Looks like January is the month of beef — and we’re not just talking about Katt Williams unloading the clip on Club Shay Shay, the lively dancehall clash between Jada Kingdom and Stefflon Don, or the comparatively brief showdown between Teejay and Valiant. From Friday onwards (Jan. 26), no two artists dominated the conversation more than rap titans Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj.
With release of “Hiss” — her first solo single of the year — Thee Stallion ripped into a slew of high-profile opps, some of which fans think include Minaj, Drake, Pardison Fontaine, and Tory Lanez. In response, following a near-48-hour spiral across several social media platforms, Minaj unleashed “Big Foot” — one part diss track and one part unhinged spoken word monologue. Naturally, this all sent social media into a tizzy, with both artists’ respective fan bases rallying around their faves while more casual listeners picked their sides.
As the beef continues to simmer, the worlds of hip-hop and R&B kept turning. Mary J. Blige pulled the ultimate finesse and got a higher billing on the jam-packed Lovers & Friends lineup (May 4), Ice Spice put her foot on the gas with “Think U the Shit (Fart),” and Snoop Dogg revealed that he’s been prepping a new LP with contributions from Dr. Dre.
With Fresh Picks, Billboard aims to highlight some of the best and most interesting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop — from Megan Thee Stallion’s blistering “Hiss” to SiR’s moody return to R&B’s mainstage. Be sure to check out this week’s Fresh Picks in our Spotify playlist below.
Freshest Find: Megan Thee Stallion, “HISS”
Tina Snow is not to be played with. On this blistering address to the scores of slick talk and rumors that have hounded her since the turn of the decade, Megan Thee Stallion delivers a masterclass in Dirty South s–t-talking realness. Over an ominous beat crafted by Bankroll Got It, LilJuMadeDaBeat and Shawn Jarrett, the H-Town Hottie relishes in her courtroom victories (“I’m the Teflon Don in the courtroom/ They be throwin’ that dirt, don’t s–t stick”) and calls out the hypocrisy some men operate it when it comes to cosmetic surgery (“These n—as hate on BBLs and be walkin’ ’round with the same scars”). With flows switching at the drop of a dime and a cadence that effortlessly shifts from threatening to unbothered, Meg pulls off the difficult hat trick of delivering a hard-hitting diss track that is genuinely an enjoyable song, irrespective of its intended purpose.
SiR, “No Evil”
For his first official single since 2022, SiR dives head first in to a grittier, more jagged approach to R&B Soundscapes. The Inglewood crooner finds solace in his lover, despite the unsettling things he finds when he looks inwards. “Pardon my superstition/ But with my supervision/ I see so much of myself/ My past, my pain, my pride and my ego,” he sings in the first verse. Taylor Hill’s brooding, dynamic production blends stuttering hi-hats with sultry guitars, making for an instrumental every bit as immersive as Sir’s lead vocal.
Breez Kennedy, “Who’s Been On Your Mind”
Breez Kennedy — a 17-year-old rising R&B star by way of New Jersey and Florida — just might be next up if “Who’s Been on Your Mind” is anything to go by. Out via Standard Records/Def Jam Recordings, the guitar-anchored single finds Breez living almost exclusively in his falsetto as he questions his lover about who is truly on their mind. “Would be so hard if you replace me/ Only concerned ’cause you been changin’ on me/ Girl, did I not do enough?/ Do people change when they say they’re in love?” he posits. Conveying a level of ache and forlornness far beyond his years, Breez is laying a sturdy foundation for his burgeoning career.
Kimani Jackson, “Good Man”
Having already experienced viral success thanks to his show-stopping MTA performances in New York City, Kimani Jackson is ready for his next act. On “Good Man,” a booming, standout track from his Icebreaker EP, Jackson dips into a soulful blend of bluesy R&B with hints of gospel and jazz to soundtrack his quest to be, well, a good man. In the same bombastic sonic vein as towering classics like “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “Good Man” is a big swing — one that Jackson pulls off, thanks in no small part to his soaring vocals and pristine vocal control.
YoungBoy Never Broke Again, “Act a Donkey”
“You invited, ayy, tell Charlamange he invited to Grave Digger Mountain/ All he gotta do is pull up on me, n—a, and talk to me face to face.” That’s certainly one way to open a track!
Although the Megan v. Nicki battle has taken up most of the last week’s conversation, a certain Baton Rogue rapper had a bone to pick with one Breakfast Club host Charlamagne tha God. Over a bouncy Hitmann-helmed beat, NBA YoungBoy unloads the clip on Charlamagne, who recently crowned him “Donkey of the Day” for his less-than-sunny outlook on fatherhood. “Look, I love them graves, we tote them Ks, got Glocks with switch, they tear you up/ I’m 4KTrey, I bang for Dave, enforcement can’t do s—t with us/ Came inside this game and b—h, I f—d it up, I’m a donkey/ And I keep it on me, plenty money, b—h, don’t speak up on me,” he spits.
Lyrical Lemonade feat. Teezo Touchdown, Juicy J, Cochise, Denzel Curry & Lil B, “First Night”
Already one of the year’s best posse cuts, this cross-regional link-up thrives on juxtaposition. The song — taken from Lyrical Lemonade’s star-studded All Is Yellow project — opens with a somber piano-backed ballad courtesy of Teezo Touchdown. “Somebody help me sing / Somebody help me sing about me,” he coos in a pitch-perfect tongue-in-cheek tone. The track then morphs into a “Black and Yellow”-evoking beat over which Juicy J employs his Memphis-bred cadence to chant, “Let a n—a hit it on the first night/ I just wanna f—k, I’m not tryna fall in love/ Gon’ let a n—a hit it on the first night/ I’m a real n—a, you know I would never judge.” Indeed, Juicy. Indeed.
Maxo Kream, “Bang the Bus”
Maxo Kream in general is always a treat. Maxo Kream dirty macking over an EvilgIAne beat? Now we’re cooking with gas. A hilariously horny track, “Bang the Bus” fits nicely in betwen the “Slut Me Outs” and “Pound Towns” of the past year: “Redbone, slim, petite, drop it pop it Megan knees/ I need a pound town brown ratchet ghetto bitch for me/ The police kick my door down, you gotta take these pounds from me,” he spits. Evilgaine’s beat never quite settles into a steady groove thanks to that smartly warped sample, but those idiosyncracies offer a nice balance to the general contemplative vibe of the track.