Black Ax, 'NBA Style'
This Aberdeen-based spitter has a stuffed nose flow reminiscent of Common circa “Resurrection,” and he's got some of that Chicago rapper's early days affability too. Over a chopped up version of the NBA on NBC theme music, Black Ax crams as many basketball players' names into his verses as possible and, by the end, stumbles into a rhyming fantasy sports-style analysis pondering Derrick's Rose's health and praising Paul George's defensive skills.
Greydolf & Blaqstarr, 'D'Usse Blunts'
After Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante left the band for the first time back in the '90s, he followed his muse (and a whole bunch of heroin) down a home recording rabbit hole, resulting in a tape hiss-filled, collage folk record classic called “Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt.” Frusciante's work comes to mind listening to the stitched together R&B of Greydolf, who constructs lo-fi slow jams here with some help from Blaqstarr. Imagine a collabo between Lou Barlow and Chief Keef and you're close.
Hi$to, 'YUNG SPVCE CADET'
Earlier this week, I caught kitchen sink dance producer Hi$to at the Crown for Abdu Ali's Wet Wet Wednesdays, and his set of splayed apart party music hit the ground running—it reminded me of the relentlessness of DJ Booman really—with a soup-to-nuts set of Bmore club, guttural dub step, floaty R&B, and global bass that got a crowd of youngsters dancing on a regular ass humpday. It delivered on the promise of Hi$to's recent EP. Start with the title track, which sounds like a “Donkey Kong” arcade machine melting.
JPEGMAFIA, 'I Wipe My Ass With Confederate Flags'
Backed by an instrumental that sounds like a cardboard box full of cutlery thrown down the stairs, JPEGMAFIA calls out the hot nonsense of white heritage, boasts that he doesn't pay his taxes, talks about how bad he wants to screw the mayor, and wonders how we even let Drake into rap at all. Recorded back in May, 'I Wipe My Ass With Confederate Flags' feels like it could've been made this past week as an answer to a newsfeed full of Confederate flag-waving fuckheads, $RB passing the buck, and the infuriating Drake vs. Meek Mill kerfuffle.
Kwame Rose feat. Dacia Money, 'State of Emergency'
Activist Kwame Rose, who is best known for that time he talked Geraldo Rivera's dumb ass down on live television, takes his rhetorical skills to rhyming, using the conversational style that's popular in rap right now and tilting it toward something more urgent and serious. Namely, black lives. “Strictly spiritual, no thugs and criminals/ Our voice resound like old hymnals/ Mr. White Man, I didn’t know Freddie/ Leave it up to you, I could've been Freddie/ And that’s the scary part,” Rose raps. It's like Tyga if he'd read Akil's “From Niggas To Gods.”
Locrian, 'The Future of Death'
Metal's the best when it's dumb but not too dumb, and Locrian's is just dumb enough. The songs on their new one, "Infinite Dissolution" have these bad-ass metal names like 'Arc Of Extinction' and 'The Great Dying,' but it's not just sounds-cool meathead poetry, rather it's a series of songs about how, you know, we're all headed for extinction and we'll never really accept that. 'The Future Of Death' is the album's most immediate moment—an entryway into this group's expansive minimalistic doom.
Natural Velvet, 'Fruits'
This is pretty much the Platonic shoegaze Brit-pop rave-up track, ain't it? A little bit avant-garde but totally accessible and thirstily trying to get a seat next to classics like My Bloody Valentine's 'Soon' or Ride's 'Vapour Trail.' And you know what? It gets there, with touches of Cocteau Twins' 'Cherry Coloured Funk' to boot. There's more of an urgency to Corynne Ostermann's vocals though, pulling it away from being noise-rock's take on new age like most slavish students of shoegaze.
Odwalla88, 'What The'
World-building spoken-word punks recall Miranda July's Kill Rock Stars output and the X-Ray Spex—that same kind of lackadaisical, hey-take-me-serious intensity—as they make Girl Scout memories abstract (“another petal on my daisy learning patch”). And at one point Flannery Silva intones, “Today my best friend saved my life,” and it's the most plain and simple expression of friendship in a pop song of the year, at least until that Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Making The Most Of The Night' drops on all of our heads later this month.
'Anklyophobia' (which is “the fear of joint immobility” by the way) begins as a futuristic drum circle only to be overtaken by a swarm of noise, like an anxiety attack out of nowhere. It's a track that captures that feeling of being pinned down by a phobia (or nerves or anxiety) though in its final moments, calms down again and gives you a sense of release. Like Dan Deacon's “Gliss Riffer” and Twig Harper's “Music For Higher Dimensional Consciousness,” 'Anklyophobia' agitates in order to relax.
Trouble Knows Me, 'Trouble Knows Me'
So this is happening. Future Islands frontman Sam Herring's rap side project Hemlock Ernst has always been way better than it ever really needed to be, but here he is, teaming up with ur-stoner rap producer Madlib and doing throwback head-blown free-associative thing (“Parachute me into space, vape life, guaranteed grape ape, head right”) with hints of his gruff demon wail Future Islands vocals. Can we just boot that Action Bronson goof-ass for good now that we've got Hemlock Ernst?