Let’s face it. XXL hasn’t been about that hip-hop life for real for quite some time. Either they’re pulling one big annual troll on rap fans everywhere or they’re genuinely not well versed in what good MCs are and going off of “what’s hot” and “what the kids are doing nowadays”. Either way, it’s been some time since XXL was considered the last credible hip-hop publication outside of blogs or websites. That being said, you have to love the culture enough to want better for it, so there’s no use complaining unless you’re willing to do what you can to improve it, especially if it doesn’t cost you anything. Boldy James released his Alchemist-produced debut LP My 1st Chemistry Set last year after two excellent mixtapes and some beastly guest features, so his shine is long overdue…plus, when you see the bums they’ve got up there as nominees, you’ll want to vote for someone who an actually spit and has a story to tell. See also: Isaiah Rashad, Bishop Nehru, Bodega Bamz, Rapsody, Snow Tha Product, Stalley (?!?), and Tree for valid nominees.
JIMBO x Boldy James
Shout out to Sana Arshad for the recommendation. Niko Is is a Brazilian MC freshly signed with Talib Kweli and just released Good Blood, a precursor to his upcoming BRUTUS LP. Definitely will be checking for more from this guy in the future. Download Good Blood Here.
March 9th marks the day we lost one of the greatest MCs of all time. While young’ins may either not acknowledge his title or just agree out of obligation, this song among many others proves why B.I.G. was so dope. Biggie was able to make undeniable jams that went from the streets to the radio to the clubs effortlessly, without sacrificing an iota of artistry. Part of this is of course due to Puffy’s guidance and creative direction (like it or not) but many artists could stand to learn from Biggie’s ability to appeal both as a likeable, humorous MC on tracks like this and as a threatening menace on other tracks. There’s just no denying Big’s mastery of the game, from his ability to market himself to the mainstream down to his ability to hold it down as a formidable MC in a freestyle situation. Rest in power to Christopher Wallace.
On April 22nd, Jesse Boykins III releases his new album Love Apparatus. New single here.
SZA’s new project Z drops on April 4th and she released this set of visuals for one of the first singles. I really enjoy her music, but it will be great when she stops dressing like one of the cast of The Sandlot. I’m all for a no-frills aesthetic, but when your image begins to precede your music for people, it can be a distraction and deter people from getting into your stuff. Some go the way of extravagant wardrobes and costumes a la Lady Gaga, while others pare it down to the point where they resemble a caricature, like Janelle Monae. Not to say people won’t get into it, but eventually it becomes a schtick of sorts. I’m also not saying she’s gotta dress provocatively, but there’s a lot of gray area between hand-me-down overalls and a G-string…and there’s definitely a way to dress like your clothes fit and still not be considered “normal” or “boring”. This is her, for now, and that’s fine, but people evolve and it will be nice to see her do her thing without the grungy facade intact.
Thank God he isn’t “singing”. Future enlists the help of Pusha T and Arby’s Hat P (he refers to the infamous headwear in this song as a “Gandalf hat”) to make this single pop. After the controversy, it’s hard not to notice the minimum levels of melanin present in the video’s casting, but oh well. Decent song to get mindless to.
Elle Varner’s “Cold Case”, which I believe is for an upcoming project, probably titled Love. Stay tuned to her site for more details.
Boldy James provides the visual treatment for “What’s The Word” off of his debut album My First Chemistry Set, produced entirely by The Alchemist.
As a person who can’t stomach Childish Gambino as a rapper (his appearance on HBO’s GIRLS didn’t exactly help his case), I was surprised at myself for (1) pressing play and (2) liking the hell out of this song, a cover of one of my favorite R&B songs of all time. Not too shabby, Mr. Glover.
From the upcoming The Orchid Days album, producer L’Orange enlists the mic skills of Blu for this jazzy first single.