5 On It is a feature that looks at five of the best under-the-radar releases in rap from the past week, highlighting new or recently discovered artists, or interesting obscurities.
Roosevelt the Titan – “Desire”
Chicago’s rap scene is the gift that keeps on giving. Since my earliest days with P&P, I’ve been enamored of the city that has seen artists as varied as Chief Keef and Chance the Rapper rise to prominence and represent the variety and dichotomy of one of America’s most creative and violent metropolises.
Roosevelt the Titan’s “Desire” feels like a diary entry from a young man surviving on the razor’s edge between creating art and street life. Whether drawn from Roosevelt’s personal experience or a reflection of so many who live in the city and straddle the difficult balance of dreams and reality, “Desire” manages to peak inside a world without sounding preachy or inauthentic–a fact no doubt assisted by Roosevelt’s able, animated rapping.
Another one to watch from the Windy City.
Tive Takashi – “Cherry Blossom Blade”
Climb deep enough into the catacombs of Soundcloud and you’ll discover that there’s a whole host of bedroom rappers whose love of anime (and, often, hentai in particular) drives their music. Rappers have been drawing from animation for years, so the inspiration is nothing new, but the execution here feels a bit more fantasy-oriented–the blending of animated character and reality that (among many other aspects) made DOOM‘s rapping so compelling.
On the charmingly lo-fi “Cherry Blossom Blade,” Los Angeles’ Tive Takashi loosely adopts the character of a samurai, brings out the Dragonball Z (and to show he’s really got money to the ceiling, a sample of the coin-collecting sound from Sonic the Hedgehog). I’m not sure what to do with this one outside of thanking Based God, late-night cable TV, and the internet for keeping rap gloriously weird.
Bukkweat Bill, Daddy Pill$z, and ikabodVEINS – “Rolex Chain”
Anything that reminds me of Underground Vol. 1-era Three 6 Mafia and does that legacy justice gets a thumbs up. While many have pulled from the dark Memphis well in the past few years, few seem interested in embodying the druggy abandon in addition to the appealingly murky aesthetics. That is not to say that I endorse druggy abandon, but simply that there’s a devil may care attitude that few have really tried to recapture (SpaceGhostPurrp comes to mind) that made the Memphis crew’s early music so diabolically compelling.
Bukkweat Bill deserves your attention if you’re a fan of rappers who don’t seem to give a fuck about societal norms and expectations and have a penchant for dark, heavy production that pulls from early Three 6 in spirit and style. And with friends with names like “Daddy Pill$z” and “ikabodVEINS,” it’s pretty easy to guess what a lot of what “Rolex Chain” is about: “A little dope/just to get me right.”
Teddy Blow – “Hou$ton Flow”
Cross-pollination of regions is nothing new for hip-hop (particularly in the Soundcloud and Tumblr ecosystems), but it’s far too rare and always nice to see a rapper simultaneously own his origins and pay homage to other territories on the map.
Florida rapper Teddy Blow makes his mission statement plain on the similarly bluntly titled “Hou$ton Flow”: “I’m a Florida n*gga with a Houston flow.” Slowing a classic sample of Zapp’s “Computer Love” to a lean-friendly crawl of a beat (apparently produced by a beat maker named Johnny Sammis) that would sound right at home on a screw tape (right down to the chopped vocoder vocal), Blow captures bits and pieces of the city that holds his heart stylistically. It’s an enjoyable throwback for anyone who’s spent too much time digging through the depths of the internet to find Houston rap obscura from the late 90s and early 2000s–like me, perhaps.
Dominic Serendip ft. Mike Jones – “Spirit”
Speaking of Houston flows, New York rapper Dominic Serendip trots out Mikes Jones (!) for a surprisingly solid outing on cinematic new single “Spirit.”
In the midst of a two year period that has seen all sorts of gimmicky and anti-gimmick gimmicky rollouts (the most recent coming in the form of Wu-Tang Clan’s one-copy album), perhaps none has been as entertaining and surprising as Mike Jones sharing his real phone number with an audience that was all too ready to call when he rose to prominence in 2004. In the wild west that was hip-hop circa 2004/2005 (a quick rundown: Jay Z had retired, Eminem threatened retirement, 50 Cent’s ubiquity was waning, Kanye’s reign was in its infancy), a handful of surprise hits and a brilliant ploy made Mike Jones an unlikely, short-burning star.
“Spirit” repurposes the chorus of classic breakthrough “Still Tippin,” Mike’s call-and-response catch phrase “Who?”/”Mike Jones!” and a verse from the platinum-selling rapper that’s got a nostalgic value (he sounds almost precisely the same as he did a decade ago). Dominic Serendip also raps about being a god. “Spirit” is probably the strangest thing that happened in rap this week for a host of reasons.