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.
Get familiar with Chicago’s Aaron Fonts
Aaron Fonts is very good at rapping. He doesn’t wow with acrobatics, he doesn’t have the most distinctive voice; he does have a deliberateness, occasional agility, subtle tendency towards melody (it doesn’t surface often, but it’s present and, as such, capable of being cultivated) and dynamism that allows him to make the most of simple or decidedly undercooked beats. Songs like “All Black” and “Reckless”—a small sampling of Fonts’ last six months of releases—point to his potential. “All Black,” in particular feels like it bears the disparate but connected influence of Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul, in cadence, imagery, and a hook-y sensibility baked into one run-on verse. Fonts’ style is still deeply in development, but the promise shines through more often than not.
jg. – “i wrote this at 4 am and this is the last time i’m remixing a song”
Rising star Goldlink is somewhat of an unusual beast in hip-hop, more known for a style and sound he has carved out through his rapping and production sensibility than for any one song in particular. Certain entries in his catalog are more representative of his future bounce aesthetic than others; on the whole, he has created a sonic domain that belongs to him. He’s not famous enough yet that the average person would hear, for example, Vic Mensa’s “Down On My Luck” and say, “oh, that’s the Goldlink sound,” but the young Virginian’s year in the blog spotlight has crystallized a readily identifiable sonic brand that should make would-be imitators and inspired artists wary of pulling too fully from his playbook.
Rapper jg.’s “i wrote this at 4 am and this is the last time i’m remixing a song” uses the beat from perhaps one of Goldlink’s most personal songs, “When I Die.” In spite of what might be an inadvisable move, the result is soul-bearing and experimental, channeling (perhaps incidentally) Quasimoto while expressing the psychological angst of a teenage rapper navigating adolescence in a dangerous environment, succeeding in school, and creating art simultaneously. Even its title feels like an unfiltered transmission from the brain of free thinker tapped directly into his emotional muse.
The point: If you’re going to latch onto someone else’s train, even if only for one song, “i wrote this at 4 am and this is the last time i’m remixing a song” is a great example of how you can succeed in crafting something “new” while leaving the quality and integrity of the original artifact intact.
Shaboozey – “Jeff Gordon”
Earlier this week, I got an email from my friend Matt Colwell (a talented writer and musical mind who works with Goldlink) with the simple, fantastically vague subject “this.” Of course, when trusted sources send, I open and listen.
The email couldn’t have set up its aim—sharing a song by Virginia rapper Shaboozey—any better:
“tell me you couldn’t hear people chanting ‘ass so fat you can lean on it // ass so fat, put my team on it’ at the club.
but forreal i think this song is a hit, tell me if i’m crazy. i’ve been sitting on it for a while, needed to share. from VA.
ps it sounds amazing in the car.”
You are not crazy, Matt. Not at all. My words won’t do Shaboozey’s “Jeff Gordon” any greater justice. Listen below.
Alex Ruffin – “Numbuh 274”
Connecticut rapper Alex Ruffin has been sending me music for almost two years (his first email to me came on 11/22/2012); I’ve never posted a single song he has sent me. In general, my responses to him consist of constructive criticism and the encouragement to keep sending music.
Some people get discouraged by this sort of rejection; Alex never has. He has continued to send music in spite of being unable to crack the barriers of my judgment (whatever the worth of one listener’s opinion).
With “Numbuh 274,” Alex struck a chord with me. Sharply, effortlessly written and delivered, personal, and charming in its appeals to nostalgia (both in production choice and recounting of childhood memories), “Numbuh 274” coalesces the potential glimpsed throughout 21 months-worth of intermittent emails.
Yende ft. Anakan – “D O W N T O T H E A T O M”
“D O W N T O T H E A T O M” is the sort of song that makes my brain hurt as my neurons race to find referential touchstones.
From what I can gather, Yende is a rapper and Anakan is a group, but “D O W N T O T H E A T O M” is a chaotic swarm of auto-tuned rapping and warbling that heavily channels 808s and Heartbreak over a beat that sounds like a deep cut from an 808 Mafia mixtape—so, in its way, the perfect song for Future or Rich Homie Quan’s more emotional moments. It’s surprisingly catchy, too; unstructured though the song may be, the line that it’s built around—”She think I’m handsome down to the atom”—is a memorable one.
Songs like “D O W N T O T H E A T O M” are proof, indeed, that time is a flat circle; it’s hard to tell what of Yende and Anakan’s rapping comes from Kanye, Future, their peers, some original place, or an amalgam of all of the aforementioned. It’s futuristic. It’s the past. It’s a lot for my addled brain to handle. Whatever it is, I think I love it. Listen below and see if you can make sense of it.