5 On It is a feature that looks at five of the best under-the-radar rap findings from the past two weeks, highlighting new or recently discovered artists, or interesting obscurities.
I had been dealing with personal and professional chaos. Uncertainty undercut my consistency as a contributor. I took a step back to reassess what I could contribute to the team on a regular basis. The result: 5 On It, a then weekly now bi-weekly look at my favorite recent under-the-radar discoveries.
Over the ensuing two years, 5 On It has turned into a ritual for me—a steady, insatiable hunt for the new and strange, the emotive, the catchy, the trunk-rattling, and, in the best cases, some combination of all the elements. Two years certainly isn’t five years or ten years—there’s still much work to do and much more music to discover, but it does provide cause to pop a (cheap) bottle and tip the hat to another round of under the radar artists doing dope shit.
Corbin Butler – Is It Safe To Say…
Corbin Butler was one of 2015’s best surprises and an easy standout from last year’s editions 5 On It. A rapper, singer, and producer with an eclectic palette that seemingly stretched from Outkast to Blink-182 and all sorts of unexpected destinations in between, Butler collided his ability and taste into the fascinating and entertainingly messy Rolling Ridge. Butler’s personality, smart introspection, and knack for weaving a few recurring sounds and textures throughout the project held Rolling Ridge together while pointing to ample room for growth.
New mixtape Is It Safe To Say… doesn’t jump lightyears ahead, but it does showcase Butler rapping with increased sharpness and the same cleverness that gave life to self-deprecating songs like “23.” Project standouts “Sidelines,” “MYLOVE,” and “WONTDIE” display the diversity that made Rolling Ridge exhilarating, narrowing the focus without losing the sonic ambition and uniqueness now codifying as Butler’s signatures.
(Credit goes to producer AygsB as well, who co-produced much of Rolling Ridge with Butler and returns here on production and co-production duties).
Fidel Sun – Valley Sun
Philadelphia rapper Fidel Sun draws from a wide range of sounds, with new project Valley Sun sounding like the spawn of a post 808s and Heartbreak world in which pain is best served in auto-tune, rap songs don’t need drums, grunge is fair game as inspiration, Wu Tang might still exist as an echo in the ether, and emotion transmitted through texture takes precedence over pure technical rapping and even, on occasion, intelligibility. Valley Sun serves up a current vision of hip-hop, at times not even resembling hip-hop at all (“Mage” is basically echoey, incoherent singing over ambient noise), seemingly more concerned with the creation of complete mood than anything else. It’s an intriguing project in its collision of influences, feeling entirely of the moment (particularly and coincidentally in the wake of The Life of Pablo careening, fractious vision of hip-hop) and yet as if it might have been sitting around on a secret Tumblr somewhere since 2011, waiting for an intrepid internet traveler.
Basically, wait until 4AM, smoke some weed, turn out the lights, turn on Valley Sun, and stare at the static of your television screen.
The Samo D – “Creepin”
I heard Massachusetts rapper The Samo D’s aptly titled “Creepin” at an appropriate time: 2:07AM, alone in my apartment. Trawling Twitter for information—new music, new humor, new videos, new anything to satiate the modern hunger that demands more for the sake of more—I came across a link to “Creepin.” Finding precious little evidence in the YouTube description, a bit of quick googling brought me to a defunct Twitter page, a Soundcloud with two year old songs on it, and ultimately an active Twitter account proving I hadn’t jumped into a deep, dark internet dead end (like I did with one of my favorite 5 On It entrants ever, Hot Boy Major—who, as it turns out, appears to be a part of Kevin Gates’ Bread Winners Association).
That search wouldn’t have happened had “Creepin” not been the excellent, unsettling slice of drug-fueled aquatic rap. Though brief and largely unstructured, it succeeds on Samo D’s limber raps and an eerie, plinking beat.
Denham ft. Marty Khan and Home Movies – “S.P.L.U.R.G.E.”
San Clemente, California singer Denham’s “S.P.L.U.R.G.E.” incorporates rap like pieces of a hallucinogenic collage, building an atmospheric dirge for drinkers and smokers that sounds like celebration inside an abyss (its title is an acronym for “Spending Paper Like U Really Got Everything,” which is as grim as it is seemingly indulgent, since it implies that you do not, indeed, really got everything). Tone set by producer (and former Kendrick Lamar collaborator) Axlfolie and Denham’s pained vocals, “S.P.L.U.R.G.E.” feels like it earns its of-the-moment bleakness, rather than wearing dark sonics as grim fashion.
M Nat / Ricky Flamez – “15”
Hey Jon I actually have a confession to make
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a rapper named Ricky Flamez.
“I’m a new artist from Milwaukee getting ready to launch my career,” the email read. Inauspicious and par for the course.
Click play. Polished production. Solid rapping. Not the most original content or approach, but it felt clever enough to engender repeat listens.
I asked Ricky when he was planning to release “15” and told him I’d be down to feature it in an upcoming edition of 5 On It. My plans conjured an unexpected response:
“Hey Jon I actually have a confession to make. My name is M-Nat and I had to use this alias of Ricky Flamez in order to rid the stigma of some underwhelming records I’ve sent to you in the past. I was afraid that if I sent this record to you as M-Nat it may have gotten overlooked–which is totally understandable. I’m just an artist hungry to improve and eager to show you I’ve been listening to the advice you’ve been giving me. I apologize if I went about it the wrong way.”
I recognized the name M-Nat almost immediately from past submissions—submissions I admittedly didn’t love. I did, however, love being tricked like this—reminded almost immediately of a far more outrageous story that led to similar results on a much grander scale (involving Rihanna, a lie about a porn star, and a producer from Virginia). Taken for a ride, I liked the song even more—it felt now like a calculated broadcast from someone trying to pierce what must have seemed an impenetrable wall.
I gave M-Nat his kudos and here we are.