"Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)" (4:17)
Producers: Simonsayz, B-Side
Writer: L. Fiasco
Publisher: Warner/Chappell Music
Lupe Fiasco is often considered one of the few sociopolitical rappers still moving an impressive amount of album copies. "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)," the first single from "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album," continues his provocative streak, acting as a history lesson and scathing commentary on America's wayward ways. "Live from the other side what you see/A bunch of nonsense on my TV," the Chicago MC spits. Controversy around the song's sonic makeup has thus far garnered more attention than its lyrics or Fiasco's fine delivery: The track samples Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth's 1992 track "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)," and Rock has publicly bemoaned the fact that his classic saxophone-laced beat was leveraged without his input. The two rappers have since reconciled, and, let's hope, can maintain cross-generational harmony long enough for hip-hop fans to receive another solid single from Fiasco.
"Want U Back" (3:36)
Writers: K. J. Schuster, S. Kotecha
Publishers: Maratone administered by Songs of Kobalt Music Publishing (BMI)/EMI April Music/Mr. Kanani Songs (ASCAP)
U.K. "X Factor" survivor Cher Lloyd looks to break out in the United States with "Want U Back," a sassy pop-rap track about, well, getting her boyfriend back. "Remember all the things you and I did first," Lloyd repeats to her ex, hoping that he'll remember her love was better, or at least unprecedented. Other lyrics like "Please, this ain't even jealousy/She ain't got a thing on me" ring a bit hollow, but Lloyd's confident, unwavering delivery shows that she believes in her chops. Meanwhile, Lloyd's vocals ride with impressive command over the loopy keyboard bloops and thudding bass bumps provided by producer Shellback. With silly lyrics, undeniable melodies and Lloyd's endearing charm, "Want U Back" could be one of the summer's most inescapable songs.
"I Just Started Hating Some People Today" (5:08)
Producer: Jack White
Publisher: Youthless (ASCAP)
Third Man Records
Sooner or later, rock's two most-beloved eccentrics had to collaborate: Beck drank Jack White's Kool-Aid and recorded "I Just Started Hating Some People Today" for White's Third Man Records Blue Series. On the single, Beck revisits the countrified wallowing of 2002 album "Sea Change," momentarily shirking the knob-twiddling he's known for infusing into rock. Instead of bottoming out like he did on "Sea Change," however, Beck is on the hunt for revenge. Vintage country music-complete with fiddles and Beck's signature harmonica-is an inspired choice to communicate this anger, which inspires more laughter than legitimate fear. The track's final 90 seconds are when things get freaky, first with a thrashing punk breakdown, followed by sultry female vocals cooing, "I'm going to kill you, Randy." Whoever Randy is, he's got it coming - but at least he'll die proud knowing he inspired the first new single from Beck in four years, and a good one at that.