Live From Harlem

Tim Vocals, an R&B singer from Harlem, has emerged as an internet sensation with a novel shtick: crooning gritty, profane tales of thug life and drug-peddling in a lilting, feather-light soul man’s tenor. His debut mixtape collects a dozen of Vocals' "goon-mixes," with beats repurposed from hip-hop and R&B hits past and present. Thus Ne-Yo's "Sexy Love" becomes the blood-soaked "Bust My Guns" and Drake's noirish "Marvin’s Room" is transformed into "Bags of the Sour," a coke-dealer’s tale of paranoia and retribution: "These bitch niggas might know my last name/Snitch the police that I’m moving cocaine." In other hands, the gimmick could grow tried, but Vocals is an arresting singer, and he knows how to ring the maximum possible irony from his clash of sweet and sour. "Every night I be livin' that trap life," he coos. The tune? Michael Jackson's "Human Nature."

Listen to "Bags of the Sour":