This week has been a fruitful one for hip-hop. There were a ton of big releases and great projects that dropped in a quick span.
One of the best projects of this week, and possibly the year, is the collaboration between super producer The Alchemist, gangster rapper Freddie Gibbs and Bay Area legend Curren$y, with their new project, Fetti.
Alchemist creates a dynamic, layered, beautiful backdrop for these two MCs to lay verses on. There are about a dozen fantastic sample heavy beats, all linked up by seamless transitions, making the project feel like one, cohesive experience.
This is one of those albums that you can tell everyone working on it was having a fantastic time. Each of the verses sounds inspired and you can hear the competitive spirit of the two rappers trying to outperform each other on every track.
Curren$y flaunts with a cool laidback delivery and a flow that makes every line sound like it came off the top of his head. I can’t help but grin when I hear him deliver, “I pull up in a what’s this, I came out in a what’s that/A little switch up move and that’s a stunt double pack” – an overtly simple bar that packs a punch when it lands.
As a perfect foil to Curren$y’s drawling, almost drunk rap style, Gangster Gibbs raps with intensity and technical prowess. Gibbs has full control of his flow — moving from aggressive double time bars, to slower, more menacing one-offs. Gibbs’ verses describe him as an endlessly interesting mixture between a pimp, a hustler and a masterful rapper – somehow drawing out the cool from all of those roles.
Everything on this project – the length, the production, the verses – combines to create one of the best, purest rap records of this year.
There are few rappers who could fit the classical term”poet.” Mick Jenkins is one of the few on his new album, Pieces of Man. Mick places himself in the shoes of one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, Gil Scott-Heron, by paying him homage with the title of the project and taking inspiration from his classic flow.
This album, like the rest of Mick’s projects, deals with lofty themes of manhood, the black experience and love. Mick is skillful at making rap songs that gracefully and cleverly touch on those kinds of major big topics.
The best two songs on this project are the two Kaytranada produced joints – “Padded Locks” and “Understood.” Neither of these beats sound like the usual Kaytra style – which only speaks to Kaytranada’s skill.
“Understood” has an incredible sample backed with a groovy bass line. Mick rides this beat with one of the most complex rhyme schemes on the whole project.
“Went from selecting electives, to collecting the coins/To rejecting investments, to connecting with legends/And stressing acceptance/To fuck it I write with my left, I’m finessing this joint with my right.” In those four bars, Mick manages to flawlessly tell his life story, describe his current goal and finish with a subtle double entendre.
“Padded Locks” is a simple chop of some violins, with a bass-line that shouldn’t work and no real drum break — yet somehow it maintains this fantastic groove. Mick controls this beat with finesse – only stopping long enough to let Ghostface drop a classically aggressive verse, the exultation “Donald Trump is a piece of shit!” being a clear highlight.
The musicianship and lyricism on this project is top notch throughout. The only issue with this album is that the low-key tone, Mick’s quiet wit and the similar sound scape of all of the beats can cause it to slip into the background.
Nonetheless, it is more than worthwhile to sit and truly enjoy this album, reading the lyrics as you listen in order to fully immerse yourself in Mick’s lyrical landscape. Here, every bar is carefully constructed and every offhand metaphor is loaded with meaning.
Finally, we have one of the most fun hip-hop projects released this year. Action Bronson is back — with his trademark charisma and hilarious lyricism. White Bronco, his new project, is a quick, 25-minute album with 11 great tracks. Bronson seemed to have been going through some artistic roadblocks the past few projects as he tried moving his music into experimental, melodic directions that alienated his core fanbase. With White Bronco, he returns to the real draw of his music – his personality and his rapping.
The production on this project is incredible, with banging, grimy beats from the most talented producers, including Knxwledge, Daringer and Harry Fraud. Every instrumental is dirtier, crunchier and more unique than the last.
The best song on this album is “Prince Charming.” Knxwledge’s beat, pieced together from a beautiful choral sample and some disjointed, rattling trap drums, is somehow simultaneously touchingly sweet and eerie. Action sounds completely at ease on this track, with a casual flow and every line only gets funnier and more ridiculous than the last.
Action has lost none of his charisma from his debut. The man is a living, walking dispensary of some of the most ridiculous, braggy lines in hip-hop. No one can deliver, “Butt naked with the Uzi on Broadway/My haircut is like Dominican folk art,” with the unwavering confidence that Bronson has.
This is exactly the kind of project that Bronson fans want from him — snappy, fun and beautifully produced. While all three albums are great additions to the hip-hop community, White Bronco takes the cake.
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