Welcome to Sleeper Hit, a new series where we highlight standout gems from recently released projects. The sleeper hit cannot be the obvious choice. The sleeper hit surprises and thrills us. It’s the one without being too loud about it. We hope you enjoy our selections.
Memphis’ Duke Deuce—best known for his songs “Yeh” and “Crunk Ain’t Dead”—has hitmaker written all over him. The 27-year-old rapper has a commanding voice, breakneck flow, infectious bars, and incredible camera presence. While his latest tape, Memphis Massacre 2, is packed with anthems (“Feel Like It,” “On Me,”), one song stands out as the clear sleeper hit: “Bad News.”
It might be the creeping introductory notes or the woman’s voice going, “Don’t do that.” Or, it might be Duke’s ad libs puncturing the looming production. Or, it could be the way Duke’s “What the fuck!?” rings like he’s stepping into the colosseum. Probably, it’s the way Duke Deuce begins racing the beat at the 17-second mark. How he barely lets us come up for air as he raps. Amidst blooming drums and sailing crashes, Duke rides the production with such skill that we can’t help but nod along as he catches flow after flow.
“Bad News” stands as a sleeper hit, too, because of the way Duke utilizes breaks. At 50 seconds, he eases his delivery. Nearly whispering—still dripping in swagger, though—Duke announces he’s fucking on your thot. It’s his nonchalance and ability to bring in new cadences as he breaks song structure that makes “Bad News” an earworm. We’re likely to remember this one solely for the breaks. The repetition on the back end of each bar—either repeating the words “bad news” on the hook or propping up perfect rhyming pairs on the verses—makes “Bad News” easy to fall into.
Before we get too comfortable, Duke Deuce starts inflecting his voice whimsically. For as hard as he comes across, Duke’s not averse to having fun. “Bad News” has everything: tough bars, great punchlines, brags, vocal tricks, emotional tricks. It’s the works. It’s a sleeper hit—press play.