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Sia during filming of the Graham Norton Show in London, on Dec. 10. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Listen Up: Hip-hop is top dog this week in music

My Spotify queue this week has been Bowie-­centric, and an end to the mourning doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon. Alas, there is new music from this cold January week, and great stuff, at that.

“Smile” by Isaiah Rashad

Being part of the Top Dawg Entertainment clique with Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q helps and hurts Rashad. He can be overshadowed by his cohorts; Lamar has just about reached the point where he can be labeled a voice of his generation — despite that distinction’s overuse — and Q’s manic energy makes him one of the genre’s most exciting performers. But TDE’s prestige gives Rashad more exposure than he would have if his base was still his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

His debut full-­length album is due out this year, and the roll­out has begun. Last year’s first single, “Nelly,” was a smooth, heartfelt track punctuated by Rashad’s easy flow. His latest release, “Smile,” continues in that vein, with a soulful sample and Rashad’s now-­patented low-key vibe.

Mellow yet caustic, braggadocious yet self­-destructive, Rashad tosses vague threats at his enemies and harsh words at his baby’s mother. It’s another track, and another reason to think that 2016 is the year Rashad joins his peers as a face of TDE.

“Reaper” by Sia

Sia had built up quite the career by 2014, working as a songwriter for pop’s biggest stars­­, Rihanna and Beyonce, right off the bat. Her solo career exploded two years ago, with her album “1000 Forms of Fear” and the stunning single, “Chandelier.” Since then the fame-­shy Australian has become an A­-lister in pop.

Her new album, “This Is Acting,” comes out on Jan. 29. “Reaper” is the latest song to be released from that album, an easy-going yet powerful pop statement, with her roaring vocals soaring behind a prominent bassline. She has far from lost her ability to write a pop anthem, and this song fits nicely among the countless others she has penned.

“Northern Lights” by Allan Kingdom

The rapper based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, has been putting out some of hip­-hop’s most unique work in the past few years, both solo and with his group Spooky Black.

Kingdom weaves between rapping and singing, never losing his melodic touch. His music is all available for free through SoundCloud, and this mixtape marks another gift to fans, free of charge. Check it out, and soon you will be exploring the rest of Kingdom’s stellar catalog.

 

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