Originally published 18/11/2015 on ReeceListens
After falling down one too many Soundcloud rabbit holes and a few free mixtape binges, I’ve collected a lot of bad hip-hop. But sometimes I stumble across something by dumb luck which I kinda like and following that artist turns out to be really rewarding. I’m using the ‘Low-Key’ post series as a chance to point out some of those tracks.
fly anakin – Fuck Tomorrow
Rising New York emcee fly anakin came to my attention on the heels of his great elsewhere ave. project and he’s continued to take great strides in every release since. ‘Fuck Tomorrow’ is his latest single on boutique Canadian label Inner Ocean Records and it’s a great tune.
Production duties are handled by Noah Rime$, a Californian beatmaker who has been at it for a minute. After a standout Danny Brown remix EP, Rime$ has been steadily releasing some really solid instrumental tapes. First he re-issued his Ultra mixtape and then released Wack Loops as well as Drink Water, the former heavily featuring fly anakin and affiliate Koncept Jack$on.
‘Fuck Tomorrow’ is another step forward in anakin’s development, keeping it simple with a very 90’s sound and a really mellow sounding tune. At a run time of 1:42, the track is sharper and more concentrated than some of his previous efforts; packing a lot into the time and making every word count. Most artists dropping music at the rate of fly anakin tend to have some rushed tracks that could have benefitted from another few drafts but thankfully, ‘Fuck Tomorrow’ steers clear of those pitfalls. Instead, it is a polished and coherent release which further cements fly anakin as a rapper on the rise.
NxWorries – Suede
‘NxWorries’ is the collaborative moniker of producer Knxwledge and rapper/singer Anderson .Paak. ‘Suede’ is their only release to date on the iconic Stones Throw Records, but what they’re lacking in quantity is more than compensated for in terms of quality.
2015 has been a huge year both of these dudes. Knxwledge dropped his breakout studio album Hud Dreams in May, while Anderson .Paak scored an endorsement from Dr. Dre, a guy who’s had a little bit of success doing this rap thing. The Dre cosign resulted in a prominent role on Compton, Dre’s excellent return/farewell to the music world, as well as a guest spot on Game’s The Documentary 2.5. Not one to coast on his Dre connections though, .Paak has also been out getting it by stealing the show everywhere he shows up – watch him seize the spotlight from Goldlink on ‘Unique‘ or his gripping feature on TOKiMONSTA’s ‘Realla‘.
After touring briefly across the States with Earl Sweatshirt, we haven’t heard much regarding the status of the group. With so much going on in the careers of both men, its understandable that NxWorries has fallen by the wayside. That being said, let’s hope they find the time to crank out some more music because ‘Suede’ is too good to be a one-off from the talented duo.
.sinh & Waju – Comfort Zone
Although this dropped a few months ago, it’s hard not to nod along as Waju rhymes “I turn on the news and see another victim/All this injustice got me like ‘fuck the system'”. The L.A. rapper has collaborated with Amsterdam producer .sinh on his latest single, ‘Comfort Zone’, which picks up right where Waju left off on 2014’s Alive and Direct mixtape. One thing that jumps off the page when you listen to Waju is his really impressive flow. He can exercise control of a track in a way reminiscent of Guru of Gang Starr, although admittedly he’s still leagues away lyrically.
This is just the latest spot for Waju after a thematically similar verse on Andre Damar’s Topdrawer project and a feature on the bouncy ‘No Doubts’ by Soopacrzy. Its been over a year since we’ve heard a solo release from the Californian but hopefully all the activity lately means that something new is on the horizon.
Free P – Peer Pressure feat. T. Clark, Tim Gent, Case Arnold & Chiefus
So first up: Free P tagged this track as ‘Indian Style’, which led me to do some research to see whether that was the name of the project this track comes from. Do not Google ‘Free P Indian Style’. If you’re insistent on doing so, please do it incognito and use SafeSearch. But trust me on this one, do not Google ‘Free P Indian Style’.
That aside, ‘Peer Pressure’ sees Atlanta producer Free P bring together of some Tennessee’s best young rappers (minus Isaiah Rashad) for a posse cut of sorts. The four rappers are no strangers to one another, collaborating frequently over the course of each other’s careers on cuts like ‘Selective‘ and ‘Head Trip‘ and as the saying goes, familiarity breeds competition.
Each rapper brings their best to this cypher over Free P’s simple yet effective production. From Tim Gent’s unique wordplay to Chiefus’ top-shelf flow, this is one track which perfectly captures the bright future of Tennessee hip-hop in just a few brief minutes. If you’re a fan of Free P’s beat on this one, you can cop his latest release Phases on Bandcamp for the low, low price of $500USD (no typo).
If that’s a little out of your price range, Tim Gent’s free mixtape Clarksville Nights is available here and features production from Free P as well as verses from Case Arnold.
Lais – Moon & Stars 2 feat. Skizzy Mars (114 EP)
For most Canadian emo rappers/singers, all roads to success today go through OVO. Drake aka 6 God aka Drizzy aka Mr. Serena Williams aka Mr. Rihanna aka Jimmy from Degrassi has put buzzing Canadian artists into his fame cannon and shot their hype through the roof time and time again. First came The Weeknd, whose ‘Crew Love’ guest spot was a coming out party long before he shared a stage with Ariana Grande and lost feeling in his face. Then PartyNextDoor, who came out of nowhere to debut #1 on the US R&B charts with 2014’s PartyNextDoor Two after inking to OVO Records and finally, Roy Wood$. The Toronto musician’s debut single ‘Drama’ featured Drake himself and scored its first play on the Apple Music OVO Sounds radio show before his Exi$ EP blew up online upon release. Simply put, if you’re listening to a sad R&B track from a Canadian, Drake has probably had a hand in getting it to your ears.
But if you’ve heard anything by Lais, it wasn’t because of Drake (well, unless you have a mate who’s also called Drake who sent you a Lais song). Taking the unconventional route of posting to Reddit, Lais’ debut mixtape Session One found a cult following and successfully launched him into the rap world early last year. His latest offering is a sequel to 2014 one-off single ‘Moon & Stars’. Whilst the first iteration was a groovy chill track, ‘Moon & Stars 2’ takes a pause, slows it down and lets the song breathe.
Both are love songs at heart, but ‘Moon & Stars 2’ is a noticeably darker. Between rapping “He does everything that the drugs do” and upping sexual imagery, Lais is unashamedly finding some confidence in his sound and trending towards House of Balloons-era Weeknd. But he doesn’t go for the all-out sleazy anthem – instead, Lais croons on the hook “loving you couldn’t be any easier”. It’s a bit of a messed up love song, but Lais makes it work like so many of his countrymen before him.
New York’s Skizzy Mars shows up for a verse on the end, too. While I’m usually a fan of Skizzy this verse feels a little superfluous and doesn’t add anything to the song. Skizzy can work well in the right setting when he feeds off the energy of a track. Most of his best work has come when he’s bouncing off of an instrumental which plays to his strength, such as the Houdini rework or his latest Allday remix. I appreciate that Skizzy Mars stepping out and doing something different on ‘Moon & Stars 2’, but his vocals, writing and delivery are not yet at the point where he can survive on a minimalist track like this.