Rapture & Verse #25

Separating the Riff Raff from the freshest raps...
James Franco does Riff Raff

Clash’s hip-hop column, as penned by our own Matt Oliver

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The Rapture & Verse fraternity is feeling scholastic this month, rocking a cap and gown in the knowledge that Nas now has a Harvard fellowship for academics to pursue, and Tufts University is siding with Drake by using his ‘YOLO’ maxim on their application form.

We might start a film and theatre studies course, taking interest in Eminem and Die Antwoord’s Ninja both turning down a role eventually given to Matt Damon in Elysium, and Riff Raff suing the makers of Spring Breakers for image rights based on James Franco’s perceived doppelganger.

(Pictured: James Franco, or Riff Raff? The first, obviously… but the similarities are, erm, pretty bloody obvious.)

Or we could write papers on the Hip-Hop Word Count database, an online analysis literally breaking down 30 years of rap tracks down to the letter.

Of course there’s always the chance we’d just prat about, stay up all night, sleep all day and worry about the real issues of the world. Issues like Slim Thug getting both a vasectomy and bunion removal (hello, reality show?), Meek Mill having to take court-ordered etiquette classes, Tim Westwood being given the BBC heave-ho, DMC now becoming a comic-book guy (Daryl Makes Comics y’see), Wiz Khalifa’s new Converse sneaker collection, and heaviest of all, Jay Z’s big news. No, not the new album, but the fact his hyphen has officially been made redundant.    

Speakers seeking nourishment should start with Earl Sweatshirt’s skulking/half-bored intimidator ‘Hive’ with Vince Staples and Casey Veggies (read Clash’s track-by-track on his new album ‘Doris’). Big Sean’s ‘Beware’ warns of keeping a woman scorned close and your mobile phone closer, as Tre Mission speeds through dream-pitched trap/transatlantic grime on ‘Brunch’ and ‘High Fashion’.

Associated Minds have Sonnyjim making a canny contribution to their ‘Classics Series’, and Ruffstylz lassoing up a methodically spat banger. Breaking The Illusion, one of the original forces behind the legendary Low Life label, re-emerges with a quality trio of springy, soul-salted steppers that the sun needs to stay out for. Another three-tracker comes from the non-stop Alchemist; where swooping strings and soul sample swindles sandwich a sci-fi snuff flick, Domo Genesis, Action Bronson, Freddie Gibbs and Roc Marciano are among those filling their boots. Chi City’s bar-room pianos, with an ‘Ordinary Girl’ in mind, won’t stress as it keeps jolly when trying work out female manoeuvres.

The trademark hawkeyed dourness, the street smarts off the beaten track, the most random name-checks... it can only be Cappo, and his third ‘Getout’ (‘G3TOUT’) clause with Nottingham brethren Theorist sees the man himself calling it some of his best work to date. Working on the basis of striking while the iron is hot – rather than improvising off the top – it’s as intricate as it is quick to nail basics, Theorist lacing testing variations for Cappo to make himself analytical to. Midlands forensics to follow closely.

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Cappo and Theorist – ‘Ice’, from ‘G3TOUT’

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Stripping back to see how far he lands from hip-hop instrumentalism, Dr Zygote’s ‘Grupo Zygote’ has a hunch for blues-squeezed head nodders, compu-fuzz and creepy tales by candlestick. You can keep your voyages of discovery; Zygote’s isolation station plays the neighbourhood weirdo giving passers-by the evil eye from his rocking chair.

‘This is UK Rap 2’ finds trap an adoptive ally it seems more and more suited to. Elsewhere, club banter, urban ballads and synth thunderstorms are standard forecasts for show and prove headlined by G Frsh, Mz Bratt and Krept & Konan, ahead of a host of uninventive monikers. Don’t expect comment on current affairs, do expect bank statement boasts and regular realness updates from road on a compilation standing to attention throughout.

Carolina native Ethemadassassin spits unequivocally with gruffness reminiscent of a Rasco or Bun B. Definitely not a believer in dead air, ‘Soul On Fire’ is a belly-burning blaze needing no second invitation to be stoked. To beats to have you picking up dumbbells, and soul samples resting easy so ETMA can sharpen his bluntness – ‘80s and ‘90s’ letting splash misty-eyed twinkles, ‘Crazy’ a cool Cadillac spin – the Veteran Assassin exudes an air that you’re gonna have to earn the right to get past him.

