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.
Max P – “Regardless”
Two editions of 5 On It into 2015, we have our first contender for the song that a big feature could turn from Internet curiosity into something people in that strange place known as “the real world” actually like.
Los Angeles rapper Max P’s “Regardless” is undoubtedly raw, sounding like it was recorded in an echo chamber. Its chorus is a hypnotic adrenaline rush built around its titular word. Memorable almost by brute force alone, P’s energy and pronunciation of the word “regardless” make for something maniacally catchy—particularly set against a simple, heavy beat.
Have a couple drinks or drive around with the windows down and blast “Regardless.”
Premiere: Ten Diamonds – “Got It Bae”
Aesthetics are everything these days, especially when you consider the success of countless artists rising from the internet. Whether Kevin Abstract, or someone a little goofier like Yung Lean, it’s kind of proven now that strong visuals will be the draw for a lot of listeners, with the music deciding whether its worth sticking around in long run. A lot of these artists are finding new and inventive ways to present themselves, creating styles completely original to them. A small minority of rappers, singers, and even a few producers have begun borrowing from aesthetics of the past. Ten Diamonds doesn’t necessarily borrow imagery from the past, with his almost health-goth-like art and the like, but his music certainly evokes images from a bygone era.
“Got it Bae,” the latest from the enigmatic and earnest singer/rapper/producer Ten Diamonds borrows just a little bit from old-school emo. Blending the digital realm lyrically with a Pacific Northwest-indebted beat courtesy of Mewlips, his music strikes a curious balance, bringing to life imagery of Dale Cooper asking Siri questions instead of leaving notes for Diane. It’s a weird balance, but it works. It’s short, warm, and immensely charming. It’s also completely different from his debut track, “Need U.” Very clearly in the early stages as an artist, Ten Diamonds isn’t afraid to experiment, willing to work with anyone who’s willing to help further define his voice. Listing Romil, Falls, and Bine among others, his collaboration ambitions seem achievable.
Speaking through email, he exhibits a sort of muted confidence.”Everyone can sing to some extent, even if you just sing along to songs on the radio,” he says, listing off a few of his inspirations in the process. “I’ve been writing for a while and have been self conscious of my singing, but just recently I realized that I shouldn’t [care] what people think and I’m just gonna make the music that I wanna make.” This kind of sincere certainty carries over to his music too, with his brittle vocals always sounding as if on the verge of cracking, highlighting every imperfection in an endearing way. He doesn’t attempt to do anything too ambitious with his voice, but his songwriting accommodates that in its ambitious ways.
As part of the internet-raised generation, his music is solely based online, despite offering a tangible link between the digital realm and “reality.” But really, none of this matters all that much to Ten Diamonds: “Where I am right now, my music is solely online music but I’m okay with that, as long as the music is being heard and people enjoy it that’s all that matters.” His focus on building an online presence and body of work before stepping into the public view is commendable, proving that whether he’s got what it takes or not, he’s not going to dive in fully until he’s truly ready. “I’ve never seen half the artists I listen to live or seen them in person, but their music is still real to me.”
Like many artists, the online world is no more than a means for him to find an audience. There’s no defined rules to his output yet, but who really cares about rules on the internet?—Joe Price
TUT – Preacher’s Son
On my way to heaven with a loaded Mac 11
Though Chattanooga, TN isn’t precisely one of rap’s capitals, it may warrant a closer look with the emergence of Isaiah Rashad over the last two years and now with the TDE rapper’s affiliate TUT and his Preacher’s Son album.
A bit of preface that accompanies the album on TUT’s Soundcloud: “Preacher’s Son is an album that depicts a young man growing up in both the church, and the streets; raised on confronting the traumas of bad choices, experiencing the redemptive power of hope and the overwhelming joys of love and charity.”
It’s a classic concept in crime literature and gangsta rap, but one that has rarely been executed as deftly in recent memory as on Preacher’s Son. Back to back highlights “Live From Chattanooga” and “Holy Water” feel like they’d be right at home on a late-period Scarface album, cinematic and full of the world-weary reflection of a man trying to balance conflicting halves of a life. TUT owns an excellent ear for production (and an equally excellent producer in fellow Chattanooga native Ktoven, who handles the boards on 12 of the album’s 15 songs) that skews soulfully organic but never feels derivative, adding pensive depth to lines like, “It’s 9pm as I sit here and stare at the sun/Acid dissolves on my tongue pray I don’t get strong out on drugs” (from standout “Kairos ‘The Trip'”).
Preacher’s Son is a project that demands the digestion of more than a couple cursory listens, a personal journey pulling from past greats and announcing a considerable talent in TUT.
Ozzie. ft. Joey Green – “The Ave”
It takes some guts to revisit a sample used in a classic rap song. Though many reading this may not have been born when A Tribe Called Quest’s iconic The Low End Theory came out in 1991, its bass-heavy blueprint still courses through hip-hop’s veins, particularly as artists like Kendrick and J. Cole return to the sounds of bygone eras with new perspectives.
Indianapolis’ Ozzie and Washington, D.C.’s Joey Green revisit The Low End Theory‘s classic opener “Excursions” for collaboration “The Ave,” an impressive display of tightly coiled rapping reminiscent of the sorts of technical displays that added to the impressiveness Odd Future and Pro Era in their particular ways.
Kent Jones – “Love Letter”
With latest single “Love Letter,” Miami’s Kent Jones continues the brick by brick build of a compelling catalog—here channelling bits of A Tribe Called Quest, Missy Elliott, and Phonte, to name but a few echoed in Jones’ rap gumbo. As with previously featured “Rocketship,” Jones manages to rise above pure derivation, creating music that’s pleasantly familiar without the ballast of the stultifying nostalgia.
As a bonus, listen to the latest episode of Song Exploder which gives a bit of behind the scenes insight into the creation of Ghostface Killah’s “The Battlefield” from guitarist Wes Mingus of The Revelations, who wrote and recorded the beat, and Wu-Tang’s A&R Bob Perry.