Image via Chaz French

Image via Chaz French

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.

Image via Chaz French

Image via Chaz French

Chaz French ft. GoldLink – “LMGLML”

Chaz French is becoming a fixture of 5 On It. I imagine (and hope) that the wider world will know about him shortly.

For his latest single “LMGLML,” French enlists the services of fellow DMV-native and buzzing emcee GoldLink as he weaves emotional, candid autobiography across moody production. A bit more personal than previous releases “Came Down” and “YNN,” “LMGLML” shows the power of French’s visceral style when employed in the service of introspection and reminiscence. GoldLink’s sung chorus is a surprising and pleasant addition, with the Virginia emcee setting his intricate flow aside for a moment in favor of restrained singing that adds to the late-night confessional feel of “LMGLML.”

Here’s to hoping there’s more in store from this pairing of rising talents.

Image via Ameer Vann

Image via Ameer Vann

Ameer Vann – “Lately”

In mid-2013, Texas rapper Ameer Vann emerged as one of the most promising voices from loose, cross-country collective Alive Since Forever—a crew of rappers, producers, and creatives on whom I’ve spent much digital ink.

Vann appeared last year as one the group’s leaders in raw rapping ability and self-awareness. His self-titled EP hinted at his capacity for exploring the existential crises of a young artist with flair and exceptional technique.

New single “Lately” feels like a transmission from the depths of frustration, an aspirational anger that raises the stakes from his initial offering: Before, Vann was searching for purpose; now he sees an end goal and aims for it with fire in his eyes. This spirit guides another able performance, his flow weaving effortlessly across ASF producer Kiko Merley’s skittish percussion and atmospheric vocal sample. It’s not a giant leap forward, but a strong next step from the 17-year-old rapper.

Image via IshDARR

Image via IshDARR

Video: IshDARR – “The Better Life”

The notion of a “visual album” is no new concept, but it’s always exciting to see young artists matching ambitious vision with execution.

Milwaukee’s IshDARR (like Chaz French, a past 5 On It feature and, also like Chaz, a name poised to graduate to greater awareness within the next year) packages his previously released EP The Better Life into a six minute video that cuts down the project’s tracks to create a compact collage of the the 18-year-old emcee’s style. “The Better Life” is less a case of innovation than an exhibit of craft, a visual mirror for the exacting style IshDARR explores with his impressively natural, precise rapping.

Image via Mutant Academy

Image via Mutant Academy

Mutant Academy – Open House

Richmond, Virginia duo Mutant Academy feels—in a charming, utterly listenable way—like the aborted brainchild of a late night, kush-clouded conversation between J Dilla and Madlib:

“Yo, Dilla.”


“What if we wrote and produced an entire album, buried the lyrics and beats on a hard drive in the sands of Virginia Beach, then made sure that two rappers from Richmond found it in 2014 and recorded what we left?”


“You’re right…”

*Madlib hits a slow-burning blunt*

“…Let’s just make another 23 beats and see what Doom is up to.”

An often acutely clever, often unexpectedly poignant purist rap extravaganza spread across classic drum breaks and rare groove loops, Mutant Academy’s Open House channels the spirit of two of hip-hop’s greatest crate diggers, beat-making mad geniuses, and conceptualizers.

The duo’s intelligent, self-aware approach recalls groups like De La Soul, but the heavily-influenced and nostalgic elements never feel anachronistic or “stuck” in some misguided notion of hip-hop’s better years. Songs like “My Chain” deliver tried and true concepts in compelling forms. Open House is a project that digs a bit deeper than the Golden Era worship of Joey Bada$$ and Bishop Nehru (the latter to a lesser extent), attaching sharp wit to enjoyable homage.

Mutant Academy also overtly references Heltah Skeltah’s seminal but largely forgotten debut album Nocturnal on multiple occasions and that alone is cause for a round of applause.

Image via ManMan Savage

Image via ManMan Savage

ManMan Savage – “Who The Fuck U Is”

Last week, Confusion passed over this song from Chicago-born, Atlanta-based rapper ManMan Savage with a comment guaranteed to pique my interest: “this moment at 1:30 is so intense.”

Intense rapping? Yes, please.

“Who The Fuck U Is” doesn’t stray much from familiar guns and drugs talk, but starting with the first chorus and moving into the second verse, Savage explodes like a rabid, cornered animal, channeling a desperate energy and rage that gives visceral life to rhymes that might otherwise feel dull. It’s a back-against-the-wall mentality frighteningly encapsulate in captivating performance, the sort of unpleasant intensity I’ll tune in for again and again.