First Stream: New Music From Chance The Rapper, Taylor Swift, Lil Nas X & RM of BTS & More

Mauricio Santana/Getty Images
Chance the Rapper performs live on stage during the first day of Lollapalooza Brazil at Interlagos Racetrack on March 23, 2018 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 

Feeling overwhelmed by the new songs, albums and videos being unveiled today? You’re not alone. Billboard’s First Stream serves as a handy guide to this Friday’s most essential releases — the key music that everyone will be talking about today, and that will be dominating playlists this weekend and beyond.

This week, Chance The Rapper return, Taylor Swift drops an understated gem, Lil Nas X harnesses the power of BTS, and Travis Scott calls up Jonah Hill for a stunning visual. Check out all of this week’s First Stream picks below:

The Album That Lives Up To Its Gargantuan Name... and Hype:
Chance The Rapper, The Big Day

The Big Day has been referred to as Chance The Rapper's debut album, which, sure, if he says so -- he's already headlined festivals, earned the best new artist Grammys and become one of music's biggest stars, all thanks to three acclaimed mixtapes. What The Big Day does offer that's different than those previous full-lengths is an even more robust (and diverse) guest list: Shawn Mendes, Gucci Mane, Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj and CocoRosie all make appearances here, after Chance pulled in a few heavy hitters on 2016's Coloring Book. More importantly, however, he's now exploring even more complex thematic territory, grappling with fatherhood, fame, legacy and representation in hip-hop, over his typically life-affirming synthesis of soul, gospel and rap music. At 22 tracks, The Big Day is certainly a marathon, but that gives Chance ample opportunity to make references to Good Burger and the Disney live-action remakes, while also declaring, "I just happened to find a way to live my whole life in my prime." It's hard to argue with him.

Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Song That Begs To Be Heard Late At Night on Headphones:
Taylor Swift, “The Archer”

“Look What You Made Me Do” and “...Ready For It?” may have had splashier debuts for Taylor Swift two years ago as part of her Reputation era, but it was the gentle, contemplative “Delicate” that ultimately became that album’s most enduring hit. Flash-forward two years: as Lover approaches, Swift has offered another graceful self-examination to counter-balance the massive hooks of “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down.” “The Archer” is not an official single, and basically lacks a clearly defined chorus, but it’s a knockout: with Jack Antonoff in tow, Swift has gathered heavy synths and arranged them in a way that allows for maximum ethereal beauty. In the Lover era, it seems, there’s truly something for everyone.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Song That Is (Maybe? Probably?) The Final "Old Town Road" Remix:
Lil Nas X feat. RM, “Old Town Road [Seoul Town Road Remix]”

And here we have the epilogue of the “Old Town Road” remix extravaganza. As Lil Nas X approaches the all-time Billboard Hot 100 record, he has recruited RM of BTS to put yet another spin on one of the biggest hits of all time. “Seoul Town Road” works as pure fan service: BTS diehards will love hearing their boy loosely rapping about “the homis in my bag” (a “homi,” FYI, is a Korean hand hoe used in traditional agriculture!) surrounded by the most recognizable hook of the year. Hearing a K-pop giant saddle up next to Lil Nas X is enjoyable enough to persuade listeners to take one last ride down “Old Town Road.”

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Album That Could Soundtrack a Worldwide Party:
DJ Snake, Carte Blanche

In a way, DJ Snake’s latest full-length functions similarly to most high-profile super-producer albums -- the recent singles are gathered, some new material supplements them, there are guest stars galore. Yet Carte Blanche is notable, both within the genre and in Snake’s own catalog, for its global reach. The collection of artists involved here, from Ozone to Burna Boy to Tchami to Anitta, speaks to the producer’s strategic focus on an international artist, but also to his talent of effectively incorporating their distinct sounds into his own. The superstar hip-hop gathering “Enzo” might still be the highlight, by the way, but the breathless dance track “Fuego” certainly makes a strong case to own the back half of your summer.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Song That Reunites Two Close Friends:
Rick Ross feat. Drake, “Gold Roses”

Drake and Rick Ross have been making music together for nearly a decade, consistently circling into each other’s orbits to lend a guest verse or hook. On “Gold Roses,” from Ross’ upcoming Port of Miami 2 album, the two rappers sound exquisitely comfortable sharing a mic; their chemistry crackles, two halves of a reliable whole. Both include some mid-2019 touchstones -- Drake nods to Kevin Durant’s on-court Achilles injury, Rozay laments having never won a Grammy -- but this song, with its minimal production behind their focused spitting, could exist in any of their respective eras. If you liked hearing Drake and Ross together in the past, you’ll like “Gold Roses.”

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Video So Eye-Popping You’ll Have To Watch It Twice (At Least):
Travis Scott, “Wake Up”

Travis Scott certainly didn’t have to go all-out for the video to Astroworld stand-out “Wake Up,” after the album produced multiple major hits and essentially morphed Scott into an A-list artist. Yet he was not about to phone this one in: Scott tapped Jonah Hill to direct a jarringly surreal clip which finds the rapper strolling around a decadent party in which all the guests are unconscious, before he gets caught up in the dream-like physics of the world himself. No Weeknd in this one, natch, but Scott more than holds his own as the guide to a very trippy setting. The special effects on display here are worth a second watch alone -- check out how the pool table shudders and changes when Scott slams his palm upon it.

The Album To Play At Sunset on a Warm Summer Night:
Cuco, Para Mi

The shaggy pop of Omar Banos, the 21-year-old who records as Cuco, contains an undeniable charm; it’s what brought him from his bedroom to packed shows over the course of his young career. Para Mi, his major label debut, carries a lot of expectation, but Cuco doesn’t sound like he’s concerned with anything in the world. His melodies are simple yet arresting, his chillwave-indebted production can be spacey but never overly psychedelic, and over the course of a brisk 37 minutes, he tinkers with sound and his voice like a kid playing around with a bunch of toys he’s just discovered in his attic. Para Mi ends with “Do Better,” a pretty and achingly romantic ode that captures where Cuco is at on this project: highly likable, and showing the promise of what’s to come.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Songs That Show Off a Big Name’s Multiple Skills:
Big Sean, “Single Again” and “Overtime”

Big Sean has always been a polarizing figure in the hip-hop community, as an agreeable MC with undeniable hits but differing opinions on his status as a singular star. With the release of the fiery freestyle “Overtime” followed immediately by the soothing new radio offering “Single Again,” however, Sean shows off how multi-faceted he can be. “Overtime” has the wordplay, but “Single Again” is the strongest Big Sean single in recent memory, an R&B-influenced state of the union that allows him to meditate on self-care and broken relationships one moment and toss off a cheeky “I Don’t Fuck With You” reference the next. Maybe Big Sean will always be rap’s lightning rod; in the meantime, he’s still shining.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

The Album That Justifies a Surprisingly Successful Debut:
NF, The Search

In 2017, NF shocked the music industry by scoring a No. 1 album, Perception, on the Billboard 200 chart, as an independent artist with very little mainstream recognition. Two years later, the rapper has returned with a sprawling defense of that unlikely stardom, as The Search is a whopping 76 minutes long and carries the weight of NF’s deepest questions. There are moments here that are raw, unabashedly angry and searingly personal, but NF’s technical skills are so dazzling that listeners might need multiple listens to register that emotion. Looking for a pathway into these 20 songs? Start with the back-to-back highlights “When I Grow Up” and “Only,” the latter with rising star Sasha Sloan.

Listen on Amazon Music
Listen on Apple Music
Listen on Spotify
Listen on TIDAL
Listen on YouTube Music

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.