Capital STEEZ - "King Steelo"
When Capital STEEZ passed away at the close of last year, it hit me hard, particularly because he was my favorite rising rapper of 2012. It's something we all can't really wrap our heads around or ever will, but I really felt that the Pro Era pensive rhyme-spitter would've been the secret weapon of the crew going forward - the genius that gets overshadowed by Joey Bada$$'s light but revered as a genius. "King Steelo" (off Capital STEEZ's posthumous King Capital album) is a prime example of the skills Capital STEEZ possessed. The beat is simple and friendly, while STEEZ waxes philosophical about his squad and how they are geared for the takeover. While he's bragging and shouting playful threats, there's an air of paranoia as STEEZ questions the intentions of people trying to get too close. "So tell me whatchu know about Steelo?" he asks throughout the track. Sure, once someone passes away (especially in the way STEEZ did) we are always searching for signs or hints of how or why it happened. We can point to a track like this and dig deeper for answers or just honor his short legacy and enjoy his work. I'm choosing the latter. - Kathy Iandoli (@kath3000)
Co$$ - "Love Is A Crown Of Thorns"
While Co$$' track begins in the midst of his heartbreak, when "love is in the casket," the dreamlike video that accompanies it directed by Ryan Calavano starts before things went awry, providing a visual backstory that makes the lyrics about love, loss and dashed hopes really resonate. Co$$ is a born storyteller and fluid rhymer, working his way into the jazzy melancholy production so he can be upfront about feelings he'd rather not have. "Behind closed doors I was trying to wife the dame / talking kids and a picket fence / no offense I'm quite ashamed." Like a fast-tracked version of the "Annie Hall" story, Calavano's video distills the relationship into three crucial segments: "meeting," "falling," and "parting." We see the memories of the ex in washed out black and white with just the right amount of stylization and home movie intimacy. When we "meet" star Isis Avalos in that laundromat, we fall for her too thanks to a captivating screen prescense and natural beauty. Without uttering a word of dialogue, she finds a way to embody each stage of the rise and fall by using her her whole body and doing some genuine acting. It's hard to be alone with a camera and show a wide range of emotions without hamming it up. But Isis manages to pull off sweet, seductive, playful, jilted and pissed. By the time the video ends we truly understand what Co$$ misses so much and how the girl that got away really can make you feel like mushed up Play-Doh. - Michael Sheehan
Greenhouse - "This Is It"
Columbus, Ohio's Blueprint and Illogic have some stories. Their group, Greenhouse Effect (now known as simply "Greenhouse") has suffered the tragic deaths of members, as both men have plugged on amidst veteran careers. Sonically, both artists are channeling benchmark material with 2011's Adventures In Counter-Culture album, and easily one of my 2013 Album Of The Year nominations with Capture The Sun. Coming together for the first Greenhouse albums in years seemed like a pure passion project. Still, what's particularly special is that the duo still takes subject matters that seem simply about Hip Hop, and stuff their bars with lived experience-wisdom that reverberates with the booming 'Print beats. "This Is It" displays the chemistry over a nice drum and key arrangement. The video is simple, but shows that as the song suggests, these men do it for the fans. Catch them on tour this summer, I certainly plan to. - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)