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 FACT’s 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.
Click the title to hear each song, or check out our YouTube playlist.
‘Rag & Bone’
Southern Hospitality’s favourite pink-dreaded Chicago melodist released his debut mixtape proper Back 2 Ballin this week, and its Dolan Beats-produced crown jewel might be the most addictive song we’ve heard all year.
Following the course set by previous singles ‘Mavericks’ and ‘Y-3’, the Barneys-obsessed rapper’s latest fashion dedication hits all the right emotional spots, making cosy rap king Curren$y feel decidedly un-chill in comparison.
‘For My Dawg’
The buzz on Kamaiyah has been crazy these last few months and has only increased since her scene-stealing appearances at SXSW. Thankfully her A Good Night In The Ghetto mixtape has delivered one of the most perfect slices of Oakland rap since the peak days of Livewire and confirms the star born on last year’s ‘How Does It Feel’. Not least because of the versatility that Kamaiyah shows over some of the year’s best production – her flow is as sensitive as it is dynamic.
However, whilst it’s the Bay Area slaps that power the release, it’s ‘For My Dawg’ that finds Kamaiyah at her emotive. CT Beats has given her the best Trill Ent. record never made, and Kamaiyah keeps it honest throughout, the keys accompanying her perfectly. When she repeats “this is just a record for my dawg” in the hook, we feel it to the fullest and wish all music could be this pure.
IAMSU! feat. aka Frank
‘Dum Dum Dum’
Iamsu! has been a mainstay on our mixtapes and in our club sets for longer than we probably even realise. From his semi-breakout Miseducation to the Nor-to-Socal movement-inspiring ‘Young California’ and countless HBK Gang and solo projects, Suzy doesn’t get nearly enough credit for crafting and informing the new sound of the West Coast.
New project ‘Kilt 3’ might just be his best work to date, however, leaning heavily towards the kind of Phil Collins-tapping melodies that have characterised the latter part of his career and made him one of the most underrated but consistently impressive hook writers in rap. ‘Dum Dum Dum’ is just incredible, and yet merely a highlight among many.
Spenzo feat. Tory Lanez
‘I Want You’
Spenzo is a fixture in Chicago rap, but is still a hit or two away from widespread recognition. Teaming with C-Sick and Tory Lanez is the best way to start changing that, and C-Sick gives him a light, rolling beat while the airy vocal samples that drift in and out of the mix are perfect for Lanez to set things off.
The melody isn’t a mile away from Lanez’s own ‘Diego’ at times and retains that song’s edge as a result, leaving Spenzo space to drop in and add that extra bite. These kind of collaborations look like they’re about to define the new wave and if C-Sick remains at the heart of it all then we’re in safe hands.
It would be easy to try and resist the OVO-generated hype around dvsn, and whilst the duo’s early leaks may have put them firmly in the lane of their labelmates, the album has proved to be so much more. In particular there’s ‘Angela’, a kind of lost ballad from peak-era Robin Thicke, which is one of the highest compliments we could give.
The strings, keys and horn stabs place it in a classic tradition, but the moment the voice toughens in that second verse, the goosebumps are real. There’s definitely a move back towards soulful music in 2016 and this and the most recent Partynextdoor are some of the least self-conscious records OVO have given us. Anyone praying for the label’s reign to end may have to just grab that Bible a touch tighter.
‘It Doesn’t Matter’
While you could be forgiven for pigeonholing the self-proclaimed but wholly evidence-based Club God in the gangsta stripper music category that he also coined, Beat King is a diverse and multi-faceted songwriter. His expertise in saying the exact right words at the exact right tempo and time isn’t limited to the kind of club-crushing singles that made him a Houston legend.
Slower, lower but no less slapping singles ‘Smile’, ‘Keisha’ and even ‘Stopped’ showed another side to the man, and ‘It Doesn’t Matter’, a poignant deep cut from his freshly dropped Club God 5 mixtape, is an important example of how sticky his remarkably honest and self-deprecating lyrics can be. #TYCG
Yo Gotti’s Collective Music Group (CMG) has a pretty solid track record for developing young Memphis talent, Snootie Wild being his most resounding success thus far. New priority Blac Youngsta, however, is a distinctly more hardcore proposition. Rolling no less than 50 deep to his performance at the Southern Hospitality SXSW showcase, with his crew echoing his words a capella between sets to let the crowd know the streets hang on his every line, Youngsta has a serious aura about him.
‘Lil Nigga’, from his new Young & Reckless tape, is a powerful example of Blac’s combination of impassioned Rich Homie-type melody and bone-chilling, unmistakably M-Town grit.
Of all the Florida rappers not named Kodak Black or Yung Gordon, 1wayfrank is our absolute favourite. Constantly in the pocket and with his AutoTune set to chilling levels of sonic perfection, the DJ Swift-produced ‘No Warrants’ is a perfect example of Frank’s unique ability to leave it all on the track.
Nef The Pharaoh, Willie Joe & Cousin Fik
‘Throw It On Me’
There’s little question now that the true Bay sound is back, and with every Nef The Pharaoh release we feel it even more. From the moment we hear that “June on a beat” production tag we know that this record is about to slap in all the necessary ways, and from Willie Joe’s opening bars it does exactly that.
West Coast rappers are still unafraid to have different flows and they all complement each other perfectly on this, with Nef rap-singing as well as anyone right now, unleashing yet another effortlessly memorable verse. Cousin Fik, for his own part, also reminds everyone that you don’t get on Sick-Wid-It Records by being anything less than dope. All we need now is an E-40 remix.
Paul Wall feat. Slim Thug, J-Dawg, Lil Keke, Z-Ro & Chamillionaire
‘Swangin In The Rain Remix’
Some things in life just work. Like when Scoop Deville decided to use a sample of The Dramatics’ ‘In The Rain’ and Paul Wall decided to reunite H-Town’s finest for the most no-brainer record of the year. Over 10 years on from when Paul was at the forefront of Houston’s long overdue international success, there’s still nothing, and we repeat nothing better than hearing him tag-team with Slim Thug over a trunk-knocking, snail’s-pace beat.
To then have J-Dawg bring his unique passion to the second verse before handing the baton to the defining voice of Lil Keke, it should really be a wrap. However, to truly certify this perfect four-and-a-half minutes of music, Z-Ro and Chamillionaire then bring in the melody and elevate things to truly misty-eyed levels. This one is emotional.