5 On It is a feature that looks at five of the best under-the-radar releases in rap from the past week, highlighting new or recently discovered artists, or interesting obscurities.
Lewis Allen – Black Autumn 1993
A prevailing memory for anyone who paid close attention to the music industry in 2013 will be the ongoing oneupsmanship of the various rollout strategies employed by superstars: Justin Timberlake’s all-out media blitz, Daft Punk’s combination of mystery and excellent content, Kanye West’s anti-rollout, and the mother of them all, Beyonce’s surprise album.
Though the majority of these strategies require substantial resources and an already established foothold in the marketplace to be effective, it’s nice to see trickle down as such public mingling of music and other forms of content reaches up-and-coming artists and, in turn, sees life in their projects (one intriguing example from the very end of 2013: Dom McLennon‘s sprawling THESIS).
While New Jersey rapper Lewis Allen’s Black Autumn 1993 will likely catch some flak for perceived Yeezus imitation (a topic I wrote a little bit about the first time I encountered Lewis’ music), it’s an interesting study in the creative directions young rappers are exploring. The website that houses Lewis’ free album uses one of the more popular web design techniques du jour (parallax scrolling) to present the music alongside a dark, animated graphic novel. It isn’t the first time an artist has chosen to pair rap and comic books, but it’s well-executed enough to deserve note.
Listen to Black Autumn 1993 below and experience it in full here.
Dynamic Equilibrium – “Lucidity”
Complex’s Dharmic X sent Dynamic Equilibrium’s “Lucidity” my way earlier this week. Initially, it didn’t catch my attention, but a text from Dharmic noting that the song dealt with suicide and mental illness–two topics not typically encountered in hip-hop–I decided to give it a second look. “Lucidity” is certainly not a light listen, but the duo’s melancholic examination of a man at his breaking point deserves a listen for those looking for rap that’s a bit weightier than the usual Soundcloud discovery.
Zuse ft. Young Thug – “Mayday”
Atlanta may best be known at the moment for its dominance in the hip-hop marketplace, but it’s the city’s persistent weirdness that deserves attention as both a source of great, unexpected music and a wellspring of unusual, commercially viable concepts and styles.
For the last year or so, Young Thug has been the beating heart of Atlanta’s “weird turn pro” moment. It’s no surprise, then, to see him pop up with up-and-comer Zuse, whose Soundcloud page is a treasure trove of choruses that stick in your head, wild (often dancehall-inspired) rapping, and far more charisma than your average dealer-turned-blog-rapper.
“Mayday” combines Zuse and Thug’s gifts for melodic, animated rapping over a Metro Boomin beat. It isn’t going to change your mind if you think Young Thug is a scourge on the rap game, but at least you can say you knew and hated Zuse early if he ever has a “Stoner” of his very own.
As a bonus, check out Zuse’s equally excellent and maniacal “Red” from a few months back.
Houston Rap Tapes (a companion compilation to the book Houston Rap)
This one should be self-explanatory, especially if you’re a fan of hip-hop history (or a raving lunatic with time to kill like me). Compiled by Lance Scott Walker, one of the authors of Houston Rap, Houston Rap Tape features seven hours of (surprise!) Houston rap music from past and present, featuring plenty of heavyweights mingled with names consigned largely to online lockers of hip-hop nerd obscura.
Enough talk. Houston Rap Tapes speaks for itself.
(Hat tip to Steady Bloggin)
Vonny Del Fresco ft. Carpe DM – “yours.”
If Travi$ Scott is a little too aggressive for your taste, give Milwaukee’s Vonny Del Fresco a spin. New single “Yours” falls in line with the grim luxe rap of Scott and latter day Kanye, but Del Fresco’s able rapping and strong beat selection give life to a tale of lust and make for an enjoyable three minutes.