The Fonzie Scheme will be back on air in the Fall! Until then, here are some “Don’t Sleep on ‘Em” Recommendations to hold you over while I’m gone. For Volume Two of my “Don’t Sleep on ‘Em” picks, I decided to list my top 10 songs of 2015 so far since we’re about at that halfway point. There’s a repeat or two from Volume One because a few of those recommendations were some of my favorites of the year. I honestly tend to hate on top 10 type lists, so I want you to keep in mind, this is just my opinion!
Nell first made a name for himself with Spaceghostpurrp‘s Raider Klan. Living in the South Florida area, he has continued to garner an underground following. Nell‘s release The Screw Tape from this year is a collaboration with El Camino Black. Each song samples a classic joint by the Legendary DJ Screw. Twelve’len also hails from the South Florida area, and you can hear both Nell and Twelve’len featured on Denzel Curry‘s newest Double EP 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms. This song uses the chopped and screwed cut of One Life To Live by Al D, Dat Boy Grace, and Wood. Nell comes in with that classic 90s Bone Thugs flow, and Twelve’len is rapping with somewhat of a dancehall influence. I love how the song uses the original song for the hook and closes out with DJ Screw speaking. RIP to DJ Screw.
The Chicago Bop scene is really blowing up right now. No, I’m not talking about Be-bop jazz haha. Bop has been a dance and sub-genre movement in hip-hop for a couple years now, with Chicago artists such as Lil’ Kemo, DJ Nate, and Sicko Mobb fusing elements of Chicago drill with dance, pop, and R&B. Mulah is Sicko Mobb‘s second release this year, following up Super Saiyan 2. This song “Robin Jeans” is produced by TM 88 of the 808 Mafia from Atlanta, popular for their production with Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, and Future. It’s just a really fun song. Lil’ Trav and Lil’ Ceno go in about flexing their great fashion decisions.
Czarface is the collaboration between Inspectah Deck of the Wu-Tang Clan and Boston hip-hop legends 7l & Esoteric. Every Hero Needs a Villain is their second full length LP which just came out earlier this year. Both albums feel like you’re listening to a comic book on record, and they have some sick album art. MF DOOM destroyed his verse here on “Ka-Bang”, as usual. 7L made a crazy beat here, and I like the vocal samples to give the song that comic book feel. DOOM, Inspectah Deck, and Esoteric all use really sick rhyme schemes in this song.
Bones has been steadily growing his underground following for years now. 2015 is turning out to be a big year for Bones with his placement on A$AP Rocky‘s new album (the song actually just uses a rerecorded hook from Bones‘ song Dirt). Powder came out in April, and with 28 songs it is much longer than his usual release. “TheHealingFields” is a collaboration with Greaf, who produces for Bones side-project surrenderdorothy. The acoustic guitar sample really makes for a meditative feeling on this joint.
Future and his official DJ, DJ Esco “The Coolest DJ in The World” released a mixtape together in March of this year. Future is member of the Atlanta Dungeon Family Collective with Outkast, TLC, Killer Mike, Janelle Monae, and several other artists from Atlanta. Future has been dropping mixtapes since 2010, and he has since gained a pretty sizable mainstream following with his last album Honest reaching critical acclaim and selling over 100,000 copies. The name “56 Nights” is inspired by the 56 Nights DJ Esco spent in a Dubai prison (read the full story at Fader). Produced by Southside of 808 Mafia, the song has a catchy Atlanta trap sound with somewhat of a dark mood to go along with the emotional topic.
Post Malone is really on the rise. He’s only released a few songs on his soundcloud, but he’s already been spotted meeting with Rick Rubin, who has produced for LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, Kanye West, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, just to name a few. Atlanta duo FKI produced the beat on “White Iverson”. There are countless metaphors between basketball and life here, but the one that stands out to me is “I need that money like the ring I never won.”
I’ve heard of Meyhem Lauren for while now from his work in the New York hip-hop scene with artists such as Action Bronson and Harry Fraud. His newest release More Cashmere EP straight blew me away. Every song is so polished, and you can really tell Meyhem Lauren has developed his own sound reminiscent of 90’s boom bap. His delivery couples so well with IceRocks New York sound. Laurenovich is just spitting about his life on this song. The imagery is clear, and his delivery is on point. This song just rides.
I’ve been saying it, but Awful Records is taking over in 2015. Almost 20 members deep, they just killed it in their Boiler Room set, which will definitely get them some more recognition. KeithCharles Spacebar or KCSB both produces and raps, and he is touring with Awful labelmates Father, Playboi Carti, and Slug Christ this summer, which will stop at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz. This track features Awful Records’ “Darkwave Duchess” Abra bringing a smooth R&B hook. KCSB produced a killer beat here, and his verses are solid.
Black Kray has been grinding in the underground for a few years now. The young rapper has already worked with Bones, Spaceghostpurrp, and Yung Lean. He puts out a bunch of material, this year already releasing two albums, several music videos, and several releases by members of his Goth Money Records, based in Richmond, Virginia. You can really feel the emotion in this song. Produced by Kenshi, the instrumental, has some deep bass and the piano melody makes for quite a dark mood.
Xavier Wulf has been growing his underground fan-base for years. Originally from Memphis, TN, he now pulls in hundreds of thousands of plays on his songs on Soundcloud. Wulf started out as Ethelwulf in Spaceghostpurrp’s Raider Klan, but he has since broken off into his own Hollow Squad, frequently touring and collaborating with Bones and Chris Travis as SESHOLLOWATERBOYZ. His early work drew strong influence from lo-fi 90’s underground Memphis rappers such as Three 6 Mafia and Tommy Wright III. You can still hear that sound in Xavier Wulf‘s newer music, but he has developed his own style that also incorporates anime and cloud-rap. Both of his projects released in 2015, Tundra Boy: Season One and Project X, have been two of my favorite releases of the year. Although I have never watched the show Initial D, his new album Project X has kind of inspired me to. This is my unproven theory about the album: With a duration of about 30 minutes, and opening and closing with songs by M.O.V.E., the band behind most of the soundtrack of Initial D, I think the album is meant to be kind of an episode of Initial D. It seems to me like X Wulf is rapping as if he is a character in the anime show, hanging out at Fujiwara‘s house, while still relating elements of his own life to the story, making frequent references to racing people in his S13 or his 240, and smoking blunts with women. The songs incorporates vocal and car engine samples from the show, which with his lyrics form a storyline throughout the album. After opening with the high energy “Akina Speed Star” and “Wulf Takahashi“, “The Wulf of Akina” is kind of a slow-down point in the album. Brobak made a very meditative instrumental, that Wulf rides perfectly. The first verse he raps about driving around smoking blunts while also briefly mentioning his relationship with a girl. In the second verse he explains his decision go against Mr. Fujiwara‘s advice and race. The song closes with the sound of a car driving away.