Welcome to Fives. Each week, five things will happen that will excite me in the world of hip-hop. I will enumerate them here.With this inaugural edition of a new weekly post, I’m looking forward, dear readers. The below items, each in their own way, represent the possibilities of a new year. Will 2015 give artists and listeners the space to refresh, rekindle, reinvent? Or will it hold us down, block our shine, stand there and watch us burn? Only the fates, and perhaps Lil B, know for sure. But for now, ATG hip-hop heads, I’m feeling optimistic. Here’s why…
5. Trinidad James – The WAKE UP EP
It’s one of the most compelling narratives that hip-hop has to offer: talented young artist signs to a major deal, realizes that the label system is relegating their creativity to a low-risk portfolio in a pop chart stock market, and decides to forge their own iconoclastic path through self-distribution. We’ve seen this trajectory over and over again, from the Lil Wayne‘s of yesteryear to the Azealia Banks‘s of today.
Trinidad James might not be the next game-changing rapper, but he’s worth keeping an ear on. The Atlanta artist of “All Gold Everything” fame just released his first EP since being dropped from Def Jam last summer. It’s full of woozy, melancholy production and trap ennui. It’s different, in a good way. I recommend “MorninG Wood” and “Get Dre$$ed.”
4. Wale x A-Trak – Festivus
In November, a handful of amusing if a bit on-the-nose (not that there’s anything wrong with that) promo videos bolstered the buzz surrounding Wale’s new album, the Seinfeldian Album About Nothing, slated for release in March 2015. Will a return to his trademark thematic hook spark the same yadda-yadda-yadda that brought acclaim to Wale’s pilot performance, 2008’s Mixtape About Nothing?
Festivus, an 11-song pre-album tape released last week, is an encouraging pop-in that has me excited for the full album. I’ve been double-dipping on tracks like “Chess,” “Girls on Drugs,” and the Chance The Rapper feature “Friendship Heights” all week. Keep it up, Mr. Folarin — these mixtapes are making us thirsty!
3. Rich Homie Quan – “Flex”
You probably think that Rich Homie Quan is the less-exciting half of the Birdman-approved duo behind Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1, among the best mixtapes of last year. And you’re probably right. But when he’s not playing second fiddle to a flaming hot Young Thug verse, he’s putting out some pretty quality singles of his own.
The Nitti Beatz-produced “Flex” has that same infectious sing-song quality that characterized Quan’s breakout hit, “Type of Way.” If you’re the kind of contrarian listener that’s always secretly preferred Red to Method, Oates to Hall, and Garfunkel to Simon, then I invite you to check out this track join me on Team Rich Homie Quan.
2. Kanye West – “Only One”
Oh, they so sensitive! Fun fact: ‘Ye cites a very specific moment as the impetus for 808s and Heartbreak and the rest of his vocal melody work — sometime around 2008, while Michael Jackson and Kanye were listening to “Good Life” together, MJ told Kanye that he liked his singing. And you people dare to call this man “ego-centric.”
“Only One,” featuring based organ riffage from none other than Sir Paul “Mr. Mustard on the Beat(les)” McCartney, is sung from the perspective of Kanye’s late mother Donda West. It’s gentle and heartfelt, in the tradition of ‘Ye-faves like “Family Business” and “Hey Mama,” and represents a huge departure from the dark and dank subject matter of Yeezus. It’s awesome, and I hope that it’s a clue-in to the overall vibes of Kanye’s rumored 2015 album.
1. The Diplomats to (Maybe) Release New Mixtape
The Dips are back! I know they’ve made empty promises before, but this time it’s gotta be for real. I mean, did you see everyone hanging out in the “Dipshits” video (one of the best songs of 2014, IMHO)? It’s 2015, you guys! Anything is possible!