Back in March, Complex debuted a new column entitled "Bout To Blow," and as explained in a pretty lengthy introduction, it had two goals.
1. To use the many tools available to us today to get some idea of what songs were really bubbling with "the people"—in other words, to insert some science into the process.
2. And to contextualize that information, because raw numbers in a vacuum would have you thinking an anonymous rapper dropped onto a stellar track was hip-hop's next big rap star when he was more like an empty vehicle for a dope beat, hook, and some tattoos. Shots?
The post is obviously intended to be somewhat predictive. There's also an element, though, that is cheerleading. Many of these songs might be flourishing in certain markets, but could use wider exposure. They're tracks where the metrics suggest some forward momentum, even if the clubs and radio play don't reflect that.
March's predictions included a few misses; although "Slide Thru" remains a fire song, and I'd still like to see it take off outside the Bay, so far it hasn't received much attention. Likewise, Baby Bash, Raw Smoov and Ty Dolla $ign's "Low-Key" hasn't quite reached the storied heights of Baby Bash's mid-00s "Suga Suga" career peak. Other hits were more on point: just a couple of weeks after it debuted, we called "Fancy" a surefire smash; it just cracked Billboard's Top 20. Likewise, spins have increased for Anthony Lewis' "Candy Rain," Lil Boosie's "Show The World," and...well, pretty much every other song mentioned.
It probably would have been smart to include a few of the songs I passed over in last months list, at least if I were trying to be a true Nostradamus. In both instances, I mentioned them in one slide or another as cuts I was hesitant to endorse. Snootie Wild's "Yayo," which I felt was a bit of a Kevin Gates knockoff, definitely has been picking up steam and may end up a career-making single. K-Camp's "Cut Her Off" kinda creeped me out (and didn't even sound as good as his initial effort "Money Baby"). But it's become one of the year's biggest rap songs. Hey, the people spoke.
Let's give it another shot. Welcome to Bout to Blow: 10 Dope Songs You Should Be Hearing Everywhere Soon.
Columbia BT f/ Future "From The Start"
While Honest may not be the ideal Future album, it's also not the worst possible iteration of a Future album—after all, "Real and True" somehow gave Honest the slip. Nonetheless, it's still tempting to play A&R with what could have been a stronger record—songs like "Substitute Everything" and "No Love" were some of his best, but never received a real home.
Ditto the hook to this incredible song by the heretofore unknown (...or is he?) Columbia BT, which sounds appropriately cinematic in its lovelorn, widescreen beauty. What kind of clout could a rapper possibly have to demand not just a first-tier hook, but a Future verse as well?
I have no idea, but Columbia BT is actually a reinvention of Tommie Walker aka Mr. Bigg Time, an Atlanta rapper who first made his name writing for CMP Diablos' "Its Dem Dam Diablos" in the late '90s. He released his debut, Ridah 4 Life, around the turn of the millennium, and its follow-up Welcome to College Park in 2005. His moment of greatest notoriety was the mid-00s anthem "Check My Footwork" (it's about sneakers, not fast dancing from Chicago) which appeared on the ATL soundtrack and spawned a five out of five fire emoji remix with UGK. Now back as Columbia BT, "From the Start" is beginning to get some spins in the South and can be purchased on iTunes.
Laudie "Stripper Bop"
Hugely popular in its hometown of St. Louis, Laudie's Haz Futcha-produced "Stripper Bop" sounds like a strip club torch song melting like so much candle wax. Sure, its sing-song style and "Karate Chop" flow are hardly rap music's most novel maneuvers, but with a little light repetition the chorus becomes mesmerizing and druggedly poignant. Preliminary investigation of Laudie's other output suggests some inconsistency, a few amazing beats, and an ability to track down high profile collaborators, but this song is better for leaving its humid air to Laudie alone.
Ariana Grande f/ Iggy Azalea "Problem"
Speaker Knockerz "Lonely"
Speaker Knockerz's output is some of the most underrated in hip-hop today. In the wake of his tragic passing at such a young age—he was only 19—there's been an outpouring of love and attention online. But it's largely limited to the same channels that celebrated his work when he was alive; YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram became the home to most of the memorializing.
He had created a loyal, authentic fanbase online, all without the attention of the press or even all that many cosigns. But artists were reaching out, particularly in Chicago, where you can currently hear Speaker Knockerz-produced songs like Boss Baka's impeccable "Drugs R Us" (where is Sylvia Robinson to insert a couple of well-placed "Don't-Don't do it!"'s?) on the radio.
Also currently receiving airplay in Chicago and in a few other places—and rapidly picking up streaming traffic—is "Lonely," the song that best epitomizes the Speaker Knockerz sound, a bundle of contradictions nestled right against one another. His boyish innocence still feels so recent, the song's naivete so fresh, that newfound cynicism stings all the more sharply, a harsh wound that gives the song's solitary mood an especially melancholic edge.
Stunt Taylor "Fe Fe on the Block"
Complex has been riding for the hit capabilities of "Fe Fe On the Block" for awhile now, and it appears the electric guitar-playing mountain climbers have answered our prayers, as the signature bop anthem has started to gain spins in the Midwest and become available on iTunes and Amazon. (Immediate guess: a label jumped on board and put some cash behind it.) Bop is a genre of uptempo, dance-friendly, cheery, molly-addled melodic jams based out of Chicago's West Side. "Fe Fe On the Block," despite being drenched in the scene's slang and set at the very parties—called "fe fes," short for "fiestas"—where this music originates, is a pretty conservative example of the genre, one that wouldn't seem out of place in Atlanta. At least, if Stunt Taylor didn't use slang like "thoteratis."
