5 On It is a feature that looks at five of the best under-the-radar rap findings from the past two weeks, highlighting new or recently discovered artists, or interesting obscurities.
Ra’Shaun – “Deja Vu”
Over the years, Confusion and I have often had small debates about the places our tastes differ. When we first started hanging out and listening to music, I tended towards jagged textures, bizarre ideas, and darkness; he loved melody and great songs that didn’t necessarily fit into the constraints of pure pop. While I still love the unusual and his brain is still controlled by the Swedes, I’ve come let go of a bit of my dedication to what I refer to as the addict’s itch: finding music so fucking extreme that it temporarily feeds my desensitized soul.
I’ve grown softer in my old age. I like pretty, catchy melodies. I like songs that are easily digestible. I balance them with ample doses of the weird and wild, but every now and then you just want a nice piece of cheese.
Milwaukee rapper Ra’Shaun’s “Deja Vu” is certainly rough around the edges and occasionally unintelligible, but I haven’t been able to get its melody out of my head since it first hit my inbox. Though only one of its verses features true rapping, “Deja Vu” succeeds as a soft-focus take on the continued movement that’s seeing more rappers flexing whatever vocal range they might have. It’s the sort of song I’d love to hear cleaned up with a proper mix and a bit of reproduction, but one that’s enjoyable in its lo-fi glory all the same (and likely more charming because of it).
Nolan the Ninja – “gusto”
Two weeks ago, Detroit’s Nolan the Ninja popped up on my radar with a vengeance, a rapper packing the sort of energy I couldn’t recall at very least since I was checking for Jedi Mind Tricks over a half decade ago and, more aptly, since I first heard Onyx as a starry-eyed preteen who hoped my parents would never figure out Sticky Fingaz existed. Nolan tapped into my very difficult to access nostalgia vein by not only crafting music that sounded reminiscent of past greats, but by approaching his craft with an energy and anger that made it feel real to him, not just some affect picked up from going to Fat Beats once or twice and listening to Donuts.
New single “gusto” picks up where “clockers.” left off, a gritty and guttural transmission from a bygone era. Once again, Nolan’s urgent performance makes the song, visceral rapping wedded to dense, dusty production. For fans of a bygone era, songs like “gusto” and “clockers.” should be welcome finds.
Keita Juma – “H O L Y”
Mississauga, Canada rapper Keita Juma’s “H O L Y” (alongside previous standout “COME OVER”) feels like the spiritual offspring of Zebra Katz and Njena Redd Foxx’s “Ima Read”—infectious in its sparse and skeletal construction, toeing the line between hip-hop and house. Like “Ima Read,” “H O L Y” emits effortless attitude in its aesthetic—it’s the sonic equivalent of outfits you can’t pull off and speakeasies you can’t get into.
While Juma’s small catalog explores a few different sounds, “H O L Y,” like “COME OVER” before it, points to perhaps his most promising direction. Dance-oriented in its dark, minimal way, “H O L Y” sounds like what I imagine a night club in Blade Runner might play.
Ty Senoj ft. Sean Leon – “Wheels”
Toronto’s Ty Senoj understands how to make the sort of music that might incite you to throw a bottle of champagne at an enemy’s head across a packed nightclub–if such a possibility ever presented itself to you, of course.
Over an absolutely mesmerizing beat courtesy of producer DZL (a name to know if you’re keeping score of au courant beat makers), Senoj teams up with fellow Toronto resident Sean Leon to basically shout a lot and make me want to go to a night club just so I can yell at the DJ till he finds “Wheels” on SoundCloud and plays it so I can then throw that bottle of champagne.
In a word: rude.
Felix De Luca ft. KasFlow – “B2K”
While it might sound like a bit of a critical copout, some music succeeds on what could lazily be described as “pure vibe.” Vibe is an almost empty descriptor—there can be angry vibes, haunting vibes, melancholy vibes. Typically, it seems that those describing music as “vibey” are talking either about mellow songs or shapeless Soundcloud music that largely relies on production and meanders without discernible structure.
Atlanta rapper KasFlow feels particularly capable of crafting “vibe” music in the mellow sense (and thankfully not in the shapeless sense). Previous song “DRYRUN” showcased his ear for smooth production that complements his rapping—simultaneously fluid and sharp, but never technically overwhelming. He sounds particular at home on the jazzy sound bed of “B2K.” On the whole, “B2K” doesn’t push boundaries; solid execution of atmosphere means it doesn’t really need to shatter expectations.
Also, there’s never quite enough international representation in 5 On It: Felix De Luca, the song’s primary emcee, hails from Copenhagen, Denmark. Perhaps its time to explore central Europe’s hip-hop scene.