Sound Check: Word from the Underground
Assessing the rap scene.
by Drey Wingate / @ProStatus85
It’s been an incredible summer for the world of underground hip-hop. Some of these mixtapes and EPs have been so well put together, they should have replaced certain mainstream albums released in retail stores. After watching new artists come on the scene and witnessing the birth of so many different styles, I decided to give recognition to some of the hottest underground projects released this summer. Of course I’m not expecting everybody to agree with me, but I am sure that once you see and listen to who is on this list, you won’t find it too hard to understand why they’ve been making so much noise in the streets.
5. GQ – Blended 3. First up is former UNC point guard Quentin Thomas, also known as GQ. The Oakland native released his third installment of his mixtape series known as “Blended” not too long ago. His career before music included winning an NCAA championship with the Tar Heels, and as an artist, it has been just as official. As an athlete you learn that not having the proper work ethic can cause not to get the recognition and respect you may want. GQ understands that, which is exactly why hip hop is embracing him and seeing him as an actual artist and not just another basketball player turned emcee. Being a member of the Jamla Army headed by Grammy Award winning producer 9th Wonder, it’s guaranteed that GQ has many more great projects coming his way.
4. Elzhi – Elmatic. We have seen remakes of movies, and heard remixes of oldies, but when one tries to remake an entire classic album, it’s not only something different, but it’s also one hell of risk. After an unwanted absence from the industry, former Slum Village member Elzhi did just that. Taking his well respected lyrical content and creativity and placing it over the production that helped make Nas’ “Illmatic” exactly what it is, a masterpiece. Elzhi goes into what you may call tell-all story mode as to what has been going on since he has been away. Topics such as him not being signed at the moment, his departure from Slum Village, and the shadiness of the music business. Right from “Genesis” he goes full speed, pedal to the medal and doesn’t slow down at all. It’s one of those mixtapes you can pop in and just let it ride. What’s most notable is the respect that El shows to Nas by making this project such a standout. Listening to Elmatic makes you appreciate the legendary Illmatic that much more. That is definitely saying a lot.
3. Black Cobain – Young, Gifted and Black. This DMV emcee is in a world of his own. After the release of his first mixtape, “Now”, Black Cobain quickly started to separate himself from being known as the guy that is always with Wale, to being that dude that hip hop fans are constantly talking and tweeting about. After the leaks “4 AM” and “Cook Up” hit the internet, the anticipation for “Young Black and Gifted” grew not only by the day but by the hour. Fans had their Twitter timelines filled with their appreciation of his music and how much they enjoyed watching him perform. Black has an original delivery that is rare in most artists these days. If you listen to his lyrics, Black constantly talks about not being compared to other rappers. He makes it known that he wants his own space in this game, and he is earning just that.
2. Dave East – American Greed. I’m sure you all remember this name from one of my earlier posts. At that time this project was still in the works and I must say it was well worth the wait. Harlem rapper Dave East released his second mixtape/EP, “American Greed” which can easily be labeled an album, earlier this month and it has exceeded expectations. From start to finish Dave continues to prove why he may be the best unsigned rapper out right now. Even though he is viewed as a newcomer, his veteran flow is a major plus to every beat he spits on. Tracks like “The Realest” and “Bi-Coastal” are just two of the 25 tracks that make “American Greed” one of the toughest street albums out. If you haven’t heard it yet you have no idea what you are missing.
1. Skyzoo – The Great Debater. This dude has been on the scene for a minute now but he seems to just keep getting better and better. The term underrated isn’t good enough to describe how great of an emcee Skyzoo actually is. His music not only makes you put the track on repeat because of his crazy metaphors, but also because of the message in every track. Sky is one of those rappers that brings the track to life. He gives listeners a vision of what he is talking about. A lot of rappers have great metaphoric use, but they make it sound too much like a battle rap. Skyzoo will literally have you pulling out the dictionary to figure what exactly it is he is saying. The Brooklyn native earned his respect with the release of his first studio realease “The Salvation”. No he didn’t get nominated for any major music awards, or get stamped as best new rapper, but he caught the attention needed to keep hip hop heads wanting more and more of his material. Once word got out that Skyzoo was blessing the game with The Great Debater, it seemed like fans were literally sitting next to their computers waiting for the link to appear for download. All great music has a message in it. Take a listen to “Test Drive”, “Inheritance” and “Could’ve Struck the Lotto” and you will see exactly what it is I am talking about. This is by far Sky’s best work to date. If this is just something to hold us over until he decides to drop another studio album, there’s no telling just how much of a force he will actually be.