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.
Cal Rips – Phor You
When artists recommend music from within their crew or from their friends, I typically approach with skepticism. We’re all guilty of viewing the work of those we support through rose-colored glasses, so seeing artists promote others from their cities or inner circles might pique interest, but also raises my alertness to getting-caught-by-the-guards-in-Metal-Gear-Solid levels.
Of course, exceptions for every rule. When it comes to artists I’ve known for some time or those who’ve proven to be tasteful (or at least have intriguing ears) in short periods of time, I give my attention in full.
I dug into “District of Corruption” native Cal Rips’ Phor You with excitement and, for the most part, my trust was rewarded. While rarely groundbreaking as a whole, songs like “Silver Lining,” “MISFIT,” “Fadeaway,” and woozy Obii-featuring “Live From The 7” showcase Cal’s freely associative, often autobiographical rhymes set against enjoyably rough-around-the-edges production.
Phor You pulls from a number of different sounds, enjoyable as a portrait of a 22-year-old artist figuring out his direction. It’s likely to be too unpolished for many, but it’s a glimpse of un-molded talent in motion, searching for and, at its best, finding form.
Raylond Hamm – “Bad Bitch”
To me it sounds like a strip club banger. Was not the exact mood I was going for, but it works.
Maybe I’ve spent a little too much time this week with the new Rich Gang tape, which repurposes R&B melodies and sensitive pianos for the purposes of Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan’s excellent antics. Maybe I’ve spent too much over the last four years listening to Drake. Maybe it’s just something in the water. From songs like Schoolboy Q’s “Studio” to the work of the aforementioned, the sound of club and radio anthems is changing in hip-hop.
So why not a moody, atmospheric strip club soundtrack from Baltimore’s Raylond Hamm (a member of the same promising 9BMC crew that includes recent favorite JuegoTheNinety)? New release “Bad Bitch” is a fitting microcosm of where we stand in the evolution of music to make women shake their asses for money. Bravo for keeping your finger on the pulse, Raylond. Bravo.
Young Pradda – Breathe
One of my greatest joys as a listener derives from rappers experimenting with new styles and flows, testing the limits of their technical ability and plumbing the depths of rap history for influence.
I sent Confusion a few songs from New Jersey native and North Carolina resident Young Pradda’s Breathe, attempting to triangulate where the rapper’s flow existed in a constellation of inspirations. A$AP Ferg, A$AP Rocky, Goldlink, Danny Brown, a dash of Atlanta (if Ca$h Out’s weirdo dance floor hit “Twerkin” is any indication of the city’s current tide), and echoes of Memphis all make their way into Pradda’s agile, entertaining rapping.
As with past entries in 5 On It like Ars-Nova, it occasionally feels like Pradda is a skilled vessel in search of the proper cargo; on Breathe, he’s begun to tackle the difficult work of crafting a compelling style.
“My names Nnamdi Ogbonnaya and I’m from Chicago.”
Minutes after midnight, as Thursday October 2nd crept into Friday October 3rd, my dear friend Tunji left something in my inbox to detonate: “this is either genius or trash I can’t decide but you need to see it lmao.”
His name is Nnamdi Ogbonnaya. He is from Chicago. He has made two of the absolute strangest, funniest, potentially worst, possibly best, easily most entertaining videos and songs of 2014.
He sort of raps (there’s a “Busdriver/Mikah 9 on meth, laughing gas, and Pixy Stix” thing going on with Nnamdi), he sort of sings—he rarely obeys any expectations you might have for what he’s going to say or how he’s going to say it. I will likely catch some flack from the aspiring rapper brigade (and also a lot of people with eyes and/or ears) for posting this, but fuck it. Rappers “experimenting” only wish they could be this weird, original, and entertaining, while still exhibiting elements of craft and also possibly doing all of this in the name of the utterly terrible.
T.Gaines – “Sky High”
Chicago’s T.Gaines carries on a noble tradition of rappers like Houston legend Big Moe who can sing (and who, along with R. Kelly, helped father the subgenre of “disrespectful R&B” that has afforded careers to Ty Dolla $ign, August Alsina, and others).
New single “Sky High” is hardly innovative (it’s a song about being really, really high), but, as with his mostly excellent The Groove God EP, T.Gaines’ music is enjoyable not for forging new territory, but for visiting familiar ground with fine execution. Syrupy and bordering on pretty, “Sky High” highlights the better angels of Gaines’ musical nature—a reminder that sometimes style indeed trumps substance.