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&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.
‘Bank Roll Remix’
If this song hit your feed at any point recently you won’t be surprised that it resolutely holds the top spot in this month’s column. Appearing when rap so desperately needs a change of pace, North Baltimore’s Tate Kobang comes through with one of the freshest sounding rhythms of 2015, here remixing a freestyle from earlier in the year, which made big waves on local radio. Now signed to Lyor Cohen’s increasingly great 300 Entertainment, we hope and pray Tate can continue to express himself in as raw a fashion as this and resist the urge to go EDM. Just immense.
Bank$ feat. Young Dro & Ra Ra
‘Boot Up (Dab)’
Best known by ATL rap fiends as one half of the Bankroll Fresh-linked SpotLife Movement alongside Dirt Ogunjobi, Bank$ might just have the ever-elusive “one”, or at least one of the ones, here. ‘Boot Up (Dab)’, which features Young Dro and Ra Ra, is the latest in a long line of dab-related club anthems we’re inclined to drag into Serato on sight, but there’s something especially compelling about the way Bank$ manages to evoke that pivotal moment when you’re just extremely, almost cripplingly high before inevitably pulling a full-on whitey. Intense to say the least.
Ty Dolla $ign feat. Babyface
There are a lot of things people claimed they wanted from music in 2015, but I don’t believe anyone genuinely asked for an updated, more lit version of The Tony Rich Project. Now it’s here though, in the form of this new Ty Dolla $ign and Babyface collaboration, and we’re basically ashamed of ourselves for not having the vision.
The fact that Babyface is simply on the guitar (and a couple of harmonies), rather than a forced feature is the joy of this record, and Ty Dolla has never sounded more comfortable, reminding us that his tone remains the one. Taking its own damn time to reach its perfectly delivered epiphany, this might be the most satisfying moment in his career since ‘My Cabana’ came along and changed our world.
It’s easy to be cynical about new albums from past-their-prime regional rap legends, as they very rarely capture the wide-eyed joyfulness or hunger the artist came up with. But there’s been something in the Houston water recently that can’t be totally unrelated to Beat King’s infectious confidence and grind.
Paul’s new Slab God album, possibly even an indirect stylistic nod to the Club God himself, is just remarkably good. And if features from DJ Chose, Devin The Dude and Husalah of the MF Mob Figaz weren’t enough to solidify this fact, it’s ‘Top Diine’ that we’ve been coming back to again and again, our best possible compliment being that it bumps like the most emotional of Jacka slaps.
‘Purple, Red, Green’
There is no shortage of deeply-felt codeine ballads coming out the H, or the A for that matter, but ‘Purple, Red, Green’ – from rapping and producing Beat King affiliate D-Bando – is particularly potent. Whether he actually partakes or not, ‘Purple, Red, Green’ has us convinced he loves syrup to death – and that we should too. Don’t sleep on the excellent fourth instalment of his Can’t Be Stopped mixtape series either.
Scotty ATL feat. B.o.B
‘Bust It Open’
Though he’s been popping in Atlanta for a good few years now, it was 2014’s ‘Cloud IX’ that really convinced us Scotty ATL was a force to be reckoned with. In terms of straight-to-radio hits though, the Blac Elvis-produced, B.o.B-featuring ‘Bust It Open’ has to be the one that tips him over the edge. There’s so much funk in this, and even a Funkadelic/Organized Noise twist to the hook, that we bet it would hit from all angles with the right push.
Fernandito Kit Kat (aka Yung Beef)
‘Nos Fuimos Lejos’
PXXR GVNG have had a phenomenal couple of years in Spain and their ever-growing fanbase is as real as it gets. Working closely with 808 Mafia, producer Steve Lean is surrounded by some of the most charismatic artists anywhere, and outside of the main group, its side projects remain every bit as essential.
Yung Beef is the unquestionable star who, following his incredible recent mixtape with Lean, is back in his reggaeton guise as Fernandito Kit Kat. This record, ahead of new tape Perreo de la Muerte, is every bit as mesmerising and emotional as we’ve come to expect from him, and Pipo Beatz has blessed him with the perfect backdrop for the manifesto. Investigate all incarnations of Yung Beef and join the movement.
Azure feat. Marc E. Bassy
‘Cut The Lights’
While we were originally drawn to this by the HBK Gang stamp and the appearance of one of our favourite under-the-radar artists, Marc E. Bassy, it turns out that ‘Cut The Lights’ is really all about Azure. Azure himself produced the track and makes sure solid West Coast funk underpins the whole thing, whilst a variety of riffs arrive almost at random. The groove is never sacrificed though, and Azure’s unhurried, playful rap style would make you think he was a lost member of The Pharcyde or Hiero. Marc E. Bassy is as restrained as ever, and this one remains defiantly in its own zone.
When Quality Control signed New Orleans’ Young Greatness at the top of the year it made total sense, and his collaborations with the ATL guard both old (Jermaine Dupri) and new (Quavo) came with an assured and refreshing musicality, the Jazze Pha-produced ‘Moolah’ being the true standout.
Now on his second wave with a new EP and a more concerted label push, he’s thankfully had his latest tale of desire produced by the ever fresh Dun Deal. Coming with one of his most understated tracks in a minute, there’s hella space for Greatness’s unfettered delivery, and with similar artists like Young Dolph and Bankroll Fresh finally being appreciated, timing may just be on his side.
‘I Wouldn’t Do It’
One thing we’ve all known for a while is that no rapper has ever been taken for granted as much as Gucci Mane. Partly of course it’s an output issue, and those who struggle to keep up with his relentless release schedule are always going to miss gems like this. And it’s a crying shame, as Honorable C-Note has offered up the kind of track that we can only wish Scarface would rhyme over these days.
Over the beautiful keys and knocking bass, Gucci does it like only he can as he takes you on a moving journey of life and regret. Our only regret is that it’s about three minutes shorter than it needs to be.