In my ongoing attempts to bring you music that I love, The Round Up is going to provide a weekly window into the new (and occasionally not so new) songs that are the populating my playlists. Expect it every Wednesday. Hold me to my word. (right click tracks to download)
Rap that builds intensity without relying on layering lots of heavy drums on top of the mix (like, let’s say, “Till I Collapse” by Eminem, which I suppose starts big and stays big) is fairly rare. To hear a song like Sunni Colon’s “Shoota” that relies on melodic components and rapping to engage the listener is a cinematic treat, a gripping two and a half minutes that sounds like the score to the hero in black gearing up for revenge. Colon’s rapping is impressive and passionate, like a more engaged Lupe Fiasco (no shots at Lupe, I’ve just always found him sort of detached while occasionally technically brilliant) or Cudi if he actually dedicated himself to rapping. This guy’s got a few other jams in the stash and his brother Cobe Obeah’s no slouch either–though both seem to only get love on 2Dopeboyz (don’t be confused if you click the link, Colon used to go by the name Sunni Ali Ber), they’re definitely worth checking out.
Another week, another two songs from A.Dd+. Their album When Pigs Fly dropped this week (review’s coming on Friday). Haven’t given it a thorough listening yet, but so far it’s pretty spectacular on the whole–the rapping is both engaging and engaged in an era when so many rappers seem to be taking the too-cool-to-care-about-good-rapping-detached stance (some, like Curren$y pull the nonchalance off, others sound like Wiz Khalifa). Picnic Tyme’s production is full, vibrant, and consistently exciting, giving the album a bunch of unique sounds while still providing the sort of coherence traditionally associated with single-producer projects.
Comparing any Southern group to Outkast at this point just feels stale, but A.Dd+ definitely take helpings of Atliens/Aquemini era-concerns and images, marrying them with Picnic Tyme’s fully-fleshed out Aquemini/Stankonia-style sonics (just listen to the guitars on “Smell My Cologne,” my favorite track from the album, and try not to think of Stankonia–or Pimp C, for that matter, who is sampled on the track and whose production style is certainly echoed here and throughout the album). The Outkast comparison is not purely a lazy one, but rather a point of reference to let you know: these guys are doing what they do very well. If you need a dose of that Southern good shit, download When Pigs Fly ASAP.
“Too Close” – Alex Clare (prod. Diplo & Switch)
Though I’ve been bumping this a bunch over the past week, I’m putting it on more for the facts that a) Diplo and Switch’s versatility as producers is sort of alarming at this point and b) it has been interesting in the past year to see how dubstep has crept into various genres. The wobble bass has become unavoidable and appears to be dubstep’s dubious legacy to pop music. Of course, it’s not necessarily a bad inheritance–in the proper doses, the wobble bass can be pretty cool and invigorating, and here it works to solid effect in contrast with the more sparse and decidedly un-dubby verses. “Too Close” is a tasteful template for genre bending, a bit safe by Diplo’s standards but solid nonetheless (and certainly a logical piece of work for a man whose career essentially reads like a cliff notes of contemporary dance music).
“Poverty Blues” – Jurah Jahveh (Prod. Bubba Lew)
You have to get creative these days to find music that’s outside the purview of the ever vigilant blogosphere. I saw this link posted up on the homie Skipp Coon’s facebook wall. Jurah Jahveh‘s “Poverty Blues” is a haunting window into being broke in America in 2011, centered around a quote from John Singleton’s Baby Boy and Bubba Lew’s eerie RZA-esque production. Jahveh’s stream of consciousness flow runs the voodoo down on a series of vivid images that play like “The Message 2011,” an unrelenting take on the throes of poverty. Lesser rappers attempt this sort of thing, but Jahveh (whom I’d never heard of before this track) seems to have a better grip on both the subject matter and his rhyming ability than most of the competition, coming across at times like a more dextrous Jeru the Damaja. Would love to hear him and Skipp on a track bringing the righteous anger that the latter does so well. If Facebook is reliable in the least, his album What Would Jurah Do? is dropping sometime this spring. You can cop “Poverty Blues” for a dollar here if you’re digging it.
The final portion of this weeks’ proceedings consists of very different selections from three young emcees who have no connection other than age, promise, and a little theorizing on my part.
