I could go on and on about Ash Riser, his LP Ghosts, his rebirth as an artist, yadda yadda yadda, but I’m gonna let the music speak for itself. Easily one of the best hip hop albums of 2017 thus far, and tbh, just one of the best albums in general to come from this year. Stream it, buy it, tell your friends about it. Seriously, Ghosts is one of the most interesting and inspiring projects I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year, and my attempt to describe it won’t do it justice—Ash Riser is doing some visionary shit.
Manus is a cool good dude whose song “DSGD” is great for getting through Hump Day (at least it is for me). The story behind the track’s interesting too—”Trading lyrical gunplay for virtual gameplay, Manus’ second single ‘DSGD’ playfully relates being an individualist, and making the best of the situation. While ‘the drug store’ itself may be a metaphor for wherever we might turn to ease the stressful lives we lead, Manus gives us a glimpse of how life could be if we choose to count our blessings, so to speak.”
Connect with Manus and listen to his other cool good tracks.
Last year, I came across Boston rapper Cousin Stizz through his “No Bells” music video, and was instantly hooked. “No Bells” is still one of the very best songs of 2015, and the mixtape it came off of, Suffolk County, was one my favorite mixtapes of last year. It’s chock-full of laid-back, uber-charismatic weed rap that’s perfect for long car rides and moments of positive self-reflection. It is with great pleasure, then, that I can say that he’s topped his debut with the follow up, MONDA. Featuring a more developed, unique flow from Stizz to go along with stronger and more varied production from up-and-comers Lil Rich, Dumdrumz and Tee-WaTT as well as Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Drake collaborator Cardo, MONDA is consistently quality throughout, with highlights scattered across the entirety of the 14-song tracklist. “500 Horses” does 2015 Drake better than 2015 Drake did 2015 Drake, “Gain Green” may be the wooziest song to ever motivate you, and “Big Fella” takes a gorgeous, soul-sampled beat and pairs it with Stizz’s best verses to date, making it a serious contender for 2016’s best rap song. With the constant flow of rap music stuffing the Internet every day, it can be hard to see what is truly worth it. Which is why it’s so important for Cousin Stizz to be supported, and why you need to go and listen to his mixtape. His music is not indebted to trends or waves; it is built for listening today, tomorrow and ten years from now. MONDA is only a few weeks old, but it feels and sounds built to last. Stream MONDA below and download it here.
This past weekend I found myself in Ottawa, which is a coincidence, because Ottawa native Night Lovell dropped his second mixtape entitled Red Teenage Melody this past Friday and so passing the Rideau Canal listening to “Rideau Swing” was cool. This new project of his sees him moving away from the styles of his more obvious contemporaries (his debut tape, Concept Vague, landed him comparisons to gothic cult-hero Bones) and moving towards a more unique sound. Lovell’s ear for beats is impressive; while most of the flows he employs are generally generic, the production he selects is able to keep things interesting without the project seeming too all-over-the-place (especially the beats contributed from Blank Body). Check out Red Teenage Melody below.
Try Out: “Boy Red”, “Barbie Doll”, “Guidance (feat. Nessly)”
Contra Chicago affiliate DOUGGY released his best song to date in my opinion leading up to his release of his newest mixtape. The title track “Master” is a closer look into what we can expect from Master and if this track is in line with the rest of the project I’m really excited to see what he brings us! There is talent in and all around the city and DOUGGY is one of the rising artists with a lot of potential.
DOUGGY – Master
Chicago’s son Mick Jenkins regularly delivers us from a wave of mediocrity with releases that distance him from about 98% of music makers today. He seems to be so profoundly in tune with the blend of his voice, message, and production that you could put all of his tracks into a novel and it would read as an unwavering anthem for the betterment of your mind, spirit, and health. With the help of Montreal’s Kaytranada and Chicago’s THEMpeople, whom Mick Jenkins regularly collaborates with, we are lead through a masterful presentation of sound and rhythm that is full of life. Jenkins also nods at Kanye West with lines like “Mercy, Mercy me that Murcielago” and “I’m really just a southside nigga with a Nas flow” paying tribute to one of the greatest to come from this city. Mick Jenkins rarely upsets and with the help of Kaytranada and THEMpeople, he shows us once more why Chicago’s rap scene is nothing to take lightly.
