It’s fitting that the month of Valentine’s would be defined by the recently-reconciled Offset’s Father Of 4 and several beloved acts released long-anticipated albums in Wiz Khalifa and Currensy’s 2009 and the Czarface Meets Ghostface Killah project. While this month wasn’t full of big-name releases, upstarts like Gunna are vying to get their weight up in 2019, and released strong projects to help you get acquainted.
Offset, Father Of 4
Offset had all eyes on him for his debut solo album, and Father Of 4 delivered. Offset’s debut work was a strong, refreshing effort which showed the 27-year-old delving into relatively unexplored depths of his creativity. The flashy bangers such as “Quarter Milli” with Gucci Mane and “Wild Wild West” with Gunna could have been expected from the QC stalwart, as were some of the bars addressing his marriage with Cardi B on the agitated “Clout.”
Where Offset sets himself apart from the bloated trap field is with the vulnerability and introspection he showed on tracks like “Red Room” and “Father Of 4,” which offer intriguing glimpses into the mind of an artist most known nowadays for flashy garb and a high-profile marriage. While those moments were too sparse for Father Of 4 to fully satisfy, perhaps that’s a good thing. Father Of 4’s poignant flashes postulate the potential for Offset to fully shine on his next solo work, which is the growth that many have been seeking from Migos members.
Wiz Khalifa & Currensy, 2009
Wiz Khalifa and Currensy are one of the game’s most respected tag teams. Though they’ve both had their solo successes since their initial link up with How Fly, fans have clamored for another project from the two. What better time than the month of Valentine’s Day for a beloved duo to give their fans more of what they love?
Their 15-track, aptly-titled 2009 project is not only referential to a pivotal year for both rappers, it delivers similarly placid vibes. Their chemistry is fully intact on singles like “The Life” and “Plot Twist,” which sound modern but ring true to the mellow, hypnotic energy of their best work.
Besides appreciative moments where they reflect on how far they’ve come, the content doesn’t shift far from the wheelhouse Wiz’s sunny debauchery and Currensy’s idiosyncratic imagery (“ate them mushrooms and watched Scarface and now I’m pacing in my window” on “From The Start”), but that doesn’t even matter. 2009 is a long-awaited project that delivers in a resoundingly smooth fashion.
Gunna, Drip Or Drown 2
After a banner 2018 that helped Gunna establish himself among Atlanta’s finest, the ever-prolific artist dropped off Drip Of Drown 2. He originally promised the album last December but decided to delay it to February. Though Drip Or Drown 2 doesn’t have the highs of its predecessor or Drip Harder with Lil Baby, it’s still a solid showcase of Gunna’s gifts that should appease his growing fanbase. Songs like “One Call,” “Speed It Up,” and “Yao Ming” show his formula of autotune-soaked braggadocio over moody trap beats fully intact.
Mass Appeal, Starting 5, Vol. 1
The team at Mass Appeal has been working to sign some of the underground rap scene’s top talents, and it looks like they’ve assembled a team they’re proud of. Enter Starting 5 Vol. 1, the label’s de facto crew of lyricists like Stro, Ezri, Cantrell, 070 Phi and Fashawn. They dropped Starting 5, Vol. 1, a collection of some of the music they’ve been working on before heading out on the tour they’re currently on. The “Vol. 1” indicates that there’s more to come, which is a great thing to hear, which is only a good thing after the quality on the inaugural entry in the series.
All five MCs get off throughout the 8-track EP on tracks like the mysterious “6 Rings” and the luxurious “SonShine,” featuring Stro and Cantrell as well as Keyon Harrold and esteemed producer Black Milk. The reflective track is one of the highlights of the EP along with “Apostles,” which features a Nas verse that shows the rap legend in sharp form, barreling through choir-like vocals and an evocative piano melody along with Fashawn and Ezri. Both Ezri and Fashawn got space to sprawl out on their own solo records with “Black & Blue” and “Utter Disrespect,” respectively. ”Though there’s no track with all five featured MCs present, the Starting 5’s first effort is definitely a win.
Czarface & Ghostface Killah, Czarface Meets Ghostface
After a long wait, Czarface Meets Ghostface finally dropped. The 12-track project theorizes Ghostface Killah dueling with the Czarface collective of his Wu-brother Inspectah Deck and rap duo 7L & Esoteric. It’s a wrestling-themed project featuring some of rap’s most worthy warriors and delivering just as many punches and moments of bombast as an episode of WWF Raw in its heyday. 7L provides the searing, dusty-drum soundscape for Ghostdeini, Deck, and Esoteric to get off dense raps chockful of boasts of lyrical supremacy, vivid narratives, and nostalgic wrestling references. Songs like “Mongolian Beef,” “Iron Claw” and “Morning Ritual” are standouts.
