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’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.
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.
‘Hit The Quan’
‘Hit The Quan’ is the first song from iHeart Memphis that’s hit our radar, but right out the gate you know it’s undeniable. The spacious, neck-snapping Buck Nasty production immediately draws you in, and then the Memphis rapper annihilates anything in sight with a vocal that’s both resolutely 2015 but with a late 80s/early 90s snap that sets it apart from even some of our favourite dance-based rap anthems.
Kevin Abstract & Allan Kingdom
Conventional rap wisdom would have you think of a song in terms of a rapper rapping on top of a beat: the better the rapper and beat, the better the song. In all-too-rare instances though, music can achieve a level of indiscernible magic that renders the pairing of vocal and production completely seamless. Such is the case with Brockhampton member Kevin Abstract and Kanye collaborator Allan Kingdom’s ‘Refresh’, which melds the vibe of Three 6 Mafia’s immaculate classic ‘Da Summer’ with some blissful harmonising. Just perfection.
‘Blow A Bag’
Whether you think Future’s much-hyped Dirty Sprite 2 album is truly the second coming or just a perfectly timed, one-note rebuttal of his perceived career missteps, we’d be remiss not to pick something from what is undeniably the most important release of the month by one of the game’s true innovators. As Three 6’s entire discography can attest, rap is best served simultaneously hard and soft – and ‘Blow A Bag’ is the perfect example of an unhinged street anthem that makes you well up like the most tender soul selection. And while we’re fully bracing ourselves for hate mail over not picking ‘The Percocet & Stripper Joint’, this is the one that really hits us in the mid-section.
J Hus feat. Locz
New J Hus tape The 15th Day has felt like a long time coming since ‘Dem Boy Paigon’ took over at the top of the year and sent every rave into a madness. Now it’s here, the new people’s hero can officially be crowned, and we could have picked any track to demonstrate why this is the new movement. ‘Dubai’, however, is just a perfect synergy of all the elements that make J Hus and his producers so dope. With ridiculous amounts of movement at the bottom end and those effortless quotables sprinkled all over, there’s no music that represents London in 2015 better than this.
Southern Hospitality favourite and stripper career-sustainer Beat King has so many overlapping would-be hits, that he’s admittedly resigned to just let the universe decide which ones go the distance. While they’ve been in rotation for many months now, there’s still potential for club killers like ‘Stand Behind Her’ and ‘Stopped’ to blow beyond belief at least in the Southern states orbiting his Texas holding ground. The Stunt N Dozier-produced ‘Going Down’ is the latest release in this lane, and is yet another solid piece of evidence proving that if visceral impact and effect were valued more than faux cerebral content by socially anxious music critics, the man known to many as Club God would be considered the greatest rap lyricist of all time.
The Oshea SoundCloud stream has been on the watch list for the whole year, and with ‘Undeniable’ he’s stepped out of the PartyNextDoor sound of his previous releases and brought a more fluid R&B vibe to his music. The space that Andre Palace has given to the piano-driven production is the perfect backdrop to his half-rapped, half-sung style, and the way it moves out of the hook is unapologetic in its luxury. This is almost the kind of record that could have been on Justin Bieber’s Journals and we mean that as the sincerest compliment.
The slow, slow blow-up of ‘Sweeterman’ was finally certified when Drake premiered his remix on the new OVOSound radio show. However, with the EP dropping almost simultaneously it’s been marginally overlooked, despite being proof that Ramriddlz has way more than banana talk. In fact he has ‘monkey’, ‘donkey’ and ‘pumpkin’ talk on ‘She Say’ over some of the freshest production of the year from Chillaa and Binnz, and once you get past the flippancy of the content, you realise that Ramriddlz has melodies for days. With his music sitting right between dancehall and R&B for the most part, he may just be on to something. It looks like Toronto have another one.
DJ Mustard feat. TeeFLii
Tucked away at the end of the new DJ Mustard mixtape is a reunion with TeeFLii, reminding us exactly what made 2013’s collaborative project Fireworks so special. When Mustard takes things downtempo it always works, and from the opening bars and its self-referential YG sample, it is almost like a bedroom companion to ‘My Main’ and one of his most musical records in a minute. TeeFLii never lets the intensity of the groove escape and the string flourishes at the end of the record just completes one of the most refreshingly pure R&B records out there.
Young Dolph feat. Slim Thug & Paul Wall
‘Down South Hustlers’
We’ve been Dolph fans for years, but last summer the South Memphis rapper hit a well-earned stride with the Zaytoven-composed street anthem ‘Preach’, which stayed in heavy rotation while he dropped tape after tape to establish himself as a true factor. Aside from a steady grind though, Dolph’s genius is in his tendency to emphasize what would conventionally be considered the wrong word in a verse – an idiosyncracy that helped cement his vocal brand by implying a looseness and lack of inhibition not afforded by your average rapper. New tape 16 Zips is yet another career highpoint and the Houston OG-collaborating ‘Down South Hustlers’, which boasts a typically genius June James production, is a perfectly weird early-doors party starter.
Long may the partnership of Dej Loaf and DDS continue, as once again he’s provided the perfect compliment for her truly individual expression, the record just ticking along beautifully in the background as she details her tale of yearning. Dej Loaf seems to be on a mission not to be pigeonholed, changing up her flow (and her image) at every given opportunity, but the thing that remains is her authenticity and every word is felt, whether spoken or sung; not to mention the fact that she has the sort of timing that just can’t be taught. The spotlight thankfully has edged away from her for a minute, and this is only a good thing as she hopefully continues to develop her craft with those who bring the best out in her.