hop production must-have, the blaring air-raid siren. While DJ Webstar's braggadocio echoes deep into the next galaxy, Young B, who sounds like she might be going into the eighth grade this fall, raps in a casually sassy singsong. If you can get it out of your head in less than three days, it's probably a sign of early-onset Alzheimer's.
Rick Ross | "Hustlin' (DJ Orgasmic Remix)," "Hustlin' (Catch Mix)," and "Hustlin' Hustler (Cadence Weapon Hi-speed Edit)"
How many hustles can one hustler hustle? These three blog-jockey remixes are the latest of at least a dozen to make the rounds. DJ Orgasmic gives the song an anxious, ticking beat, hanging the hook on a rolling minor-key organ lick. Catchdubs's mix features an exclusive intro from Ross himself and amps the track into a double-time rockist mock-up, complete with punk drums and overdriven electric bass. And Cadence Weapon answers Ross's grim narrative and yayo slang with dark minimalism and dub touches.
Basement Jaxx | "Hey You"
After the mess that was Kish Kash (JC Chasez talking like a last-call slut--um, no thanks), it's no wonder the Jaxx got dropped by Astralwerks. Thankfully their forthcoming Crazy Itch Radio (XL) is la banane entiere. The irreverent banger "Hey You" repos Balkan brass and sets it to pure Chicago juke step, which bleeds into a colossal baile beat and, for good measure, some trashy Eurotrance. A fine return to the Jaxx' weapons-grade fusion form.
Rubber Bullets | Crowd Control mix tape
From fertile Baltimore comes the dynamic duo of DJ Dave Nada and Ris Richards (aka Chris Richards of Q and Not U), doing business as Rubber Bullets. Their debut, Crowd Control, is a 26-track continuous party mix, heavy on the hip-hop but omnivorously pillaging all things regional--they cut a sampled Nation of Ulysses scream into the martial beats of B'more club and drop in D.C. go-go classics. The intro to "Slip It In. Jiggle It" is the most genius punx-'n'-heads mash yet: Young Leek's "Jiggle It" and Henry Rollins's, er, penetrating injunction combine to become a singular instructional.