Mick Jenkins – The Artful Dodger
Rich Jones is an artist that continues to grow and deliver songs that are as deep and heart-felt as they are intelligently designed. As a listener you can never get bored of his production and lyrical choices because you can hear the time and precision Rich has put into crafting each song separately but also as a full project. Pink Slips was released February 16th with an array of young Chicago talent from The O’My’s to LOWTONE to IceFace and also Na$im Williams. The list of Chicago artists is strong on Pink Slips as Rich has been putting out music and playing shows for years and is a known face to just about everyone in our city. Be on the lookout for Rich breaking into another echelon this year as he dials in the sounds that fit his voice perfectly and continues to create music that does nothing but make you smile.
Listen to Pink Slips here:
Rich Jones – Pink Slips
This song is so tough. I downloaded it because it came with a free download and I am going to put it on my iPod nano.
I’m pretty excited about the scene brewing from our brothers in Milwaukee. With so much promising talent I hope these kids stay focused and strong enough to elevate to the next level without over-inflating egos which Chicago’s underground seems to love to do so much. IshDARR is one of those rising stars and consistently puts out single after single that could be heard on the radio while keeping a flow that is interesting the entire way through. I’m sure you can figure out pretty quickly what “Time Shawty” is all about and though a lot of rappers tend to stay way to busy to give a girl any of their time, IshDARR can make a concept truly worked through, re-listenable. Milwaukee seems to be the next city on the rise and their definitely proving their voices are worth our time.
IshDARR – Time Shawty (prod. Millz Douglas)
You probably recognize Someguynamedty from the internet. He’s the managing editor at Chicago hip hop blog Fake Shore Drive, which covers the most talented hip hop/rap artists in the Midwest. As of September, he became the youngest resident DJ on Shade 45. Every Sunday night from 11pm – 1am CST you can catch Someguynamedty on #TheDriveSXM, Fake Shore Drive’s new weekly mixshow on Shade 45 SiriusXM, alongside a guest DJ.
Paying homage to DJ Screw with using dates as titles, this is the third mini mix Someguynamedty has dropped. If you don’t have the attention span to stay woke on good upcoming rap and prefer the Sparknotes, these mixes can catch you up to speed real quick. You can find all of them on his Soundcloud. Spoiler alert – if you like Clueless, keep your ears peeled for a nice lil surprise in his mixes.
Stream December 22nd below.
Moonspear is a duo from New York that consists of Yoh the Shaolin and ENxVE The Nameless Vagrant, 2 lyricists who’s emphasis on poetry is evident immediately upon clicking play. The 99Sublime affiliates have been strengthening their wordplay over the years into a complex movement of imagery and you usually have to give their songs 5-15 listens to even begin understanding what their verses mean. I think that’s pretty sweet though, because their emphasis is more on the symbolism then trying to seem accessible and hip-hop needs MCs who care about what their writing. Be on the look out for 99Sublime’s come up, because I believe it’s coming soon.
Moonspear – Hellhounds
Pro Era’s Kirk Knight brings hip hop back to its roots with his debut album, Late Knight Special. Knight is the musical genius behind Joey Bada$$ hit “Big Dusty“, but he has started paving his own way with the release of this debut project. Late Knight Special is the quintessential versatile musical project, with each track exuding a different emotion and feeling. “Brokeland” shows us a more aggressive side, paying homage to the New York 90s hip hop scene. Lyrics equally as cold as his beats, he says “And these things around me make my wants money, bitches // But my conscious told me just look back and listen.” Fast forward to “Dead Friends” and you will be riding a completely different wave – Knight tells a chilling story of dealing with the loss of friends, something that we all struggle to cope with.
The transitions from the boom-bap tracks to modern synths and smooth sultry sounds are not easy to pull off – but Knight not only did it, he killed it. This objectively apparent disconnect has, somehow, created one of the most coherent albums I’ve heard in a minute.