Until the Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music (which I gave a smashing review to) was released a few weeks ago, I had been thoroughly underwhelmed with what hip-hop had to offer so far in 2012. Then El-P, who produced R.A.P. Music along with Killer Mike, released his own album, Cancer 4 Cure, which gave another shot of adrenaline to the rap game (and Todd reviewed on Wednesday). Now, Black Hippie member Ab-Soul has dropped a bit of a bomb of his own with Control System (which I hope to review next week). This is a veritable bump, set, spike from the previously lagging rap game in a month-long span. Unfortunately, David Banner was not able to hold serve with his release last week, but I decided to include one of the better songs from his disappointing Sex, Drugs & Video Games, along with a classic to top it all off. So let’s just say the hip-hop is flowing again, I’m off the wagon, and there are no more Hip-Hop Anonymous meetings needed for the severe withdrawal I had been going through.
Killer Mike ft. El-P – “Butane (Champion’s Anthem)”
Killer Mike goes straight west coast on “Butane”, taking us back to the glory days of Cube, Dre, and Pac. Like the next track on this list, the m.c. is put in a position to impress with a minimalist, but interesting, backing. R.A.P. Music just keeps hitting, hitting and hitting, and “Butane” is certainly no exception.
El-P – “Stay Down”
If The Wall-era Pink Floyd did hip-hop, “Stay Down” is what it would sound like. From the maniacal laughter near the end to the paranoid but ethereal hook, El-P pushes his spacey side to the max. And while I love the dense production throughout Cancer 4 Cure, “Stay Down” allows El-P’s delivery and lyrical prowess to shine without too much mayhem going on in the background.
Ab-Soul ft. Jhene Aiko – “Soulo Ho3”
Ab-Soul’s attitude contained in the delivery of “Soulo Ho3” reminds me somewhat of classic Wyclef (think his verses and chorus from “Zealots” on The Score). Rappers don’t necessarily have “directors” in the studio so much as a bunch of lackeys telling them how awesome they are. This makes it so much more impressive Ab-Soul was able to squeeze out the emotion he did on “Soulo Ho3” and much of the rest of Control System.
David Banner ft. Don Trip – “No Choice”
On his new album, Sex, Drugs & Video Games, David Banner tries ham-handedly to manufacture the next big “catch-phrase” rap song. You know, like “Lean Back” or “Black & Yellow”. This attempt is pretty embarrassing, in that it is a complete waste of his talent. “No Choice” may not go down as one of the more intelligent tracks of the year, but it does at least manage to entertain me. I mean how can you resist lyrics like “I got no choice but to be fresh, no choice but to be fresh. B**** my closet full. B****, B****, B**** my closet full”?
David Banner – “The Light”
Most hip-hop fans would probably agree that David Banner’s 2010 collaboration with 9th Wonder, Death of a Pop Star, was somewhat of a flawed gem. After Sex, Drugs & Video Games, I thought it would be nice to revisit Death of a Pop Star, and no track illustrates the genius of Banner’s previous album better than “The Light”. There’s not a much more common theme in hip-hop than a rap artist admitting their flaws in front of God and whoever bought their album, and then asking same God for help (besides cash, money and hoes of course). Other than RZA’s “Build Strong”, I’m not sure it has ever been done so honestly. I couldn’t find a video, but you can listen to the track here.