Welcome back to Southern Hospitality’s monthly column.
Based in London and Los Angeles, Rob Pursey and Davey Boy Smith are onto new hip-hop and R&B faster than pretty much anyone else around, showcasing it through their club nights Players Ball, Rated R and Hip Hop Karaoke, their regular mixes and radio show, and their record label, which has released music by Danny Brown & Darq E Freaker, Lunice & Young L and more.
Unlike a lot of rap critics (and of course, SH would never refer to themselves as critics), they’re also about as un-snobbish as it’s possible to get, and are always trying to make things happen – they’ve been behind some of the most interesting rapper-producer hook-ups of recent years. Every month, they round up 10 hip-hop and R&B tracks that have got them in raptures. Between this column and FACT’s bi-weekly rap round-up, we should have all bases covered.
Check the crew’s essential monthly radio show, one of the world’s most essential rap radio shows.
070 feat. Shake, Ralphy River, Hack & Phi
No one not named Migos is making better music than New Jersey’s 070 crew right now. And nobody anywhere is making eight-minute long power ballads like Shake, Ralphy, Phi and friends.
Refreshingly free-wheeling and uninhibited, 070 unwittingly draw on a pristine pop earnestness that could find them performing on Ellen before long. And with earlier songs like ‘Sunday Night’ and ‘070 Freestyle’ still invading our dreams, ‘Staying Alive’ might have just topped ‘Honey’ as their best yet.
Aside from G Perico, the left coast rapper we’re most excited about in 2017 has to be Berkeley’s Koran Streets. A familiar figure around the Bay Area thanks to his starring role in the award-winning, Oakland-set movie Licks, Streets has a commanding look and sound that demands your attention.
Reminiscent of a rough-and-ready DB Tha General mixtape cut but with the focus and artistry of Boston’s Cousin Stizz, ‘Hard’, like everything on Streets’ You.Know.I.Got.It (The Album) project, needs to be in constant rotation.
It’s all about sincerity and authenticity with Kehlani and the insanely catchy hook on ‘Undercover’ is tailor-made for her to float over the top, delivering her around-the-way girl appeal in a way that few of her peers can touch. The fact that this could easily have been an album cut for Keyshia Cole or Monica in their prime is the biggest compliment we could give it.
Baby E feat. Lil Wayne & Hoody Baby
When ‘Finessin’ didn’t blow like it should have, we cried a tear for one of the great ‘lost hits’. So we’re grateful that Baby E is back over what is easily the most 2008 beat of 2017. We also get a feature from Wayne that sounds like he’s back in that exact T. Wayne, Gorilla Zoe-featuring, ‘Me & My Drank’ era.
There are few things better in modern music than when Baby lets his voice carry distinctive melodies over simple, bass-heavy chords. Shout out Hoody Baby on the thankless, but always connoisseur, third verse.
Fans of 6lack will love Spillage Village, the ATL alt-rap family made up of local underground heroes EarthGang, J.I.D, Hollywood JB and Jordxn Bryant.
‘Willow Tree’, from their latest group project Bears Like This Too Much, is the kind of sumptuously soulful masterpiece that wouldn’t feel out of place at the end of an early 2000s Dungeon Family compilation.
‘Land Of The Free’
Despite gaining a little too much attention when he emerged rhyming over records that reminded ‘90s rap fans of Beatnuts B-sides, Joey Bada$$ is currently in that weirdly slept-on phase of his career – just as he is truly growing.
He’s long had a refreshingly gimmick-free and pure flow and that’s on full display here as the beat and synths just bounce beautifully, while those Mtume drum drops keep the head nodding. The content and lyrics never get too complex to distract from the message, but this is unquestionably some of the best wordplay in a minute and we’re already recommending a remix with the god AZ on this, the most AZ-esque of tracks.
With all that’s going on in the world, leave it to Beat King to remind us what’s truly important. Houston’s most generous artist follows up the third entry in his Gangster Stripper Music series with a perfectly pitched combo of ominous chords and sorority-centric polemic.
If Vine was still active you just know this would be getting 16-year-olds grounded across the country.
PnB Rock feat. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie & Quavo
‘Playa No More’
This column has been a hotbed of PnB Rock love from the jump and it’s not ceasing any time soon when his recently dropped album is full of records like this. His chemistry with A Boogie is already undeniable and this hook has levels of true jigginess that really should take PnB Rock to mainstream radio.
The fact that Quavo gets a verse is almost an afterthought, but at a refreshingly concise three minutes, we get to bask in his always-essential verse before the track has outstayed its welcome.
Mozzy feat. YG, G-Eazy & Lex Aura
‘Hold On Me’
2017 has surely got to be the year that Mozzy truly blows, putting him on the same level as YG and G-Eazy, who both appear on this track. ‘Hold On Me’ isn’t the most original record from his already deep catalogue, it’s the perfect balance between the Bay sound and something more LA radio-ready.
This is no doubt helped by the guests, and hearing him in this company shows just how commanding Mozzy is. He’s establishing himself as the leader of the new wave behind the West Coast resurgence.
‘What Would You Do’
Following in the long line of surprisingly great producer-turned-rappers, June Onna Beat’s recent projects with Mozzy and co have been more than worth our time.
‘What Would You Do’ hits Iamsu!’s warm and melodic zone and might be one of the best examples yet of the way a producer’s understanding of timing, melody and song structure can make them such excellent vocalists.