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Heat Check: Shake Your Senses

Rooted in languid rhythm, Octavian's "Poison" featuring Santi with OBONGJAYAR sounds like nothing else out.
Crowns & Owls
Courtesy of the artist
Rooted in languid rhythm, Octavian's "Poison" featuring Santi with OBONGJAYAR sounds like nothing else out.

When reality feels more like a neurotic moving target, a few snaps of the synapses couldn't really hurt right about now, right? If you're fiending for a mental reset the likes of Men in Black's Neuralyzer — brief, fuzzy, just enough to take the edge off — divergent heat from Octavian, Tora and Kali Uchis will do the trick.

Plus, Isaiah Rashad makes his long-awaited return as part of TDE Appreciation Week, Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes finally unveil with the full extent of their hip-hop-jazz fellowship and Mulatto takes no prisoners for an unrelenting 32 bars. Un-hunch your shoulders and isolate the memories of these new music moments.

As always, Heat Check provides sonic whiplash and tempts burgeoning curiosity on Spotify.

Octavian, "Poison" (feat. Santi, OBONGJAYAR, Take A Day Trip)

When South London's Octavian links up with Santi and OBONGJAYAR, two of Nigeria's rising stars, it's almost a guarantee the result will sound like nothing else out. Delirious, submerged percussion (provided by producer duo Take A Day Trip) sets the stage for a warning about overdosing on the "poison" of love: "A girl like that will leave your mind erased." Of course, they're not worried enough to completely stay away.

In the song's video, admission into a club costs the price of temporary insanity. The night devolves into a languid fever dream filled with black lights, Avirex, foggy pupils and blonde dreads braided into constraints.

Tora, "Vein"

"I can just release my nature," the London-based singer assures with a tone that feels like a welcoming, open-palmed hand. However, once the synthetic chorus hits, a frenzy of concepts clash that will leave you like a shaken Etch A Sketch.

L'Suavo, "Deep End (feat. Dyna Edyne)"

A grounded bass and quippy, grin-guiding verses from L'Suavo welcome you in just as it becomes clear that those faint police sirens in the background are no match for the siren song Dyna Edyne deploys in the third verse. These are two Florida artists worth keeping an ear on.

Kali Uchis, "i want war (BUT I NEED PEACE)"

Like many musicians, Kali Uchis is injecting her time in self-quarantine with a dose of creative whimsy. The Isolation artist shared a four-song EP last week titled To Feel Alive, an effort she produced and recorded primarily alone in her room "in a couple of days" to process her feelings about moments lost and futures unknown. The end product is a glistening ten minutes of piano, harp and pouty, glossed lip cynicism.

"It's time to stop blocking these blessings / See, I just wanna grow into my greatness / I wish I had the time that you've taken."

Mulatto, "No Hook"

Fed up with being underestimated, under pressure and under constant supervision, the Atlanta rapper departs from her usual fun-loving, cash-stacking turn-up to drop a relentless 32 bars. Mulatto covers everything from family drama and fake friends to flimsy deals and online trolls.

"She used to be my dawg, but now she telling all my business / If I could take it back, I wouldn't have been on television / 'Cause y'all won't let me grow up and accept the fact I'm winning / Brother in the penitentiary, it's a piece of me missing," Latto vents.

In the accompanying visual, Latto walks into a therapy session to air out all her frustrations only to find out she's the only one she can trust to talk to.

Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes, "Nightrider" feat. Freddie Gibbs

After weeks of singles and snippets online, South East London's Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes finally unveil the full extent of their hip-hop, jazz, electronic fellowship with What Kinda Music, an album that obliterates genre and deliberate ricochets off convention.

"Nightrider," featuring a blessing on the track from Freddie Gibbs, sputters and glides along loose as hell without losing the handle on cruise control.

Isaiah Rashad, "Why Worry"

After staying fairly quiet following 2016's The Sun's Tirade, Isaiah Rashad made his laid-back reentry during TDE Appreciation Week. With an atmospheric sample of "Why Worry" by Dire Straits, the Chattanooga, Tenn. rhymer performs a lyrical tightrope walk, levitating over fake love, shallow gossip, writer's block and bills due. When the bars help you float this high this effortlessly, fear, confusion and stress are forced to melt away.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.
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