The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. And all February long, in honor of Black History Month, we shine the spotlight on Black musicians making art that feels vital to this moment.
Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
Arlo Parks: “Hurt”
I recently found Arlo Parks’s music, and frankly, I don’t know how I lived without it. The 20-year-old Brit deftly marries spoken-word poetry with R&B-infused indie pop for a sound that is uniquely her own. “Hurt,” a standout single from her recently released debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams, is a perfect microcosm of her work: soothingly beautiful, surprisingly catchy, and with simple enough instrumentals to let Parks’s lilting vocals and hypnotic lyrics take center stage. When she reassures us “just know it won’t hurt so / won’t hurt so much forever,” I believe it. —Sam Manzella
Tkay Maidza, Yung Baby Tate: “Kim”
The only thing more intoxicating than the “Humble”-recalling beat behind Tkay and Tate’s bars is the video itself — a blockbuster celebration of Kims Possible, Lil’, and Kardashian. Maidza — despite multiple costume changes — remains a singular star, rising up to smash everything in sight. —Patrick Hosken
Khamari: “Pull Up”
The reasons to obsess over “Pull Up,” off Khamari’s debut EP Eldorado, are endless. From harmonious vocals and a steady bass line paired with deft guitar strums, the honesty of the lyrics and the simplicity of the track make for easy listening and offer relatable lessons on vulnerability. Instrumentally, it feels at once retro and of the moment, fitting for a song that tells a timeless story: “I want you / I ain’t got nothing to hide, yuh / Pull up we could catch a vibe.” —Virginia Lowman
Anderson .Paak: “Jewelz”
Between a gig in Trolls World Tour and solemn protest track “Lockdown,” Anderson .Paak was already having a busy 2020 before he dropped his latest single “Jewelz” in October. The Timbaland-produced track builds on .Paak’s experimental funky sound with a chopped up guitar sample and a squeaky vocal that sounds like that little voice inside your head reminding you who’s boss. Spoiler alert, it’s you. The track finds the rapper just on the verge of flexing (he hasn’t even put his gems on, for goodness sake) but it’ll have you ready to stunt with whatever diamonds you’ve got. —Carson Mlnarik
Madlib: “Road of the Lonely Ones”
The melancholy vocal sample at the center makes clear that “Road of the Lonely Ones” is a creation of Madlib — the storied musician and DJ who worked alongside departed legends MF Doom and J Dilla as part of his own sprawling catalogue. His latest LP, Sound Ancestors, is collaborative, too, arranged and finalized by Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden. The end result is likewise sprawling, evoking the musical forebears of its title while forging ahead around new combinations of sounds. The drum loop here isn’t sad by itself, but coupled with the soaring voices of The Ethics in the sample, it’s just about the loneliest sound you’ve ever heard. For a few minutes. —Patrick Hosken
Quay Dash: “Queen of This Shit”
The tragic death of the visionary pop producer Sophie last weekend had me, like many other fans, rediscovering the artist’s catalog. Sophie was widely respected for her work with household names like Madonna and Kendrick Lamar, but lesser-known were her collaborations with interesting, emerging artists, as with this absolute banger from Bronx-born rapper Quay Dash. “Queen of This Shit” moves quickly and relentlessly, while Sophie’s unmistakably metallic arrangement imbues it with a cyborg sound. It’s like something from a video game, hypnotic and energizing, and Quay is the final boss. —Coco Romack
Aretha Franklin: “Deeper Love”
Few songs embody the confidence of Black womanhood like Aretha Franklin’s “Deeper Love.” It’s an anthem for self-care and a mantra for survival. The 1994 classic has an infectious house beat that beckons you to dance through every struggle ahead, reminding you that taking pride in who you are is the “power that gives you the strength to survive.” Amen to that! —Virginia Lowman
San Diego rapper Amon has found a level of smooth that’s all his own, and it’s on full display in his latest single, “Uglee.” Dating in the 21st century is the topic of conversation, and he tells it like it is from the first lyric: “I’m in lust.” Amon brings grounded energy to every line he raps, making you privy to a late-night conversation as he talks about falling for ladies “superb and attractive and out of my league.” Naturally, the dreamy video finds him scrolling on his phone, sitting cross-legged in bed, reporting live from the apps. With an infectious smile, it’s hard not to get excited alongside him, even if your Tinder pool leaves something to be desired. —Carson Mlnarik
FKA Twigs ft. Headie One, Fred Again: “Don’t Judge Me”
Having evolved from an airy interlude to a full-fledged mini-opus, “Don’t Judge Me” finds an earthly FKA Twigs still shooting her voice up to the sky once more over an irresistible mechanized dancehall beat, courtesy of producer Fred Again. London rapper Headie One, meanwhile, unspools his own compelling narrative: “No justice, no peace, ’cause we in pieces / Officer, am I allowed to breathe here?” —Patrick Hosken