Five summer ‘16 hip-hop releases you might have missed
Adam Ramos | Monday, August 22, 2016
While monumental, the character assassination of Tay Swift was far from the only happening in the music industry this summer. Even if you had been diligently following the summer’s steady stream of terrific hip-hop projects, including albums from Chance The Rapper, ScHoolboy Q, Vic Mensa and Gucci Mane, you still might have missed a handful of more obscure gems.
Luckily for you, my summer job was music-friendly. As I toiled under the reality presented by my first desk job, I also managed to compile a short list of hip-hop releases you may have regretfully missed this summer.
Curren$y — “Stoned on Ocean”
Louisiana-born rapper Curren$y is in the midst of a volatile career. The stoner rapper and self-proclaimed “Spitta” has been on the verge of breaking into the mainstream, yet despite a steady stream of impressive mixtapes and releases (plus stints on multiple major record labels), Curren$y has remained relatively under the radar in the broader hip-hop scope. Summer ‘16 showcased the 35-year-old continuing to hone his craft, combining his hypnotic southern drawl with jazzy, atmospheric hooks — via an all-star production team of Cool & Dre. “Stoned on Ocean,” his seven-track EP, features frequent Curren$y collaborators Wiz Khalifa and Styles P adding to the spacey vibes.
Noname — “Telefone”
Before we had “Coloring Book,” we had “Acid Rap” — Chance the Rapper’s seminal 2013 mixtape. Among the irresistible hooks, lush arrangements and unforgettable lines, stood a standout feature by a relatively unknown poet/rapper known then as Noname Gypsy on the track “Lost.” Noname’s slow, luscious cadence and singsong delivery combined with her dreamy brand of poetic lyricism presented a lethal blow.
Post-“Acid Rap,” Chance’s fellow Chi-Town talent has been busy, providing memorable verses on Mick Jenkins’ “The Water[s]” and Kirk Knight’s “Late Knight Special.” Thankfully though, 24-year-old Noname chose this summer to drop her long-awaited solo effort. Minimal but compellingly innovative, “Telefone” gloriously proclaims the power of well-written verses and progressive beats, building beautifully on what was so special about her “Acid Rap” debut.
Joey Purp — “iiiDrops”
Like Noname, Chicago newcomer Joey Purp used this summer to establish himself as a formidable voice in hip-hop. On “iiiDrops,” Purp takes advantage of every verse, combining elements of classic gangsta rap with epithets of lucid commentary and reflections on 2016’s urban landscape, specifically reflecting on his hometown, Chicago. The effect is equal parts chilling and cathartic — see “When I’m Gone.” The production on “iiiDrops” boasts intensity and skill: elements of Chicago drill, jazz and cloud rap swirl behind the confident Purp and his artillery cadence throughout the 11-track mixtape.
Clams Casino — “32 Levels”
Summer 2016 had a strong presence of producer-led albums. Works from Kaytranda, Flume and longtime rap royalty Clams Casino proved the effectiveness of production-based art. At a time where the credit given to producers has been called into question, the continued success from these relatively behind-the-scene talents creates an even more compelling argument for the deserved acclaim.
Casino’s “32 Levels” boasts strong performances from rappers Vince Staples and A$AP Rocky, as well as long-time Casino collaborator and ad-lib extraordinaire, Lil B. Casino, armed with devastatingly cold, distant beats and crisp production, gets the best from his rap collaborators. While the pop-oriented tracks can be a bit of a bore, the album as a whole presents itself as the perfect guide to effective atmospheric ambiance.
Death Grips — “Bottomless Pit”
Subversive talk show superstar Eric Andre has long professed his love for experimental hip-hop group Death Grips — both Andre and the Grips have launched careers by spitting in the face of convention. Their respective successes (while we are at it, add Donald Trump to the list) point toward a certain public unrest.
This unrest may pertain to traditional politics, trite talk show troupes, or, in the case of Death Grips, boring hip-hop structures. It is in this collective sigh of boredom that Death Grips have thrived. While the latest addition to the chaotic cannon is a bit more “pop” (see “Money Store”), “Bottomless Pit” continues to expose and lay into the current state of hip-hop and, in a greater scope, culture in general. Elevated concepts aside, “Bottomless Pit” emphasizes top-notch production and blaring instrumentals that afflict, as well as thought-provoking concepts that hide under MC Ride’s distorted vocals. Stay noided.