TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a roundup of some current hip-hop hits he's enjoying. They're songs that range from upbeat dance music to a rap ballad with a moody sound.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK ALIVE")
DRAKE: (Rapper) 901 Shelby Drive, look alive, look alive. Came up on this side, now they on the other side. Oh, well, [expletive] 'em, dog. We going to see how hard they ride. I get racks to go outside and I split it with the guys. We up on the other side. [Expletive] acting like we tied. I've been gone since, like, July. [Expletive] acting like I died. They won't...
KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: The 21-year-old Memphis rapper BlocBoy JB has one of the catchiest singles around these days with "Look Alive," a collaboration with the rapper, singer and actor Drake. The lyrics of "Look Alive" take a funny run through many of the material possessions a rap star might accumulate. There's also the occasionally more cynical line about how cutthroat the music industry can be. But the important stuff is the music, its jagged, stuttering beat. You should go online and look at the video for this song to see the wonderful dance moves that BlocBoy applies to this music - quick, precise little hops and skips that Drake echoes vocally.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK ALIVE")
DRAKE: (Rapping) Hey, hey, look who I'm around, man. If I [expletive], I'ma (ph) be downtown, man. Fourth floor bound, man, that's if I get caught, man. Pushed me to the edge, so it really ain't my fault, man. I'm not to blame, man. This [expletive] industry is cutthroat. I'm not the same, man. And I could let you check the tag now. I'm rocking name brand. I'm only chasing after bags now. I got a game plan. And I'm out here with the woo (ph) - 700...
TUCKER: Drake is all over the place these days, putting out his own hit singles such as "God's Plan" and collaborating with a wide variety of acts, none of them bigger than Migos, the Atlanta trio that currently dominates hip-hop. Their recent album "Culture II," released around the first of the year, has spawned numerous hits, none more hypnotic than "Walk It Talk It," featuring Drake on a couple of verses. The song's hook is its clipped monosyllables, the way the phrase walk it like I talk it are snapped out with such clever curtness.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALK IT TALK IT")
QUAVO: (Rapping) Walk it like I talk it. Walk it. Walk it like I talk it. Walk it. Walk it like I talk it. Walk it, walk it like I talk it. Walk it like I talk it. Talk it. Walk it like I talk it. Ay (ph). Walk it like I talk it. Walk it, walk it like I talk it. Take my shoes and walk a mile, something that you can't do. Big talks of the town, big boy gang moves. I like to talk around with my chain loose. She just bought a new - but got the same boobs. Whipping up dope - scientist. Whip it up. Whip it up. Whip it up. Cook it up. Cook it up. Skrr (ph), skrr. That's my sauce, where you find it? That's my sauce. Look it up. Look it up. Find it. Adding up checks, no minus. Add it up. Add it up. Add it up. Add it up. Yeah. Get your respect in diamonds. Ice. Ice. Ice. Ice. Ice. Ice. I bought a plain Jane Rollie, these - bought they fame. I think my back got scoliosis 'cause I swerve the lane, skrr. Heard you signed your life for that brand-new chain. I heard. Think it came with stripes, but you ain't straight with the gang. Gang. Gang. Walk it like I talk it. Walk it. Walk it like I talk it.
TUCKER: "Walk It Talk It" has been out for a couple of months now, but recently saw a resurgence of popularity after Migos put out a very amusing video for it crafted to look like a vintage 1970s episode of "Soul Train." Where Migos is all about high energy, the rapping singer Post Malone promotes a more melancholy sound. His 2017 hit "Rock Star" may be the most downbeat ode to stardom ever recorded. He stays in a wistful mood on his new song "Psycho." It features a lyric ostensibly about all the jewelry and nice things he can now afford, but unlimited consumerism seems to have left Post Malone dismayed and moody.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PSYCHO")
POST MALONE: (Rapping) You stuck in the friend zone, I tell that four-five the fifth, hundred bands inside my shorts, DeChino the - try to stuff it all in, but it don't even fit. Know that I been with the - ever since a jit (ph). Hey, I made my first million, I'm like - this is it. Thirty for a walkthrough, man, we had that - lit. Had so many bottles, gave ugly girl a sip. Out the window of the Benzo, we get seen in the rent. I'm like, whoa, man, my neck so - cold. Diamonds wet, my T-shirt soaked. I got homies, let it go, oh. My money thick, won't ever fold. She said, can I have some to hold? And I can't ever tell you no. Damn, my AP going psycho.
TUCKER: Post Malone brings a subdued ballad style to hip-hop. I like it, but I'd also like to hear him lighten up once in a while. Maybe he should look at that high-energy video of BlocBoy JB dancing to "Look Alive" that I mentioned earlier. It just might put a smile on his face and a spring in his step.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Yahoo TV. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guest will be Jake Tapper, CNN's chief Washington correspondent and anchor of "The Lead" on weekdays and "State Of The Union" Sundays. We'll talk about his new debut novel set in 1954 McCarthy-era Washington and similarities he sees today. And we'll discuss how he deals with interview guests from the Trump administration when they promote falsehoods or evade his questions. I hope you'll join us.
FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer for digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show.
We'll close with music by Bob Dorough, the jazz pianist singer and songwriter best known for co-writing the song "I'm Hip" and for writing and performing songs for "Schoolhouse Rock." He died Monday at the age of 94. On Friday, we'll listen back to the performance and interview I recorded with him in 1982. I'm Terry Gross.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THREE IS A MAGIC NUMBER")
BOB DOROUGH: (Singing) Three is a magic number. Yes, it is. It's a magic number. Somewhere in the ancient mystic trinity, you get three as a magic number. The past and the present and the future, faith and hope and charity, the heart and the brain and the body give you three as a magic number. It takes three legs to make a tripod or to make a table stand. It takes three wheels to make a vehicle called a tricycle. Every triangle has three corners. Every triangle has three sides, no more, no less. You don't have to guess. When it's three, you can see it's a magic number. A man and a woman had a little baby. Yes, they did. They had three in the family. That's a magic number. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.