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.
Premiere: Stress Gods – “Love Strèss”
Though they’re recent additions to the 5 On It fold, New York’s unhinged duo Stress Gods have fast become one of my favorite discoveries this year.
Combining wily, back-against-the-wall energy and ominous, minimal production, both Stress Gods’ introductory single “That’s That” and follow up “Love Strèss” feel greater than the sum of their parts, like the work of super villains in training testing the breadth of their capacity to fuck shit up. Also, it’s hard to deny a song that comes with a message like this one:
“What’s good jon , were sending you our newest piece of work titled ‘Love Strèss.’ This musical thunder storm was made for the listeners, bloggers and critiques as well, who missed our first fucking piece of stress ‘Thats That’ to get hip to what we plan on doing and that’s fuck shit up and get people moving.”
So, in the words of the Stress Gods, get hip to what they plan on doing and listen to “Love Strèss” below.
I.O.D – “Ebola”
“Brownsville’s cultural icon”
If only the above (the bio on I.O.D’s Soundcloud) was true. If only New York—my hometown, the birthplace of hip-hop, and the irrational, insistent Mecca that the radio, charts, and sound of the music itself have largely long since left—made cultural icons of young artists as thrilling, irreverent, and fun as I.O.D.
“Ebola”—in all its questionable taste, menacing production, askew rapping, and lo-fi glory—will undoubtedly turn off a solid swathe of listeners, but I.O.D raps with an electricity and ease of technique that make him the sort of emcee that sticks with you.
Even after “Ebola” is done.
Even if you want to forget him.
I.O.D is a raw talent, but his spark and knack for off-kilter humor make him an exciting prospect in a year where rap at its highest levels often feels humorless, forced to have a good time at a club it doesn’t really want to attend, save for the fact that the walk through money is pretty good and probably paid in cash (Childish Gambino and Young Thug, for the most part, are exceptions to this rule). Using ebola as a metaphor for not being able to fuck with and/or get close to someone and then flipping it as an analog for saying that you’re sicker than everyone else is clever in a way that’s subtler than true-school punchline aficionados would ever give credit and entertaining as all hell.
(Hat tip to the ever reliable Matt Colwell for this one.)
pizza boy. – Futility EP
In his initial contact with me, mysterious rapper pizza boy. struck me more as a self-deprecating, highly intelligent curiosity than a truly viable artist. Whether or not he is the latter remains to time and wider audiences, but the talent to reach higher levels makes itself more readily apparent on his incisive, concise Futility EP.
As always, a message from pizza boy. before diving in:
“i am a rapper, making what has been classified as ‘alternative’ and/or ’emo’ music
– my identity/appearance is currently unknown
– i have one LP under my proverbial belt, no tip necessary., and this EP is the follow-up.
– i’m a 21-year-old, recent college graduate who was forced to leave San Diego, CA and move to Belleville, IL to live with his parents. (because having a bachelor’s degree doesn’t equate to traction in the workforce in 2014. that’s fine. i’m not particularly interested in the workforce.)“
Over its succinct six song run-time, Futility manages to pack on as much humor and sharp digital native awareness as possible without busting at the seams. In its combination of internet references (shout-out to a conspiracy theory by one of the EP’s producers, Lyle Horowitz, in a skit on the end of “atlas shrugging. [EP mix.]” that humorously ascribes a nonresponse to his email to P&P staffers to some sort of conspiracy headed by pizza boy. to block his career), left-field production and sampling (Sade makes an appearance on “note to self.”), humorous pathos, and surprising insight, Futility feels like a fitting encapsulation of a subculture that might spend most of its time on the web, but walks out into the world in flesh and blood. Consider Futility a companion piece to the work Kevin Abstract has been doing, both musically and in thought.
If nothing else, stay for penultimate song “void.,” which sees pizza boy. echoing Earl and Childish Gambino for a display of intelligent rapping (and keen racial commentary) that points to the young artist’s promise beyond gimmicks.
Kate Tempest and Loyle Carner – “Guts”
It’s not too often we have award-winning poets or British female rappers in 5 On It, rarer still when those are one in the same (you’re currently experiencing the first time).
On “Guts,” Mercury Award-nominated, Ted Hughes Award-winning poet Kate Tempest joins forces with previous 5 On It entrant Loyle Carner (another British rapper to watch) for a song as entertaining as it is low key. Playing off each other in a sort of old school back and forth over a dark, head nod-inducing groove, Tempest and Carner have a low key chemistry in their complementary styles, intricate rapping that borders on spoken word without ever feeling stilted.
Lil Silk – “Plug Calling”
Lil Silk returns!
Riding a flow occasionally reminiscent of the legend Gucci Mane, Silk brings his signature charisma on “Plug Calling,” an entertaining ode to selling drugs (a Silk specialty). It’s not as outwardly exhilarating and strange as songs like “Rapper,” but when one of your ad-libs is “no ad-lib,” you’re still operating on a level that’s beyond most of your contemporaries.