For a more representative example of the scene's sound, check out Sicko Mobb's definitive anthem "Fiesta." For a better example of how radical bop can sound relative to hip-hop more broadly, check out "Flee" by The Guys. To learn the dances, check out the "Dlow Shuffle." But where those songs all fall inside the action, "Fe Fe On the Block" takes a step back, an onlooker's narrative of a summer night out partying on the block and taking in one of hip-hop's most rapidly mutating outliers.
Snootie Wild F/ K Camp "Made Me"
I turned my nose up at Snootie Wild's "Yayo" for being a dumbed-down Kevin Gates single, and K-Camp's "Cut Her Off" for being kind of creepy, but both ended up taking off and becoming massive singles anyway. Somehow, my silent protest went unrecognized. Consider this as penance, or an attempt to mention two birds with one stone. Both artists have somewhat undefined personalities on-record. This isn't an unheard-of phenomenon in the music industry right now, especially in Atlanta, where stepping into a strip club comes with a record deal. But K-Camp's anonymity hides a certain consistency, at least, which suggests that there may be a talented hitmaker behind the curtain.
Snootie, on the other hand, is from Memphis, and needs another hit to prove he can sustain past the now-undeniable "Yayo." This song doesn't have much in the way of momentum behind it at the moment—consider it my vote for a follow-up single from two of the genre's most successful rookies. The beat feels like a less frightening version of DGainz's beat for King Louie's "Money Dance," what with all those interlocking bells and hooting noises and Snootie Wild's echoing vocals.
Mali Music "Beautiful"
Mali Music is a former gospel singer who, in explaining his transition to secular music, mentioned that Gospel music has an 'unspoken ceiling' that he didn't want to settle for. He's been working with Akon instead, on incredible positive, inspiring music that is less explicitly Christian, and much more likely to go over at Starbucks.
So yes, it's not "cool" music in the sense that Mila J's "Smoke Up, Drink, Break-Up"—also currently being pushed to radio—is. Mila J is Jhene Aiko's older sister, and her song hits the major bloggable touchpoints in 2014, primarily aping ca. 2001 Aaliyah/Timbaland down to the swishy, distorted hi-hats. It has a chance of becoming big, as its evident hedonism plays it safe.
But there's something impossible to deny about "Beautiful," which is apt to become a massive smash in all its clean, windswept glory. The songwriting cleverly applies to two audiences, and plays a neat trick of seeming at once intimate and grandiose, caught in the tension between old audience and new, the greater glory and earthly concerns, paradise and a very faint hint of fire and brimstone.
If Mali Music is too square for you, and Mila J too derivative, there's a nice middle ground worth hearing: Rochelle Jordan's "Follow Me," which has trendy visuals and a retro production style, but a distinct performance from Rochelle Jordan herself.
Adrian Marcel f/ Sage The Gemini "2 AM"
This record is a personal favorite—I first wrote about it back in January—that earned a lot of attention after being rereleased with a Sage the Gemini guest verse. Sage is an underrated presence (and if "Bad Girls" would get a single release, could earn a spot on lists like this one). But he detracts from the song's lonely nighttime atmosphere on "2 A.M.," a sparse, pristine ratchet&b single by Raphael Saadiq mentee Adrian Marcel. The version with Sage has continued to build over the past month, being added to radio stations across the country and slowly gaining momentum. Here's hoping the push continues into the summer.
Doe B f/ T.I. "Homicide"
Doe B joins Speaker Knockerz on this list as a talented artist whose career is now in its posthumous stages. The "Biggie of the South" praise has probably put as many people off from his catalog as it has attracted. Ignore it; Doe B was a distinct and talented enough rapper to earn your attention. His smooth, unassuming vocal style—as modest as his broad physical presence was intimidating—hid a clever mind. T.I. sounds equally invigorated in his presence, as the two take to a remade version of a classic beat (UGK's "Murder"). While they don't exactly demolish the song—they are competing with arguably the best verse of Bun B's career—they do it justice.
There's definitely something unsettling about hearing a man who died by gun violence rapping about it; it's steadied slightly by its reverence to the original "Murder," a song whose status as a "classic" has made safely a part of history. Doe B's "Homicide" is an easy reminder that actual violence, though, is not. This one might be a bit of a reach for a hit single, but a video is on the way, and it would be nice to see some hardcore hip-hop back on the charts—especially a single as simultaneously vibrant and steeped in history as "Homicide."
TeeFlii f/ 2 Chainz "24 Hours"
I retain a certain wariness about TeeFlii, whose ability to attract quality collaborators and sound good over a DJ Mustard beat isn't the most distinct talent in the current moment. The arrogantly bawdy R&B lane that seemed wide-open a few years ago as The-Dream's solo career started to falter and The Weeknd-wave took over has recently been flooded. Whether TeeFlii can stand out remains to be seen, but as long as he can keep riding Mustard hits, he should be able to slot in between Kid Ink songs and Ty Dolla $ign tracks that have transformed Mustard's "ratchet" sound from a hip-hop phenomenon into one blurred between rap and R&B.