For me, television shows are a hot commodity for finding new music. The minute I hear a song I even remotely like, my phone is out and Shazam or Google is opened.
Netflix Original On My Block, amplified my music searching. The teen comedy/drama follows the lives of four best friends living in Ridgeway, California: Monse, Jamal, Cesar and Ruby. They deal with puberty, love, gangs and much more. The acting isn’t always up to par, but it’s a wonderfully diverse, complex show representing black and brown kids who don’t always see themselves celebrated or have their stories told.
And it’s set to a top-tier soundtrack.
With thanks to Tunefind, Youtube, music streaming services and of course Netflix, each of these songs have found a home on one or more of my many, many playlists. While most of these fall under the R&B category, On My Block exposes others genres to viewers, from rap to Latin.
Some of my favorites:
“Finish Line” by Daye Jack
On My Block was my introduction to Daye (pronounced Die-yay) Jack. I hadn’t heard of him or any of his songs. After hearing “Finish Line” in the pilot, I was hooked. I enjoy the groovy beat, his choppy rapping style, and the cringe-worthy vintage exercise video to go along with it.
“Devil’s Whisper” by Raury
“Devil’s Whisper” is the musical counterpart to another song of Raury’s called “God’s Whisper.” The kickdrum, guitar, clapping, and group singing are just a few elements that make it an intoxicating campfire tune.
“Insecure” by Brent Faiyaz
The first time I listened to Brent Faiyaz, he created a sense of nostalgia in me for a time that probably hit its peak when I was two years old. The soulful, dreamy sound of “Insecure” deserves to be played against the backdrop of a summer night when it’s a sticky kind of hot and you’re feeling very introspective.
“Blood On Me” by Sampha
Sampha never disappoints me and that holds true here. The heavy breathing layered behind his vocals at the start of the first verse sounds distressed. It immediately evoked the image of someone who actually did find blood on themselves and were freaking out about it. I’m not sure if that was a universal thing for everyone’s who’s listened to it or if it’s influenced by the title, but that’s my truth.
“2” by H.E.R.
“2” is from the mysterious singer’s 2017 album H.E.R. The song sounds familiar to me, like it’s influence was late-90s or early 2000s R&B: hard-hitting percussion and glass shattering sounds.
“Frontline” by Kelela
Before even getting into the song itself, let’s appreciate the fact that Kelela chose to do a Sims-inspired music video. Yes, Sims as in the life simulation video game, which is fitting for this futuristic electro-R&B hit. Her voice and synthy instrumentation result in a spacious, ominous sound with a subtle, trap beat thrown into the mix.
“Runner” by Kevin Abstract
One year after the formation of boyband BROCKHAMPTON, Kevin Abstract released “Runner” on his second album American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story. The song burns slow, leading up to the crashing chorus. Set against a scene in the show where tensions rise, the song is the perfect fit for a high stakes cinematic experience.
“Slow Up” by Jacob Banks
“What I’ve learnt from a traveller / There’s no road that can lead to Nirvana / There’s a world to discover / But home is love.”
Now those are lyrics.
The list of artists that have made me completely stop in my tracks is medium-sized, at best. Jacob Banks is one musician topping that list. Listening to the gritty, gripping raspiness of his voice against lyrics like these is a beautiful, awe-inspiring experience. If you don’t listen to anything else on this list, please do yourself a favor and play “Slow Up.” You won’t regret it.
“Waiting on the Warmth” by MorMor
The intro to this tune brought the sounds of an alien invasion to mind. After MorMor’s sing/talk first verse, the song kicks up a few notches with synthy piano and morphed falsetto before gliding back down to more sing/talking and electric guitar. “Waiting on the Warmth” is a rollercoaster of a masterpiece, and sounds like a contemporary EDM disco hit.
“Messages From Her” by Sabrina Claudio
Sabrina Claudio’s whispery rasp on “Messages from Her” sounds like it’s coming from a room away, which creates an echo effect. If you focus too much on this beautiful song — like really sit in it with the lights off, candles lit and your eyes closed — it could even be tear inducing. And, I never knew “duh-duh-duh’s” could sound so precious.
“BOOGIE” by BROCKHAMPTON
BROCKHAMPTON’s “BOOGIE” is too loud for headphones, obnoxious, and busy. It also works. This track from Saturation III is a great workout song: it’s hard not to move around when this comes through the speakers.
“If They Only Knew” by Black Atlass
The 22-year-old Black Atlass (AKA Alex Fleming) may not be a mainstream music star, but it’s clear that his influence is derived from it. “If They Only Knew” sounds like a product of The Weeknd with minor differences. In fact, The Weeknd actually signed him to the XO label in 2018. Although it’s not the most original sounding song in On My Block‘s soundtrack, it’s a sexy track with plenty of autotune, falsetto and a killer beat drop.
“Motion” by Khalid
“Motion” is the fifth track on Khalid’s sophomore album Suncity. Compared to the peppiness of previous tracks like “American Teen” and “Young, Dumb & Broke,” this track almost doesn’t seem like the same artist. He does something particularly interesting toward the end by adding in a chopped and screwed sample of his own song “Better.”
If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.
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