Since it first came into fruition back in the summer of 2019, the hip hop roundup has done its best to keep up with music’s diversified landscape. My daily exploration through YouTube, Soundcloud and Datpiff, has lead me to oddball regional acts, viral dance moves, and lots of Sada Baby (who’s featured once again here).
As a late Valentine’s Day gift, I’d like to spread the joys of rap music beyond just every other week. That’s right; the bi-weekly hip hop roundup will now become the weekly hip hop roundup. There’s just too much to be excited for recently.
For the inaugural “weekly roundup,” I highlight three of my favorite tracks from the week, and three of my favorite projects (which all somehow contain ominous piano keys). Hopefully I can put you all on to at least one of these gems. As always, leave comments below for recommendations.
Navy Blue – Ada Irin
There’s been a group of lo-fi rap albums released over the past couple of weeks. Two of them are featured in this week’s roundup. One of them happens to be one of my favorites of the year so far.
The one I’m talking about is Ada Irin; the official debut album from skateboarding legend Sage Elsesser (Gangway For Navy was more of a mix-tape). The 23 year old provides his usual abstract portrait of past and present struggles; and yet, this is probably his most optimistic body of work so far.
Elsesser locks in on the importance of family dynamics, and how that in itself has affected him over his entire adolescence. He’s able to turn tragedy into admiration and gratitude pretty damn effectively. Between its jazzy loops and thoughtful intellect, Ada Irin is a sobering experience for all who are willing to give this beauty a shot.
Favorite Tracks: “Life’s Riddle,” “In Good Hands” and “Ode2MyLove”
Tha God Fahim – Lost Kingz
Tha God Fahim already has two projects under his belt in 2020. The first was a collaborative effort with producer M Stacks released in the early days of January, while the second is a punchier solo endeavor released earlier in February.
The veteran MC originates from Atlanta, but his heart definitely lies in present underground New York. Fahim’s songwriting is potent, the murky boom-bap aesthetic is haunting, and the mischievous choruses are catchy as all hell.
Lyrically, Fahim ping-pongs between comprehensive street narratives and life-or-death banalities. He raps as if every decision he makes could lead to his ultimate demise. I wish every hip hop artist would spit with that same urgency. It makes for a compelling narration.
Favorite Tracks: “Iron Fist,” “Play Ground Legend,” “Life After”
Boldy James & The Alchemist – The Price of Tea in China
The Alchemist never ceases to surprise me. In his phenomenal collaboration with Detroit MC Boldy James, the legendary producer threatens listeners with fleeting synthesizers, and drums that could knock the sound out of car speakers if turned up too loud.
Meanwhile, James is stuck in the perils of hustling while penning rap bars that may or may not slice through my earlobes like a sharp icicle (that could just be the 15 degree wind chill though). Boldy has so much knowledge on his drug escapades that I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually did know the price of tea in China. I sure as hell don’t. Most other rappers probably don’t either.
Side note: Him and Benny the Butcher go bonkers on “Scrape the Bowl”-
“I just shot a kite to bro, he put me on a paper route
Now we on the road, 36 Os wrapped up in paper towels
My witness ain’t show up to court, the judge, he had to weigh the trial
They say I got a morbid sense of humor, but that made me smile.”
I hope James always raps over Alchemist beats.
Favorite Tracks: “Giant Slide,” “Scrape the Bowl” and “S.N.O.R.T.”
Shootergang Kony – “Jungle”
Shootergang Kony has a new album coming out at the end of February titled Red Paint Reverend. He’s one of the most versatile rappers to come out of Los Angeles’ eclectic underground. His first single “A Sinner’s Story” illustrated a turbulent life with very little hope for optimism. It’s bleak and emotionally poignant.
“Jungle” meanwhile is more upbeat, more braggadocios, and ultimately more in tune with LA’s sunny landscape. The L-Finguz-produced beat sounds like it was pulled from Tyga’s “Taste” and spun through a washer until the drums changed from a clean echo to a perverted thrashing.
Despite how boastful Kony can be, the young spitter doesn’t shy away from injecting chilling undertones. I’m expecting a lot on his next project.
Notable lyric: “Ayy, from the jungle, but I trap inside the ocean/Water on my neck, it got me ashy, I need lotion/So much jewelry on me, you would think the heater broken”
Polo G, Stunna 4 Vegas and NLE Choppa – “Go Stupid”
I honestly wish this was a Polo G standalone. Stunna and NLE’s vicious shit talk doesn’t carry the same infectious energy as a Blocboy JB or a Sada Baby. They rap the same flow without Dababy’s undying swagger. Polo normally has something meaningful to say, and he even steps outside of his monotone comfort zone. He’s leagues better than his contemporaries on here.
And holy crap; this is some of my favorite production from Tay Keith and Mike WiLL Made-It. The drums jackhammer through Keith’s volatile synths like its cement. Glad both producers understood each other’s strengths. This is one of the great loose collaborations over the past couple of years.
Notable lyric from Polo G: “Got the feds on my ass in the hood/’Cause they think I’m the one who been buyin’ them Glocks and shit/I’m just focusin’ on music/They say my last tape was a classic, but I got some hotter shit”
Bandgang Lonnie Bands, Sada Baby, Bandaging Masoe & Shredgang Mone – “Weird”
There was a five-day period where Sada Baby hadn’t been featured in a music video. I was getting worried that he may have gone into hiding. Glad he’s back, and with some of Detroit’s finest nonetheless.