Feature | January 19, 2015
Fives: The Week in Hip-Hop, January 19th


5. Young Thug, Freddie Gibbs & A$AP Ferg – “Old English” (Video)

This track came out of nowhere last year and totally wrecked me. I probably logged 10,000 listens before friends began expressing concern and I had to start using private Spotify sessions to keep playing it. It features two of the most exciting rappers in the game (Thug and Ferg) and the most dependably hard-boiled rap journeyman currently slinging bars, Freddie Gibbs. The beat balances eerily inviting negative space with punishing minor key punctuations. As for the hook, listener beware, it will buy real estate in your brain and it will pay in cash.

The video, a sort of Basquiat-meets-90s-Nickelodeon affair, matches the spirit of the song to a tee: zany and fun on one level, macabre and ghoulish on another. Definitely worth a watch.

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4. Hanni El Khatib X Freddie Gibbs – “Satin Black”

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Converse, the official sneaker company of unlikely artistic collabs, hit the web this week with the first single from their third compilation, CONS EP Vol. 3.  Here, garage rocker and Dan Auerbach pal Hanni El Khatib links up with Freddie Gibbs to throw a wealth of great musical ideas into two minutes and 56 seconds.

The verses feature Gibbs in a fuzz-rock-meets-rap aesthetic reminiscent of The Black Keys‘ Blakroc project. The choruses treat us to an expansive psych-funk soundscape with a hypnotic vocal hook. When it comes to beats, Gibbs tends to err on the side of the overly-traditional, so it’s fun to hear him engaging in something more experimental like this. Great work, Converse — glad all that Chuck Taylor guap is going somewhere worthwhile.

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3. Lupe Fiasco – “Mural

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Lupe Fiasco‘s new album Tetsuo & Youth will be his last through major imprint Atlantic Records. He’s not all that upset about it. He’s also decided to quit Twitter in the wake of a few high profile exchanges with the likes of Azealia Banks, and given that the end of his contract will allow him to vacate public life and “go back to the shadows,” it seems that young Lu has decided that a social media breather is apropos. He’s leaked the song “Mural,” ostensibly as his last tweet.

At a whopping nine minutes, “Mural” is as sprawling and self-indulgent as it is cerebral and commanding. A fiery piano loop guides Lupe through flow change-ups and triple entendres. Say what you will about his politics and ego, but he’s always been nothing less than a technical dynamo. “Mural” is a flex-fest lyrically and formally, but not one without a point – Lupe paints complicated pictures with his songs, and sometimes engaging with his work can feel like a day at a museum. With “Mural,” he’s giving you a discount on admission. He really wants you to see this one.

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2. Future – Beast Mode

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If you’re not that into the music of rap’s resident gurgle-crooner to begin with, this new mixtape is not going to change your mind. We’re talkin’ pretty much same-old same-old from Future, who’s teaming up with Zaytoven, the producer to whom some credit the ascendance of Gucci Mane, on this new 9-track dispatch from Pluto.

If you do fuxwit Mr. Cash, tracks like “Lay Up” and “Aintchu” are vintage Future, chock full of sing-song braggadocio and winning hooks. The production is trap maximalism, with some pretty brilliant instrumentation on tracks like piano-driven “Peacoat” and bell-synth banger “Real Sisters.” This one is definitely worth the free download. You can do that here.

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1. RIP A$AP Yams

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Borrowing the #1 spot in this week’s column to link to this NY Times article and this song. And this tweet. RIP Yams.