This week's list honors the veterans - not by choice but by chance. A legendary Bronx duo returns to their vintage sound, while a Brooklyn mainstay further evolves in a career of defying convention. Lastly, a dues-paid Southern veteran makes a hot record just a week after his DXnext featurette.
Showbiz & A.G. - "The Bond"
Although I was not the biggest fan of their 2000 crew album, D.I.T.C. is one of my favorite groups. Their factions and individual works are much greater than their super-powers at times. Specifically, from a producers standpoint, the crew housed four legendary beat-makers. Buckwild, Lord Finesse and Diamond D have a slew of credits to their name, from the early 1990s to today. Hugely talked about albums like Ready To Die, 2001, The Score, The Documentary and Doe Or Die all contain their sonic assistance. The fourth beat-maker, Showbiz (a/k/a Show) really stepped out of the limelight in the late 1990s (after putting down the microphone in the early 1990s. To hear his Diggin' brothers tell it, Show was always at the core of the group and hugely instrumental in its Bronx inception. Along with Show's production and rapping, his crew, Showbiz & A.G. seemed to take a bit of a hiatus. And those like me, who love Soul Clap EP, Runaway Slave and Goodfellas know how much Hip Hop has missed them together.
All this said, last weekend's "The Bond" hones it all in. With one of the best Showbiz productions of the last 10 years - true to his signature sound in the beginning, the group makes a song about other group's breaking up. A.G., who's always been great at rhyming about Rap, also turns the criticism on D.I.T.C. too, acknowledging they could have done more as a unit. With the track coming from May 8th's Mugshot Music: Preloaded, a promotional mixtape to Show & A's album later this year, it all comes full circle (no pun). This is dusty New York Hip Hop that cares about its message and its legacy. With O.C. releasing an album this week, I wish I still had the D.I.T.C. poster from my teenage bedroom wall. The O.G.'s are back in effect-mode. - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)
El-P f. Killer Mike & Despot - "Tougher Colder Killer"
Years back, I used to tell people I listened to Company Flow (without ever hearing Company Flow). I don't know why that name drop was valuable to me. I also don't know why I even mentioned that group in conversations when I had no clear idea who they were. When I actually heard Co-Flo for the first time, I realized they weren't for me (no diss). The truth of the matter was that what El-P was doing at the time wasn't where Hip Hop as a whole was going. Sonically, lyrically, it was a different time period and the few that digested his bars and beats were the lucky ones. As I've watched him grow as a producer and lyricist, I realize he is pushing the envelope always, five letters ahead of everyone else. As for Killer Mike, well, consistently consistent is all I have to say. The two together doesn't equal quite a perfect match, but like most of what's going on today in music, opposites attract.
That's why this R.A.P. Music project will be so exciting, although this particular cut if off El-P's Cancer4Cure. We're at a time in Hip Hop where moving forward is at a constant for most artists and these two seem to be really big supporters of that movement. On this particular track, reckless talk is backed by reckless production that works perfectly. It's a collision course in Rap and I'm all for it. I'm looking forward to hearing more from this project. - Kathy Iandoli (@Kath3000)
Rittz - "Love Me"
Last month's mixtape track "Sleep At Night" made me realize I wasn't paying the right kind of attention to Gwinnett County Georgia's Rittz. Calling him the rare emcee who doesn't embarrass himself when rhyming next to the superstar that put him on is a backhanded compliment. Yelawolf was an afterthought on "Sleep At Night" since I was listening to a rapper who in the span of three minutes made 99% of his contemporaries look delusional and irrelevant in the same way that Biggie did on "Suicidal Thoughts" and Scarface did on "They Bitches." These days Hip Hop fans give passes to emcees who concoct tales of getting brain from two women at once while wearing an Audemars Piguet on each wrist. But wanting to end your life, or taking anti-depressants and seeing shrinks or in Rittz's case having a girlfriend that would rather read in bed or date a guy in sandals than make love to a struggling rapper...that's the real shit.
After those raw memoir-based rhymes, Rittz drops a track like this week's "Love Me" which shows he can also do evocative third-person narratives like G Rap on "Streets of New York" or Ghostface on "Josephine." Rittz tells the stories of Keesha, Deron, Todd, Cindy, Devon and Joanne. There's infidelity, jealousy, revenge, suicide and murder. There's paychecks blown on drugs and long-sleeves in the summer to cover slashed wrists. This is Greek tragedy to a beat, a novel's worth of expostion in 180 seconds. Life still sucks but Hip Hop stays smart. Not bad... - Mike Sheehan