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: Caleb Brown ft. Alexander – “Breathe”
It’s difficult to believe that Baton Rouge, Louisana rapper Caleb Brown and collaborator Alexander are only 16 years old—particularly when they’re approaching some of America’s heaviest current issues, as Brown described in his email to me about “Breathe”:
“This time i’m back with my labelmate Alexander to speak on some constant issues in America from police brutality, government corruption, corrupted school systems and trying to survive as an Indigo in America period. The title is Breathe.“
Both naturally gifted rappers, Brown and Alexander broach difficult topics without the preachiness of rappers twice their age, “conscious” without the overbearing tone that that term typically implies. The recording is undoubtedly raw and uneven, but “Breathe” is aided by the duo’s youthful energy, a skeletal, classic-sampling beat, and a sense of perspective. They’re not quite asking the penetrating questions yet, but they’re at least aware of the questions they should be asking.
Judah and Koffa – “❤”
With Spooky Black and Allan Kingdom (to name the primary duo) both bubbling up from the murk of Internet obscurity, it might be time to tune the microscope a bit more finely to the unlikely state of Minnesota—home of legends like Prince and indie rap favorites Atmosphere and their Rhymesayers crew, but relatively little appreciated in terms of its hip-hop legacy.
St. Paul/Minneapolis collective Egotic Records comprises at least eight rappers and producers—a number made somewhat inexact by a Soundcloud page that features a far wider array of songs and collaborators (twelve songs are official Egotic uploads, but a seemingly endless series of reblogs reveals a laundry list of collaborators and contemporaries from the Twin Cities).
Apparent core members Judah and Koffa are responsible for one of the collective’s standouts, “❤.” Sparse, glitchy production forms the backbone for Judah and Koffa’s laid back boasts. Producer Slack’s beat steals the show, a crossroads of influences as wide ranging as the modern south, late 90s west coast, and the corners of the rap Internet.
Keep an eye on yet another midwestern state making intriguing music and playing by its own creative rules.
CRASHprez – more perfect.
From its cover and opening minutes, CRASHprez’s more perfect. quickly announces itself as a confrontational listen. Easily the most fully realized release in the Maryland rapper’s catalog, more perfect. addresses matters of American blackness and personal identity through its dense, referential, and imaginative palette—a combination of CRASHprez’s intelligent, impassioned rapping, varied, often haunting production, skits, and samples. It’s the sort of project that demands far more listens than I’ve given it thus far, a statement from a rightfully angry young artist working to make sense of the tragedies inflicting his country.
Klassik – SUMMER EP
After a little over a year of living in Los Angeles after having spent my entire life in New York City, I’ve noticed that I’m losing whatever it is of an edge I once had (or liked to pretend I once had). I blame this thawing of my once formidable exterior on the perma-summer of Los Angeles, a desert fantasy only occasionally broken up by the odd rainy day or 50-degree night—both of which are met with the confused horror of masses facing a zombie assault.
It’s ironic (or perhaps entirely too fitting) that a perfect soundtrack for life in Los Angeles would come from Milwaukee, a city that I imagine has lovely summers, but that I know has brutal winters (a factor that might necessitate an EP about the warmer months).
Milwaukee rapper Klassik’s SUMMER EP is the third of four releases in his SEASONS series. The EP, as he puts it, concerns:
“Long days, warm nights. Vibrant and full of life, the summer season is a time for celebration. Escaping from the glaring cold of Winter, and drying off after the “reign” of Spring, Summer brings freedom and happiness. A creative climax in the artistic psyche, the sounds of this season are grander and lush; flowers in bloom or swelling strings, this is beauty epitomized.
Play these at high volume, optimized for warm nights with windows or tops down. Things are heating up…“
Its three songs clock in at just under 10 minutes, making for a concentrated breeze—the perfect soundtrack as the winter months begin to thaw (if you live in a place where “winter” is something other than an abstract concept that you once knew when you lived in New York).
Turls – “My Plug”
I have no idea if Duluth, Georgia rapper Turls has an actual plug or has ever robbed this plug or is actually involved in any sort of violent activity or potential felonies.
Not my concern.
“My Plug” hypnotizes with its woozy beat and Turls’ dry, detached rapping—it’s the sonic embodiment of drug-induced bad behavior, a mesmerizing internal monologue.