Q Da Fool & Kenny Beats, Bad Influence
Kenny Beats was batting .1000 last year with his collaborations, and his latest project with DMV rapper Q Da Fool is another banger. Kenny provided Q with a mesmerizing suite of beats, and Q commandeered them with his own brand of gritty narratives and streetwise wisdom like, “they say the hood just like the wave, don’t get caught up in it/and please don’t jump inside this game if you ain’t brought up in it” on the churning “100.”
His native PG County streets are undoubtedly the chief setting for Bad Influence, whether he’s pitching product on the egregiously thumping “Work” featuring Splurge, or painting grim portraits of the psychology of the streets on the resilient “Crazy” and gloomy “Had Sh*t.” We already knew Kenny Beats’ production acumen is incredible, and now even more people will be in tune to Roc Nation signee Q Da Fool, who’s a name to watch for 2019 and beyond.
Higher Brothers, Five Stars
88Rising is a collective and movement that shows hip-hop’s international reach, and the Higher Brothers are among the crew’s most intriguing acts. They decided to reach back out to the rest of the game on Five Stars, a fun, loftily-titled collection of previously released tracks and new heat. The quartet, comprised of MCs MaSiWei, DZknow, Psy.P, and Melo is one of the acts of the moment in China. It was a smart choice for them to entrench their presence in America with collaborations with the likes of Schoolboy Q (“Won’t Believe”), Soulja Boy (“Top”), J.I.D (“Do It Like Me”), and more. They’re equally adept at turning up with tracks like “One Punch Man” and “Gong Xi Fa Cai” as they are at straight spitting on traditionalist appeasing tracks like “Open It Up” and the funky “Sunshine.”
A$AP Ant, Addie Pitino
While ASAP Rocky and Ferg enjoy the lion’s share of mainstream attention in the Harlem-based Mob, ASAP Ant has quietly been doing his own thing for years now. Addie Pitino is the latest work from the Baltimore Native, and its a collection of fun, debaucherous thumpers with ASAP Mob’s characteristically left of center eat for beats. Though none of the other ASAP Mob members pop up on the 11-track project, their vibe is apparent though experimental synth-driven bangers like “Vanilla Cream Soda” and “Purge Button.” ASAP Ant’s lyrical content isn’t the most diverse or technically impressive, but he’s a willing and able master of ceremonies throughout the sonically impressive project.
Adé, Always Something EP
DMV rapper Adé, formerly known as Phil Adé dropped a 6-song EP that cleverly infuses “Something” into every title. The clever diction is an ingenious hook to draw listeners into his versatile craft. Long known in the DMV underground, Always Something sounds like a bold push for even more visibility. The EP boasts a number of high-profile features, and he does a good job of matching their energy in order to draw prospective fans into what he has going on.
On “Something New,” he’s showing off his knack for melody with Lil Baby, but still harkens to his MC roots with technical precision clever worthy lines like, “I cut n—-s off, I’m like breaking news.” He turns up with Rich The Kid on the “Something from Nothin’,” then gets romantic on the mesmerizing, horn-driven “Something Real” with DMV peers Goldlink and Wale. With his latest collection of witty, introspective lyricism over a modern soundscape, Ade gave us something dope this February.
Lansky Jones, Dangerfield
One of the benefits of being in a collective as gifted as New York’s World’s Fair is the inherent competition to match your peers’ solo work with heat of your own. Lansky Jones added another gem to the collective’s catalog with Dangerfield, his debut solo project. He sets the tone from the gate on the autobiographical project opener “Ode To Big Allis,” where he reflects on his experience on New York’s Roosevelt Island and drops a lofty affirmation: “my vernacular Nas but emotional as Pac could be.”
The rest of the project shows Lansky unfurling his assonant, unmistakably New York linguistics over production that showcases his eclectic tastes. Whether he’s flexing a laidback lyrical exercise over vintage New York horns on “New York Marathon” or telling a story over “Arizona Lemon Ice Tea’s,” opulence, the tracks captivate from a range of emotional perspectives. Album standout “The Return Of Danny Jones’ is the project’s most ambitious moment, as he weaves a tale of romance from the high of new attraction to the low of heartbreak over funky, constantly evolving production. Dangerfield is a strong, personal effort that highlights Jones’ ear for beats and dedication to the classic New York sound.