RLouie – Louie Black
Massachusetts continues an unprecedented hot streak with these celebratory collaborative efforts. Less than a month after ALFII released his video game anthology, Brockton native RLouie blesses local diehards with a six-track quick hitter that features soul-crushing 808s, summery Afro-beat renditions, and textural horn passages for added dimension.
RLouie is typically known for engineering some of Eastern Massachusetts’ recent projects, but according to his Twitter account, Louie Black is a marvelous opportunity to showcase his production value. And boy does it pay off.
Much like in the case of ALFII, RLouie denotes the entirety of the instrumental space for local mainstays, particularly Luke Bar$, Lord Felix, Dupes, Saint Lyor, Jiles, Meech and Big Leano. All perform spectacularly on their desired platform, but it’s Bar$’ helium-filled vocals that stand out across three different tracks. His typical melodic bungee jumping is present, but songs like “Change” and “Feel” prove that he carries perceptive singing chops as well. All of this confirms my theory that Brockton is the Atlanta of Massachusetts when it comes to hip hop. There’s so much talent it’s almost unfair.
Lil Tjay (feat. Pop Smoke and Fivio Foreign”) – “Zoo York”
After a life-changing 2019, Lil Tjay was destined for an even bigger start to the decade. He released his single “2020” on New Years, and bluntly laid out a blueprint for becoming the greatest artist in his genre. It’s a familiar narrative for sure, but it’s difficult to dissociate yourself from someone who sounds so young and yet so confident when that upper register is obtained. After all the prison time and heartache he felt from the loss of his friend Smelly (despite what Don Q may say), Tjay had finally “made it.”
Then in a matter of a month, things took a turn for the worse. Close friend (and New York drill messiah) and frequent collaborator Pop Smoke unexpectedly died in mid-February, and a crippling pandemic brought warlike imagery to New York. The 19-year-old had already witnessed a lot at an early age, and now this is just overkill. You can transparently hear and see the trauma in his most recent videos and songs. On “Ice Cold,” Tjay is spotted masked up with a gloomy backdrop emanating across the barracks of his home. No amount of money can help with this heartbreak, especially for someone who hasn’t even reached the drinking age yet.
To combat this lingering depression, Tjay released a seven-track EP aptly titled State Of Emergency. It mainly concentrates on the trendy harshness of Brooklyn drill courtesy of AXL Beats and 808 Melo. Nothing on the tape is different from what you could find on the Raps & Hustles YouTube channel, though there are a few highlights. “Zoo York” is triumphantly one of them thanks to Tjay’s crackly harmonies and Pop Smoke’s growling cadence. This track simultaneously captures the current mood (just look at the title) and tastefully remembers a regional legend. Once again, long live the Woo.
Ric Wilson & Terrace Martin – They Call Me Disco
Summer will not be the same in 2020, which is why music like this is so valuable. Ric Wilson and Terrace Martin’s new EP is like a needle in the haystack. A hidden gem in the midst of an unequivocal disaster. The suitable light at the end of this eerie tunnel.
Wilson and Martin imitate all of the best duos for a funk-induced expedition into Chicago’s illustrious backstreets. Glittering keys and piercing bass-lines circulate throughout the production as Wilson raps with the panache of early Donald Glover and sings with the celestial godliness of Devonte Hynes. This is the same type of laid-back mood music Thundercat experimented with earlier this year, except Wilson better identifies a pocket for Martin’s illustrious instrumentals. He raps about our current world with a universal perspective that doesn’t get lost in the beauty of the aforementioned landscape (“Got a mask on my face at the chick-fil-a/I just wanna be on right side of history/Whats the purpose?/Global warming is swarming around beyond the matrix/Why we out here killing for colorism and hatred?”). Wilson is part of the Chicago Young Authors for a reason.
Their sentiments are powerful yet purposefully euphoric. You can dance while feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. Everyone should give this a listen.
49th Parallel – “New Chevy”
49th Parallel are on the brink of becoming the next big rap group. The Seattle-based outfit released their debut album Canvas as a partnership with highly-regarded YouTube channel Yes Theory. The video associated with the album had over 3 million views, thereby positioning them for a luxurious future.
That same extravagance is showcased on their newest track “Chevy,” a catchy anthem that finds the collective slithering through jumpy drum patterns and alien-like synth flutters. The chorus particularly festers in your mind like any great song,as each member of the group highlights why they don’t need any help from big table conglomerates. All they need is a cult fanbase and one viral hit. This could be the one. Stay on the lookout for them.
909 Memphis (feat. Cash Bentley) – “Falling Out of Love”
Despite being from the DMV, 909Memphis has a strong grasp of midsummer antics, particularly falling in and out of love. On a collaborative cut with Cash Bentley, the melodic crooner is participating in the latter before summer even starts. The acoustic number evokes a dreamy aesthetic as each rapper’s ethereal inflections are swallowed hole by love’s emptiness. This is autotune done right.
Duwap Kaine – “Smile”
Duwap Kaine’s 2020 album Bad Kid From the 4 is one of the most innovative rap projects to be released over the last three years. His voice glides across whatever self-produced shuttle he finds. He’s also one of the most unpredictable artists within the Soundcloud sphere, which is why his double-time style works so well across 18 tracks.
To capitalize on this momentum, Kaine provides listeners with a sputtering loosie that sounds like it’s in reverse the whole time. The production is inherently demonic, and yet it draws you in with its merry-go-round aesthetic. Kaine is as fidgety as ever, reminding listeners how high they should be when pressing play on his music.
One of his close friends advised him not to release this song on the night of Drake’s mixtape. Kaine did anyway, saying that it would go harder than Drizzy’s project. He was absolutely right.
Blocboy JB – “Swervin'”
I find Blocboy’s music to be mind-numbingly uniform the majority of the time. This is a major exception, especially if you have the bass cranked up to the max while driving in your car. The song may knock your speakers out. Please don’t blame me for it. I’m still just a broke post-college student.
Bonus: Listen to more Peggy.