In 2014, the world is inundated with music. Deep Cuts is here to help you sort the trash from the treasure. Taking a closer look at mixtapes, loosies, and obscurities, we comb the genre to find tracks that you may have missed. Great songs on terrible tapes, rappers who haven't received the shine they should, or underrated tracks from recognized names, we dig through the detritus so you don't have to.
For 2013, Deep Cuts was a monthly column, but it's become apparent that the demand for more and newer, unheard music is still out there, so we've decided to make it a weekly post. In addition, many of these songs will be posted ahead of time, throughout the week, as we discover them, rather than waiting to compile them for the column. If you want to keep up with what we're posting, just follow along here. And make sure to check back every Friday for a new column.
Sen City "Dream Like Martin"
Mixtape: Schemin and Dreamin (unreleased)
Producer: TNC Jason
Just in time for Martin Luther King Day, we have a song that does his memory proud. OK, so it's not the most appropriate salute (although it's also no Worst MLK Day Weekend Party Fliers). But at least it's still a great song. "Dream Like Martin" captures Sen City's gift for an eerie, disembodied melody and ghostly atmosphere and threads it with subtly evocative bars: "Kept cool when they cocked pistols/talked shit when I got distance/Shots all in your car fenders/Shells everywhere like Olive dinners." Sen has spent the last few years acting as Jim Jones' chief musical auteur, which, combined with his dusty singing voice, provoked numerous comparisons to Max B. But the rapper-songwriter's style has its own unique flavor, a foggy, lonely ambiance that experiences street rap as a moody, downtempo existential crisis: "Say the world is mine/Tell the devil let me go." —David Drake
Alien Mafia and Freq f/ Young Dolph "Triple B"
A new single dropped on Wednesday from the Roc Town Music Group out of Little Rock, AK. It’s a crew that, according to Twitter, primarily consists of three dudes: C Bobby, Run N Gunz, and Freq. Honestly, I peeped this shit just because it said Alien Mafia in the title. Aside from a Twitter account that was activated this year, a track with Kevin Gates, and vlogs, there isn’t really much info out there about these dudes. But straight out the gate, when that bass hits, this shit bumps. The bass line is ideal for some 15"s, not your shitty laptop. It doesn't hurt to work some Pimp C flips into your opening verse.
I’m pretty sure that’s Gunz, the producer, on the first verse, which is definitely the highlight just because of how the speed of those stressed vowels hit enough to make you stop paying attention to the bassline. Then you get Young Dolph chopped up on the hook with that 808 rolling, and who doesn’t fuck with a chorus that just mentions big booties? Sometimes Dolph can sound too laid back in the pocket, like it he doesn’t want to actually use energy to give a line the punch it needs, but the constant barrage of soul clapping high hats with that faint spaceship siren and looping string stabs matched up with the bass give him that extra umph.
Freq closes it out. He’s kind of like a progression into slower raps, with a slightly more syrupy voice than Dolph. His verse could have been nicer, but he comes off a lot better on "Exclusive" with Kevin Gates. Kind of hard to judge a dude on two verses, and this one is all shit about spitting game to girls with ass. So yeah, as far as rap content goes, no one is breaking much new ground on this joint but for some random crew out of Arkansas, this is a good place to start. —Sergio Ornelas
Fred The Godson "Quarter Past Three"
Mixtape: FatBoy Fresh
Producer: The Elements
Has there EVER been a bigger disparity between how a rapper sounds and looks than with Fred The Godson? He's blessed with the voice and confidence of a panty-dampening heartthrob who's overflowing with sexual currency, yet "waterbed Fred" looks like...well, we'll let Jack Thriller tell it.
In any other form of entertainment such a paradox would be a problem. Yet rap music is the rare profession where people who were born looking beta can thrive as alpha personalities, and so Fred slots into the same New York lineage of unlikely-sex-symbols-with-bars as Chubb Rock, Grand Puba, the Notorious B.I.G., and Big Pun. His latest single "Quarter Past Three" dropped Monday, and it's the sort of breezy Rap & Bullshit jam Fabolous would sell his soul for in 2014. It deserves nothing less than Hot 97 omnipresence for the next three months, and a video where Fred frolics in the snow with Angelica Charrupi on the windswept summit of Mount Blanc from 3:15 pm to 3:15 am.
Fred's new mixtape FatBoy Fresh will be out soon. —Marty Macready
Stu Hustlah and Lil Juu "This Is Me"
Album: Lillie Street is the Street
Spread across America's Midwest, there's a thriving cottage industry of traditional gangsta rap whose lexicon and sound was codified by northern Californian rappers like Mac Dre, C-Bo, Messy Marv, and Mob Figaz's marquee artist The Jacka.
Fort Wayne, Indiana's Murdergang/1500blockmusic collective have cranked out local CDs in a vacuum for the last couple of years. 2013 saw the crew's main rappers, Stu Hustlah and Feddy Da Sneak, cultivate a YouTube presence with a slew of distinctively bleach-tinted no-frills videos for tracks like "Make Me Rich," "Same Position," "Grind Wit' Cha," "Let Off Da Strap," and "Respect Life." Last year the crew also began appearing on albums by Ohio mob music kingpins Ampichino and Young Bossi, and subsequently, their music began to appear on specialist rap blogs and message boards.
Last fall, Stu Hustlah announced he was dropping an album with Lil Juu (another of the crew's members) via a jpeg of an album cover which has to be seen to be believed (see above), and a new single, "Mobbin," the hardest, nastiest song the crew had recorded to date. The album finally arrived on iTunes/Amazon/Spotify last Friday, and it's back to business as usual: Stu and his cohorts return to their stock stylistic tics of raps about selling drugs, sending slugs, and needing hugs over beats which generally tend to consist of 80s R&B samples, cheap 'n' nasty chipmunk-soul, and synthetic acoustic guitars straight outta some Bolivian telenovela.
Today's featured Deep Cut, "This Is Me," stands out as both a good representation of Murdergang's regional variation on melancholy mob music (see also: tracks like "Oooooooooo," "Oh Soo Hard," and "Family Ties"). And a slight evolution in tone for the crew, as they begin to operate on slightly bigger budgets and let a bit of light into their otherwise unremittingly joyless bubble.
"So much in my life, dope in my pours/tryna find a way out, spittin' raps 'til I'm hoarse..." —Marty Macready
French Montana f/ Jadakiss "88 Coupes"
Producer: Harry Fraud
Songs like French Montana's "88 Coupes" are proof that French's current position as one of the only New York rappers with national buzz is no fluke—at his best, he perfectly melds an east coast street sound with an off-kilter pop sensibility.
Over a lush, autumnal Harry Fraud beat, French displays his trademark singsongy stop-start flow and clever lyrics ("My niggas war ready—gift and the curse/Next step be the worst/Next coupe be a hearse"). His ongoing collaborative relationship with Harry Fraud consistently brings out the best in both of them (see also: "I Think I Love Her," "Shot Caller," "Ya Mean," etc.), and "88 Coupes" is no exception. The slurred laziness of French’s delivery here works in tandem with the production, lending the song a hazy feel.
Guest-star Jadakiss always excels on production that compliments his gritty voice, and here he delivers one of his more memorable verses in a while. “Gettin’ that cake, it causes friction/The love turn the hate to addiction—Montega, Perico, prescriptions” is classic Jada. —Tyrone Palmer