Slept-On But Dope Hip Hop Songs From The Week Of 7/9/2012
Bumpy Knuckles & DJ Premier, Aesop Rock & Rob Sonic, and Tinie Tempah & ... Ellie Goulding. We thew in a Jon Connor track as a bonus too.
We went all over the place this week. Old school, new school, (slightly out-of-genre), all tracks that we thought you need to learn, though. Flint, Michigan's brightest star in some years. Two class of 1989 all-star alumni. Two of England's bigest stars of the moment, and some Definitive Jux royalty, still working together long after the label, making incredible music.
Jon Connor - "Don't Wanna Be"
First of all, I have to say that I'm a stan for the sample Jon Connor uses on this track. The opening guitar riff is from Judy Clay and William Bell's song "Private Number." I first heard that sample back when Rappin 4-Tay used it on "Player's Club," then again on the track "15 After Da Hour" off that Timbaland and Magoo project. It's just one of those samples that I keep close to my heart. Even when I feel it's loosely present - like on Gang Starr's "Full Clip" - I automatically bow my head in respect. While that's not enough to love an entire song (I'm looking at you, Magoo), Jon Connor does his work as usual on this new one. Even when he's referencing a song I hate (the hook off Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Wanna Be" is also interpolated on this track), I'm still with him. This song doesn't detour from Connor's style of hungry arrogance, but while he typically talks about being the best of the current best, this song sounds more like a pep talk for Connor. Over the past two years, we've seen him make huge strides in Hip Hop, putting Flint, Michigan on the map and basically cornering the new niche market of Blue Collar Rap that so many artists are making these days. Connor though isn't seeing the success he (and I) feels he deserves. Here he's humbled, explaining he's not giving up, acknowledging we're in a flooded scene right now, but he'll triumph nonetheless. Titling his next project While You Were Sleeping feels so apropos, considering so many people really are asleep to this guy's skills. Hopefully that won't be for much longer. - Kathy Iandoli (@kath3000)
Ellie Goulding f. Tinie Tempah - "Hanging On"
I decided to pick a bonus Slept-On track, because this song definitely deserved major shine. Despite Ellie Goulding's slow climb to the top in the United States with her debut album Lights (thanks to the title track), she's already preparing her follow-up album this Fall. This track is the first single, and if it's any indication of what's to come, then Ellie will once again deliver a genre-bending masterpiece. "Hanging On" is a cover of Active Child's single that dropped last year. While his monkish howls and moans are replaced with Miss Goulding's ethereal and delicate coos, she still maintains the integrity of the track. Like previous covers she's done (The Weeknd's "High For This," Sam Sparro's "Black and Gold," Rihanna's "Only Girl In the World"), Ellie owns this song and completely takes it under her wing. The production is as intense as her singing, with a crashing beat that skillfully uses Ellie's voice as an intstrument in parts. The direction shifts with Tinie Tempah's verse, and for many people it's probably a nice little break in the middle from the emotions cocooning the song. These two collaborated on Tinie's single "Wonderman" last year, so the favor was paid in full. Scanning the comments for the track, it's clear that Ellie is gaining respect across genres, even the hardest one: Hip Hop (Lupe Fiasco even sampled her for "Lightwork"). Hopefully the rumors are true and we'll hear her on the G.O.O.D. Music compilation next month. - kathy iandoli (@kath3000)
Aesop Rock f. Rob Sonic - "Dokken Rules"
Since I was metalhead long before I was a fan of Hip Hop, I made the rare exception of skipping right to the bonus tracks when it was time to give a first listen to Aesop Rock's sixth full length and contender for album of the year Skelethon. The first word that comes to mind when I hear the name "Aesop Rock" is "dense," a descriptor I would never use for the bands that were my introduction to a genre of music where it was perfectly acceptable to wear mascara while using car parts to describe female genitalia, bands like Scorpions, Whitesnake, Cinderella and yes, Dokken. So aside from a throwaway line on a track with fellow Hail Mary Mallon (whose 2011 album I'm still forcing on everyone) member Rob Sonic, what does the group who gave us over-the-top power ballads like "Alone Again" have in common with the closest thing Hip Hop has to Thomas Pynchon or William S. Burroughs? They both inhabit worlds completely foreign to their listeners while not taking themselves too seriously or shutting us out. Listening to Rob and Aesop trade off every four bars is like being an out of towner sitting in the back seat while two locals have a heated debate about which local roads will get them to their destination quicker than the interstate. Even though you're not quite sure what they're talking about the magic is in the words, the specific details of an alien world, and the rhythm they share. Like the rest of Skelethon you'll need to listen to this track at least five times to catch every brilliant turn of phrase, esoteric reference, and twisted puchline. But it will never feel like work. Just like listening to Dokken...who does rule. (Michael Sheehan)
Bumpy Knuckles & DJ Premier - "More Levels"
This is my favorite collaboration between these two icons since 2003's "Capture (Militia Pt. 3" Unlike past collaborations that were fueled by a raging emcee, this highlights the wisdom that's long lived in Bumpy Knuckles verses since the Freddie Foxxx era. This video has the grimy lighting that exemplifies the underground both living legends rep. In addition to Bumpy's commentary to the new school, Primo provides a stellar track, complete with a fabulous scratch-chorus, including a fitting Jeru The Damaja vocal. Both of these men have consistently shown "more levels" in their catalog, and as I alluded to before its release, The Kolexxxion is one of the year's best buys. Word to the wisdom: "The O.G. can still fill a room when he rap." - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)