Welcome back to Southern Hospitality‘s monthly column.
Based in London and Los Angeles, Rob Pursey and Davey Boy Smith are on new hip-hop and r’n’b faster than pretty much anyone else around: showcasing it through their club nights Players Ball, Rated R and Hip Hop Karaoke, their regular mixes and radio show, and their record label, which has released music by Danny Brown & Darq E Freaker, Lunice & Young L and more.
Unlike a lot of rap critics (and of course, SH would never refer to themselves as critics), they’re also about as unsnobbish as it’s possible to get, and are always trying to make things happen – they’ve been behind some of the most interesting rapper-producer hook-ups of recent years. Every month, they’ll be rounding up 10 hip-hop and r’n’b tracks that have got them in raptures – between this column and Chris Kelly and John Twells’ weekly rap round-up, we should have all bases covered.
Boogie’s breakout Thirst 48 project carved out a nice lane for the Long Beach rapper’s brand of thoughtful, breezy LA hip-hop. His ear for beats, choice of words and general aesthetic were just on the money, which brought in low-key critical acclaim earlier than he probably expected.
New single ‘Oh My’, produced by Jahlil Beats and taken from his forthcoming summer mixtape The Reach, is a fierce, confident and totally natural next step – a speedy evolution that didn’t come a moment too soon. This will get major play at Southern Hospitality club nights and on the radio show.
‘Yoga’ feat. Jidenna
It seems churlish to ask people to champion Janelle Monae’s new record when she’s long been the darling of those ready to push her out front in discussions of ‘real’ artistry. However, with this slightly unexpected musical shift alongside new artist Jidenna (and the new-look Wondaland Records), she’s already fallen a touch foul of former advocates.
On the flip-side however, she’s about to win over all those who realise this is one of the most sonically perfect and defiantly catchy releases of the year. Pitched between her previous aesthetic and the lane that Beyoncé has owned for the last 18 months, every line is a hook and the bass and space within will make everything else in your Serato seem like a cluttered mess.
Haitian-born, Flatbush-based rapper Jeff Chery delivers a distinctly ATL-flavoured single with ‘Sorry’, which boasts a very current-sounding idiosyncratic hook and enough warmth and flavour to warrant mentioning him in the same breath as fellow soulful rap balladeers K Camp and Snootie Wild.
Chicago bop kings Sicko Mobb have rightly been getting a lot of love for the sequel to their breakout Super Saiyan mixtape. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel they just do them, and bless us with track after track of autotune-saturated bliss. ‘Rolling Stone’ is an early highlight, hinting at trance rap before pivoting into an exponentially more distilled version of everything they’ve done thus far. Just wow.
You can imagine how our eyes widened when we first heard Tampa, Florida’s Thast on League of Starz member Jay Nari’s modern LA slap. Picture all four members of Pink Dollaz combined and exported at 96kbps and you’re somewhere in the area. Or just press play and get hyphy.
K-Major feat. August Alsina
‘Shut It Down’
We could have chosen any track whatsoever from Category V to demonstrate why K-Major’s album is perhaps the sleeper of the year – a release that simply appeared on DJ Spinz’ Soundcloud a month or so ago to barely no fanfare.
Embodying all the great qualities of peak Jeremih or Lloyd, it’s authentic R&B in every sense of the word, the light, romantic tones making K-Major the most welcome voice we’ve heard in the genre for a while. This collaboration with the people’s champ August Alsina is being pushed as something close to a single, and hopefully will serve as the necessary gateway to the majesty of the full project.
We still feel gutted every time we think about where Alabama’s Doe B would be now if he were still alive. The man just consistently nailed a rhythm that hit us deep and stuck with us, not least on the hugely underrated ‘Kemosabe’, which we had an out-of-body experience to at an ATL strip club just last year. Doe’s close friend and affiliate Jr. Boss embodies that ‘Kemosabe’ flow here on ‘Pigeons’, the kind of gritty, monotonous corner-hugging anthem that just does its thing, sticks to it and stays firmly in the pocket. Immense.
There’s already enough talk about the intention, artwork and now sales of Barter 6, but when we’re left with the music it will hopefully be remembered as simply a pure Young Thug project that sounds like a classic to these ears. If ever a song was an ode to in-his-prime Wayne it’s this, and Thug lets his soul out like never before. The subtlety of the harmonies over the knocking production is rare in rap, and when he lets loose that defiant wail in the bridge it’s like a new day has dawned.
Towkio feat. Chance The Rapper, Lido & Eryn Allen Kane
‘Heaven Only Knows’
We all know Chicago is just generally a hotbed of talent in 2015, and the euphoric surge of Chance The Rapper and his many affiliates looks like it’s about to tip fully into the mainstream. This record from Towkio builds to an initial crescendo before moving at juke-speed ready for Chance to once again show why he has the potential to go all the way. The production from Lido maintains the right nostalgic elements and is just so damn joyful it’s really hard to be a hater whilst listening.
Nef The Pharaoh
Whenever someone references the legends Mannie Fresh and Baby, they better come correct; Nef The Pharaoh does exactly that, and does it directly from the Bay Area. ‘Big Tymin’ has the same bounce and feel of a Big Tymers record, but being from Vallejo, the Mac Dre influence is also hella strong, and the record remains playful whilst the production from YunGas slaps hard as all Bay records should. Nef has been on a lot of “rappers to watch” lists, but this might be the statement he needs to cement that promise, and like so much new rap right now lines between coasts are remaining blurred.