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Heat Check: I Feel Void

Empress Of's "Void" feels like a euphoric cross-genre culture clash, a dance party in a summer storm.
Dorian Lopez
Courtesy of the artist
Empress Of's "Void" feels like a euphoric cross-genre culture clash, a dance party in a summer storm.

One silver lining during this isolated reality is that new music is flowing like wine these days. Some artists are moving up album release dates while others are previewing long-held tracks on Instagram Live, Twitter and Soundcloud. Like many things we used to take for granted, the need for good music has never felt more urgent and we're indebted to these creatives who are getting the itch to share.

Whether it's new music from newcomers like Kalisway and Jovan Perez or exciting sonic bursts and flow switch-ups from DaBaby, Empress Of and Frank Ocean, there's still room for surprises in the void of time.

Heat Check is here for you once again with new picks via Spotify and Apple Music.

Kalisway, "Cherry"

The Toronto-hailing producer and singer makes a strong first impression with "Cherry," a lurching, spacey taste of her upcoming CREAM EP, due out later this month. Even when the bass seems like it'll overpower the moment, Kalisway's playful, helium vocals come off with a breeze of serenity.

"I don't wanna be with you baby / But I know that this ain't good / So, please don't bitter my cherry."Sidney Madden

Diana Gordon, "Wasted Youth"

The thrashing, biting honesty of Gordon's words come from experiences of survival, helplessness and nihilism. Her knees may be scraped and lip liner smeared by the end, but there's a satisfaction in knowing no punches were pulled. — Sidney Madden

Empress Of, "Void"

Pop has never felt quite like the right nomenclature for the slinky, electrified haze Empress Of creates. Her third studio album, I'm Your Empress Of,out now, sources bachata and R&B just as much as techno and house. "Void" feels like a euphoric cross-genre culture clash, a dance party in a summer storm where lightning strikes the güiro just as her vocals ascend.

"I feel void of every feeling that I had / You took them all and left me with an empty bag." — Sidney Madden

Wakai, "Dreadlocks"

The Louisiana linguist makes the most of a lo-fi bass line not only to eulogize friends he's lost too early but also to fantasize about breaking the cycle of death.

"I come from Baton, more crime where the pistol packin' / Your friends start to die, by junior high you losing factions." — Sidney Madden

Nick Hakim, "QADIR"

Nick Hakim returns with a new single whose namesake comes from his late friend Qadir Imhotep West who passed away in 2018. The song is equal parts heart wrenching and raucous. Hakim reflects on internal pains we all face and the societal pressure with which Qadir seemingly struggled. In his signature delivery, Hakim holds onto syllables until he can't anymore as the words cut much deeper than I was ready for.

"Oh we have fallen, as a whole/ and were sinking, down a hole/ without thinking, about our loves ones/ who might be shrinking."Bobby Carter

Frank Ocean, "Cayendo"

Back when music fans enjoyed the semblance of the normalcy that is festival season, Frank Ocean was set to headline this country's tone-setting fête, Coachella. Along with this headlining desert set, it was heavily rumored that he'd be dropping a new album, his first full length since 2016's Blonde.But even with public gatherings a no-go for the foreseeable future, Frank has kept rumors of an LP stoked by dropping two new tracks out of the Cloud recently.

"Cayendo" finds the 32-year-old accompanied by soft Spanish guitar and subtle reverb. It's the lovesick Frank we've come to depend on hearing our hurt — only this time, en un poco de español. — Sidney Madden

Ivan Ave, "Guest List Etiquette (feat. Joyce Wrice)"

In preparation for his upcoming album, Double Goodbyes, Norway's Ivan Ave pens a hilariously relatable tale of guest-list stress any artist or event-coordinating creative can relate to.

"By the way, you probably busy but I'm outside right now / I just thought I would try / No, yeah, I saw the poster in July / But I heard the opening act supposed to be live / Would you do me a solid and put me on plus nine?"

Word to the wise: Don't be that guy. — Sidney Madden

Rod Wave, "Ribbon in the Sky"

Building on the pensive momentum of last year's Ghetto Gospel,20-year-old Rod Wave releases his highly anticipated Pray 4 Love.Featuring aching piano and a trapper's version of a Christian prayer, "Ribbon in the Sky" is an early front runner for his new concert-closing anthem.

"Heard he drive his coupe like he stole it / Pray to God that I can see the morning / I pray to God that I can see the morning / And now I lay me down to sleep / Pray the Lord my soul to keep / If I should die before I wake / I pray the Lord my soul to take." — Sidney Madden

DaBaby, "Find My Way"

DaBaby's latest track is all about the unexpected. Though his raps remain boisterous and endearing, the acoustic guitar is a departure from his usual blown-out speakers production of choice. And the song's accompanying music video shows off Baby's serious acting chops. — Sidney Madden

Jovan Perez, "Lights Out"

Jovan Perez's conviction and velvety vocals have earned the young singer thousands of subscribers on YouTube thanks to covers of songs by Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish and Daniel Caesar. Now, as he steps into his own artistry, he's showing off new layers of vulnerability and power. — Sidney Madden

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Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.