Brandon Soderberg



  • Hodgy Beats, 'Untitled' (self-released)

    Solid though slight, with star-packed production credits and rap-raps, this OF release is the anti-Goblin.

  • Future, Astronaut Status

    Maddeningly catchy choruses caked with avant-garde levels of Auto-Tune are awesome; but is this all he's got?

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    The Rebirth of Instrumental Hip-Hop

    When the excitement over Detox started up again last year, Dr. Dre even teased his next, next album — an instrumental project called The Planets, with songs inspired by the "personalities of each planet." We're still waiting for Detox, so the chances of ever hearing Dre go all Gustav Holst are slim, but a nutty, no-rapping release about space actually sounds more interesting than a decade-in-the-making sequel to The Chronic 2001. Plus, there's plenty of enthusiasm for boundary-pushing instrumental hip-hop right now. The subgenre quietly and creatively returned this year, and last month saw the arrival of two game-changing releases: Electronic Dream by Dipset producer Araabmuzik; and Rainforest from Lil B beatmaker Clams Casino.

  • [Photo: Amandine Paulandre]

    Breaking Out: Azealia Banks

    WHO: Formerly the teen rapper known as Miss Bank$, who rapped over a Ladytron ("Seventeen") track and was affiliated with tastemaking British label XL (via Diplo), the now-20-year-old Harlem MC-singer (recently signed to Universal) is now making noise on the strength of "212," her dizzyingly addictive throwdown released last fall. The song blew minds thanks to a kinetic black-and-white video of Banks rapping her ass off and cheekily grooving to producer Lazy Jay's buoyant beat. She effortlessly switches up styles, bouncing from aggressive raps to a foul-mouthed, filter-house breakdown to a gorgeously crooned bridge to, well, even meaner rhymes. SOUNDS LIKE: Throwback party-rockin', dozens-playin' hip-hop for the Shuffle Mode Generation.

  • Heems, 'Nehru Jackets' (Greedhead)

    If you discovered hip-hop during the so-called Golden Age of the late-'80s/early-'90s, Queens still holds an almost mythic quality to this day. Which applies to both the rappers -- bigger-than-life rogues like Nas, Mobb Deep, Kool G. Rap, Pharoahe Monch, and Capone-N-Noreaga -- and the locale itself, which, if judged by the rhymes about stick-up kids and videos full of dudes standing around fire-belching trash cans, always seemed idyllic in its awful-ness. The general definition of "Queens rap" came from that sort of thing, which means Nehru Jackets, an eccentric boom-bap mixtape from Queens residents Heems (a.k.a., Himanshu Suri of Das Racist) and producer Mike Finito, probably fails to qualify under such a strict rubric. But that's a good thing.

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    Tyga's 'Rack City' Is the Best Song on the Radio Right Now: Here Are 10 Reasons Why

    1. It sounds like it's from 6 years ago. Producer DJ Mustard's maddeningly catchy combo of hums, snaps, grunts, and claps is an affront to the cacophony of over-production currently in-vogue. It's got nothing to do with the Uncle Luke and MC Hammer fusion of Big Sean's "A$$," the mash-up idiocy of J. Cole's "Work Out" (Kanye's "The New Workout Plan" plus Paula Abdul's "Straight Up"), or Flo Rida's "Good Feeling," which crumples up an Etta James sample and everything else from Aviici's "Le7els" and adds some mom-friendly rapping. Instead, "Rack City" is a welcome throwback to the mid-2000s, gulping 808s of Ying Yang Twins' "Wait (The Whisper Song)," the cheapo synth stabs of D4L's "Laffy Taffy," and the yammering minimalism of the Pack's "Vans." 2.

  • The Weeknd, 'Echoes of Silence' (Self-released)

    The Weeknd, 'Echoes of Silence' (Self-released)

    Neither as relentlessly hooky as March's House of Balloons nor as noisy and hatefuck-filled as August's Thursday, the third 2011 mixtape from Internet-driven phenom Abel Tesfaye nonetheless continues his mastery of the druggy/lovey/loathing Weeknd thing. So isn't it about time we just declare this guy a straight R&B act? He's on Drake's Take Care; devotees of Trey Songz are listening to him, too. The hipster accusations just don't hold. And this is his most straightforward take on radio R&B yet. Echoes of Silence begins with a goofy, gutsy remake of Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana," mysteriously titled "D.D" so as to not spoil that first-listen, "Oh-no-he-didn't-just-cover-MJ" moment. Replacing the original's heavy-metal signifying with mournful Requiem for a Dream strings is both inspired and predictable. And by singing the song straight, Tesfaye doesn't hedge his bets.

  • 50 Mixtapes You Need Now

    50 Mixtapes You Need Now

    You won't find most of the year's important or just plain entertaining hip-hop releases in any store. You'll find them right here (in alphabetical -- not ranked!order). More From SPIN's December 2011 Issue: -- Live from the New Underground: SPIN Celebrates Hip-Hop's DIY Moment -- Photos: A Close-Up Look at Rap's New Underground -- G-Side Launch a Hardscrabble, Regular-Dude Revolution -- An Insanely Obsessive Infographic Tries (in Vain) to Diagram the Hip-Hop Galaxy 01. 2 Chainz Codeine Cowboy Member of the Ludacris-backed Playaz Circle (remember "Duffle Bag Boy"?), formerly known as, um, Tity Boi, crafts a more-diverse-than-it-needs-to-be collection of syrupy swagger. 02.

  • Drake, 'Take Care' (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Republic)

    Drake, 'Take Care' (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Republic)

    Perhaps "Headlines" had you thinking Take Care would be Drake's humble moment. On that relatively upbeat single, he raps, "I might be too strung out on compliments, overdosed on confidence," and, later, expresses appreciation for the fans who told him he "fell off" between his hit 2009 mixtape So Far Gone and his star-packed 2010 debut Thank Me Later. And even though "Headlines" is pretty much a rewrite of a previous hit — the "6 Foot 7 Foot" to "Over" 's "A Milli" — that hardly matters because Drake is consciously lapping himself, returning to the same topic and style with another year of experience, making his conflicted approach to being richer than you just a little more lived-in. An appropriately absurd cover depicting a despondent Drizzy, five o'clock shadow-sad, looking like a decadent Baba Booey, also foreshadowed a hard, if melodramatic, look in the mirror.

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    An Insanely Obsessive Infographic Tries (in Vain) to Diagram the Hip-Hop Galaxy

    As the galaxy of hip-hop stars shrinks, the industry realigns, creating a dynamic New Underground of fresh MCs and producers, plus a crew of wizened veterans who are filling the Internet-era vacuum of power. The various scenes are almost impossible to keep track of, or, God forbid, diagram, which is why we decided to try. Here's a handy (or baffling) guide to what's happening right now. More From SPIN's December 2011 Issue:• Live from the New Underground: SPIN Celebrates Hip-Hop's DIY Moment• G-Side Launch a Hardscrabble, Regular-Dude Revolution• Odd Future: The New Underground's Loud Family Goes on the Road Infographic by Pop Chart Lab (Click to enlarge)

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