The Washington Post

The Devil, Little Mix, the Underachievers: Critic’s Notebook

Notable recordings from the world of pop music.

(Courtesy of the artist)

The Devil

Derek Schklar made his name in recent years managing some of Atlanta’s steeliest street rappers, including Trouble and Pill. Now, he’s unleashing his own brand of grimy, high-concept hip-hop under a chilling curatorial pseudonym, the Devil. His new mixtape, “Harbinger,” evokes 21st-century urban despair through the feral rhymes of Alley Boy, the cyborg groan of Future and a sample of Bill Withers crooning from lightless purgatory: “Ain’t no sunshine . . . Ain’t no sunshine . . . Ain’t no sunshine . . . ” It’s not a rap mixtape so much as a sonic diorama of hell.

Little Mix

Women have it harder than men in most career fields, including the stickiest realms of bubblegum pop. Like One Direction before them, this U.K. girl group graduated from “The X Factor,” Simon Cowell’s televised singing contest across the pond, but breaks a much drippier sweat on its debut album, “DNA.” All four ladies throw their lungs into these tunes as if applying for the Beyonce position, but Little Mix’s labors don’t feel like work during “How Ya Doin’?,” a chirpy single about a cat-and-mouse romance that plays out via answering machine.

The Underachievers

May’s Patience,” a tenacious new track from the Underachievers, appeared online last week, perhaps offering a nudge — or a shove — to anyone who missed the New York duo’s impressive “Indigoism” mixtape in February. As ever, rappers AK and Issa Dash rhyme with a ’90s-inspired verve that never feels dated, sending an important subliminal message to the ever-churning hip-hop universe: Traditionalists don’t sound like scolds when they’re actually having fun.

Underachievers (Jessica Lehrman/courtesy of the artist)
Chris Richards has been the Post's pop music critic since 2009. He's recently written about the bliss of summer songs, the woe of festival fatigue and a guide on how to KonMari your record collection.



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Ron Charles · May 25, 2013

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