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 round 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.
‘Wat U Mean’
It’s been kicking around for about six months now, but like all the best slow-and-steady ATL club smash success stories, ‘Wat U Mean’ from 300 Ent signee Dae Dae has finally taken hold, culminating this week in the release of his breakout 4 Reasons mixtape.
The single’s painfully under-appreciated producer, Nitti Beatz, can consider this yet another one for the mantle. And with a Young Dro remix finally circulating (and many more remixes to come), you’d better embrace those Snootie-sounding “ehs” before they catch you off guard all summer.
The best compliment we could pay to Dallas rapper Fat Pimp’s deliciously offensive new club killer is that it sounds like a slowed-n-throwed version of Ghetto Fabulous-era Mystikal, and that might not even do the song justice. Presumably at some point Lena Dunham will turn in her grave to this.
Mila J refuses to be sidelined by her sister, and after being part of the true highlight on Timbaland’s recent mixtape, she’s back with another uptempo gem. Opening with the kind of sample Timbo himself would have freaked in the late ‘90s, this record glides in a way few do anymore, allowing the congas and samples that weave in and out to do the work.
The high-pitched key runs just add to the urgency and Mila has rarely sounded so natural and energetic, switching between flows like it’s nothing. It’s dancefloor ready from the jump, so all those who miss those early Cassie and Ciara records – this is your window back into that world.
‘Low It Down’
There seems to be a new wave out of New York every week right now, but Brooklyn’s Lil Haiti is definitely standing out with this one. Thematically it does exactly what the title suggests, but it’s the intentional awkwardness of the rhythm that elevates it, and it’s one of the most infectious hooks in a minute. The best thing about Haiti is that, like Fetty Wap, he is totally at one with the music, sitting above the super-bright riff with the ad libs on the right side of hype. If you’re looking for a rephrased counterpart to ‘Cut It’ then Lil Haiti has everything you need.
June James feat. DJ XO & MC Beezy
‘Hang Of It’
Anyone with the foresight to have worked with Houston neck-snapper June ‘The Jenius’ James won’t be surprised that the city’s best kept secret weapon has unleashed another addictive melodic club rap slapper. They might, however, bust out a Flat Earther B.o.B-popularised chin-scratch emoji at how he isn’t already producing at least one in three Quality Control or Street Execs singles. There is most definitely hope though. All praise.
‘Used To Be’
There haven’t been many more epic breakout singles than Solo Lucci’s ‘Whip It’ in the past few years, but to hit Snootie or K Camp status you need the momentum of a good three or four in a row. ‘Used To Be’ is absolutely Solo’s second heavy hitter, recalling the weight and grit of a hungry Jeezy and building nicely off his career-high Chris Breezy feature.
After the rise and rise and then slight plateau of Migos fanaticism (never helped by rarely having three free members), it feels like they’re now taking a small side-step to crucially remind people that they’re from Atlanta. By that we mean this new record is in a direct lineage from So So Def Bass All Stars, Kilo Ali and all the amazing music that made ATL the driving force since the mid-90s. Having Offset back in the fold is clearly the motivation needed, and this just works on every level, as they once again crush the flows. The final verse’s killer throwaway, “tuxedo on feng shui”, reminds us why Migos hold a special place in our heart.
Philthy Rich feat. Mozzy & Sauce Twinz
‘Feeling Rich Today’
Philthy Rich’s latest WSHH-propelled run, built around the release of 12th studio album Real Niggas Back In Style, has been impeccable. Unquestionably the most traction he’s had since the heady days of debut LP Funk Or Die on legendary Bay Area label SMC Recordings, Philthy’s taken an almost JT The Bigga Figga-inspired approach to his most feature-heavy release to date. Album highlight ‘Feeling Rich Today’, which is overwhelmed in the best way possible by an astounding hook and first verse from rockstar Sauce twin Sauce Walka, shows just how in tune Philthy is with what’s populating on the streets outside the Bay.
‘If UR Down’
There’s just always been something about the synergy of sisters that works so well in R&B, and the Riley sisters are all about restoring that feeling. After releasing the heavily slept-on ‘Poundfrank’ at the end of last year, their producers Stereotypes have blessed them with one of the most languid basslines in a minute, and the moment it drops about half a minute in, you’re hooked. Riding off a sample (and rework) of Blackstreet’s ‘Before I Let Go’, the girls share the vocal elements, and even though you know the rap breakdown is heading your way, you’re more than ready for #lituationship talk. As pure as it gets.
Mike Will appeared to fall back a touch last year and, truth be told, away from all the Future hype, the architect of so much of his and today’s sound was sorely missed. In reality the Ear Drummers camp were clearly just working on magic like this ready for Sremmlife 2. They were also perhaps listening to loads of ‘80s UK music as they channel the spirit and intonation of Soft Cell and The Human League on the hook, instantly sounding fresher than anything else out there. Slim Jimmi has also cemented his presence in the group as it looked liked Swae Lee might be ripe to break out, and they’re now the truest tag team in the game.