5 On It: “The revolution’s never been televised”


Image via Kevin Sinatra

Image via Kevin Sinatra

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.

Image via Skipp Coon

Image via Skipp Coon

skipp coon – “Assata Taught Me (pre-born day loop)” / “Assata Taught Me (pg 181)”

The weak go along and the strong go crazy

Jackson, Mississippi’s skipp coon is one of the rap blogosphere’s great, underexposed talents. On the heels of his 2010 projects women revolution tennis shoes and Sophomore Slump Vol. 1: Independents Day, skipp seemed a revelation to the small audience that experienced his intense, purposeful rapping. Perhaps because skipp is an uncompromisingly outspoken political rapper—one with well-informed, extreme, and, as a result, potentially frightening perspectives—he never truly stood a chance to catch the attention of a wider audience.

On all-too-brief new releases “Assata Taught Me (pg 181)” and “Assata Taught Me (pre-born day loop)” (a chaotic sound-collage that previews the full song overlaid on a frenzied sermon) the spark of 2010 appears to be alive and well. skipp’s rapping—impassioned, literate, densely referential, and often deceptively complex, demanding and inviting repeat listens—brings blood, fire and poetry to social issues.

Though certainly not subtle (I suppose there’s little room for subtlety when you’re trying to incite revolution), skipp’s rapping turns a type of rap so often laborious and pedantic into something urgent and alive. His targets don’t feel purely political or ideological, they feel human, matters of life and death that cut across party lines to the core of a burning time in American history—and, as civil, racial conflicts erupt globally, world history.

Unfortunately, it’s likely that skipp’s incisive words will get lost in the yawn of the internet. That makes them no less important nor less indicative of the fissures and institutional issues that spurred them into existence.

Image via Soduh

Image via Soduh

Soduh – “Megaman”

Rapping from Baltimore that is druggy, loose, briefly celebrates hot sauce, and stacked with oddball, off-kilter hooks?

Yes, please.

Soduh’s “Megaman” sounds like a lost outtake from a Gravediggaz meets Three 6 Mafia album that has only ever occurred in the depths of my imagination, paranoid and narcotic-fueled, dark and strangely bouncy. With a fittingly deranged, brightly colored found footage video to match, it’s music for listeners who think A$AP Mob has gotten a bit too sanitized since their early days and the end of their loose affiliation with Raider Klan.

Another rapper to watch from one of the U.S.’s most exciting regions.

Image via Kevin Sinatra

Image via Kevin Sinatra

Kevin Sinatra – “Sinatra Sinfonia”

Virginia’s Kevin Sinatra has a sort of measured assurance to his rapping spiritually reminiscent of an emcee like Guru. Not as famously monotone, it’s calm and understated. For some, it might not be exciting enough, but, in the case of new single “Sinatra Sinfonia,” it’s an approach that invites listeners to lean in, so to speak.

“Sinatra Sinfonia” serves up a bit of cognitive dissonance: Sinatra’s reserved flow set against a disjointed, multi-segmented, soul-sampling beat—the sort of production that would typically inspire spazzing. It’s a surprisingly welcome approach, though one that might take a bit of adjustment since the production can be overwhelming on initial listens.

Image via Yung Gutted

Image via Yung Gutted

Bobby Shmurda – “Hot N*gga (Yung Gutted x Czarquan Remix)

In the last month, I have had a lot of conversations about Bobby Shmurda’s Vine-sensationalized, record-deal-snagging, dance-trend-and-think-piece-inspiring single “Hot N*gga.”

After all that thought, over-analysis, and shmoney dancing, here’s the deal: It’s a rap song. It’s better than some rap songs. It’s worse than others. It draws heavily from Chicago’s drill scene (though at times it seems like Rick Ross and Meek Mill’s cadences are more influential to Shmurda than any Chicago rapper), but pulls its beat from a song by a New York rapper (Lloyd Banks’ “Jackpot”) produced by a guy from Chester, Pennsylvania (Jahlil Beats)—reducing based on regionalism here seems to miss a large picture about the flow of ideas and sounds, word to Master P and Dipset.

Bobby Shmurda is neither the nail in Troy Ave’s coffin, nor the rap antichrist. He isn’t Kendrick Lamar—he’s also not Kreayshawn.

Bobby Shmurda is a rapper who blew up because the internet exists and always has the potential to blow things up—particularly things that are amusing when cut down to six second loops and set against Drake instrumentals and, more broadly, things that are immediately divisive and more than slightly voyeuristic.

Bobby Shmurda is not the problem. For some rap fans, he presents a problem, maybe many problems, but his fast rise is the product of a volatile ecosystem that often inspires intense focus from A&R’s and vicious scrutiny from listeners—neither of which is particularly good for that whole “development” thing.

And now here I’ve gone and accidentally written a mini-essay. So much for avoiding the over-analysis parade.

To make sense of all the madness, here’s a phenomenally demonic remix of “Hot N*gga” by Brooklyn producer (and personal favorite) Yung Gutted and partner in crime Czarquan. Someone please make Yung Gutted famous through Vine videos. Thanks.

Image via Ezko

Image via Ezko

Ezko – “$truggle Raps”

Now that you’ve been absolutely exhausted by revolutions, drugs, and shmoney dancing, something a bit less mentally taxing.

You would imagine with a title like “$truggle Raps,” Maryland’s Ezko would be setting himself up for certain failure. Though the song isn’t groundbreaking by any measure, it’s an able display of rapping that appeals to a listener who, deep down, will always be incapable of escaping from early ’90s New York roots, at least in part. Ezko sits comfortably in a category we haven’t visited in a few weeks, the young rapper who raps well but is still searching for compelling, original things to rap well about.

Just keep living and keep rapping, Ezko. The rest will follow.

  • slanier720

    3/5 from the DMV area, ayyyeeee!
    S/O to Ezko, Kevin Sinatra, and Soduh

  • Kam

    DMV putting in work. We’ve given big names but we’re more often producers than rappers.
    The scene’ll gain traction soon enough.

Latest News