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.
If you like Eric Dingus, you’ll probably like WTCHCRFT
Producer WTCHCRFT’s Facebook bio should give you ample insight into his world before you ever press play:
“BANGIN OUT BEATS FROM THE COVEN.”
Beautiful like a tranquil, moonlit walk through an empty graveyard, WTCHCRFT’s production takes cues from collaborator and P&P (and Drake) favorite Eric Dingus: Grim, heavy, and beautiful in equal measure.
His album Schizoid comprises mostly instrumental tracks and deserves a listen from start to finish for full immersion, but for the sake of 5 On It‘s rap-centricity, I’m focusing on standouts “Alone” featuring Bones and Foxwedding and “Late Nights” featuring Dowrong. Each highlights how well WTCHCRFT’s production complements voices, whether Bones’ ominous drone or Dowrong’s lithe rapping (pulling from all corners of classic southern hip-hop and further showcasing one of the more underrated talents out right now).
And if you’re in a purely instrumental mood, check out album highlight “2AM.”
Bari Allen – “Cocaine Shawty”
St. Louis’ Bari Allen raps with an abandon and seeming obsession with style that makes him come across as a more coherent, less melodic Young Thug (with cadences occasionally reminiscent of Big K.R.I.T. and the walls of influences that stand behind him).
Over a skittering, woozy beat by 5 On It favorite (and newly minted producer) Chris Smith Jr. , Allen flexes a variety of flows and an uncommon energy—the kind that makes seeming non sequiturs enjoyable enough to ignore loose connections or spend enough time listening to search for deeper meanings. An excellent rapper to watch from the home of Murphy Lee.
Malik Ninety Five – Malik Ninety Five
19-year-old New Orleans rapper/producer Malik Ninety Five understands the importance of cohesion. His eponymous debut project isn’t the most imaginative collection of songs (understandable for a young rapper), but it keeps things concise at 12 songs and develops a consistent, enjoyable aesthetic rooted in Ninety Five’s excellent beat selection (and beat-making) and strong rapping.
Malik Ninety Five feels more indebted to the West Coast than the third coast, pointing to a young artist with great taste and ample talent to convert concepts into rhymes as he finds himself in the process of the writer’s hardest work: living long enough to have interesting stories to tell. For now, there’s pure joy in craft and focus; Malik Ninety Five is the rare project from a young rapper that you can throw on and vibe to from start to finish without worrying that an errant song will ruin the flow.
XVRHLDY – Need To Know II: LUNA
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a group of talented, successful Toronto producers about how their city had, in my opinion, supplanted Chicago as hip-hop’s secondary modern capital behind the obvious hub of Atlanta. In 2013, as Chance exploded, Lucki Eck$ emerged, and Keef’s radio reign petered into the rise of rappers like Lil Bibby, Lil Herb, ZMoney, Chicago seemed poised to cement itself as hip-hop’s undoubted second home, a city as varied as it was prolific.
The talent hasn’t lessened, the great music has continued, but, for whatever reasons, Chicago’s public luster seems to have diminished in the years since the blistering summer of 2012 and the year that followed. It’s still one of hip-hop’s most vibrant and diverse cities; unfairly, it lacks the spotlight that shined on it so brightly almost two years back. Perhaps that’s for the better, allowing rappers like XVRHLDY to develop in relative obscurity, finding identity and exploring moods without the unkind scrutiny of a desperate industry.
XVRHLDY’s Need to Know II: Luna feels like a survey of his city’s varied rap flavors, styles and sounds tied together by his charisma and technical abilities (listen to “New To Me” in particular for a clinic in how to rap slowly and deliberately, each word pointing to an awareness of the interconnectedness of syllables and rhythms). Need to Know II emits maturity and breadth of taste, suggesting a rapper with both the talent and vision to grow beyond his current station.
Snubnose Frankenstein & MitchGoneMad – “Cul De Sac (Part II)”
If you rode the Tumblr rap wave heavily in 2011, Snubnose Frankenstein (or Frankenstein, as he was simply known then) was likely one of your favorites, a syllable-stacking, lo-fi beat choosing prodigy with the skill to challenge seeming peers like Odd Future and A$AP Mob.
The IRL history obviously played out a bit differently from the URL love affair, with Odd Future building an empire of sorts, A$AP Mob pushing two successful rappers into the marketplace, and Frankenstein largely finding himself consigned to the rap obscura locker. Criminally so, as he remains one of the most technically stunning talents to arise from that era and ethos.
Including Frankenstein in 5 On It feels a bit odd. For the Internet rap nerds, he’s a beloved known quantity; for the rest for the rest of the listening public, he’s a kid in Atlanta with a curious name.
New single “Cul De Sac (Part II)” puts Frankenstein’s rapping ability readily on display, an effortless combination of poetic devices, unusual images, and brief windows into personal experience. “Cul De Sac” isn’t Frankenstein’s most impressive record; it feels like something recorded to remind Soundcloud followers the extent of his talent without targeting grander conceptual aims.
A satisfying reminder that the meritocracy of the Internet remains utterly imperfect and great talents from years past still lurk in the wings, deserving your time.