What’s new for hip hop?
by Parris Cayer-Leary
Apollo Brown | Sincerely, Detroit
Veteran producer Apollo Brown dropped an album in the past week which features new and veteran artists alike all of which, call Detroit home.
Apollo Brown has recently been making albums with particular underground artists like Locksmith, Planet Asia, and Joell Ortiz (who I’ll talk about later in this article).
The album is a beautiful love letter to his, and the artists featured on it, home city.
Domani | Time Will Tell
Domani Harris, the son of hip hop great T.I., came out with an album that is an introspective look at growing up in the shadow of a famous parent, and a look at how the world treats you when this is the situation.
The first track on “Time Will Tell” is called “A Poem I Wrote” (which is just that) and sets the tone of this masterpiece. It has received incredible praise from some of the biggest rappers in the game. Both Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole called the album a classic, and coming from them, that is a serious accomplishment. Domani even mentions J. Cole on his album as he talks about Cole passing on adding him to the roster of artists on his Dreamville label. I look forward to hearing more from this very eloquent artist.
Domani Harris (left)
Freddie Gibbs | Bandana
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib released the sequel to their 2014 album “Piñata” which was the album that got me into Gibbs in the first place.
Enlisting help from rap legends Black Thought and Yasin Bey (formerly Mos Def) on an excellent track entitled “Education”, and receiving help from Anderson. With Paak, Killer Mike, and Pusha T on other tracks, Gibbs and Madlib definitely dropped another classic.
Gibbs began teasing this album shortly after the release of “Shadow of a Doubt”, which was Gibbs’ solo project he released in 2015. He had a pretty turbulent couple of years since then, after being accused of sexual assault in Austria. He was acquitted of these charges in 2015 and released an EP after that allowed him to vent about his experience being wrongfully accused.
The wait was finally over this past summer when he and producer Madlib finally were able to release this immaculate follow-up. It received high marks from music critics and fans alike. I look forward to hearing more from one of my favorite active rappers.
Earthgang | Mirrorland
Earthgang is a duo made up of rappers Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot and are signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville label.
“Mirrorland” is their first full length LP since 2015 after making an album with Spillage Village, a musical collective that they are part of that is also a part of Dreamville, as well as a couple of EP’s and a collaboration called “Revenge of the Dreamers 3” which featured all artists signed to the Dreamville label.
“Mirrorland” acts as a love letter to their home city of Atlanta. Tracks like “LaLa Challenge”, “Top Down”, “Proud Of U” which features Young Thug, and “Tequila” which features T-Pain, all have enduring qualities that should keep this album in heavy rotation for hip hop heads for years to come.
Joel Ortiz | Monday
Thirty-nine year old Brooklyn native Joel Ortiz was a member of the longtime group Slaughterhouse, which included members like Royce Da 5’9” and (later in their existence when they moved to Shady Records) Eminem. His intricate rhyme schemes and boom bap sound are reminiscent of underground hip hop from the late nineties and early aughts. Though Slaughterhouse no longer releases music together, Ortiz continues to make excellent music.
The album only has two featured artists on it which is rare in modern hip hop. When so few features are on an album, it speaks to the caliber of the artist involved. Blakk Soul is a rising soul singer songwriter and is featured on the track “Momma,” which offers a similar sentiment to 2Pac’s classic “Dear Momma”. The featured artist is Big K.R.I.T. who is a Mississippi native. K.R.I.T. has slowly gained recognition in the rap game over the past 5 years or so for his Dirty South sound that is not as popular as it was in the early to mid 2000’s. Ortiz and K.R.I.T.’s song “Learn You” serves as an apology to their children whose childhoods they feel they missed while on the road promoting their music.
Ortiz has made another great album which is no surprise but he continues to fly under the radar despite his close ties to rap moguls Eminem and Dr. Dre. I look forward to hearing more from him soon, and hopefully another album with Apollo Brown.
Chris Rivers | G.I.T.U.
One of the most fascinating rappers in the game currently is another child of a rap legend. However, his story is in stark contrast to Domani Harris’ because his father, Big Pun, died in 2000 when Chris was 6. Chris was the youngest of Big Pun’s children and grew up in poverty in the Bronx after his mother, Pun’s wife, was left with nothing after his death due to record contracts that were made up of almost exclusively advances and little for the long term.
This album is on par with Chris Rivers’ previous works. His flow is very similar to his father’s which was full of intricate rhyme schemes and alternating rhymes between bars. This skill set is one of my favorite to hear in rap and is very rare as it is extremely difficult and a true sign of greatness.
“G.I.T.U.”, which stands for Greatest In The Universe, is Rivers’ 7th studio album and he shows no sign of slowing down. In my opinion, he is another artist who deserves far more recognition than he gets.
J.I.D. | Dicaprio 2
Though this album has been out since November of 2018, I wanted to bring it to the attention of anyone unaware of the absolute mastery that is on display on his sophomore LP. J.I.D. is another artist affiliated with Dreamville and is a member of Spillage Village with Earthgang and is regularly featured on Earthgang tracks.
J.I.D. has a speedy flow and high pitched voice which he puts on very slow burning beats, offering a great contrast that makes the listener want to listen to his music over and over to hear new lines you might have missed the first couple times you hear it.
“Off Da Zoinkys” which is a beautiful song about addiction that, unlike most songs about the same subjects, is an absolute banger.
Dreamville | Revenge of the Dreamers 3
The last recent album I am going to talk about is one which includes two of the artists that I’ve already talked about in this article. This album is a compilation of songs featuring different artists that are on the Dreamville record label, which is run by J. Cole.
The fascinating thing about this J.I.D. (above) Dreamville “Revenge of the Dreamers” album is that it was recorded in just a week. J. Cole rented a warehouse outfitted with many recording studios and lounges for writing and socializing. They invited numerous producers to come and work alongside the artists to make beats they wanted to be a part of.
I’m not aware of any other hip hop album made this way, and I think it should become a more common occurrence seeing as it worked so well.
Finally, I want to talk about the amount of influential music that is turning 25 years old this year. Without a doubt, hip hop wouldn’t be anywhere close to what it is today without these groundbreaking albums that were released in the golden age of hip hop. If you’ve never heard any of these albums, you’re missing out. Without further ado, let’s take it back to 1994.
Notorious B.I.G. | Ready To Die
Warren G | Regulate…G Funk Era
Outkast | Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
Method Man | Tical
The Beastie Boys | Ill Communication
Nas | Illmatic
Scarface | The Diary
Categories: Arts & Culture