5 On It is a feature that looks at five of the best under-the-radar rap findings from the past week, highlighting new or recently discovered artists, or interesting obscurities.
Ars-Nova – “Cheffy Chulo ~ The Wait, The Rush.”
5 On It‘s first repeat offender, Rochester, NY’s Ars-Nova might be one of the most capable talents covered in this column. With a gift for subtle wordplay and an impressive capacity for finding different rhythms and shifting his flow with seeming effortlessness.
“Cheffy Chulo ~ The Wait, The Rush.” puts Nova’s budding ability on display, using three beats to force him into a variety of rhythmic pockets—never overwhelmingly technical like a Twista, Tech N9ne or even a Kendrick, but easy and able in the way that Drake and Eminem weave across beats. More than ever, this sort of investment in technique pays dividends for rappers; it doesn’t guarantee you a seat atop the charts, but a quick survey of the best-selling rappers (Kendrick, J. Cole, even A$AP Rocky to an extent) in recent years points to a trend in responsiveness towards artists with skilled delivery. Ars-Nova still has ample room for growth, but his early focus on craft bodes well for his future.
As a bonus, watch the recent video for year old song “Charlie Parker (Another Interlude).”
Down 2 Earth Ft. Steve Shankle – “Only Competition”
Over an infectious, funk sample, Oakland’s Down 2 Earth and Steve Shankle serve up the sort of backyard BBQ-hop—think People Under the Stairs—on “Only Competition” that conjures nostalgia for summers past and makes you want to fire up the nearest grill and put a few Coronas (or something better if you’re feeling fancy, let’s say Magic Hat) on ice and forget your cares.
No overthinking with “Only Competition,” just tune in and turn off.
Matt Champion – “Die With Me”
We’ve covered cross-country crew Alive Since Forever within these hallowed Saturday confines and beyond the bounds of 5 On It. Group member Matt Champion is, like many of his ASF-brethren, an ambitious young creator whose ability doesn’t always match the peaks of his vision.
“Die With Me” is a fascinating, five minute love song, druggy and vulnerable, loosely formed and meandering. Champion’s rapping isn’t always as accomplished as that of some of his affiliates, but his sense of a melody (particularly on the song’s melancholy second half, a surprisingly poignant and beautiful depiction of a moment between lovers) and a willingness to let weirdness lead the way give the 19-year-old Houston native an intriguing edge. All the seeds of where he might be able to take his style are present on “Die With Me.”
Hassani Kwess ft. Uno Hype - Jolly Rancher Prod. DJ Dahi
Hassani Kwess and Uno Hype’s “Jolly Rancher” is almost two years old. In the time since its release, its producer DJ Dahi has marked his territory as one of rap’s finest producers. In that time, too, Kwess and Hype have continued to rap, sharpening the tools they display on “Jolly Rancher.”That the song still holds up is a testament to the respective talents of its creators (the lyrics aren’t changing the world, but both Kwess and Hype seem up for the challenge of Dahi’s head-nodding production), a reminder that so much music enters the world on a daily basis. We can’t possibly be expected to listen to or even know about it all. A lot of it is terrible. There are always small gems lurking, waiting for two rappers to decide to dust them off and make a video.
A$tral Pharao and ByAnyMeans – “Voodoo”
Our own Katie K sent this one my way, eliciting the response “I’m about to punch myself in the throat to this shit wow” from me. Because I am a serious journalist.
A$tral Pharao is a Swedish rapper who raps really well over a gigantic beat on “Voodoo,” channeling Kanye, a dash of the Underachievers, and a pinch of Bone Thugs, talking about “ancient symbols straight from Greece,” making the pussy scream, tripping on LSD in Japan, and a bunch of other things that either don’t make any sense or are indicators of a higher consciousness I’m incapable of tapping into at the moment.
“Voodoo” is, at once, about as far as you can get from hip-hop’s origins and strangely kindred to some of rap’s proto-weirdos.
All abstract, internet-driven insanity aside, A$tral Pharao is good at rapping and has a strong ear for beats.