What a fantastically gnarled vocal sound there is in this recent Grammy-winning production — it’s like she’s been gargling whiskey and caltrops! Check out “have you ever heard” at 2:09 in particular, which is about as far from a pure vocal timbre as you can get, but tremendously expressive as a result, and an excellent antidote to the saccharine vocal posturing that chart singers young enough to be Staples’ grandchildren so frequently attempt to pass off as raw emotion.
The layering of a roots Americana aesthetic over that grungey hip-hop drum loop is also a match made in heaven for trip-hop fans such as myself! I particularly like how the loop’s kick drum often seems to incorporate some kind of dodgy audio edit or fragment of vinyl crackle, adding the slenderest little ‘snick’ to what is otherwise a fairly round-sounding drum timbre. Not only does this provide extra rhythmic definition, but also brings the kick further upfront in the mix (better matching the placement of that dense noise-burst of a snare), without having to fade it up too far in the balance. A nifty trick!