The good news is we’re shuttling towards the end of one of the worst years to ever grace the Gregorian calendar. The bad news is while underground hip-hop was strong, mainstream rap sucked this year. Really sucked.
But to see popular rap plop into the shitter in 2014 might be a blessing in disguise, because it forces obsessive rap fans to dig deeper than they usually might. Take away Jay and Ye and Kendrick and Drake and Em, and listeners suddenly need to scuttle for rap music they enjoy. That, or just settle for Taylor Swift.
This week is a mix of underdogs: Royce and Primo made one of the best rap albums of the year, Doughboyz Cashout continue to be one of the hottest acts out of Detroit, Starlito makes a heartfelt ode to a dead friend, an excellent Rich Gang song fell from the heavens, and the unflappable Noreaga teams up with longtime pal Royal Flush over some classic Beatnuts. Plus, Shlohmo makes a bold return. Let’s get it.
PRhyme – “To Me, To You” (Feat. Jay Electronica)
It really happened. Dream collaborations are usually just that – dreams – but Royce and Primo actually got it done. PRhyme is as miraculous for the music within as it is for simply existing. They even snagged the nebulous Jay Electronica for a verse, and he went in. Everything works because there isn’t much at work. Primo’s chops are gully and Royce’s tales of woe paint pictures so vivid they touch your nose as you listen. His vocal performance on the album is wound so tight, you don’t even need Jay Elec. “Jay Electricity, baptized in felicity” is one hell of a line, though.
Young Thug & Rich Homie Quan – “Up Up And Away” (Feat. Birdman) [Prod. by London On Da Track]
Rich Gang’s Tha Tour, Pt. 1 is one of the best projects of the year – mixtape, album, whatever you wanna call it. It allowed Rich Homie Quan broke out of his insulated shell of singles with a down-to-earth style that contrasts Young Thug’s interstellar schpiel, and this new batch of leaks from what was said to be the second Rich Gang mixtape includes “Never Made,” a song London On Da Track told us is one of his favorites that he’s worked on with Thugger.
“Up Up And Away” is by far the best of the leaks, though. The hook with that beat is like drugs in the vein. It hits you quickly, and it doesn’t wear off, either.
Starlito – “G. Thomas (1991 – 2013)” [Feat. Don Trip] (Prod. by DJ Pain 1)
If Starlito releases a song, it’s one of the best songs of the week. That’s an obvious pattern. Today he let go of a song that won’t be on Black Sheep Don’t Grin, and it’s named after a deceased acquaintance who died last year at only 22 years old. Lito looks in the mirror and sees G. Thomas in himself before remembering how Baby and Yo Gotti didn’t help his situation.
Lito is the one with the slur and Don Trip is the voice of reason. Don’s vocals are clear, as if he’s risen farther above the bullshit than Starlito has been able to. They’re an excellent duo, and if you haven’t peeped either of their Stepbrothers albums, you’ve been on an Ambien diet.
*UPDATE: We failed to mention that the song is a dedication to Doe B, the fallen rapper from Montgomery, Alabama. Starlito also personally let us know he wasn’t taking shots at Baby or Yo Gotti, but rather saying how they simply couldn’t help his situation at the time.
N.O.R.E. – “Lil’ Bit Of Love” (Feat. Royal Flush)
Either you know or you don’t. N.O.R.E. is revving up his output as of recent, and for this throwback gem he recruits fellow Queens extraordinaire Royal Flush. “Lil’ Bit Of Love” mixes “Off The Books” by The Beatnuts and “Little Bit Of Love (Is All It Takes)” by New Edition in just the right proportions. N.O.R.E. is apparently making an entire project like this called The Blend Tape. We need that. Peace to Lefrak.
Doughboyz Cashout – “Champagne”
Quis, Payroll and Kiddo are a problem. Their Free Roc tape from two years ago still slaps while they’ve each released stellar solo projects, and their new single “Champagne” sounds like some shit 100s would spit over. It’s a celebration, both personally and locally, as Doughboyz Cashout continue to rise and put the city of Detroit on their back. Get drunk to this.
Bonus: Shlohmo – “Emerge From Smoke”
Many seemed to sleep on Jeremih and Shlohmo’s collab EP, even though they’re two of the most talented youngins in their respective lanes. Other than that, it’s been a quiet year for the WeDidIt producer, but apparently he’s been working on material for True Panther, the label that released his new single “Emerge From Smoke.” It sounds influenced by Yeezus, what with the pitch-distorted drums and all, but it is still uniquely Shlohmo, part electronic, part rap, part smog. Pay attention to this dude in 2015.