R&B/Hip-Hop Fresh Picks of the Week: SZA & Jean Dawson, Sexyy Red, Byron Messia & More

Between Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s first live performance of “Savage,” a new LP from Doja Cat, and friction between Drake and Charlamagne tha God, it’s been a characteristically hectic week for hip-hop — but there’s also been some excellent music released over the past seven days. With Fresh Picks, Billboard aims to highlight some of the boldest and most exciting new sounds across R&B and hip-hop — from Sexyy Red’s ode to dreads to moody R&B midtempos from TA Thomas and Jean Dawson & SZA.

Be sure to check out this week’s Fresh Picks in our Spotify playlist below.

Sexyy Red, “Shake Yo Dreads”

The Hood Hottest Princess continues her year-long streak of grimy bangers with this delightfully rowdy ode to dreads. Stuffed with hooks at every turn, Sexyy effortlessly embodies the spirit of Waka Flocka Flame with her seemingly endless arsenal of party rap bangers. “F—k the opps, f—k the opps, f—k the opps/ You the cops, you the cops, you the cops/ Gimme top, gimme top, gimme top/ “B—h, I’m hot, b—h, I’m hot, b—h, I’m hot,” she chants over the Kat Lightning & AyoCBass-produced beat. Words to live by.

Jean Dawson & SZA, “NO SZNS”

Fresh off a pair of collaborations with Drake (“Slime You Out”) and Justin Bieber (an acoustic “Snooze” remix) last week, SZA returns with a featured turn on Jean Dawson’s “NO SZNS.” Built around a dry acoustic guitar and shimmering reverb-drowned background synths, Jean and SZA deliver a wistful, plaintive ballad about the ever-present warmth of California. Somewhere between Frank Ocean’s “Biking” and the guitar-centric soundscape of Steve Lacy’s Gemini Rights, “NO SZNS” is perfectly engineered for a late-night drive.

Byron Messia, “Mad Dawgs

Still riding high off the global success of his breakout summer hit “Talibans,” Byron Messia keeps the momentum going with the new single “Mad Dawgs.” Released alongside the announcement for his forthcoming Sad & Famous album, “Mad Dawgs” finds Byron relaying snapshots of life in his native St. Kitts over his now-signature blend of soulful ad-libs, a nimble dancehall flow, and a percussive beat that combines elements of Afrobeats and traditional dancehall drum patterns with a touch of piano.

Chris Patrick, “Slide On Me”

Over an unassuming arrangement, anchored by acoustic guitar and accented by lush strings and 808s, Chris Patrick coasts across “Slide On Me” with an air of effortlessness that’s truly captivating. The laidback production and his prickly high-speed flow shouldn’t work together as well as they do. “And she wanna slide on me/ Take the night off and ride with me/ Is you down? Take a dive with me/ 21 questions, I’d ask you right now/ Is you down to die for me?” he sing-raps — a pitch-perfect lead into cuffing season.


JELEEL! has basically become synonymous with zany, rambunctious bite-sized bangers, and that formula remains intact on “GFU!” Across what is essentially an interlude, JELEEL! squeals, whines, shouts and raps over this rage rap-meets-Jersey club banger about, well, getting f–ked up. He’s somehow able to teeter on the very edge of absolute mania for the entirety of the track, never slipping too far in either direction. From the way he plays with different pockets of his voice to the way he warps his intonation to match whatever studio filters are put over his vocals, JELEEL! harnesses a special balls-to-the-wall energy that holds the song together.

Karri, “Lemonade”

So far in 2023, Karri has kept fans enthralled with his slow-burning heaters, including “Only U” and “3 AM in Oakland.” Fresh off a newly-inked deal with Interscope, he drops off his sweet-sounding record “Lemonade.” Scripting sugary lines like, “She’s a tall glass of lemonade/ She’s exactly what I need,” Karri looks to mesmerize his female listeners with his dulcet delivery on this latest release.

TA Thomas, “Bad for Me”

After releasing a fistful of songs, including “June 15,” “W.I.A.(Where I’m At),” and “Pros and Cons,” singer TA Thomas goes on a full-fledged exploration of love, self-discovery, and healing on his debut EP Caught Between 2 Worlds. From dealing with an internal tug-of-war on “Bad for Me” to combating trust issues on “Truth Is,” TA Thomas carves out a soul-stirring effort for his rookie project.

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