Welcome back to Southern Hospitality’s monthly column.
Based in London and Los Angeles, Rob Pursey and Davey Boy Smith are onto new hip-hop and R&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&B tracks that have got them in raptures. Between this column and Chris Kelly and John Twells’ bi-weekly rap round-up, we should have all bases covered.
Don’t forget to check the crew’s essential monthly radio show, which is fast becoming one of the world’s most essential rap radio shows.
In the least surprising news of 2016, Houston rapper, producer and pole-side chicken wing platter evangeliser Beat King Kong has our absolute favourite song of the month. ‘BussibaK’, produced by now-frequent collaborators Stunt-N-Dozier, finds the Club God refining and distilling his trademark sound and delivery, switching the pace up just enough for it to feel like the freshest thing ever, yet again. Hats off and panties down to the undisputed greatest rap club anthem creator of our time.
Chicago’s Adamn Killa has very quickly become one of our most treasured new artists. Last year’s understated but vibe-heavy Libra Season EP got rinsed for its infectious melodies and airy production. In 2016 we’re treated to a taste of his imminent debut mixtape proper Back 2 Ballin with ‘Y-3’, which is even more cosy, compelling and addictive as anything he’s put out. We suggest you get on this hype train early.
New Age Muzik
R&B and Afrobeats are perfect bedfellows and no one is blurring the lines better than North London collective New Age Musik with this gem of a record. It’s totally addictive from the opening moment, and producers Notch&Bones supply Kamo and Prince with the same depth of groove that made ‘In2’ so massive. The confidence to just let the instrumental take the strain of the chorus shows their artistry to the fullest. Once the familiar Dre synth line hits, it’s the final piece that makes this one of the most memorable records to come out of the UK in a minute. All parties involved are firmly on our radar.
Forget Flat Earth conspiracies and Planet X, what Neil deGrasse Tyson really needs to be spending his time unpacking is the scientific certainty with which ATL rap veterans Travis Porter will release an exceedingly good mixtape at least twice a calendar year. In all seriousness though, when Travis Porter rap over basslines this melodic and strip their sound back even further – as on 285 highlight ‘187’ – all feels right in the world, whatever shape it is.
Dreezy feat. Jeremih
You don’t have to think hard about this. Having been in rotation for a few weeks, it looks like it’s about to emerge as one of the big R&B tracks of early 2016 and, crucially, add more weight to the argument that a Jeremih guest appearance simply never fails. It’s refreshing to find a record with this much lightness and bounce in the groove, and to say it sounds like some mid-00s Cherish or something that would have made it to one of the Step Up soundtracks, is the biggest compliment we could give it. Dreezy, like Tink, switches so effortlessly between rap and R&B, and it’s getting harder and harder to quantify the insane amount of talent in Chicago right now.
Even without the Drake cosign there was already a strong sense that Kodak would very soon have the kind of street-level mythology and support that Boosie and Gates enjoy. His recent Institution mixtape is less polished and markedly more raw than previous full-lengths, which was a reassuring sign that he wasn’t about to dilute the magic that separated him from the pack. ‘Already’ is perhaps the most direct example of Kodak’s ability to connect with a rhythm and achieve 100% cohesiveness and mental-to-verbal clarity on a song. Just godly.
Nef The Pharaoh feat. Philthy Rich
With his stock about to rise massively, Nef The Pharaoh has started the year stronger than most with an instant Bay classic. Taken from his recently released Neffy Got Wings EP, a top-to-bottom collaboration with the perennially underrated Cardo, this has everything a rap record needs to ride out to.
Cardo just knows exactly what to do as he keeps the beat knocking, whilst the synths, keys and flutes dart in and around Nef’s modern day Mac Dre stylings. Throw in a Philthy Rich appearance and we have the new generation of Sick-Wid-It putting it down.
While not exactly new, we’d be remiss not to mention hyper-based Atlanta rap crooner Lil Yachty at the very moment he’s about to start his viral ascent ahead of a breakout SXSW. ‘1Night’ is as imperfectly perfect as vintage Makonnen, which is the only indicator you need to head to your MP3 ripper of choice and enjoy in all its 128kbps glory until it hits iTunes.
‘Story Of My Life’
Houston’s Jevon Doe first came to our attention featuring on one of Southern Hospitality fave PJ’s recent masterclasses in pure R&B. Thankfully we now have new music from the man himself with this B Ham produced tale of confession and ambition.
The track starts with Quincy Jones-style ambience, and the piano chords just build with the drums and the vocal chops as Doe pours his heart out, half-singing, half-rapping and producing one of the most compelling and natural flows we’ve heard in a minute. With the organ then bringing the church to the verses, this is one of the most understated yet triumphant rap songs in a while.
Rich The Kid feat. Kodak Black & Playboi Carti
Now that Future and all his immediate sons have graduated and found their respective positions in the hierarchy, the next generation can enjoy a clearer run to stake their claim. ‘Plug’ assembles three of those most likely to steal the spotlight, and whilst it’s Rich The Kid’s single, Kodak and Carti make sure they own this record like all guests should.
Kodak in particular is a master in making fewer words go further, and his synergy with the beat is pretty much unrivaled. With the production moving much like OT Genasis’s ‘Cut It’, which is also bubbling hard at the moment, this is looking like the wave for early 2016.