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Musical Fridays: Hip-Hop

by Richard Southard, The River editor

I’ll admit: I’ve been dreading to write the Musical Friday post for Hip-Hop. Not because I don’t enjoy the music. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I enjoy the music so much that figuring out just five suggestions has been a bit of a struggle. A few days ago, I sat down at my desk with the intention of reading. Instead, I spent a half hour staring at the pages as I thought of what music I could pick for this post (and I didn’t even reach a conclusion). The time has come to release this curse.

Of course, Hip-hop is an incredibly diverse genre with hundreds of potential choices for great albums. My first exposure to the genre was some of the “classics”, such as 2Pac, Jurassic 5, and The Notorious B.I.G. Most of these songs came from the soundtracks of video games I’d play on my Playstation 2. I also heard the occasional Beastie Boys from my father, but I’ll admit that it never stuck.

Not much of this music survived into my high-school rock music phase, but I’m happy to see that it’s returned. While I wouldn’t have a problem sharing the albums of the greats, as usual, I’ll be sticking to others that might be less known. This is to make sure I’m giving a new experience to as many as possible (not because I’m a complete hipster, I promise).

Now, let us take a journey:

The Underachievers – Renaissance 

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One of the highlight discoveries of my summer, Renaissance is a great collection of East Coast hip-hop. There’s a wide variety of tempos here, with fast-paced bangers such as “Crescendo” and “Final Destination”, but also slower tracks such as “Any Day” and “Super Potent”. “Gotham Nights” also displays the lyrical diversity that the duo brings. The dynamic between the two MCs is also excellent, with their verses transitioning into one another without a hitch.

Le1f – Riot Boi 

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Le1f himself is very interesting hip-hop figure; one with a subversive lyrical style that emphasizes sexuality, artistic culture, and personal experiences. But what drew me especially to his music was his industrial-like production, with beats that have elements of dance, avant-garde electronic, and sometimes noise. Riot Boi is his debut album, and (what I think to be) the truest representation of his music, as it best highlights his unique sound and performance styles.

Blu & Exile – Below the Heavens 

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Below the Heavens reminds me a lot of my favorite hip-hop album, Madvilliany, which is likely why this album caught my attention so well. Similarly, it’s a collaboration between an alternative hip-hop artist (Blu) and producer (Exile). The lyrical style is sometimes of a more abstract nature, while also holding a bit of a more “classic” sound. The production is scratch and sample-heavy, mixing vocal cuts, piano, basses, and a variety of drums. Overall, it’s a project that one might call “old-meets-new”, and it’s a great one.

Clipping. – CLPPNG

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Funny that I mentioned how Riot Boi has some influence of noise music. This album’s not only influenced by it, but is also built around it. Clipping. is an experimental hip-hop trio that brings in sounds of industrial, electronic, and of course, noise music. However, the core here is still hip-hop music, and that shines especially well on CLPPNG. The freestyle rap over a squeal that makes up “Intro” is a stunning start that marks what is to come. It’s difficult to describe this album without simply listening to it, so I’ll leave the experience at that. While I do find it more accessible than their previous album, Midcity, it’s still a bit of a trip to listen through (wouldn’t be a Musical Fridays post without at least one). Proceed with caution, I suppose.

Brockhampton – Saturation 

63f4ae252959cf8e0fbbee735bba6bcd.1000x1000x1I would not be able to finish a post about hip-hop without mentioning this album. Since its release in June, Saturation has claimed many of my car rides, writing sessions, and overall music moments. With fourteen official members, the lyrical variety and quality is outstanding. The beats on tracks such as “STAR” and “HEAT” become catchy from the first few seconds (and those are the early tracks). Even after a few dozen plays, I can’t find a track that I really dislike. Their (surprisingly early) follow up, Saturation II, released recently and is also superb. But I thought I’d mention their album that started it all (“all” being my obsession with their music). With sounds of alternative hip-hop, old-school rap, electronic, and R&B, believe me when I say that there is something for everyone.

I haven’t yet done an “honorable mentions” moment throughout my posts so far, but why not start now? I’d like to give a mention to two other “experimental” hip-hop projects: Death Grips and Shabazz Palaces. Both groups are among my favorites, as well as the favorites of many others. Although it’s no secret to many, I’d also like to mention how much I love Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I’m very surprised how long I had waited to appreciate that album.

I’ve previously tried to end posts with some sort of witty conclusion, but here, I’ll just let the music speak for itself. Until next time, thanks for the read.

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