Chaotik Stylz is at the wheel and riding the judders for when Oh No cuts the brakes on ‘The Subliminal Substance’. The kind of chafing, slumping, filed-down soul and funk flipping over on black ice that you’ve come to expect from the latter goes hand in glove for an emcee fitting well into the blunted West Coast community (Declaime, Roc C and M.E.D. are all involved) with a casual sling of highly strung, pad-stuffing rhymes.

Picking up on Preservation’s Yasiin Bey overhaul last month, the NY producer has his own full-length choosing ‘Old Numbers’, syncing up Jean Grae, Jemini the Gifted One and the former Mos Def for 30 minutes of funk-tweaking stimuli.

Mr Porter is another one hot-footing it, turning in an instrumental cameo set around the works of jazz musician Robert Glasper (with a nod to J Dilla-style loop and vibe) that sounds like the D12er breaking open the After Eights while making sure everyone’s glasses are topped up. It’s called ‘Porter Chops Glasper’, and its succinct sensibility (completed in just over a week) should be used as a quick blast of air conditioner for when you’re all sunbathed out.

Quick must mentions also for the evergreen Hieroglyphics and ‘The Kitchen’ waiting on you, as they always do, with specials of funk and fluency; and Crooked I’s ‘Apex Predator’, a dragon challenger when it comes to spitting fire, even if some of the beats put sugar in the tank.

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Hieroglyphics – ‘Gun Fever’, from ‘The Kitchen’

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Traffic is back with reissues of Del’s ‘No Need for Alarm’ and Kool G Rap & DJ Polo’s ‘Street Stories’ best of. Del’s has aged pretty well in a coast-to-coast traversal, leaning East-wards with is neck massaging pitchfork of horns, bass and drums, without total desertion of the West. The Funky Homosapien is a while off running rings around rhyme books mind you, flowing as he sees it.

G Rap and Polo’s jawbreakers – funk chunks, drum machines, machine gun bursts and steps to making the sampler sing better than the competition (though not all of it knocks nowadays) – has gangsta rap relic ‘Poison’ remaining at the peak of potency and ‘Riker’s Island’ deterrent enough to see you onto the straight and narrow. There’s never a bad time for a sip of Juice Crew gold slaying sucker emcees, Rap rewriting the how-to guide to homicide, alongside ‘Erase Racism’ taking responsibility and the all-time cock strut of ‘Talk Like Sex’.

For mixtape devotees wanting one mic to be descended upon en masse, Tony Touch reawakens ‘The PieceMaker’ series. Volume three and its ‘Return Of The 50 MCs’ stipulation tells Busta Rhymes, Eminem, B-Real, Black Thought, and... er... 46 others to pile the rhymes high, interestingly saving the last dance for the lesser known Gob Goblin, Starvin B and Spit Gemz.

As Touch goes bang bang bang, seeing very few fluff their audition, Pete Rock and Camp-Lo’s green box, white ribbon project ‘80 Blocks From Tiffany’s’ gets a sequel. Mac Miller, Talib Kweli and Ab-Soul are allocated slots on a damn smooth, dress-down Friday of a soundtrack – ‘Rocking with the Best’ is disco dope – but don’t feel you need pearls and a tiara to listen to a late-flowering partnership.

Jeremiah Jae ups his ‘Raw Money Raps’ rating by filling synth crackers and browned funk junkets with ‘Bad Jokes’, and close by is Jonwayne’s ‘Cassette 3: The Marion Morrison Mixtape’. Mining the underground (‘Dog It’ is clogged with dirt) brings up plenty of material to rewind, whether that be by biro or pencil. At the very least, “cleaning the toenails of demons wearing sheepskin” is food for thought. And Solomon Gehazi’s ‘Street Gospel Mixtape’ drops Black Country understanding, including insights over borrowed boom-bap classics, that values the purity of barbed beats, soul spikes and meaningful rhymes.

As we head to the water cooler to discuss Rock & CL Smooth recreating ‘Mecca And The Soul Brother’ with a live band, RJD2 shouting out a new album for later this year and Miley Cyrus foretelling the world’s end by rapping on a Mike Will Made It track, here’s this month’s Watch With Mother medley…

…Starting with some Hodgy Beats solitude…

…there’s retribution, Run The Jewels http://www.clashmusic.com/tags/run-the-jewels-style…

P-Money & Roc Marciano doing Bodie & Doyle…

…and Midas Touch spitting gold bars.

Czarface

…and Substance Abuse bring us home.

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Words: Matt Oliver

More Rapture & Verse columns can be found here

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