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.
Dez – “noose”
San Fernando Valley resident Dez’s “noose” begins with its winding hook and an opening line that, at first, reads like a bit of a platitude: “They ask me what I want from it/I tell ’em just to find the truth.” Not that the search for truth isn’t a noble quest, but simply that the words don’t feel rooted in any concrete circumstance.
By the end of “noose,” Dez earns every right to quest for whatever this truth might be.
I’m not sure that 23 supposed to feel like 80/
My ex-girl just got engaged another one had a baby/
My cousin died at 22/
Not much can presently phase me
Dez spends the rest of “noose” adding weight to the song’s opening refrain, exhibiting a kind of personal insight and intricate rapping ability typically reserved for rappers a few years his elder, those for whom the sheen of early 20s irresponsibility has worn off, giving way to the reality (and increased existential darkness—or maybe that’s just me) of the late 20s. Dez raps with the gnarled wisdom of and determination of someone battling through all the world has ever thrown at him. His concerted, measured rhyming matches his obstinacy, formally mirroring the content of “noose.”
Tedy Brewski – “Yung Kareem” & “I’m Serious”
I imagine very few rappers can channel both Chief Keef and Big L (in separate settings, of course) and seem natural. I also imagine there might not be a huge cross section of rap fans who’d be giddy about the notion of a rapper capable of channeling both Chief Keef and Big L. For those of us that exist in the small overlap on this venn diagram, Connecticut’s Tedy Brewski appears as the perfect rap omnivore, the consumer who absorbed widely varied flavors and distilled their essence for his own purposes.
Brewski’s “Yung Kareem” sounds like deliverance on the legacies of Lil B, Chief Keef, and Fetty Wap (a far more fledgling legacy, but one made more potent by his bright burning current star). “I’m Serious” recalls classics, dashes of MF Doom, early Jay Z, and Big L (wait until around 3:45) all coloring his sharp wit and highly particular observations. It’s a refreshing, head-spinning dichotomy—one that wouldn’t matter if Brewski didn’t execute with charisma and precision. A rapper worth a day of dedicated Soundcloud digging.
Kit – The Holy Trinity
In the long wake of 808s and Heartbreak, many rappers have shifted the premium from what is said to how its said. The evolving result: Rap’s expressive range has opened up, inviting a wider group to territory once reserved for the particularly emotive (2Pac, Eminem) or the experimental (New Kingdom, Gravediggaz, Pharoahe Monch).
Chicago’s Kit makes melancholic, druggy music. His stellar, compact new The Holy Trinity EP pours lean, lust, and an attitude that teeters between hedonistic abandon and nihilism into a three song stew of excellent production and disjoint, half-sung, half-rapped vocals. It comes across like quick, focused collage, a snapshot of thoughts and experiences rather than some sort of grand vision—concision that makes it particularly effective. Ultimately, you feel Kit, making his approach to what might be familiar topics engaging.
Makinout – “X2”
By their nature, critics and “gatekeepers” are considered assholes. When your job entails saying “no” far more than “yes” as both a function of taste and time in a day, it’s a reputation well-earned—if perhaps a bit misguided. Much of the time, my “no” is based on a sort of addict’s tolerance. I have listened to so much rap music in my life. I started with really good shit (or, at very least, good shit and no baseline expectation). The hunt for the high sends me each day to dig through Soundcloud, Bandcamp, my inbox, and any other dark corners where great rap music might hide.
In my current condition, most music flies by me. Bad music gets skipped. I tune out the pedestrian or the merely solid. Sparks of idiosyncratic potential, prodigious technique, particular polish—I can’t pinpoint precisely what catches my ear in advance, but those characteristics of the cures for what ails me.
Sometimes the fix is pure, catchy fun.
Makinout’s “Playground” should have been an underground hit in New York last year. Goofy, simple, and sneakily catchy, “Playground” crept into my brain and hung in the background radiation, eclipsing future submissions Makinout sent me. While the Bronx rapper’s latest single “X2” doesn’t quite hit his high water mark, it recaptures the same gleeful abandon and askew sensibility (few rappers would successfully serve up an “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” reference) that made his previous single so entertaining.
Beatlampers – “It Takes A Village”
I’m generally a sucker for animated videos, respecting not only the labor intensity, but also the limitless possibilities opened up by escaping the constraints of the real.
New Jersey crew Beatlampers pairs their mellow single “It Takes A Village” with a particularly strong animated video courtesy of creator Charlie Shelton, who pieces together a morphing, casually psychedelic array of bright colors and scraggly characters. It gives Beatlampers’ classicist take on hip-hop a bit of unusual life, taking a song already enjoyable for fans of a bit of true-schoolism to strange, absorbing places.