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.
PREMIERE: Dowrong – “Shooters” (Prod. Eric Dingus)
A couple of weeks back in our “20 Producers Who Are Eexpanding the Sound of Hip-Hop” feature, Joe described Austin, Texas producer Eric Dingus‘ developing sound as “a blend of pretty and menacing that you seldom hear,” characterized by a “singular brand of ambience that thuds one second, and stuns the next.”
When Dingus (and many of the other artists and producers included in this particular edition of 5 On It) were born or first crying out in infancy, Three 6 Mafia‘s Mystic Stylez had only recently hit retailers and wasn’t a commercial success by any metric—save, perhaps, for the fact that it was selling any albums at all as an ultra-violent, lo-fi 74 minutes of music from a group whose name more than alluded to a satanic bent.
The influence—whether direct or filtered through artists like SpaceGhostPurrp—of Three 6 Mafia is unavoidable in much of the production that populates the songs of up-and-coming rappers on the internet (or, at very least, the corners of the internet I call home).
Like production partner-in-crime Dingus, 20-year-old Austin rapper Dowrong takes cues from the past, but wisely tweaks his inspirations. Loose and melodic, Dowrong’s rapping is engaging and deceptively agile, a perfect match for Dingus’ eerily atmospheric heaviness. New single “Shooters” succinctly encapsulates the duo’s symbiotic relationship, a reminder of the importance of producer-rapper pairings.
LAMB$ – 3000 Degreez
Continuing this week’s unintentional theme of rap deeply inspired by region and era but not stuck in either, Ohio’s LAMB$ serves up an interesting case of cross-pollination between influential hip-hop cities.
In Pen and Pixel-perfect cover art and Juvenile/Lil Wayne-nodding title, LAMB$’ 3000 Degreez directly channels the legacy of early Cash Money (though it’s hard to see that cover without seeing the vague shadow of Lil B’s Red Flame cover) and the titular oneupsmanship between the label’s first true star and his successor.
Musically, LAMB$’ reference points venture outside of New Orleans into dark, general southern hip-hop inspiration (with the exception of EP standout “East 1999,” with a title that references one Bone Thugs-n-Harmony song and a beat that samples another).
Though not as dynamic or polished, LAMB$’ approach is reminiscent of early A$AP Rocky, pulling sonic and visual landmarks from artists that purists and classicists don’t typically consider the most influential from the 1990s.
ShyTripThaGhost – Lowlife
In the summer of 2012, I drove around almost exclusively listening to Three 6 Mafia’s Underground Vol. 1: (1991-1994). Bleak and menacing, drug-obsessed and lo-fi, Underground Vol. 1 struck a chord with me in its brazen disinterest with anything happening in mainstream hip-hop at the time of its creation. It was utterly grim and ahead of its time, pre-figuring and, in large part, influencing an obsession with raw, feel-based music (think Clams Casino) and horrorcore aesthetics. It also directly inspired one of my first feature posts on Pigeons and Planes.
There is, undoubtedly, a think piece in ShyTripThaGhost’s Lowlife, the product of a Texan clearly channeling early Three 6 while also expressing some of the psychological angst that has become commonplace in the Tumblr rap community. Someone else should write that. For my ears, all that matters at the moment is Lowlife’s recreation of that same lo-fi darkness (stripped of a bit of the violence) that made Underground Vol. 1 such an unusual, excellent summer soundtrack for me two years back.
Ye Ali ft. Kami – “SEMI”
Enough thinking. Time for the turn up with a side order of inspired rapping from LA-based rapper Ye Ali and Kami (formerly Kami de Chukwu). Thunderous beat in tow, Ali and Kami flex a variety of flows and I’d be lying if I belabored the point: The joy of “SEMI” is in bass and riotous, excellent rapping. Simple as that.
MAHD – “Hello Detroit”
For whatever reason, Detroit remains one of America’s more overlooked cities in terms of its contributions to the wider hip-hop world. Its greats (Eminem and J Dilla very differently and chiefly among them) are often celebrated, but the city itself doesn’t receive the same praise as an Atlanta, Houston, or Chicago, to say nothing of Los Angeles or New York. It isn’t precisely a mecca; it is an overlooked hub of tremendous creativity and varied styles (perhaps, this variety that prevents it from having a distinctive sound and, in turn, a clear influence wedded to its region).
Detroit’s MAHD serves up bittersweet tribute to his hometown on impassioned new single “Hello Detroit,” a celebration of the city’s grit and character, and a rallying cry to persevere and rebuild. It’s enough to make you revisit a storied history of rappers and producers and well-executed enough in its own right to warrant repeat listens.