Tito Lopez featuring Jon Connor - "Tryna Get On"
A track like this was so needed. Both Tito Lopez and Jon Connor have individually been documenting their respective struggles through their bars over the past few years. It's a struggle that's deeply rooted—on a superficial level there's the Hip Hop game, where these two bright young wordsmiths have been pounding the pavement and lyrically blind sighting their peers only to continuously appear on slept-on lists (up to and including this one). Then of course there's the societal struggle, where race and socioeconomic status act as oppressors to many, including the astronomical whole who aren't wielding mics. Both sides of the spectrum are discussed in "Tryna Get On," where Lopez and Connor dismantle the mainstream-friendly beat with bars that channel early Jay-Z along with present-day Jay-Z. Perhaps that wasn't intentional at all, but it's a definite positive, given the two are starting out as rooks in the hopes of one day becoming what King Hov is today. They chant the hook with enthusiasm, and while both Tito and Jon in the past have felt stifled by their slept-on statuses this cut right here feels more aggressive and hopeful. It's seriously about time that these two get the recognition they truly deserve. - Kathy Iandoli (@kath3000)
Kid Tsunami featuring O.C. - "Catch Wreck"
Fat Beats Records doesn't get the credit that they deserve. This is one of the most versatile houses for Hip Hop that I love, and that goes back to hearing Bumpy Knuckles' "The Lah" and Grand Puba's "Up & Down" back on the 2001 premier label compilation. In the years since, the Brooklyn, New York-based imprint gave us Roc Marciano's Marcberg in 2010, Black Milk's Tronic in 2008, and formally released Crazy Like A Foxxx that same year. While the retail stores are gone, Fat Beats still has an important (often overlooked) place in the Hip Hop culture. Perth, Australia's Kid Tsunami has an upcoming release The Chase for the imprint, and like many overseas producers, he enlisted State-side emcees to bring shine to his beats. Who better than O.C., who is one of the best pens for hire in Hip Hop? "Catch Wreck" has throwback qualities and a cool styling. From the scratch-chorus to the Yvette Michelle mention to the slang title of the song, this feels as if it could pass for a Jewelz bonus cut. There's a lot to like here, and with so many guys running in new frontier sounds in Hip Hop (which is great), it's nice to hear the sound to my own love affair with the music drawn out in a timeless fashion. Kid Tsunami makes a wave with his sound and his supreme choice of collaborators. - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)
Jarren Benton featuring Vinnie Paz - "Bully"
Listening to this week's "Bully" collaboration between Funk Volume's Jarren Benton and Jedi Mind Tricks' Vinnie Paz, I was reminded of Vinnie's past tracks with Sean Price and R.A. The Rugged Man. Great things happen when Boxcutter Pazzy's heavy metal weaponry is paired with a self-deprecating emcee who has a sick sense of humor and some grudges of his own. Over a beat from Kato that doesn't skimp on orchestral grandeur, Vinnie's "Bully" verse packs in all the things we've come to expect since he first showed us "the appeal of a metal slug." It starts with an arsenal inventory and then proceeds to work in wild animals, grindhouse imagery, Ozzy, violent fantasies and some good clean emasculation. Now all this could be a bit much if it was followed by another verse that makes the same beeline for the jugular, but like Sean P and R.A. before him, Jarren Benton shares Vinnie's end goal but takes a much more twisted route to get there. Benton will put himself down to get a laugh, "I'm a retard, Jarren stay on that stupid shit," only to prop himself up later, "Bitch I'm a pimp I can sell shit to a toilet." Only an emcee comfortable in his own skin with a flare for pop culture references could give us a line like, "I'm into beastiality, getting head from an Ewok." And similar to Eminem, Benton will also use his two strongest weapons - dark humor and precise rhymes - to settle a vendetta with a parent. "Papa used to tell me rapping ain't fucking lucrative. That's foolishness dad, you sound ludicrous, fuck your opinion, we about to do this shit." In the background we hear the voice of an uptight father chattering away about the financial risk of being an emcee. This Decatur / Philly connection feels so organic and balanced, a full album seems like the next obvious step. It would be great for us and very bad for B2K. -Michael Sheehan
RELATED: Tito Lopez Details His Approach To Rhyming And Honoring Hip Hop's Past [2012 VIDEO INTERVIEW]