Black Milk ft. Tone Trezure, "Black Sabbath"
Imagine an "I got tha' ice in me"-style, 20-tokes-too-many take on D'Angelo's already fairly zooted Voodoo, and you're close to the deconstructed J. Dilla rhythms and sliced-up neo-soul swirls waddling through this druggy vamp from Black Milk's latest, No Poison, No Paradise. You can also hear the D-town techno squelch and throb of Cybotron, and in a ghostly mess of wordless vocals, something like a copy of a copy of a copy of Motown's weary yet life-affirming melodies. And somewhere amid the banging-on-a-trash-can-with-Roy-Ayers-playing-in-the-background din is a sympathetic, streetwise verse from Black Milk: "Dreams of big whips, sitting next to big cribs / Woke up next door, abandoned house from where I liv e/ You know them slums where the slugs hum past your wig / Young kids at the store, buy your moms a pack of cig s/ Life's short, everybody want their gold medal before you lay six feet deep underneath rose petals."
Chief Keef, "Emojis"
Simple and pretty damned silly — just like the goofy-ass faces we all use to communicate on our smart phones — Chief Keef's "Emojis," a much-hyped track that didn't end up on last week's mixtape Almighty So, is over and out in under a minute a half. And that's a shame, because it's the first Keef song since the December release of Finally Rich that really suggests Sosa's odd, this-ain't-rapping-and-it-isn't-really-singing-either, humble-mumble style has still got some avant-trap juice. ("No I don't like macaroni / No you can't cook it for me" is loony nonsense worthy of Frank Zappa.) Typical of Keef's nihilism, he even finds a way to turn those adorable little digi-faces into something closed-off and bitter, rhyming "emoji" with "blow me," and bitching about the girls in his life creeping on his phone. Still, it's one of the year's strangest songs, with a beat like Fripp and Eno's "Wind on Water" gone drill.
Indiana rapper Jigg, who previously went by Jay Jizzle, just released Marijuana Inc. 3, a nice little closed-circuit collection of tough-guy anthems that displays a surprising amount of range. See, he's the kind of regional rapper who can keep his head above water by doing one thing really well, and doing it over and over again. But he doesn't: Instead, he indulges a pretty-okay singing voice that recalls the drowsy-catchy croon of Big Sean, adding some variety to these post-punchline declarations, while his rapping voice is a raspy, at times demonic yelp that can bounce above a beat, or sneak under it and add some lonely menace to even something as simple as "Blowed," a weed rap with a rave-bloop beat from producer Enkredible. Make sure you also check out the Gunplay-assisted "Insomnia," which should be a minor mix-show hit.
Shadowrunners, "European Cars (Intro)"
Rapper Himself the Majestic — yes, that's his name — uses his loud-asshole-in-the-club voice to illuminate an inward-gazing, #SADBOYS-esque bipolar song about suicidal thoughts ("I'm hangin' 'til I'm strangled"), the fallout after a faith crisis ("I'm so hateful, ain't got no reason to exist / Why you so faithful?"), and conspicuous consumption as escapism that resonates because, hey, you get the sense that the dreamt-about European cars in this song are from a 'round-the-world Playstation 3 racing game ("European cars, bitch, I'm dying just to steer them"). Thankfully, Jack Kirby-esque philosophical comic-book imagery ("In a spaceship with a view of Mars / I lost religion flying through the stars") suggest a glimmer of sci-fi nerd hope. And the beat from Froskees is a pit-of-the-stomach, grinding synth blur that matches anything on Forest Swords' new Engravings — particularly a mid-song breakdown that takes a Virginia Woolf-esqe dive into an ocean of effects, then builds itself back up, just so Himself can talk his pulp-existential shit again.
Waka Flocka Flame, "Rainy Dayz"
Though it's probably a coincidence, "Rainy Dayz" sounds like Waka Flocka attempting the skewed "soul trap" style of Chicago rapper Tree: a lurching, cathartic flow that sticks to the guts of some completely gutted string-friendly sample and keeps getting knocked around by the stumbling, percussive, Lex Luger-like skitters. And whoever it is on the hook (shouts to mixtapes from major-label rappers that still can't properly tag or credit the artists involved!) really does sound a hell of a lot like Tree and his Rap Game Tom Waits sing-growl. This track also imagines a New ATL take on the Raekwon Only Built 4 Cuban Linx classic of the same name. Along with 2012 YouTube throwaway “Foreign Shit,” this is another low-key example of how Queens-born Flocka's yelling style is only a degree or two (and a few multisyllabic lines) away from gritty '90s New York hip-hop, if you really think about it.