Lee Bannon, "Resorectah"
Forever-dabbling Sacramento producer Lee Bannon's latest, Alternate/Endings, is a no-bullshit, good-and-proper jungle record, and an unexpected follow-up to 2013's satanic Caligula Theme Music 2.7.5. and 2012's glitching cloud-rap-oriented Fantastic Plastic. Here, we find a daring, open-eared hip-hop head applying his sample-slicing, atmosphere-building skills to "Amen" break investigations: Opening track "Resorectah" gives a vocal sample the Dilla treatment and the DJ Screw treatment all at once, while a Burial-like layer of electronic fog and digi-smeared slurs stomp and stumble beneath the jungle jamming. A sample from the 1998 Darren Aronofsky film Pi solidifies this track as a knowing trip back to the late '90s, when speedy, frazzled, antagonistic dance music was kicking around the underground and blowing the minds of middle-schoolers like me thanks to MTV's Amp.
Leikeli47, "Miss America"
This gender-expectation-eviscerating salvo begins with audio from that years-old viral video in which a young girl named Riley rails against pink-obsessed marketing to girls: "Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses... why do all the girls have to buy all the pink stuff and all the boys get different-colored stuff?" A chant-hook declaration ("I dress like a boy, talk like a girl / Walk like a girl") over a drone-damaged skittering production (like Death Grips if their aggro-posturing stood for something) and sing-song threats take this into Nicki Minaj itty-bitty-piggy-style tough-talk territory. This song is nearly two years old, but it's featured on Leikeli47's new mixtape, LK-47 Pt. II, and remains the ideal introduction to this ski-mask-sporting New York rapper's world.
Tink feat. Lil Herb, "Talkin' About"
In the long tradition of rap songs as male-female debates in which the dude just ain't hearing the chick (think "I Got a Man," wherein Positive K voices both genders, or J. Cole's surprisingly sophisticated and implicative "Lost Ones," to name both a classic and a recent example that won't make you roll your eyes), Tink and rapper Lil Herb explain themselves here, talking at each other until they finally hear one another. That really only happens, though, once Tink sets Herb straight on what she needs from him ("I need you to come home and give me that D / I need you to not leave the crib when I’m sleeping") rather than settling for what he gives her (Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and blah blah blah). Strangely, it ends with Tink apologizing, which would sound weak coming from a lot of other rappers, but she's usually so untouchable and in control that her decision to step back here feels mature rather than subservient.
Waka Flocka Flame, "Danny Glover (Freestyle)"
Mark my words: "Danny Glover," the late-2013 street hit from rising pop-punk-meets-yelp-crunk Atlanta star Young Thug, is about to be this year's "U.O.E.N.O." Thank its woozing, loping, odd little beat, and just hope it doesn't bump into any easy-to-not-bump-into controversies generated by Rocko's song, no thanks to Rick Ross. The first of hopefully many to jump on this production is Waka Flocka Flame, who knocks out a half-formed and, frankly, a little half-assed freestyle (it's over and out in less than 90 seconds, and he doesn't even sing the hook or include Thug singing it). This is mostly significant because you're going to hear plenty more savvy (and superior) beat-jacks using this 808 Mafia production in months to come.
Zuzuka Poderosa, "Baile Crunk"
From Brazilian MC/vocalist/carioca bass upstart Zuzuka Poderosa and Miami producer Burt Fox comes a wobbling, vinyl-crackling, skittering, dub-like, kitchen-sink-and-then-some twist on baile funk. Note the Crime Mob nods for the cool kids (that female shout of "Okay!" feels like an important adjustment to the prevalent Three 6 Mafia-derived "Yeah, hoe!" shout that dominates post-crunk), and get lost in a mid-song breakdown full of broken-bottle sounds, finger-snaps, and an airplane-liftoff synthesizer. An upside-down club slinker with a hook ("Rio De Janiero, Atlanta, H-Town") that celebrates cross-continental, region-repping solidarity. Zuzuka explains it like this on her Soundcloud: "South America meets the South of North America."