Jon Connor - "I'm Back"
I need Jon Connor to win this year. Seriously. Last year, I had him pegged as one of the brightest new acts to hit Hip Hop soil in a while, and with the influx of tons of new "bright acts to hit Hip Hop soil," I felt like Connor completely got lost in the shuffle. That annoys me, so I'm glad he returned with his own take on Big Sean's "Guap." Connor has no qualms about repping Flint, Michigan to the fullest, and this cut right here continues in that fashion with Connor taking things to a serious level, shouting murder statistics and such. He does err on the sige of arrogance a lot of the time, but what rapper doesn't? Rap was built on braggadocio; plus Connor is confident in his craft. That doesn't stop him from turning heads on to some information about his stomping grounds either. This new track, freestyle, or whatever you want to call it is a great way for him to enter 2013. Jon Connor is back, and hopefully this time you'll be listening. - Kathy Iandoli (@kath3000)
Czarface featuring Oh No - "Czar Rafaeli"
Over a decade ago, I remember borrowing my mom's car and playing 7L & Esoteric's "Speaking Real Words" as loud as the Bose factory stereo would possibly go. Admittedly, I first paid attention to the group I would subsequently write about throughout the 2000s and interview by way of an Inspectah Deck feature on the Landspeed Records single. Some dozen or so years later, the Army Of The Pharaohs/Wu-Tang Clan link is making an entire album together. This is one of the casualties of the changing music industry that works in the fans - read: my - favor. I have yet to hear the entire album, but a glimpse in "Czar Rafaeli" whets my appetite. Rebel INS and Esoteric are heralded wordsmiths, but I've long been hoping for more dusted production that matches the stellar mixtapes from 7L. Oh No fits appropriately on this cut, as another surviving article of the underground, who has found a great deal of mainstream recognition along the way. With less than 500 listens in a slow second week of the year, perhaps people are lost on the Czarface group-name... but these guys are still speaking real words over dope beats. - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)
Vinny Cha$e f. Kid Art - "Harlem Roses"
If you were part of the unfortunate crowd that slept-on Vinny Chase's "Golden Army" last month, this week's video for the mixtape's track "Harlem Roses" is the supreme sales pitch. Directed by Kid art and Cartier Court this is one of the most impressive looking videos I've seen in a long time. It takes me back to Mark Romanek's vision - minus the pretentious sequences - for Jay-Z's "99 Problems." (And also made for a fraction of the cost) There are no rented Bugattis - or women - just a stark black-and-white tour - plus drenched in blue live footage and Hanna-Barbera blasts - of the real Harlem, a repsonse to the changing face of the neighborhood, the million dollar penthouses and celebrities who have moved above 110th street. Yet we aren't shown any of these after Vinny references them. It's all about the daily spots he and his crew find themselves, the counters of local restaurants or the historic locations like the Apollo Theatre. The video uses the legendary Lenox Lounge, a place you could've seen Miles and Coltrane which closed last month as an indicator that the old Harlem is no more. The final shot is in washed out color and it's the lock on the door of the Lenox. With rhymes that reach farther downtown compared to art pieces in the M.O.M.A. and Met, Vinny Chase embodies New York City and will hopefully keep the place it used to be alive. - Mike Sheehan
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