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.
Adian Coker – “Been There”
Since first popping up on my radar almost two years ago, London rapper Adian Coker struck me as a creator with ambitious aims. His early videos often lived beyond the bounds of the songs they accompanied, suggesting larger visions and influences than fit neatly in four minutes of rapping.
Coker’s latest video “Been There” once again exceeds the expected means of an independent artist—a simpler treatment than colorful debut video “Cream” or occult-referencing “Suicide Drive,” but one executed with precision and exquisite style.
“A dead guy called William Blake inspired this video (Google him),” Coker says. “I wanted to explore the innocence of childhood, the experience of adulthood and the movement into the state of higher innocence (that very few of us reach to be honest). The power of the dancing, the significance of the older dancers’ grace and poise, the emotion the young dancers (who are twins by the way!) convey…man, I couldn’t have asked for more. I wanted to create something that reflected the nostalgic tone of the song, but also captured the essence of the lyrics; the growth from childhood and innocence into adulthood and experience.”
“Been There” might be the greatest success of Coker’s early career, a graceful, abstract vision that creates a satisfying knowledge gap between music and video for the audience to inhabit.
Third Mind – “Easy”
With Dirty Sprite 2808s and Heartbreak took the first major step onto new plains, opening a period of evolution that appears now to be reaching peak saturation. Young Thug, Future, Kanye, and Drake—to name but a few and to paint across a spectrum from most to least experimental—have opened up rap’s expressive palette, lending a new power for emotional truth to what was already American music’s best medium for autobiography. As much as rap has been strip-mined by other genres for its most superficially attractive parts, it has proven as resilient and innovative a genre as ever.
New Jersey crew Third Mind’s “Easy” (the strongest song in a litany of submissions I’ve received from the group) traffics almost entirely in melodic style. Its content and the standards that might usually be used to gauge the technical quality of rap feel almost irrelevant, sound and a primacy of new form more important than an adherence to old expectations. None of this is to say that “Easy” reaches the same expressive levels as, say, “March Madness” or “Numbers,” but it is proof of life on the fringe.
Chris Cartier – “Min Wage”
Bronx rapper Chris Cartier’s “Min Wage” approaches the quest to make money with lived desperation, far more vital in tone than many of the odes to excess that typify much commercial rap. His voice translates the panic of check to check living, of piled bills, hunger, and a present that handicaps visions of the future. Its directness makes for a visceral, blunt corollary to Kendrick’s more high-minded explorations of American blackness and distress on To Pimp A Butterfly and Lupe’s intricate, largely ignored (but no less cerebral or well-executed) opus Tetsuo & Youth.
Dæmon – “Sirens”
As great as it is to have a defined aesthetic and clever wordplay, sometimes all hip-hop needs to be great is to just sound cool. That’s where Dæmon excels on “Sirens;” not only does he just sound fucking cool as can be atop the spiraling haunted mansion of a beat, but he’s also slyly twisting metaphors in some fantastic shit-eating-grin ways. Coming across as a combination between that kid in class that knows the answers to all the questions, and that kid at the back of class leaning back on his chair, Dæmon makes a captivating case for himself on “Sirens.” It speaks volumes of his ability that the entire track is one long pat on the back and it all feels warranted. – Joe Price
Robel Ketema – “Don’t HMU”
“Don’t HMU” succeeds not only because of Dylan Brady’s idiosyncratic production, but also because of how well it suits Robel Ketema’s unique cadence. Once in a while, an artist rises up out of absolutely nowhere with a track that doesn’t just paint them as a fully formed artist, but as an artist with a defined style that they’re clearly not completely tethered to. Ketema is one of those artists, and while “Don’t HMU” doesn’t have anything particularly cloying to hook onto, its peculiar aura is capable of sticking around long after it finishes.
“U>THEM” was one of the best moments on Dylan Brady’s debut album, All I Ever Wanted, mostly because of the synergy between him and the immensely promising Ketema, and that magical synergy is replicated with formidable ease here. – Joe Price