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.
Nef The Pharaoh
The Bay Area in the mid-2000s was a truly wonderful era for both high-adrenaline hyphy and post-Mobb slaps that produced classics from Husalah, Tha Jacka (RIP) and so many more. That Nef The Pharaoh – along with fellow new Sick-Wid-It signee Ezale – is bringing that feeling back has never been more evident than on this highlight of his super slept-on self-titled EP.
Cardo channels the spirit of producers like the criminally underrated Mekanix or RobLo here, all sleepy synths and 80s drum fills: just pure rider music for Nef to float over. The Bay isn’t back, as the Bay never stopped creating, they just keep on keeping on and the world catches up.
Lil Twon feat. Playa Gator
There are so many levels to this song. It’s like a footwork remix of a rap anthem sampled and looped for the entirety of an altogether different rap anthem. And while you wrap your heads around what that might mean, we’ll be headbanging and dabbing like lunatics to Lil Twon and Playa Gator’s soon-to-be viral smash.
Sauce Walka feat. Sosamann & Trae Tha Truth
‘Spill A Little Sauce’
Every great rap song should feel like the greatest rap song of all time while it’s playing, as is resolutely the case on new Sauce anthem ‘Spill A Little Sauce’. While less prominent on our feeds since the Drake beef died down, Sauce Walka and co have been no less prolific, with TSF’s double mixtape dominating the Livemixtapes front page for a good couple of weeks now.
Trae feels measurably more at home here than he did on anything from the Hustle Gang era, and producers KinoBeats and Soundmob might have conjured one of the most haunting vocal samples since Brandon met Clams. And that’s on Sauce.
‘Dans Ta Rue’
If we didn’t know better we might posit that the contemporary trend of melodic mumble rap and elastic linguistics proffered by Young Thug and the like could potentially make incredibly popular Parisian duo PNL more palatable for non-French audiences.
That would be a bullshit thesis though, not least because so many long-time Anglophone rap fans we speak to attest to bumping everyone from French Wu parallels IAM in the 90s to Booba and Kaaris in the 2000s and 2010s. And in 2015, no rap column could be considered relevant or even factual without at least mentioning the impeccably produced music of media and industry-shunning brothers NOS and Ademo, who were racking up tens of millions of YouTube views with no record deal even before new album Le Monde Chico topped iTunes charts in their home country.
‘Dans Ta Rue’, the video for which feels like their La Haine, is a perfect example of the group’s combination of high-brow, perfectionist French aesthetics and some of the most deeply heartfelt and melodic banlieu narratives we’ve ever heard.
Bryson Tiller and Tory Lanez just upped the ante for all internet rap sangers by simultaneously having bonafide hits that the real world is genuinely on board with. Who’s next up? It could easily be Philadelphia’s PnB Rock, whose RnB 3 mixtape is pretty much a collection of fully formed singles and has the kind of early momentum and support from his home city that is the new necessary.
Whilst there’s no video yet for ‘Ballin’, it’s one of the best tracks from the release, brimming with the kind of bounce and looseness that peak-era T-Pain would have been proud of – and crucially the confidence from PnB Rock is just unwavering.
Justin Bieber feat. Big Sean
Ever since Journals dropped at the end of 2013, Southern Hospitality have taken every opportunity to make it clear that there’s been no R&B release since to challenge it. Bieber, meanwhile, has been working tirelessly on both commercial and personal redemption, so we always knew we weren’t about to get part two to the classic with Purpose.
However, he’s now so good at making these kind of records that we still have a new slew of gems to enjoy, including ‘No Pressure’, probably the closest to that glorious #MusicMondays era thanks to timeless production from the Audibles. Bieber is so in the pocket these days that any accusations of his lack of range are just pointless and with Big Sean back on his rap and bullshit, just laying in the cut, this is yet another addition to JB’s ever-unimpeachable catalogue.
In most cases, a new artist singing over a slightly clipped loop of the piano from Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ would be as underwhelming as it sounds. However, so authentic is PJ’s voice and so inspirational her understanding of melody that this becomes a thing of beauty within about four bars. Following her scene-stealing cameo on the ‘Finale’ of the Ty Dolla $ign album this may just be a loose track to tide us over, but it’s hard not to feel everything that PJ gives us to the fullest.
Puff Daddy feat. Future & King Los
There could be no more appropriate 2015 comeback record for the now-rechristened Puff Daddy than a Future-featuring, Mike Will-produced slab of rhythmically leftfield, undeniably luxurious donk rap. This would sound as fitting on a yacht anchored off of a Miami waterfront as it would in an ecstasy, coke and alcopop-fuelled night out on Wigan Pier.
Earlier this year DJ Spinz casually dropped K-Major’s Category V album on SoundCloud and as 2015 comes to a close, it remains a low-key contender for album of the year. Thankfully, we’re now getting some new music from him (once again produced by Spinz), and given that Jeremih is lost in a world of stalled albums and heavy feature money, this might the closest we get to new music by him in a while.
It’s all about the uniqueness of tone with K-Major and the kind of natural timing that can’t be taught, taking a simple, intimate concept and stretching it out. We live in a post-Terius Nash world and songs like this are the best way of reminding us of that fact.
‘Where It’s At’
Precisely the kind of cozy, flowy, melodious rider anthem that would have made the cut for never-quite-realised Southern Hospitality mixtape concept ‘Heated Seats’. ‘Where It’s At’, taken from Propain’s excellent new Against All Odds project, is a great example of the undercurrent of salt-of-the-earth Houston rap music that so desperately needs to be heard.