A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory

For this latest installment of CLASSICS WEEK 2014, Anthony Fantano takes on a quintessential jazz rap album: A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory.

Pusha T – “Lunch Money” (Video)

The spacey, otherworldly by Kanye West on Pusha T’s latest single “Lunch Money” makes for the perfect antithesis to Push’s boastful coke rap lyrics, and sets the Virginia emcee up perfectly to release a new album that will make him worthy of being solidified as a true leader of new millennium hip hop. The video is also a practice in ideas that might not at first seem to go together: as Pusha arrogantly mocks the competition, around him is a stripped down, barren, drug-riddled environment dominated by pop lockers and hood rich dope boy decadence. It’s a simplistic and unexpected approach, but it allows the song to take center stage. And at this stage, that’s exactly how it should be as “Lunch Money” makes hip hop heads salivate for Pusha T’s next full-length project.

- Ron Grant

Various Artists – “Detroit vs. Everybody (Official Remix)”

I recently reviewed the new Shady XV compilation with Mr. Steven Francis, and I remember commenting on how much of a letdown the “Detroit vs. Everybody” cut was. While there were come decent verses on the track, the list of featured MCs seemed kind of limited. However, this new official remix fixes that in a big way. I mean, the thing is 16 minutes long, and features over ten rappers.

Really happy Shady saw fit to cast a wider net here, and I think the results speak for themselves.

Death Grips – “Inanimate Sensation”

Death Grips drop a new single to tease toward the second half of their yet-to-be-completed double album, The Powers That B.

Joey Bada$$ – “No. 99″ (prod. Statik Selektah)

What makes Joey Bada$$ such an interesting MC at the moment is, not surprisingly, his combination of youth and talent. This combination leaves us with a technically gifted rapper who is currently at the most crucial moment in his career. While he certainly deserves to succeed, there is always a chance that that simply doesn’t happen–if you think he isn’t smart enough to know this, diagram his internal rhymes and ask yourself that question again. The result? Joey is a with a highly skilled artist earnestly putting over 100 percent effort into everything that he does. On “No. 99,” Bada$$ doesn’t make it sound easy. He’s consciously making what he’s doing sound as difficult as possible. At the midway point, he swaps 90′s style New York delivery for off the wall Jah inspired rapping akin to Kendrick Lamar’s recent style. All the while, he treats the beat as merely a suggestion for the ways his words should play with the time signature. Similarly, the 90′s Boom bap intertwines with the more modern bassline lurching behind it. We end up with a microcosm of Joey Bada$$ himself: reverent and irreverent at once. Yet all the while, he’s unbelievably entertaining while he’s making his statements.

- Garrett Cottingham

J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive

Even after stripping back the hooks and instrumentals, and giving himself center stage, there isn’t much outside of J. Cole’s baseline technical abilities that makes him a compelling rapper and lyricist.

OG Maco – OG Maco EP

OG Maco EP Download via Datpiff

In a recent interview with The FADER, OG Maco called his newly-dropped self-titled EP “a culmination of every failure and lesson it ever took to achieve victory with my team, with my family and for the world.” Moving past the drama and reflection, OG Maco is a commendable project, and at least somewhat surprising in the inventiveness with the trap-based production, if not wholly inventive or creative. Maco proves throughout the tape that there is a lot more than meets the eye in terms of what can be done with wild, unexpected screams, shouts and ad libs and relentless trap beats. “Been Thuggin” is one of the projects most powerful traps, as Maco reverts between being subdued and clever to wild and unpredictable, all the while riding a deep, 808-saturated beat that shakes walls and cracks windows. While “No Pressure” is a bit more hushed and dark, with Maco throwing in his own brand of arrogant sarcasm. Save a few dips here and there, OG Maco is an endless stream of energy, which keeps the momentum on his debut going. Especially on tracks like “CRU” and the true standouts “Heat” and “Seizure”. Known for alternating between being savage one minute, chilled the next, and everything in between, sometimes on the same song, there’s enough intensity throughout OG Maco to go around.

- Ron Grant


Lil Herb – “Knucklehead” (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)

Oh, how the times haves changed. Corporate America, once hated by cool kids alike is now a factory producing some of the most interesting singles and collaborations that are happening today. Adult Swim and Redbull have embraced the notion of acting as enablers for young artistic minds to come together through sponsoring far reaching singles programs. Look no further than “Knucklehead” by Lil Herb featuring Earl Sweatshirt for proof of this movement’s value. Earl’s dark and jazzy production always seemed more suited to the cold streets of New York than the sun drenched suburbs that Odd Future squirm their way through. Here he teams up with Lil’ Herb–who sounds a little too much like Joey Bada$$ for comfort–to explore this realm of hip-hop. The two blend together in the best way possible. I’d even wager that Earl sees how well his production works in this realm. He speeds up his traditionally uninspired–yet, technically impressive-delivery and seemingly gets carried away by the New York aggression he’s witnessing.

If corporations are leading artists to make genuine artistic discoveries, all that I want to say then is long live capitalism!

- Garrett Cottingham

Ghostface Killah – 36 Seasons

With 36 Seasons, Ghostface Killah tries to recreate the same narrative-based formula he worked with on his last album, but with only a portion of the appeal.

Various Artists – Shady XV

Shady Records celebrates its 15-year anniversary with a compilation of hits and new material.