It’s really intriguing to hear the early returns of a generation of rappers raised on MF Doom, the waning years of Rawkus, Def Jux, and the general indie uprising that took place at the end of the 90s and beginning of the 2000s. Over the past year we’ve seen the first publicly recognized fruits of this batch of rappers with Odd Future and Lil’ B, teens and a 21 year old with encyclopedic knowledges of rappers famous and obscure on which they were raised (in an interview with Peter Rosenberg, Tyler introduces himself as Lil Zane, and if you don’t remember Lil Zane…good). A little digging on the blogs and Bandcamp, my recent standby, reveals that there’s no shortage of young talent out there–it’s just not quite as polished as Odd Future or as aggressively, inventively marketed as Lil B’. On the whole though, a few things I’ve noticed about the current crop of young rappers flooding the internet.
1) They seem to be more technically proficient than their counterparts 10-15 years ago. This stance might be tinted by the fact that I wasn’t as aware of up and coming talent in rap at that point (wasn’t really up on my Unsigned Hype between the ages of 7 and 12), but it’s certainly not an outlandish assumption, considering that these kids were raised on rappers like Eminem and Doom–guys who were themselves raised on or around Rakim and Nas. The complexity and technical ability of the best rapping has increased as rap has matured (except in the case of Pharoahe Monch, who’s still on another plateau most of the time), so it stands to follow that rappers growing up steeped in better rapping would rap better.
2) The kids are into experiments. As the music industry fizzles and tries to figure out how much it can milk Alex Da Kid before people stop listening, Hip-Hop’s internet youth movement is jumping across genres, grabbing weird sounds and styles, and generally trying to create universes we haven’t heard yet on record (of course nothing is ever THAT original, but, in a lot of ways, it’s the inclination and the coming close without quite nailing it that makes a lot of these records endearing winners).
3) These young rappers are, by and large, confidant as fuck, often veering into arrogance with the speed of 1000 Kanyes. And maybe that’s just it. Raised in a hailstorm of Kanye freakouts and the possibilities–for venting and self-aggrandizement–of Facebook, Twitter, and any number of social media outlets, it seems that the young’uns have grown up thinking that they’re not only supposed to be the best, but they are the best already. Listen to an Odd Future song or Lil’ B interview.
Pontification over. Now for music.
Information on Elias (possibly Elias Jahad, if his bandcamp address is to be believed) is scarce. He’s from Chicago, I believe he’s in his late teens, he’s got an ear for unique production and he’s a solid rapper. “-_-” is a riveting apocalyptic mini-narrative played against a shifting, buzzing electronic backdrop. It’s not perfect but, like the rest of Elias’ scant output, it points to the sort of promise possessed by young groups like OF, NRK, and Main Attraktionz. The creativity is there even when the execution isn’t necessarily (and on “-_-”, the two link up for the most part). Elias, if you’re out there, holla.
21 year old ProP e-mailed me a few days ago with a fairly bold, brief message: “The Harvey Monty Project is something ive been working on for a long time now. I wanted it to be a story rather than a regular mixtape. Which is the reason i didnt release any of the songs individually. I want you to really listen to every song, to see what i was trying to do. So enjoy listening, leave feedback if you can.” The music on his Harvey Monty Project is certainly solid, with the above track serving as one of the standouts and another example of intriguing Dilla/Flying Lotus-esque production married with some really solid and occasionally spectacular technical rapping. He’s also rapping about how shitty rap is right now, which is nice to hear from someone who is simultaneously trying to do something about it by rapping well. The rest of the album isn’t quite as immediately engaging as “Something,” but certainly worth perusing.
Lastly, 17 year-old Mars from London, Ontario comes with an impressive high octane take on Kanye’s gargantuan “Monster.” I had trouble choosing a song from Mars’ Bandcamp catalogue, because there is certainly some more interesting original material dotted throughout it (though he almost exclusively raps on existing beats from the likes of RJD2), but he doesn’t rip any other track quite as viciously as he does “Monster.” He stands up to the beat better than most rappers twice his age might be able to, giving it all the energy he can possibly muster. The punchlines and images won’t necessarily blow you away, but the technique and shockingly high developed flow of a 17 year old rapper are definitely worth repeat spins.
Also, you could probably throw A.Dd+ on the youth train–rappers Paris and Slim are 23 and 22 respectively (giving a sliver of hope to this 22 year old dinosaur of a blogger).
And, actually, before I go…
I am entitled to post shitty pop every now and then. British duo Oh My! infuses this song with just enough attitude to make it work. The beat is a monster and Wiz Khalifa or Gilbere Forte or someone like that who makes a living off of rapping on indie rock songs/electro shit could kill it (and by “kill it,” I mean make it a frat house/college party staple). It’s fun. Find a dorm room and throw it on. Have a good time.