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.
Mic Kellogg – “Breakfast”
While it seems unlikely that Milwaukee will overtake Atlanta as hip-hop’s capital in the near future, it’s becoming a hotbed of eclectic talent, a city where strip club anthems, odes to perseverance, and genre-blending party raps coexist peacefully. Unlikely as it may sound, Milwaukee is a bubbling cauldron of ideas and styles, young creators collaborating when it makes sense, but otherwise showing a real sense of mutual support and respect (at least to the eyes of this far off observer).
Mic Kellogg came to me as a recommendation from a member of recent P&P favorite WebsterX‘s crew. Kellogg’s debut single “Breakfast” didn’t seem like my usual cup of tea (my taste tends towards the darkness rather than the sunshine), but on repeat listens its cheery exterior revealed a song with depth—a message of hope made vivid with everyday hardship.
“‘Breakfast’ is a feel good song inspired by nice weather,” says Kellogg. “People should be able to play ‘Breakfast’ when they wake up, and feel like they can go out and conquer the day. It should remind you that even when life gets tough, you gotta keep pushing and enjoy the ride. This is the life.”
An enjoyable first step from another artist to watch in hip-hop’s improbable, rising midwestern home.
Ignorant rap is bliss and Cleveland’s Slim Slater is damn good at it
My sophomore year of college, my roommate and I used to play an obscene amount of NBA Live 2008. He always played with the first iteration of the Lebron-led Cleveland Cavaliers and was basically unstoppable. The only team I could ever beat him with was the Washington Wizards, thanks in large part to their then center Brendan Haywood—a marginal player in real life, an absolute monster in Live 2008.
As a new chapter of my rivalry with my roommate developed, we started to call Brendan Haywood “The Horse.”
Seven years removed from nights of Southern Comfort and keeping tabs of winners and losers on our wall in permanent marker, I can’t explain why we called Brendan Haywood “The Horse.” I can’t begin to tell you the genesis of the nickname. All I remember is that it became an emblem of an ethos, a signifier of absolute fuckery and reckless behavior—in the game, but primarily outside it.
Of course, “The Horse” had a playlist that consisted almost entirely of brutally ignorant rap music, the crown jewel of which was Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz’s “Contract.” There is no defending this song on moral grounds. Its chorus: “Hey bitch/Sign your name on the dotted line/Because you belong to me/Because you belong to me.” That’s the essence of “The Horse”—pure, unabashed ignorance.
I share that anecdote to set the stage: Bask in the slyly self-deprecating, humorous ignorance of Cleveland rapper Slim Slater and his songs “Bitch Took A Loss” and “Airports,” which respectively feature the lines “My momma she say no more hoes in the house” and “I pick my bitch up from the airport/Bad bitch, I make her pay for it.” Both are also (and unfortunately for proponents of “conscious” rap, whatever that means…since all rap is is conscious of something) sneakily catchy, built around hooks that you might get mad at yourself for loving.
Ziggy2Playa – “FISSURE”
I discovered Ziggy2Playa’s “FISSURE” last Thursday morning as I was eating breakfast. While showering and getting ready for the day after my morning eggs and hot sauce, I found myself singing the song’s hook uncontrollably—”Yeah yeah, ooh child/I done hit ’em so hard/Yeah yeah, bling blaow/Girl I know you feel me now.”
The combination of Ziggy’s soulful, croon-rapping and the hook’s simple, repetitive structure drilled a hole in my brain I was happy to host. It’s hip-hop that fits nicely in the pocket of artists like Tunji Ige and D.R.A.M. (and shades of the late, great Big Moe), a blurring of the lines between singing and rapping that feels a stone’s throw and a Drake feature away from reaching its full potential.
BreezePark – Strangers EP
One of the popular conversations (or, at least, a conversation that I was often privy to in small circles and on forums in the early 2000s) that marked the peak of the Jay Z vs. Nas debate was the former’s vastly superior skill for choosing beats and the latter’s notorious inability to populate his post-Illmatic albums with more than a handful of listenable productions. It’s a topic prone to the pitfalls of exaggeration and subjectivity, but one that speaks to a now underrated element of longevity in hip-hop: An ability to choose great beats. It’s a big reason you can’t count Wiz Khalifa out, it’s a big reason Jay Z still manages a hit every few years. It’s a big reason that Game—in spite of his ever-diminishing luster—manages to put together entertaining albums that consistently land near number 1 on the Billboard Top Albums chart.
None of this is to say that beat selection is the only bedrock for longevity, but it is a major constant in the careers of some of the rappers with the longest careers and most listenable catalogs
Virginia trio BreezePark’s Strangers EP bodes well for the group’s future, a collection of well-curated, varied productions that allow them to experiment with content and flows. It’s neither the most consistent project nor the most substantial, but, as with so many entries in 5 On It, it’s a glimpse at a young collection of artists figuring out the breadth of their sound (and finding particular success when they oscillate between the on-the-verge-of-riotousness of songs like “Know Me” and “Reps” and the future bounce of “Pure” and “If You Wit’ It Pt. 2”).
Anik Khan – “Badmon/12:09”
Queens rapper Anik Khan wants you to know that he is a Bengali-American rapper.
Typically, I don’t like a rapper’s ethnicity, gender, or really any identifiers outside of the music itself to influence my impression his or her craft. I prefer to let the creation speak before the creator. We all deal with inherent biases, but years of listening and encountering surprises has trained me to fight back against the burden of expectations—except, of course, when an artists foregrounds elements of their identity.
Khan’s Soundcloud and Facebook pages both list “Curry chicken meets collard greens” in the way of description. During the course of our initial email exchange, Khan describes himself as “a Bengali-American hip hop artist from Queens, NY.” Ethnicity and location are, of course, not his end all be all and incidental to a certain extent, but they do feel of importance to Khan’s musical identity since he cares to highlight them and because I can’t recall ever encountering a Bengali-American rapper.
In the case of Khan’s “Badmon/12:09,” these facts serve more as intriguing background to a display of his animated energy (and cadences at times reminiscent of Bodega Bamz, among other recent NY rappers) and range. As his catalog develops, it will be interesting to see Khan tackles a topic that his music suggests (but little rap music has approached), the diversity of New York and how the constant collisions of cultures provide new opportunities to self-identify while also highlighting particular traditions.