As the music biz ramps back up to feed the ravenous demand of housebound fans still deprived of live entertainment, this week’s offerings in hip-hop lean indie, and international. In terms of albums, British rap/grime makes a double showing, while two of hip-hop’s most prominent underground producers deliver projects full of soulful samples and nostalgic loops.
Meanwhile, on the singles side of things, there are plenty of newcomers and quirky, left-of-center expressionists dropping, along with some fast-rising regional talents. The highlights here are Bay Area upstart Caleborate, who’s been working the indie circuit for some time, and T.I. protege Tokyo Jetz, who finally looks set to take advantage of hip-hop’s “girl power” wave in earnest.
Here is the best of hip-hop this week ending January 29, 2021
Chip — Snakes And Ladders
British rapper Chip has been around long enough that his relative youth might be surprising, but that’s what happens when you get your start as a teenager. He’s been feuding with Stormzy for the last several months, but with this release, he returns the focus back to where it rightfully belongs: On his impressive, long-lasting legacy, and continued good standing in the grime world due to his impressive pen game.
Fendi P -– The Art Of Finessin 2
A long-tenured rapper who has put out a dozen projects on Curren$y’s Jet Life Recordings imprint, the artist formerly known as Corner Boy P has been one of hip-hop’s most consistent sound providers since the early 2010s. On his latest, he sticks to the script, delivering laid back lifestyle raps over smooth, simple beats alongside fellow Jet Lifer Fiend and longtime associate Wiz Khalifa.
Fredo — Money Can’t Buy Happiness
Since getting his start relatively recently, Fredo has made a name for himself as one of the UK’s most exciting young rappers alongside Dave and Young Adz. On his emotive sophomore project, he pays homage to the Fugees’ Delfonics cover “Ready Or Not” with Summer Walker and delves into the drill movement with Adz and the late Pop Smoke.
Haiti Babii -– Trap Art
Repping the Bay Area by way of Stockton, CA, Haiti Babii gained notoriety with his ad-lib-ridden freestyle on LA’s 92.3 The Real, but he’s since proven there’s way more to him than a bunch of sound effects. His latest is a street-rooted, with wobbly, post-hyphy bangers backing a slippery, malleable flow and bold, self-confident lyrics celebrating the street life.
Lil Durk — The Voice (Deluxe)
Following up the success of his latest release, the Windy City vet doubles down on the inevitable re-issue, adding 11 new tracks featuring a big name in Lil Baby and a bubbling star, Pooh Shiesty.
Madlib — Sound Ancestors
Elusive Los Angeles beatmaker Madlib shares 16 tracks of audio callbacks that stretch across decades, genres, and outcomes, from cosmic funk to boom-bap bangers.
The Alchemist — Carry The Fire (EP)
Not to be outdone, ‘Lib’s fellow Angeleno Alan the Chemist carves out his own space with eight spacey, retro-accented loops to groove to.
Thutmose — Best Of Both Worlds: Side B (EP)
A four-song blend of Afro-fusion and hip-hop, Brooklyn-based Thutmose’s latest is his first since 2018’s Man On Fire and his star-making turn on the Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse soundtrack.
Babyface Ray — “If You Know You Know” Feat. Moneybagg Yo
Detroit newcomer is hilariously out-of-pocket and disrespectful on this sparse, throwback ode to… well, ratchet sh*t. There’s something about his zoned-out flow that makes him surprisingly engaging, even when his punchlines are grimy enough to make an elder blush.
Caleborate — “What U Want”
Berkeley rapper Caleborate has been a personal favorite since his appearance last year on COLORS, and if this emotive love letter doesn’t make you a fan as well, you’ve got to at least appreciate the deftly-plotted video that accompanies it.
Dark Time Sunshine — “The Rite Kids” Feat. Homeboy Sandman & R.A.P. Ferreira
Consisting of Seattle emcee Onry Ozzborn and Chicago producer Zavala, this single from the duo’s upcoming LP LORE sums up their avant-garde approach alongside two of underground rap’s most polished technicians.
Heno — “Blackstarrr”
Co-signed by Jpegmafia, this Maryland-bred MC’s MC shows off the heady precision of his flow as he leads up to his forthcoming album Death Ain’t THAT Bad.
Homeboy Sandman x Quelle Chris — “Hello Dancer”
Homeboy Sandman’s mastery of wordplay, breath control, and rhythm should be the subject of books. If you’ve recently discovered or rediscovered MF DOOM’s eccentric but dextrous style and are looking for more artists like him… well, here you go.
Jaah SLT — “2021 Banger”
There’s this vein of punk-rock inspired rap that’s just very infectious, including such names as Snot, Jasiah, and Rico Nasty. Throw Jaah SLT on the list and keep your eyes peeled for more yell-rap from this burgeoning, rough-around-the-edges talent.
LBS Kee’vin — “Hood Dreams” Feat. FCG Heem
I hit play on this one not knowing quite what to expect from this Florida native. I’ll tell you what; I wasn’t disappointed. With a sing-song flow, trap-friendly beat, and one heck of a catchy hook, LBS Kee’vin proves he’s one to watch and he won’t be staying local for very much longer.
Slimelife Shawty — “Homicide”
Plain and simple, a “black Air Force activity” banger. Slimelife Shawty can flat-out rap — if you know what to listen for. In contrast to the wordy delivery of some of this list’s entries, he just paints an impressionistic portrait of life on the streets of Atlanta.
Tokyo Jetz — “Know The Rules” Feat. T.I.
The witty-ass video is the draw, but this Jacksonville rapper brings a straight-up electric magnetism to her rapid-fire flow, hijacking Big Freedia and Tupac samples to drag no-good, trifling men through the mud and back. Grand Hustle bossman T.I. drops by to offer his seal of approval, but Tokyo doesn’t need it.
TruCarr — “Lose My Mind” Feat. Rich The Kid
TruCarr and his slurry flow have been drawing increased attention in the past few months as this underground favorite accumulates co-signs and establishes himself as one of the stickier songwriters coming up from Watts, California today.