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.
Holy Kit ft. Sticky Ricardo – “Steve Kerr” (Prod. Supreme Cuts)
Much of the rap lurking in the corners of the Soundcloud jungle is raw and inventive, but rarely geared towards larger exposure. It might suggest the potential for its creator to reach a wider audience, but there is often a lack of polish or direction that speaks to the reasons a song might sit at several thousand plays online and not several hundred thousand sales.
Sometimes there are songs that, raw though they still might be, are close enough that a little bit of polish and the proper push could put them in their rightful place.
Chicago rapper Holy Kit’s “Steve Kerr” is a dark club anthem—a song that could fit well in the sea of Mustard that currently occupies various radio formats. With a sparse, skeletal bounce courtesy of underrated Chicago production team Supreme Cuts and Kit rhyming like YG rhyming like Too Short (who rightfully gets a shout out on the hook), “Steve Kerr” feels confined to the internet ether. It needs to be freed in the real world.
Young. – “Hennessy”
In April, we first encountered the peculiarly named Young., a Houston rapper filtering familiar topics through unusual images and a powerful voice on single “Ajna.” Young. says of new single “Hennessy” that “the whole purpose of it was to show my ignorance and confidence under the influence”—not the most novel territory, even by his own admission. Again it is the 21-year-old rapper’s approach that gives the song its life, choosing a hypnotic beat as the basis for his exploration of alcohol-fueled behavior.
Like “Ajna,” “Hennessy” is a whole greater than the sum of its parts, a reminder that beat selection is just as much a part of developing into a compelling rapper as improving upon actual rap ability.
Chaz French – “Came Down”
Chaz French is angry.
From his opening bars on “Came Down,” an unbridled energy announces him as a bolt of a rapper, upset about being under-appreciated—a common feeling given serious electricity here. French is the kind of rapper waiting in the wings to steal someone’s spotlight with the right feature—if “Came Down” is any indication, the DMV rapper (again, there must be something in that Potomac River water) could easily flex show-stopping charisma on someone else’s track. While “Came Down” doesn’t stretch topically beyond French’s frustration with not being more well known, it succeeds on his fire and conviction.
Hawk House – “Vulcan Grip (Topic 3)”
Two 5 On It firsts in one song: a British rap trio featuring a female rapper.
Now that we’ve dealt with the reductive details, to the music itself.
South London’s Hawk House pulls from the sounds of producers like J Dilla and Black Milk, sparkly, swung bounce and warm bass as the foundation for sharply delivered rhymes (they describe their new EP as “a phantasmagoric fever dream of Golden-era boom-bap, New Orleans jazz, interstellar electronic rushes and introspective rhythms, roughed in grit and deadpan humour,” which feels a bit ambitious, but also not that far off from reality). “Vulcan Grip (Topic 3)” is true-schoolism done justice, a song that sounds designed to be played live in a cramped hundred-person venue, floor shaking while people jump and chant along. It’s throwback without the dour desire to take things back, capturing a sense of fun and energy missing from most revivalist hip-hop.
Leland Aleem Fakir – “Mental $truggles”
While 5 On It is about trying to keep a finger on trends and bubbling regions, it’s more focused on spotting potential.
The suggestion to listen to Los Angeles-based rapper Leland Aleem Fakir came from my friend and fellow writer Tebs Maqubela of No Fillers, who sent a very simple email: “I have no affiliation to him, but like your series so I want to support it in any way that helps you continue it.” Help continue it he has.
Fakir’s “Mental $truggles” (in spite of its dollar-sign-bearing name) sounds like a transmission from the mind of a young man struggling to make sense of the modern world, a concept given life in the song’s video which focuses largely on Fakir standing in the Hollywood Hills, looking out over the Los Angeles valley. While there is always room for improvement and progression, Fakir’s rapping is notable for its ease and concertedness, no wasted words in service of expressing his vision.