Welcome back, y’all! Here at Shiftee’s B2B2B2B, we know your time is valuable. You’ve got Tweets to tweet, Instas to insta, and faces to book. Long paragraphs!? Dumb jokes about Guy Fieri!? You’re too busy for that. So for the TL;DR crowd, let’s get right to it. Here’s my mix of the latest and greatest in rap-meets-electronic music. I can’t believe you made it this far.
Now for the rest of you, let’s get a bit long-winded. Every month, I scour the world wide web for hip hop music that feels fresh and different, both in terms of vocals and production. I want songs that aren’t only dope, but also feel new and moreover, come from artists on the rise. You don’t need me to tell you Lil Uzi Vert is breaking the internet. You are on the internet.
But alas, how famous is too famous? Where do we draw the line? This month, let’s look to the almighty embodiment of all that is good, the Queen B herself: Beyoncé. Have you met Beyoncé? If yes, I am very jealous, but you are too famous for this blog. If not, welcome to the Boom Bap & Beyond Bazaar, baby!
Sorry, Cardi. “Bodak Yellow” is obviously the song of the summer, but you’ve been blessed by her holiness, praised be the B, Sasha Fierce.
TroyBoi – “Dark Lawd”
TroyBoi, or as I like to call him EDM Timbaland (compliment!), is one of the most original and exciting producers on the scene today. His music has a signature boom-bap kind of swing, but still stands up in a festival or club environment. It’s banging yet groovy, electrifying yet with a definite bounce.
The full range of his potent arsenal is on display on his debut album Left Is Right. All killer, no filler – any one of the tracks could have been on this month’s mix. I ended up going for “Dark Lawd” after measuring the intensity of my gas face after consuming each of the tracks. “Dark Lawd” scored the equivalent of a deadly 1,000,000 Scoville chilli-heat units.
The Cool Kids – “The Moonlanding ft. Hannibal Buress” (prod. Chuck English)
Aw yeah, it’s great to see The Cool Kids back at it. Really the godfathers of many of the alternative/hipster/indie/whatever-you-want-to-call-it rap styles you see today, The Cool Kids are reunited and sounding as good as ever on Special Edition Grandmaster Deluxe. Aside from both of their distinctive flows, I’ve always loved Chuck English’s future-retro, 808-laden production, which shines right from the start on the album’s opening track “The Moonlanding”.
On a personal note, The Cool Kids will always have a special place in my heart because I used their song “88” for the final routine in my 2009 DMC World DJ Champs set.
Lil B – “Wasup JoJo”
I’m going to admit: for a long time, I didn’t get Lil B a.k.a. The BasedGod. Sure, he was engaging as a personality, curser of NBA players, and even genre trailblazer, but the music itself never clicked for me, until now.
His new album Black Ken is thoroughly dynamic, at 27 songs long, and amazingly produced almost entirely by Lil B himself. It’s wide-ranging from start to finish, and almost reads like a chronological love letter to hip hop, and in particular, West Coast hip hop. We’ve got 80s vibes, 90s G Funk vibes, early 2000s Hyphy vibes, all the way up to 2017 vibes, filtered through the one-of-a-kind mind of Lil B. So bump this album and maybe gain a new appreciation for TheBasedGod himself, Lil B.
Maka & Durkin – “New Phone ft. Victor Radz”
As popular trends permeate the mainstream, it’s cool to see how forward-thinking artists refine and redefine said trends. Maka & Durkin’s lush and vibrant Another Island EP, out now on Fool’s Gold, feels like an extension of the pop-dancehall-wave that took over the charts via songs like Drake’s “One Dance” and Rihanna’s “Work”.
However, rather than putting forth reductive commercial rip-offs, Maka & Durkin deliver a body of work that is wholly more artistic, quirky, personal, and even beautiful than its pop counterparts. Songs like “New Phone ft. Victor Radz” are luscious and, furthermore, guaranteed to work on a dancefloor.
FVLCRVM & Monophobe – “Tape Me” (Mighty Mark, Hello Rello, & TT The Artist Remix)
Baltimore’s Mighty Mark & TT The Artist have been putting in serious work for years. The number of remixes, features, and originals coming from their camp is out of control. TT herself has released at least two new tracks and a sample pack since this one remix came out on September 13, 2017.
