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: El Shareef ft. Vonny Del Fresco – “Poor Man’s Bill Gates”
While Milwaukee hasn’t produced a breakout star or signature song yet, its rap scene has become one of the more intriguing in America over the past year and a half—vibrant, varied, and consistent.
El Shareef and Vonny Del Fresco, two of the scene’s more polished rappers, team up for “Poor Man’s Bill Gates,” a playful ode to not having money and still figuring out how to get what you need.
“[‘Poor Man’s Bill Gates’] is not saying we are rich, it’s saying we are taking what we want and not waiting for it,” says El Shareef. “We aren’t waiting for nothing, we’re getting it and that’s what my city has done lately.”
It’s not a new concept, but it’s well-executed, a fitting application for an unexpected scene on the rise.
Fly Anakin & Koncept Jack$on – “Fishscale”
Typically when rappers dip their toes in the nostalgia pool, I tend to hit skip. Some of that is an aversion that feels like mere retread of the music that raised me, but much of it is a critique of artists who simply pull from the past whole cloth without twisting it into new designs.
Virginia’s Fly Anakin isn’t exactly breaking new ground with old sounds, but he understands how to visit the past without trapping himself in it. Continuing a trend of tapping into various Wu-Tang molds (we last heard him on “get down,” which recalled the Wu’s blends of hardcore rapping and R&B hooks), latest release “Fishscale” nods to Ghostface Killah in title and style. Swirling strings and subtle drums recall Ghostface and Wu-Tang’s heavily sample-driven songs—beats like “Nutmeg,” “We Made It,” and Wu-Tang’s “I Can’t Go To Sleep” that often added little to nothing in the way of drums or accents to the source material—to great effect, providing a backdrop for Anakin and featured rapper Koncept Jack$on’s concerted, stream-of-conscious raps (also a sort of nod to Ghostface, though neither is quite as manic or colorful with metaphors and imagery). Anakin steals the show with his intense first verse, rapping with an energy that keeps “Fishscale” cobweb-free.
Kay P – The Return of Trill Kay
The small but growing number of artists who’ve managed to convert Soundcloud notoriety into real world success comprises one of the more interesting musical phenomena of the last few years. Our own Joe Price can likely speak to it better than I can, since he’s chronicled Bones, the quasi-leader of TeamSESH, one of the more established crews to fit this description. Comprising Bones a loose, cross-national network of rappers and producers, TeamSESH has sold out shows across the country, moved considerable amounts of merchandise, and generally translated a digital fan base into a physical one in an age when we meet online fame with intense skepticism.
TeamSESH isn’t the only example (Brockhampton, who inspired a fan to travel across the country for a show, and The Stand4rd spring to mind), but it feels like the one that best represents Internet aesthetics spilling into the physical world and attracting a flesh and blood audience.
It seems fitting that Hightstown, NJ rapper Kay P’s music is similar in tone and raucous energy to that of some of the TeamSESH guys, pointing perhaps to DNA that has allowed the latter to bring mosh pits to parties like Los Angeles’ Low End Theory (typically known for lineups heavily favoring producers and DJ’s in L.A.’s beat scene and artists that are a bit more avant garde). Kay certainly has his own dense mythology and iconography to unravel, but it too feels indebted to an Internet aesthetic—particularly its incorporation of anime and Japanese kanji. As far as I know, Kay P hasn’t yet impacted on terra firma the way TeamSESH has, but his ingredients point to the sort of artist that could, to paraphrase the title of a great essay the aforementioned Mr. Price wrote for P&P last year, turn URL to IRL.
G.O.D.S. – In G.O.D.S. We Trust Vol. 1
Two competing urges often rear their heads in my brain when I discover a new artist on Soundcloud.
The journalistic impulse commands me to dig, send emails, ask questions, and collect information. Jump on the hunt before someone else gets the scoop.
The pure listener’s impulse tells me to use my ears and abandon my insatiable desire to hoard and process information.
Depending on the day, either can win (and I’d be willing to bet the journalistic impulse has one more of the time since I started writing for P&P, since we are, of course, in the information business as much as we’re in the business of picking great music).
When I came across Internet rap collective G.O.D.S., my mind lit up. Loose, many-membered crew with names I’d never seen making dark, lo-fi hip-hop and employing acronyms and strong branding? Of course I wanted to figure out what was going on.
I restrained myself. Feel free to dive down the rabbit hole if you’d like, or just listen to the 11-member crew’s In G.O.D.S. We Trust Vol. 1 below.
RobOlu – “Wassup Freestyle”
Atlanta rapper RobOlu sent me “Wassup Freestyle” a few weeks back. I listened once and told him I really liked it, then proceeding to essentially forget about it momentarily until he emailed me again. Another solid song, but not as good as I’d remembered “Wassup Freestyle” being. So I revisited.
“Wassup Freestyle” is, for lack of a better word, weird. Chopped and “sauced” by RobOlu, it’s a slow processional of absurd images and words connected only by syllables and sounds over a skeletal beat. Structureless, it disappears as soon as it arrives, barely over two minutes long. And in its strange way, it’s infectious, an odd energy that continues to paint RobOlu as one of Atlanta’s intriguing young rappers.