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.
Kodak Black feat. PnB Rock
‘Too Many Years’
Sometimes a hook is so strong it barely needs a song behind it and on ‘Too Many Years, breaking rapper PnB Rock has offered up perhaps his most defining performance yet. It starts almost a capella alongside eerie, foreboding keys, but the moment the beat drops and the airhorn blasts, your mind has already been telling you to pull up – you hardly need the encouragement.
Sounding like the kind of album track that T.I. might have had in the Paper Trail era, ‘Too Many Years’ is yet more evidence that Kodak is radio ready, and it’s a highlight of one of the year’s best mixtapes so far.
Jackson, Mississippi’s Lil Lonnie has been hitting all the right notes at a promisingly consistent rate recently. And while ‘Special’ and its remix featuring K-Camp are more likely to make the radio rounds, the Will A Fool-helmed ‘All Day’ is our feel-good anthem of the month.
Having put out at least half a dozen generation-defining smash singles back to back, it’s almost cliché to talk about the brothers Rae not being the one-hit wonders many assumed they’d be. But with this level of constant innovation, refinement and growth, we can’t pretend not to be in awe of the crown jewels in Mike Will’s discography. Insane.
‘Already Knew That’
Ro James has been the connoisseur’s choice for a minute after the success of headboard banger for the ages ‘Permission’. Now we’ve heard James’ debut full-length El Dorado, we can safely say that the promise has been fulfilled. Wisely, stand-out track ‘Already Knew That’ has been chosen for the single, complete with a natural-looking video that positions James somewhere between the new wave and early 2000s artists like Lyfe Jennings.
This comparison also works vocally, and he lets his voice explode from time to time to let you know he’s not here to simply ride a style. The track’s main strength, however, is the way the groove has been constructed – a mixture of lowkey stabs, counter melodies and the kind of beat that’s intricate enough to have you hammering the repeat button.
Conventional wisdom in pseudo rap-influencer internet circles would have you not checking for new Riff Raff music now that he so decidedly transcended the viral underground. We’re here for pure enjoyment though, and new album Peach Panther is a near-perfect representation of Riff’s distilled and magnified take on H-Town freestyle rap. It’s OK to have fun.
It’s definitely PnB Rock month, and this summer will be remembered as the time those that know were bumping little else. RnB 3 may have been last year but it still feels current, and his latest run of releases simply refines the formula. ‘Selfish’ looks like it’s set to solidify all this groundwork, and if Bryson Tiller showed everyone that it was all about having the people’s touch, then PnB Rock has no problem whatsoever. Lyrically it’s about as current as it could be, so expect to see this on a Snap near you very soon. Philly is fully in the building in 2016.
‘Dick Down Ya Mom’
Derrick Milano may well have hit on 2016’s dopest antisocial rap record. Riding one of the most basic and effective piano loops in a minute, the opening line, “I’m a pull up and dick down ya mom”, is clearly enough on its own, but Derrick then goes on to detail his non-PC intentions in a way that can only be described as casual. It’s all about the timing here, and the drum drops and double-time switch-ups all work perfectly. The only thing missing is a Project Pat remix.
The Outfit, TX
Dallas rap trio The Outfit, TX have been putting in work for years, leaning more towards the low sub-forward grooves of 2000s H-Town champions the Grit Boys than the kind of uptempo club rap we’ve come to love from the Triple D. ‘Type Shit’, from forthcoming mixtape Green Lights: Everythang Goin is some of their hardest music to date and a more than sufficient primer to get you into their extensive back catalogue.
Snoop Dogg feat. Wiz Khalifa
At this point your parents are more likely to check for a Snoop and Wiz single than anyone from the Uzi Vert generation, but this, like much of Snoop’s new Coolaid album, is the sound of rap heavyweights in the zone, making premium cinematic weed rap. Love.
Dreezy feat. T-Pain
‘Close To You’
Dreezy is creepin on a not so subtle come-up right now, and low-key might be about to release one of the most necessary rap/R&B albums of the year. While she spends a large part of her records rapping, Dreezy lets her voice go on this one and the authenticity shines. If you weren’t already feeling the luxury of the track from the first few bars, Terrace Martin’s sax adds so much depth, and the moment Teddy Pain joins in it’s like he’s going back to the Epiphany days.
Getting the balance right between modern R&B thuggery and romance is the key to this record and should lock in a couple of generations with the right push.