Rare Cuts: Rihanna

Give a voice to the voiceless!

Rihana is hot, hotter than ever. Remember in high school, when the kind of music you listened to defined who you were as a person? It influenced the way you dressed, who you hung out with, what you did on the weekends. That was probably a little drastic. Music shouldn’t control you as much as you should control your music. You should take pride in your playlist! It’s no different than a wardrobe you spent years building, or a house you’ve meticulously decorated. There are very few things in life as inexpensive as music that can generate such an emotional reaction. When I heard Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” for the first time, I literally got goosebumps. You wait 90 minutes into a movie to get to the part where it gives you goosebumps, and the popcorn was nine bucks. Are you getting excited about music again yet?
We’ll keep this our little secret. I’ll do all the dirty work for you. You know the basics, like Lady Gaga, Jay Z and Rihanna. Based on those artists you already love, I will find you new, exciting music that gives you back those goosebumps. Every installment, I’ll feature a few artists you may not have heard yet, that share some similar characteristics or styles to ones you do know. Then you can impress your friends with your shiny new playlist  at your next party and take all the credit, I don’t mind.  This is Rare Cuts.

Well Done: Rihanna

RiRi and I have a very complicated relationship. No matter what I’m doing throughout the day, she feels the need to creep into almost all of my thoughts. I go to sleep at night thinking it’ll be a reprieve from the constant onslaught of half-naked Barbados-born thoughts that fill my mind all day. Nay, she haunts my dreams as well. I can’t be alone, though; everyone else must be having this problem too. Ever since she told all of us to “Pon de Replay” back in 2005, we’ve been mesmerized by her sultry voice and those big, beautiful, un-fucking-believable … eyes. But once you get past the boner looks, you start to realize that she’s truly one of the greatest artists of our generation. In her relatively brief career, she’s sold 30 million albums and had 13 of her 53 singles hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, tying her with Michael Jackson for third most of all time.

Medium Well: Jhené Aiko

There’s something infectiously soothing about Jhené. In a choppy sea of boisterous Aguilera-esque high notes, Aiko sails through it with ease and a gentle airiness about her. She adds a graceful peace to any track she touches, which is surprising considering some of her most frequent collaborators are rappers who tend to avoid such calm. The most compelling part of her story may be that it has two very distinct parts. Her first foray into the mainstream was as a 14-year-old when she recorded and performed with the R&B group B2K, appearing in many of their songs and videos. She even had high-profile placements on movie soundtracks like “Barbershop” and “You Got Served.” The second chapter of her story comes after she took time off to further her education and raise her daughter, Namiko. She started working heavily with members of the SoCal imprint TDE and as the buzz of artists like Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q (Rare Cuts #1) rose, so did hers. Her EP, “Sail Out,” reached No. 8 on the U.S. charts and her debut album, “Souled Out,” comes out in May.

Medium Rare: Rita Ora

Like Rihanna, Rita Ora was brought to our attention in North America by Jay Z and his Roc Nation label. Also like RiRi, she has the range and versatility to croon an emotional ballad one minute and get super turnt up on a party banger the next. In fact, her first single in the U.S., “How We Do (Party),” sampled Notorious B.I.G.’s “Party and Bullshit” and reached No. 62 on the U.S. charts and No. 1 in her native U.K. Her debut album, “Ora,” wasn’t released stateside but reached No. 1 across the pond and was subsequently certified platinum as well. At 23, she doesn’t have the most extensive catalog, but Ora shows an enormous amount of potential and seems poised to have a huge 2014. Her U.S. debut album, as yet untitled, is scheduled to be released this year, and she is set to star in the upcoming blockbuster, “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Raw: Kat Dahlia

Kat Dahlia, like a lot of the singers on this list, is unique to say the least. It’s hard to classify her as a singer or rapper, though, as she does both so well. She pens songs that are gritty stories of a rough upbringing in Miami, born to Cuban parents that had to scrape by to provide for her. It taught her that she would have to work hard for what she wanted, and Dahlia did just that. She used waitressing money to finance her first EP and music video, and it paid off, getting her discovered by an A&R from Epic Records, leading to her first record deal. Her style pulls from a vast pool of influences, from Bob Marley to Frank Sinatra and beyond. Her debut album, “My Garden,” is set to be released this coming February.

If you have artists you’d like to see featured, no matter where they end up on the list, send them to me on Twitter at @longlivetheduke!

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