North Carolina Release Radar: Some of our Favorite New Music Releases so far in 2023

By Grant Golden

March 28, 2023

“Get It Started” by Shame Gang

Shame Gang’s 2021 record No Safe Haven propelled the rapper to national acclaim, and if “Get It Started” is any indication, then his forthcoming album Better Late Than Never is set for even greater heights. “Get It Started” finds Shame Gang making lofty proclamations of greatness and displaying the talent to back it all up. Comparing himself to acts like Kendrick, Cole, Jay-Z and Drake, Shame states that the “only difference be the money.” It’s a level of braggadocio that could be off-putting if he didn’t body this track with clever wordplay and a hard-hitting cadence.

“WENUNEED” by Sonny Miles

Sonny Miles has proven to be one of the state’s most visionary R&B acts. On the heels of a strong string of singles in 2022, Miles kicks off the new year with one of his finest productions to date: “WENUNEED.” Densely layered vocal harmonies weave in and out of a rolling bass line, warm keys, and drunk drums on this affectionate, self-aware track. “Baby, I used to fall for you…it was too easy,” Miles sings in the song’s chorus, outlining an on-again off-again type of love most can relate to. While that lover may not always be around, “you can call me when you need,” Miles insists. And if he keeps putting out tracks as vivid and soulful as this…we’re gonna be making that call a lot.

“How Late It Was” by OCNS

Raleigh’s OCNS has established themselves as one of the state’s most ambitious groups, and tracks like “How Late It Was” show just how those lofty ambitions can pay off. “How Late It Was” embodies the cinematic nature that great music can take on. The single is a shimmering pop track with driving percussion and summery guitar lines, carried in bulk by airy falsetto vocals. But the way OCNS plays with dynamism is what makes the track so compelling. Their vocals give a feeling of weightlessness to the start of the track, but the group’s sense of harmony in the chorus and subsequent verses build a rich foundation and fleshes out a wide sonic range..

“Scottsboro” by Kym Register + Meltdown Rodeo

The opening sounds of “Scottsboro” slowly bubble into the mix with clean, meditative guitar lines and sharp percussive hits. As Kym Register’s vocals cut through and the rhythm section settles into a groove, “Scottsboro” takes form with the swampy vibes of a sweltering summer day. This musical ode to the Scottsboro 9, a group of nine young Black men in the early ‘30s who were wrongfully convicted of rape, is brimming with conviction. Register’s lyrics chastise the unjust Jim Crow South while serving as a cautionary tale. It’s refreshing to find a track with a story as compelling as its musical content, and the entrancing production on “Scottsboro” is captivating.

Highly Favored by Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon

Highly Favored is what it sounds like when a rapper and producer are firing on all cylinders. Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon brings a palpable passion to his rhymes which pairs excellently with Buck Dudley’s immersive beats. Most of Highly Favored finds Dudley’s atmospheric production leaving ample headroom for Jah-Monte to morph his flow at will, crafting riveting rhythms that hook your attention from the moment his verses begin. Tracks like “My Old Plug Still Pussy, FYM” and “Pray For My Pending Case” display this dynamic to a tee while tracks like “I’m Good Luv, Enjoy Though” and “I’m Done Signing Vinyl” showcase Jah Monte’s ability to navigate more melodic beats. There’s a lot to love about Highly Favored, and its short run time makes it easy to run it back as much as you want without too much time commitment.

Scivic Rivers by Scivic Rivers

Randy Bickford has long been a staple of the Triangle music scene, from his work withThe Strugglers to his early aughts outings as Brice Randall Bickford, but his debut project as Scivic Rivers is some of his most polished and impressive work to date. Scivic Rivers encompasses the full scope of human existence; it’s as much an ode to his newborn child as it is to his late father and the high and lows that come between the two. But it’s not all heavy, somber tunes. Tracks like “Frontier Forever” boast a smooth bass groove and counterplay throughout string melodies. Blood Vessel” feels like the perfect encapsulation of the record’s contrast between heavy themes and uplifting instrumentation, as Bickford rides a bouncing rhythm with existential questioning like “What did I become a vessel for?” It’s a fantastic record packed tightly with detail, worthy of multiple listens.

Kttn (EP) by Tre Ahmad

Kttn is a short but satisfying outing from Tre Ahmad, a three-track EP of exciting sonic exploration. Kttn begins with “Kindly,” a track that opens with staccato acoustic guitar and pitched-up vocals, only for a rumbling sub-bass to kick down the doors. This juxtaposition continues as Ahmad switches between melodic hooks and swiftly spat verses over trap-inspired hi-hats. “26” is a fairly straight forward cover of SZA’s “20 Something,” but showcases Ahmad’s powerful sense of harmony. The project closes out with “L’avion Freestyle,” the standout from the EP. In “L’avion,” Ahmad navigates a roomy beat, filling the space with dynamic flows and personal lyrical depth.

“Inside” by Nance ft. Skizzy Mars

Nance’s latest single is an exploration of perseverance and mental health. Alongside NY’s Skizzy Mars, Nance rides atop a dreamy soundscape filled with subtle bass drums and snappy hi hats. Throughout the track he plainly outlines struggles with depression and mental health– “Trapped inside of my head it’s just another day” Nance sings on the song’s hook– but his words are colored with assurance and hope. He raps with the confidence and emotional intelligence and, as the song slowly strips down to a lone piano run, you can’t help but feel uplifted. “Inside” is Nance’s first single leading up to his forthcoming full length, everydaydream, set for release this spring.

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