Music » In Rotation

Singer-songwriter Kaina on magical musical polymath Morimoto

Plus: Maceo Haymes of the O’My’s on a work of genius by Quincy Jones, the Reader’s Leor Galil on a 1983 hip-hop single from a south-side high school, and more

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A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

A still from Lil Uzi Vert’s video for “XO TOUR Llif3”
  • A still from Lil Uzi Vert’s video for “XO TOUR Llif3”

Leor Galil, Reader music critic

Lil Uzi Vert, "XO TOUR Llif3" I'd been a bit cool on this Philadelphia rapper, but this raw single thawed me. Who knew the thing that'd get me would be hearing Uzi sing about suicide and Xanax over glassy synthetic vibes, ersatz violin stabs, and a syrupy, ballooning percussion loop?

The Carver Area High School Seniors, "Get Live '83" The historical record of early Chicago hip-hop is spotty and strange, and in its narrative (or lack thereof) the 12-inch single "Get Live '83" occupies a fascinating position. Recorded in 1982 by a group of seniors at Carver Area High and released on the south-side school's label, Challenger Records, the song precedes many of what are often considered the city's "first" rap releases. (For a deeply researched overview of those early years, I recommend Kevin Beacham's chronology on the Galapagos4 site.) In the early 80s, most people outside New York City treated rap as a gimmick or fad, but crucially, the kids on "Get Live '83" show a real love of the form.

Nine Inch Nails meets the Unicorn Frappuccino Bless whoever noticed the similarities between the toxic-looking purple-and-blue swirl of Starbucks' short-lived Unicorn Frappuccino "drink" and the cover art on Nine Inch Nails' 1989 debut, Pretty Hate Machine. The resulting meme started out as a diptych of the alleged beverage and the classic album, then sprouted the inevitable mutations as it spread—it's [100 emoji][fire emoji][laugh-cry emoji].

Leor is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Morimoto - KEAGAN ANTHONY
  • Keagan Anthony
  • Morimoto

Kaina, singer-songwriter

Morimoto, "People Watching" Morimoto is one of the Chicago artists I'm most excited about now. He's a multi-instrumentalist, producer, writer, singer, rapper . . . basically he's not real. The Sofar video of his original tune "People Watching" is the best, because it so clearly shows how good he is at everything he does. The production is beautiful—a combination of soulful sax, funky bass, and smooth synth. The writing is nostalgic, the vocals are warm, and the hook is so damn catchy—what else could you ask of a song? All of the shows I've seen him play have been incredible, funny, and never for a second not magical. This is someone to look out for—I can merch it.

J. Bambii featuring Syd Shaw, "Clark & Lake" Jasmine Barber, aka J. Bambii, is an incredible woman for many reasons: she's a teaching artist, a tarot reader, and a healer. She embodies black girl magic. Truly, though, I want people to start knowing her for her raps. I think she's ready to be known that way too: she released two singles in April. The new "Clark & Lake," which features power­house singer-rapper Syd Shaw, provides a healthy jolt of the unstoppable force that is J. Bambii.

Zack Sekoff featuring Leven Kali, "15LUV" Maceo Haymes of the O'My's showed me this song that I'm really diggin'. The Soundcloud description says "no samples," and you'll understand why after you listen. It looks like Sekoff also did some work on Thunder­cat's new album, Drunk, so I'm definitely interested in following this LA producer to see what other dope, funky shit he'll be making.

Kaina is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

Bitty McLean onstage with Sly & Robbie in 2009 - FABRICE COFFRINI/AP
  • FABRICE COFFRINI/AP
  • Bitty McLean onstage with Sly & Robbie in 2009

Maceo Haymes, cofounder and singer-guitarist of the O'My's

Quincy Jones, Body Heat Quincy Jones's seminal Body Heat, released by A&M in 1974, is a work of genius. I first found this album in high school, but I've since rediscovered it—and it's become a source of new inspiration. Two of the most memorable songs, "If I Ever Lose This Heaven" and "One Track Mind," were cowritten by (and include vocals from) the great Leon Ware, who passed in February. Jones's cover of Valdy's acoustic ballad "A Good Song," titled "Just a Man," is also a gem.

Various artists, Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical This 1989 compilation came to me a few years ago via the father of [my O'My's bandmate] Nick Hennessey. Assembled by Talking Heads' David Byrne, Brazil Classics 1 takes a deep dive into the country's tropicalia and MPB movements, covering tremendous range: it contains roots and traces of bossa nova, samba, funk, African rhythms, poetry, psychedelia, rock, and liberatory politics. "Um Canto de Afoxé Para o Bloco do Ilê" by Caetano Veloso is a personal favorite.

Bitty McLean, "Walk Away From Love" I was recently put on to this version of David Ruffin's 1975 hit by a friend. I'm a huge fan of reggae and of Ruffin (one of the lead singers in the classic 1960s Temptations lineup), and to me this song is everything. The cover fits perfectly into a long tradition of reggae artists reworking American R&B, soul, and country, and McLean's voice and the music backing him bring new life to the Ruffin classic.

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