Rap hit a lull over the past couple of weeks, where very few mainstream artists put out much of anything. Fans instead focused their attention on a variety of other relevant news (or irrelevant; depending on how you look at it).
Kanye West announced his Jesus is King album will be dropping Sept. 27 (though who knows with him). Kid Cudi’s Man On the Moon: End of Day classic reached its ten-year anniversary on Friday the 13th. And of course, Tekashi 69 is snitching on every human being imaginable in court right now. Okay, that last one was an exaggeration-but you get the point. News stories involving rap were much more frequent than new rap music.
The underground meanwhile was bubbling with creative energy, specifically with the emergence of three notable albums: Sampa the Great’s The Return, JPEG Mafia’s hilariously titled All My Heroes are Cornballs, and Conway the Machine’s meditative Look What I Became.
Sampa the Great – The Return
Here’s quite a statement-Sampa the Great (born as Sampa Tembo) received co-signs from Kendrick Lamar and Lauryn Hill. I repeat, two of the greatest to ever do it gave a shout-out to the Zambia-born, Botswana-raised, Australia-based rapper. Now those are some daunting expectations.
Coincidentally, there’s a clear To Pimp a Butterfly influence within Sampa’s new album–both in style and theme. Much like Lamar’s masterpiece, Tembo explores the universal theme of racial identity (“Final Form”), and how it connects to one’s native land (“The Return”). Her insistence on switching between smooth R&B and hip hop is even reminiscent of Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Another great project as a point of reference for greatness.
Despite its intimidating length and tedious spoken word passages, The Return is perfect for listeners who want to listen to an album outside of the box. There’ something here for everyone-boombap, jazz, R&B and great lyricism.
Notable lyric: “Never underestimate your highness/Dripped in melanin, Galaxy’s finest/Put a bit of pressure on the spirit of the highest”-from the track “OMG.”
JPEG Mafia – All My Heroes Are Cornballs
Countless sites have already praised Peggy for his satirical wordplay and off-kiltered production. So let me re-iterate, this dude is one of the most talented artists out there. All My Heroes Are Cornballs somehow smoothly transitions from strained auto-crooning (“Jesus Forgive Me, I am a Thot”) to grating metal-rap (“Kenan vs. Kel”) with undying conviction.
Everything should sound so awkward, but it doesn’t. In fact, Peggy’s emphasis on making fun of society’s ales (masculinity being a main focus) is what makes this project so cohesive. He sounds like early Childish Gambino if early Childish Gambino had the ability to string together sardonic metaphors without sounding corny or out of touch (obviously that’s not the case now). Peggy isn’t juts saying things for shock value-there’s weight to his words. The troubling idea of artists being seen as superheroes is explored fully here.
Between its wild titles, intermittent self-evaluations (“Grimy Waifu”), and everlasting sarcasm, JPEG’s third official album plays out like a hilarious South Park season. One filled with merit and great ideas. It’s not without some fire bars as well.
Notable lyric: “Don’t know how that feels, Young Peggy, no deal/Ya’ll deal look like something like Brexit/Bitin’ crackers and wonder why you’re anorexic”-from the track “PTSD.”
Conway, The Machine – Look What I Became
For those rap traditionalists out there, here’s a great project for you. Conway, the Machine has developed a steady following amongst New York’s rising underground (I’m telling you-they will be the leaders of a new generation of rap).
For millennials out there, this is also a great project for you. The run-time is a swift 28-minutes, and Conway showcases an innate ability to inject ear-worm choruses between metaphorical bars about how much better he is than you. Other New York spitters such as Dave East, Jim Jones, Benny the Butcher, and Westside Gunn show up on the mix-tape as well.
Conway experiments with a multitude of different New York sounds. Heavy percussion and dusty drum loops courtesy of Statik Selektah and company make for a very versatile output. There’s a clear Wu-Tang presence in his lyrics, which can also be heard in some of the comical punchlines and grunge aesthetic. His attempt to branch out past their shadow is commendable to say the least-even if some of the R&B passages are cut-and-dry (namely the final track). Regardless, this dark and dingy output will keep fans excited for Conway’s “official” debut album.
Notable lyric: “Invested in the real estate and made safe houses/Same block where I had a K, wildin’, I made thousands/I could take my bricks and make a yay mountain”-from “Hawks.”
Denzel Curry made another banger…not much else to say. This time around, he joins rising British rapper Slowthai for a track with clear horror core influences. People will be bumping this shit until Halloween.