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.
BK Bambino – “Simple GoodBye”
Like a junky desensitized after years of substance abuse, I often search for new extremes in my rap listening in order to achieve the thrill that once hearing rapping of any sort provided. Chicago-bred, L.A.-based rapper BK Bambino blazes with the sort of charisma that almost begs for a vessel to somehow focus it (a struggle that has plagued Travi$ Scott, though he’s earned a bit of a pass by embracing his punk rock tendencies wholeheartedly and turning his live shows into would be riots).
Bambino showcases a budding ability to control his dynamics on “Simple GoodBye” matching the shifting energy of producer D. Phelps ever-evolving beat by switching between measured restraint and unhinged near-shouting. “Simple Goodbye” sews the seeds for an artist who could prove very compelling, smartly scorching in its energy and autobiographical (briefly detailing Bambino’s move from his hometown to L.A.). The song and Bambino’s in-your-face rapping will undoubtedly turn some away, but his particular fire and technical ability give him an edge in a sea of soundalikes and the uninspired.
Malik Ninety Five ft. King Haley – “Shame”
Sometimes feel trumps logic and complex analysis. New Orleans rapper Malik Ninety Five’s new single “Shame” is the sort of song that makes you wish you had an old Cadillac with the best system money can buy. With a bassline that, if it isn’t a direct sample, sounds very closely related to Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin'” (which you might recognize from this little classic), “Shame” rides a deep, funky groove reminiscent of the sort of early/mid-90s southern hip-hop that pulled from L.A.’s influence (it wouldn’t be shocking to hear Big Mike, for example, on a beat like this one). It’s attitude music, a vibe to make you feel cool on a summer day—or to help you imagine what it will be like when you’re out of the dead of winter and you can cruise around with the top down, assuming you’ve got a vehicle with a top that goes down, of course.
A bit of extra thought, because I’m bad at restraint: It’s always struck me as curious that New Orleans (and Louisiana at large) spawned two of hip-hop’s most storied empires (the still powerful Cash Money Records and the legendary but slightly less enduring No Limit Records), but hasn’t particularly staked a claim as one of rap’s most important or prolific breeding grounds. Homegrown sounds like Bounce have remained largely insular, while true stars outside of Lil Wayne have been few and far between in the last decade. I’ve spoken with a few artists and producers of varying success levels who have all corroborated the notion that New Orleans isn’t a city particularly conducive to artistic growth or creative mingling in the same way as, for example, Atlanta. It’s a shame, as one of America’s most culturally rich and intriguing states spawns plenty of talent and deserves a hip-hop scene on par with Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Knuckah Bluckah – The Skinny Muhfuckah
I might just be a sucker for lo-fi hip-hop cut from the cloth of early Three 6 Mafia and steeped in the slowed aesthetics of DJ Screw’s classic mixtapes, but when I discover artists like Grandbois, Louisana’s Knuckah Bluckah who make their homes in those murky waters and find ways to put a personal spin on familiar sounds, I get excited.
Bluckah’s The Skinny Muhfuckah isn’t a groundbreaking project, but it’s a particularly successful and organic blend of Memphis and Houston—the two ancestral homelands that gave life to A$AP Rocky’s music and so heavily inspired Drake (if in spirit more than sound)—thanks in large part to producer Diggable Slim’s hazy soundscapes and Bluckah’s entertainingly perverse, blunted raps.
Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari – The A.R.T. Project
A portion of the fun of composing 5 On It each week lies in balancing the various styles and sounds that make up a hip-hop landscape as diverse and open as has ever existed. Choices range from the ignorant and undeniably catchy to the decidedly conscious or challengingly avant garde. Building range in a single edition of 5 On It feels like a guiding mission in itself, a demand by the ever-expanding hip-hop universe to represent its far-reaching tendrils as accurately as the limited scope of a single column can.
Brooklyn-based trio Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari (the former a rapper/singer, the latter a production duo) describes their music as “Afro-Electro—a mix of hip-hop, electronic and Afro-pop.” Debut album The A.R.T. Project blends these influences with vigor and sonic adventurism that guides them through breezy fun like “Forever & Ever” and borderline Apocalyptic buzz of “Take A Picture.”
Men$a, Dino, Daylan Gideon, and Will Hill – “Waves”
At the risk of continuing to overstated the already overstated, Atlanta’s hip-hop scene is the gift that keeps on giving.
Over a shapeshifting beat, affiliates Men$a, Dino, Daylan Gideon (featured in 5 On It last week), and Will Hill (featured in 5 On It last year) channel aspects of Atlanta new and old on “Waves,” with Men$a in particular deftly echoing early Goodie Mob and Hill batting clean up with his heavy, energetic delivery. “Waves” doesn’t even feel so much like a statement of purpose as an overflowing portal into a pool of developing talent.