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.
Al Rogers Jr. – “SadeWithLove”
If you’ve been reading 5 On It since its inception in mid-March, you might think I’ve got stock (or at very least deep roots) in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region. This week’s edition will not change your opinion.
(For the record, I do not have stock or roots of any kind in the region.)
Yesterday, the mind behind the consistently tasteful blog Original Mattress Company put me onto a new single from Baltimore rapper Al Rogers Jr. “SadeWithLove” is a dizzying intersection of sounds and influences, marrying the freneticism of go-go with a Sade sample and rapping that culls from the vapors of the Dungeon Family, a bit of Lupe, and a dash of whatever bouncy, melodic magic they’re putting in Baltimore crab seasoning (that also worked its way down to Virginia and into GoldLink’s flow).
“SadeWithLove” is so energetic and densely packed, it’s difficult to fully absorb even after multiple listens, the sort of “chore” you don’t mind revisiting as new elements reveal themselves on each rewind. Too late in the season to be a summer soundtrack, but there’s always next year.
Loyle Carner – A Little Late EP
There’s an easy joke in the title of British rapper Loyle Carner’s new EP A Little Late: A British rapper walks into a recording studio, grabs a bunch of breezy, jazz-sampling old school beats, and spits some intelligent lyrics, confirming, indeed, that 1995 happened in New York and took a minute to make it across the Atlantic.
Forgive an acidic sense of humor from a boy raised in New York on 1990s hip-hop.
Carner evades becoming an easy target by rapping really well over nostalgic sound-beds. These sorts of exercises can easily turn laborious or boring; Carner is an able enough rapper to make the EP personal, his smooth, even-keeled flow delivering pathos and introspective detail through stacks of internal rhyme. British rappers often have difficulty captivating an American audience and it doesn’t seem that Carner is concerned (at least judging by his aesthetic decisions) with commercial success, but his care for craft should win over fans of classicist hip-hop that don’t mind a different accent from the ones they might have heard in the good ol’ days.
CRASHprez – “Leave A Note”
In case you forgot in the last seven seconds that comprise our miserable, collective attention span that our nation and our world at large remain in a state of social and political unrest (and if you, like me, don’t make time for news, but want to at least stay up on how phenomenally fucked we are, I suggest you subscribe to sarcastic, succinct, and informative newsletter The Skimm), Maryland rapper CRASHprez’s “Leave A Note” begins with an emotional reminder: a vocal sample of a black preacher who had visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel.
The speaker likens the experience of the Jews in the Holocaust to that of blacks in America, a loaded, bold comparison, but one built on 400 years of dehumanization and killing made systemic. Historical comparisons are always a slippery slope, but the point is well-taken: America is in a burning time and its black population still battles for equal footing in a house on fire.
Lyrically and sonically bleak, “Leave A Note” embodies back-against-the-wall anger with restraint, only briefly dipping into by any means necessary philosophy before giving way to a closing Martin Luther King Jr. quote. It is a weighty song that, like the ongoing situations that inspired it, points to a wider discussion than is suited for the digital pages of Pigeons and Planes. Let it serve as a starting point for those looking to spark conversation.
J.I.D. and 6LACK ft. India Shawn – “Mourning Star”
J.I.D. and 6LACK’s India Shawn-featuring new single “Mourning Star” (a titular play on words perfectly suited to a bittersweet sound) feels like new Atlanta’s answer to neo-soul, a warm, sensual affair that evokes a slow, Southern evening. It’s mood music, its beat a low-burning flame that allows emcees J.I.D. and 6LACK to freely associate about love, lust, self-worth, and change. If that sounds laborious, it’s lightened by airy execution and limber rapping; Shawn’s rough-hewn vocal adds texture and a bit of smoke to the mix.
“Mourning Star” is music that might not excite, but it certainly soothes.
I’m probably giving greater description than “Mourning Star” requires. Tune in and turn off.
BLACK PARTY – “HILARO SPRINGS”
BLACK PARTY’s “HILARO SPRINGS” isn’t groundbreaking music (particularly from a content perspective, though it is dotted with slightly absurd, clever quips: “Rap and I make the beats/N*gga I’m like Dre and Snoop”); it’s unlikely to alter your perspective on how hip-hop can or should be made. It’s well-executed and thoroughly enjoyable, a solid example of a sound satisfying a hunger for a certain style. In this case, two colliding: I am a sucker for recent Toronto production’s signature filtered bass (as exemplified by 40 and T-Minus) and the mystical murk of Clams Casino’s early work.
“HILARO SPRINGS”—bear in mind, the product of a Little Rock, Arkansas resident—sounds like Clams taking a trip across the border to visit his Canadian neighbors. Lo-fi and hazy, drawing from southern production while remaining regionally root-less, BLACK PARTY’s co-production (alongside a fellow Arkansan rapper/producer named Rodney Cole) has a raw bounce that gives life to the rapper’s loose, laid-back flow (a style with vague reminiscences of Robb Bank$) and low-key witticisms.
As a bonus, here’s a little more mood music for the smokers among us from BLACK PARTY’s cohort Cole. A solid one-two punch.