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.
Chris Cartier – “Tempo”
It’s very easy to say “yes.” We don’t like hurting people’s feelings. We don’t like feeling as though we might miss out on something. We don’t like being negative.
As a critic—hell, a creator—on any scale, “no” is the most powerful word in your arsenal. “No” grants power to “yes.” Otherwise, “yes” just becomes a massive hole in a dam, an indiscriminate sieve. After a litany of “no’s,” one “yes” can feel like the ultimate truth—the combination lets you know where someone’s taste lives.
For almost two years, I received submissions from Chris Cartier and, for almost two years, I rebuffed him, saying that his craft was solid, but his lyrics were rarely compelling. Full of promise, yet to deliver. Recent single “Tempo” tipped the scales, a vital exploration of Cartier’s hometown and its effect on his outlook. It feels like a new plateau if not quite a culmination, advancement in style and content for an emcee whose ample talent was evident early even when his focus waned. Proof, as ever, of the transformative medication of time, persistence, and repetition.
Nevelle Viracocha – “Mind Made Up”
Alabama-born, Atlanta-based Nevelle Viracocha raps with conviction.
He delivers his words with an energy and weight that give familiar phrases and ideas the reverberation of truth. On single “Mind Made Up” (released in the middle of last year, but not given any particular attention), an ear for melody and a clear charisma—particularly evident in the song’s video, an effectively simple clip that bolsters Viracocha’s talent—separate the 22-year-old from contemporaries with similarly aspirational visions. A slew of intangibles make Villacocha intriguing, the sort of presence worth tracking across future releases as it develops.
Sedroc – “Club27”
Rapper/producer Sedroc—the brains behind the beat for Bel’s “Kate”—delivers a compelling first statement of his own.
Built around frightening, clear-eyed melancholy, Sedroc’s “Club27″ embodies a certain floating persistence in the face of resignation that death is, for many, a constant of the black, urban American experience. Its hook—”And I’ll be grateful if I only live to 27” repeated for four bars, followed by, “Cause right now it seem like everybody dyin’ ’round here/And usually security is mighty tight around here/Unless you’re great then it’s your fate that you end right around here/Got me thinking that I should end my life around here”—and the beautiful, piano-driven beat afford a poetic gloom to “Club27” that feels like a natural outgrowth of “Kate.”
Reflective and weary where others are consumed by rage, Sedroc puts poignant words to the undercurrent of the battles raging across America.
Ars-Nova – “Winter In The South”
5 On It staple Ars-Nova has an elastic way of rapping that makes his words often feel tethered together, each syllable pinging into the next with varying degrees of momentum and connectivity.
Recent single “Winter In The South” clocks in at under three minutes, but serves up one of the densest listens in Nova’s catalog, borrowing the dark production of Drake’s “Madonna” for a backdrop to the rapper’s meandering thoughts and a curious sample about snow in southern states that lends the song its title and, likely, a deeper meaning. It isn’t precisely a breakthrough, but it points to the curious inner workings of a talented young emcee figuring out his creative calling with each song.
BoneLang ft. Dan Kanvis – “Pigeon Wing”
Chicago duo BoneLang’s “Pigeon Wing” is the sort of hypnotic listen that feels a modern outgrowth of hip-hop’s early fixations with jazz, weaving a winding saxophone figure into production that hints at a taste for the psychedelic (it’s reminiscent of a softer-around-the-edges take on the Fear and Loathing musical cocktail of lost psych-rock-rap greats New Kingdom). It’s mood music for wanderers and stoners, the sort of thing you could imagine getting lost in on loop after a few too many bong rips.
Also, fun fact (that no one principally involved with this song knew before sending it to me): I went to middle school with the saxophone player on “Pigeon Wing.” The power of Internet rap, reconnecting old friends. Simon Dufor, holler at me!