5 On It is a feature that looks at five of the best under-the-radar rap findings from the past week, highlighting new or recently discovered artists, or interesting obscurities.
Sidewalk Kal – “Medicine Cabinet”
This week, Sidewalk Kal is our candidate for 5 On It‘s “Young Rapper Who Raps Well But Hasn’t Found His Voice Yet,” or “YRWRWBHFHVY”* for short…I might have to rethink that one.
Kal’s low key “Medicine Cabinet” shows a rapper ably bouncing across the beat, finding different rhythmic pockets to inhabit, stacking syllables, and dipping into melody (at one point channeling a bit of the sing-song rapping Chicago emcees like Chance, Vic Mensa, and Alex Wiley have used to great effect). Structureless and brief, “Medicine Cabinet” isn’t much more than a sketch. As a fully-fleshed out idea it stumbles; as a showcase of a young rapper’s ample skill and potential, it succeeds, a snapshot of talent seeking the language to elevate it.
If you listen to “$TEVE FRANCI$” below that, you can also hear that Kal’s still working out a unique voice: The two-month-old release sounds heavily indebted to Jay Electronica. The comparison between these two songs is part of the joy of watching a rapper grow on the internet, hearing experimentation from song to song, working through influences to find whatever of a singular voice an emcee might have.
Mouse on the Track – “I Mean That”
More songs should interpolate Juvenile’s “Ha” and generally be inspired by Juve’s excellent catalog (lest we forget that 2 Chainz’s “Used 2” is essentially a remake of “Back That Azz Up” and one of the best songs Chainz has made since his popular re-emergence)–especially when that influence lands in the capable hands of Juvenile collaborator Mouse on the Track.
Mouse’s “I Mean That” takes the familiar structure and unmistakable chorus of “Ha” for slightly less weighty aims, the end result an enjoyable ode to a classic that stands on its own, catchy two feet.
(Also, is it just me or does Mouse occasionally sound like Project Pat?)
(Spotted at The Martorialist)
Young. – “Ajna.”
Time for a bit of rap free association.
Dungeon Family mystic Witchdoctor has fascinated me since I first heard him, his deliberate lyrics–often uniquely illustrative, often densely referential in a way that might make initial listening foreboding–delivered with a flow that sounds like an amalgam of the backwater bayou as much as Bankhead. The weight of his words, the world weariness that makes him such a unique rapper, leans on this voice and its ability to imbue words with added meaning through sound.
Houston rapper Young. possesses a voice that, if not as distinctive as that of a Witchdoctor, has a similar transformative capacity. So when he raps, “I was always told there was much to know” on “Ajna.,” it sounds as if a whole world of experience exists behind an otherwise simple line. The voice tells part of the story that the words alone cannot. Lyrically, it’s largely a straightforward exercise, but the gravity of Young.’s voice makes “Ajna.” a compelling listen.
Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf’s Fresh Out The Box guest set, “Broadcast of violence, fear of death, and etc.” (A mix of Memphis Rap)
While Bay Area-inspired minimalism rules the day in commercial hip-hop and R&B, Memphis’ murky fingerprints remain a powerful source of inspiration for a current crop of rappers (particularly with Juicy J having a popular moment unlike any in his career, using newfound leverage to populate an album with strip club albums and songs that hew surprisingly close to his ominous origins).
Jacques Gaspard Biberkopf’s guest mix for Fresh Out The Box radio captures the spirit and aesthetic of Memphis rap’s grim, early-mid ’90s heyday, an hour that basks in threats, drugs, and lo-fidelity audio.
Future – “Move That Dope (Ibe Soliman Remix)”
Ibe Soliman’s remix of Future’s surprise hit-in-the-making “Move That Dope” begins as seemingly any number of “trap”-y remixes, built on big brass, heavy bass, and shrill sound effects that either make you recoil or compel your head to nod and your body to convulse like a ragdoll. It sticks to two verses, eliminating Future’s performance and Casino’s gleefully rabid appearance.
Another unnecessary trap remix to add to the Soundcloud abyss, right?
When Pharrell starts rapping at the midway point, Soliman transitions into dreamland melody, keeping the drums intact while pulling an abrupt 180 on the mood. It doesn’t replace the original’s weirdness and sinister thump, but it accomplishes exactly what a remix should: giving you an alternative that stands on its merit.