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’ 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.
Despite being responsible for some of the hugest rap and R&B singles of the past few years, LA production team League of Starz are still somehow under-appreciated, despite their pristinely polished signature sound. But the hits just keep coming: this time with Compton rapper AD’s monstrous breakout anthem ‘Juice’, which appeared on both his recent Blue:89 mixtape and the Starz’ new #LOS.FM 2 compilation.
PJ feat. Lupe Fiasco
One of the quietest come-ups of 2015 has been the steady ascendence of PJ. Releasing just one track (the absolutely spellbinding ‘Make Believe’) on her SoundCloud last year, she then followed with the super slept-on Walking Around Pools EP and a feature on Boosie’s latest single, both of which were so effortless it made you think she’d been in this for years. On ‘Say’, Key Wane has blessed her with a track tailor-made for her around-the-way girl sensibilities as she just floats over the drums and chopped vocal sample with the same kind of relatable lyrics Kehlani has recently won hearts with. Lupe joins the party with a refreshingly understated verse, but crucially the whole thing just serves, thankfully, to let PJ shine.
Travis Porter feat. JuJu, Boochie & AstonMar Phi
If we had resisted mentioning Atlanta dancer, rapper and producer Mr. 2-17 non-stop for the past few months we just wouldn’t be representing him, ourselves or the present reality of the ATL rap landscape accurately. So here we are again, without an ounce of shame, giving credit to a man who has helped to revitalise a scene that had been leaning towards a murkier, more distorted and inward-looking aesthetic. No prizes then for guessing who triumphant rap trio Travis Porter chose to handle production for every track on their new S.A.Q. tape, which in the least surprising news of the week is their best work in years.
‘Pipe It Up’
The world’s greatest rap group dropped their debut album Yung Rich Nation to weirdly muted fanfare at the end of last month despite delivering something that was musically perfect if weighted towards actual album-style narrative songs rather than the strip club anthems fans might have expected. ‘Pipe It Up’ is an indisputable banger though and is guaranteed to go off in any setting.
Teyana Taylor feat. Iman Shumpert
‘Who’s Gonna Make It Home’
When Teyana Taylor released her album last year it felt like a lot of people were desperately trying to make it the second coming; in reality however, it was just a pretty enjoyable, intimate R&B record. Saying that, the conscious 80s and 90s throwback feel of her new EP appears to have freed her voice again and the melodies are so loose and joyful it’s a reminder of what we missed most from Ciara’s last release. Moving like an ATL bass record, the breakdowns build so perfectly that the moment the record interpolates K.P. and Envyi you realise she’s been riding those chords for the whole record, but all with her own personal touch. Now we all just need to pray for a full-on return to roller-disco R&B.
TK N Cash
‘3X In A Row’
There’s been a lot of talk recently about something close to a “snap music” revival, largely due to ‘The Whip’ being a hair’s breadth from a Presidential performance. At the very least this is a resurgence of the Atlanta sound from 10 years ago that invigorated rap clubs around the world where dense, moody backdrops have no home and bounce is king.
TK N Cash might be the best slightly under-the-radar artists making this sound right now and ‘3 X In A Row’ displays their lightness of touch that is so essential in letting the groove do its work. Throw this in the crate next to Rich Homie Quan’s ‘Flex’ and any Nitti beat from the last decade and you have the genuinely fun section of any rap party sorted.
DJ Carisma feat. Iamsu!, K Camp & RJ
‘Do What I Want’
When the history is written, we just hope DJ Carisma gets the credit she deserves for the platform, as part of the whole Young California movement, she’s constantly given new rap and R&B out of LA and The Bay. Short term, however, she’ll hopefully get the necessary love for this record, which has all the makings of a West Coast anthem.
Every time Iamsu! sings we’re celebrating, as he knows just how much space to leave and this record just goes from the jump. RJ meanwhile continues to be one of the hardest hitting on the low, and if you’re going to rope in someone from outside the region, K Camp is that man right now as everything he’s touched this year has been certified.
There’s been no shortage of critical praise for Colombia-born, California-based retro soul singer Kali Uchis, and rightly so. Taken from her Por Vida project and composed by LA rap producer and Dream Panther member Caleb Stone, luxuriant new single ‘Loner’ is the kind of perfectly executed ballad that draws Winehouse comparisons and forms the backbone of a career that’s on the verge of that big moment.
Lil Uzi Vert feat. Lil Herb
‘On My Line’
Philly’s Lil Uzi Vert had seasoned rap fans questioning their very existence at the top of the year when he delivered a performance so infectious on Carnage’s Ferg-featuring ‘WDYW’ that for a moment, EDM rap collabs weren’t the worst thing ever.
We’d been fans since ‘Motorola’, but when Southern Hospitality extended family member Speakerfoxxx dropped ‘On My Line’ during our Just Jam special last month we were well and truly won over. He is definitely one of the most exciting rappers out there right now.
Oh Boy Prince feat. J Spec
‘Watch Me Rock Out’
YouTube is already rich with people doing the ‘Hit Them Folks’ dance to his local anthem ‘Mane’, but now Oh Boy Prince is taking it all the way there with his latest ‘Watch Me Rock Out’. Breaking down the dance along with guest J Spec, this record is stuffed with exuberance and both rappers come equipped with ridiculous flows and instant quotables.
Dallas (and the whole of Texas) is moving right now, and sonically, this does everything right, from synth line (one of the best this year) to the beautiful, lingering bass tone at the end. This is lifestyle music from start to finish.