As for their take on FVLCRVM & Monophobe’s incredible future club track “Tape Me”, Mighty Mark & TT, along with Hello Rello, offer a truly surprising remix, even in the context of their extensive catalogs. This is Boom Bap meets Baltimore Club, where dusty jazz samples mix with hi-def synths, and Hello Rello & TT The Artist paint a picture of their origins and subsequent levelling up over a driving club beat.
Cakes Da Killa – “Thirst Trap” (prod. Jeremiah Meece)
Best new artist alive, don’t @ me. Beyond being astonishingly unique, provocative, and charismatic, with as futuristic an ear for beats as anyone, Cakes Da Killa is an outstanding rapper. The precision and rhythm of his words, the cadence of his flow, the way he can ride super fast club instrumentals along with midtempo hip hop joints: mwah.
Following his critically acclaimed, Diplo-approved album Hedonism (and, ahem, a collabo’ with yours truly called “Take Ova”), Cakes is back with the hype hype hype A-Side/B-Side single Shots Fired/Thirst Trap. “Thirst Trap” is 140bpm of pure grimey lyrical adrenaline, equally appropriate for a Berlin warehouse or a NYC rap concert.
Rouge – “Arumtumtum” (Mae N. Maejor/Wichi 1080)
The machines win again. Spotify’s algorithms placed this gem of a song from South Africa’s Rouge in one of my weekly playlists, and I was immediately hooked. The bounce from the Mae N. Maejor/Wichi 1080’s production is crazy, and Rouge’s vocals are infectious and super catchy. Try it: “arumtumtum, arumtumtum, arumtum get it get it rumtumtum . . .”, see you can’t stop. My only complaint is I wish the song was longer, so I could arumtumtum even more without bringing it back.
Princess Nokia – “Kitana” (prod. A-Trak & Lex Luger)
Feminist hero Princess Nokia cannot be denied. From epic empowering speeches at London Boiler Rooms to worldwide festival appearances to so-f&cking-NYC music videos, she is a force of forces. Mix that with Kanye-level confidence (“I am divine feminine energy”) and the music to match it, and you have a 10/10 artist.
Her 2016 mixtape 1992 was recently given a proper release and updated in album form as 1992 Deluxe, where the NYC native beams with radiance and talent. “Kitana”, one of the lead singles from the project featuring production from A-Trak & Lex Luger, is an anthem for self-belief and power: “I step in this bitch and I do what I want / I don’t give a damn and I don’t give a fuck.”
Taso x DJ Manny x DJ Chap x Boylan – “Tired”
Teklife, the footwork crew founded in Chicago by the legendary DJ Rashad (R.I.P.), represents one of the most exciting movements to happen in 21st century music, period. There is a vibrant DIY spirit to the crew’s output, with each member bringing their own overflowing burst of creativity and individuality. What I love about footwork is how similar it can feel in spirit to hip hop, even though it’s still a dance-driven genre. Many of the tracks come via flipping samples, and really any sound byte or riff is fair game.
On “Tired”, four of Teklife’s all-stars join forces and, well, flip samples. The song is part of Taso’s excellent Cold Heat Vol. 9, which points to how prolific he is as a producer. There are more Cold Heats than there are The Fast & The Furious movies, and I’d take Taso over Vin Diesel any day of the week.
listen here on Bandcamp
BROCKHAMPTON – “JUNKY” (prod. Romil Hemnani)
A lot of fuss is made over the fact that the members of BROCKHAMPTON met online. Indeed they’ve been dubbed “the Internet’s first boy band.” But in 2017, is this really a novel concept? Aren’t most interactions, let alone music collaborations, on the Internet? It might even be more rare these days for a new collaboration to form entirely IRL.
So let’s focus on the music. And the music, in this case BROCKHAMPTON’s new album Saturation II, is of the highest caliber. From start to finish, the project feels supremely now, from the lyrical content, to the production choices, to the level of polish, to the engineering. “JUNKY” is hard AF, opening with menacing strings and a fire Kevin Abstract verse, then takes a left turn before the full drum beat enters and new verse after new verse weave in and out. I count six vocalists on the track, each dope, and together showing the power in numbers and the power of collectives, regardless of how they form.
Wowee another BBBB in the books! Shout out to the readers who made it this far, all ’bout that word lyfe, that NTL;DR (not too long; did read) lyfe. I see you! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pray at the church of Beyoncé.