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.
PJ feat. Hit Boy
‘I Mean It’
Let’s get this clear from the start, PJ is one of the most authentic voices to emerge in R&B for a long time. Only a couple of solo records in, her personality is shining through so bright that she can comfortably let Hit-Boy take the opening few bars, knowing that no-one is about to question who the star of this show is. Stating her manifesto over a simple, low bassline, the strings and keys build until the drums drop in, and by the time the second hook hits you’re running behind her up the steps chanting “PJ! PJ!” like it’s Rocky II. Trust us, she means it.
They don’t need the shine, but it’d be historically inaccurate not to mark yet another highpoint from Mike Will-Made duo Rae Sremmurd’s mercifully concise SremmLife album. ‘My X’, produced by forward-motion maestro Young Chop, is every DJ’s dream, pairing Chop’s triumphant cacophony with addicting wordplay and the refreshingly joyful delivery that makes the brothers Rae so much more than three-hit wonders.
Brodinski feat. Bloody Jay
At their worst, rap-slash-electronic collabs are cynical attempts to give DJs-slash-producers hood cred in exchange for EDM-sized metrics and impressions. Mostly, they’re well-meaning and soulless – and not good. In the rarest of cases – as on Brodinski’s upcoming album – they fulfill the potential of outsider-producer reinterpretation. On ‘Us’ the Parisian amplifies ATL rapper Bloody Jay’s raw vocal into something truly cinematic, combining the kind of subtly brimming sample that underlaid the original, uncleared version of Ty Dolla $ign’s ‘My Cabana’ with some Folies Pigalle bombast. Plus, if you haven’t seen the official video for this yet, you’re in for a real treat.
Rich Homie Quan
‘Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)’
If there’s one thing that’s been missing from the last few years of rap music it’s the bounce element. Perhaps this is why Nitti is creeping back into focus as a producer to watch, here giving the still-underrated Rich Homie Quan the kind of track that will have you walkin’ it out and snappin’ your fingers like it’s 2006. There’s so much space in the track, and with Quan’s naturally fluid delivery punctuating the elastic bass, it’s the kind of combination that screams full-length collaboration – something we pray happens.
Floating in on a classic Drake sample before bursting into three-and-a-half minutes of pure, urgent joy, the currently unsigned three sister group of Ceraadi may have made one of the most dynamic R&B songs of the year. Never dipping once from the groove, the vocals just sit above the driving bassline, swirling keys and synths, and once you’re in you’re in. The song title is apt – just try getting this one out of your head.
Quality Control’s most abstract signing’s unique brand of comatose internal monologue rap has always floated our boat, but in 2015 it feels like Johnny Cinco is committing even more resolutely to the technique, and not letting traditional expectations of articulation take away from what is a thoroughly engrossing style of almost wordless melody. ‘Oh Yeah’ is great, and indicative of the quality throughout his brand new I Swear mixtape.
‘You Should Be Ready’
We’ve noted Ca$h Out’s recent Inomek In Da Kitchen-helmed reinvention as a proponent of eerily minimal stealth club rap on these pages before, but new cut ‘You Should Be Ready’ doubles down on the aesthetic and heads into Weeknd territory in the absolute best way possible. God damn.
Bandit Gang Marco feat. Bandit Gang
Just when we thought we’d had our fill of distorted-808 shout rap, Bandit Gang Marco – who you might recognise as the savage lead vocalist on 2014 strip club staple ‘Nasty’ – comes through with this eye-watering highlight from his recent You Don’t Know Me mixtape. Definitely one to watch in 2015.
Bobby Brackins feat. Zendaya and Jeremih
Bobby Brackins’ talent has been the worst-kept secret for years, and now that the industry has caught up to what he was doing in 2010 as Young Bob, he’s thankfully achieved some time in the spotlight. After the run of ‘2 On’, ‘Loyal’, ‘Came To Do’ and the rest as a writer, Brackins is now delivering a series of records that sit perfectly in the current climate, but with the lightness of touch that make his music just that bit more fun than the rest. There’s so much natural groove in the record that it’s easy for Zendaya and Jeremih to add flourishes, and wherever you are in the world, you’re instantly transported into that West Coast weather state of mind.
Aubreyus feat. Dej Loaf
‘Money On The Flo’
We ran this record on the last Southern Hospitality radio show and to say the packed studio certified it within seconds is an understatement. The Dej Loaf hook is going to take some beating this year and delivers the type of emotion that has you popping your shoulders back and just looking for someone to test you. Anyone who thought ‘Try Me’ was a fluke, this should smarten them up quickly. Aubreyus is the perfect complement to Dej (whose vocals stay in the mix throughout) with his commanding flow, he’s exactly what’s required for the kind of beat that Ludacris made his name spitting over in the early 2000s. This needs to be an anthem.