And with Al Pacino‘s hilariously casual announcement of Oppenheimer as the winner of Best Picture at the 96th Academy Awards last night (Mar. 10), awards season has finally come to a close. While there wasn’t much hip-hop at the ceremony, the house orchestra did play a cover of 50 Cent‘s “P.I.M.P” — which is repeatedly referenced in the film — when Justine Triet and Arthur Harari walked up to the stage to accept the best original screenplay Oscar for their French legal drama Anatomy of a Fall.

Outside of the close of awards season, North West announced her debut studio album, Elementary School Dropout, Future and Metro Boomin announced that they have two new albums on the way, and Tyla canceled her upcoming North American tour and Coachella performances due to an injury.

With Fresh PicksBillboard aims to highlight some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop — from Drake‘s rework of 4batz‘s breakout hit to FLO‘s frothy re-entry into the music scene. Be sure to check out this week’s Fresh Picks in our Spotify playlist below.

Freshest Find: Mustafa, “Imaan”

Fresh off the news that he’s signed to Jagjaguwar, Mustafa has dropped off a stunningly tender amalgamation of soul, American folk music, and traditional Sudanese and Egyptian instrumentation titled “Imaan.” Backed by Snoh Aalegra on guest vocals, Mustafa’s malleable voice colors the soundscape as it shifts into a sweeping chorus earmarked by his yearning for “all that we don’t have evidence of.” “You say praying isn’t easy/ And all the ways you need me are from God/ And all the ways you reach him are flawed/ I know our families will never find their way to the same living room/ All of these bloodlines, all of these costumes,” he croons with heartbroken hoarseness.

Sinead Harnett, “The Most”

For the third taste of her forthcoming new album, Sinead Harnett is doing “The Most.” Across a moody soundscape accented by light trap drums and gentle guitars, she croons of an inconsistent lover who constantly throws their relationship into turmoil. “Why you so aggravated on the phone/ If I’m so hard to be with, be alone/ You’re projecting your insecurities/ Everything’s all about you, don’t put it on me,” she sings. Delivered with remarkable vocal clarity and emotion that’s palpable, but not overwrought, Sinead Harnett is readying a gem of an album if “The Most” is any indication of what’s to come.

FLO, “Walk Like This”

FLO is back on the road toward their debut studio album. The U.K. R&B trio have returned with the first offering from their forthcoming LP, the MNEK-penned “Walk Like This.” Also crafted in collaboration with Kabba, Relyt, Talay Riley and Ashton Sellars, “Walk Like This” finds the girls — Jorja, Stella and Renée — doubling down on their penchant for 2000s R&B stylings. Oozing with sass and bit of sultriness, their tight harmonies give body to the bubbly tune, declaring, “There’s a reason I walk like this / My baby, he be lovin’ on this / When he do it, he be workin’ that shit / And every night he got me wantin’ more of it.”

Lola Brooke feat. A Boogie wit da Hoodie & Big Freedia, “Bend It Ova”

Still pushing her formidable debut album, Dennis Daughter — which will have a deluxe edition out on Apr. 5 — “Don’t Play With It” rapper Lola Brooke has linked up with fellow New York rap star A Boogie wit da Hoodie and New Orleans bounce icon Big Freedia for a rambunctious ode to throwing it back. With A Boogie’s twinkling piano keys finding an unlikely-but-rewarding complement in Freedia’s brash NOLA beat, Lola finds the perfect middle ground for everyone’s sounds to converge. Of course, it’s not an A Boogie track if he isn’t adding a caveat of despondent realism: “Hoodie and a mask, yeah, heart black, yeah/ You want me to throw this cash? Better shake that ass, yeah/ I’m a f—ked up n—a, yeah, I admit it, yeah/ And I got it out the mud, still in the hood, yeah, yeah,” he spits in the hook.

4batz feat. Drake, “?act ii: date @ 8 (remix)

We knew it was only a matter of time until this moment: Mere weeks after 4batz exploded into the mainstream consciousness with “Date @ 8,” The Boy has added his own spin to the moody, dirty mackin’ R&B track. “There’s no way in hell I see you passing me up/ Almost said I loved your ass right after we fucked/ Don’t know why, girl, it was on the tip of my tongue/ Yeah, found someone I’m fallin’ for,” he croons in a familiar rap-sung cadence, which finds him trying to balance keeping up the untrappable gangster image and giving into the feelings that his heart can’t ignore. Perhaps, most importantly, the “Date @ 8” remix serves as further solidification for 4batz as he continues to scale industry heights with a back catalog of just three songs.

Rexx Life Raj, “Couple Months in LA”

Any aspiring creative can relate to the daunting expectations that come along with moving to Los Angeles in hopes of conquering their dreams. Being in the industry for a decade and growing up about 400 miles north of the City of Angels, Rexx Life Raj gets candid about the exhausting toll Hollywood’s taken on him mentally. “Tired of wasting my breath, retracing my steps/ Unnecessary expectations got me feeling the stress,” the Berkeley native raps in agony. Raj takes a step back and breathes out a delicate croon to practice restraint because what lies ahead will be worth it: “Quiet your mind, you’re too busy worried about time my boy be patient/ You gotta be patient, cause life don’t always come at your speed.”

Kyle-Brandon Denis
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