Brandon Soderberg



  • Young Thug

    Young Thug's Weirdo Warbling, Isaiah Rashad's Scrappy Lyricism, and Eight More New Rap LPs

     Album of the Month: Young Thug & Bloody Jay, Black Portland (Self-Released)Between the haunting, silly "Danny Glover" and the gonzo collaborative mixtape Black Portland, yelping-and-flailing-about rapper Young Thug has owned early 2014. For an older generation of rap fans — along with those young folks still cluelessly parroting the views of an older generation — this has basically triggered one long conniption fit from anyone who fails to understand that hip-hop's millennials tend to coat their pain and pleasure alike in heaping helpings of AutoTune. Everybody is advised to just chill out, however, because this 21-year-old street eccentric isn't going anywhere.Outside of "Danny Glover" — undoubtedly the hottest track in rap right now — Black Portland is a purposefully low-stakes collaboration with Bloody Jay, a Gunplay-in-shout-mode-only rapper, also from Atlanta.

  • Isaiah Rashad / Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images

    Tennessee Rapper Isaiah Rashad Proves Himself Worthy of Black Hippy on 'Cilvia Demo'

    The natural rapport that exists between Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock (collectively known as Black Hippy) is a sore thumb of sincerity within the cynical mainstream. See, most rap crews these days are pretty much just tiny corporate conglomerates, and when Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group or Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music scoop up a new artist, it feels like they're franchising — extending their reach to another region they're hoping to wrap their brand around. Consequently, when a posse cut appears, it's just a handful of jerks who weren't in the same room together lobbing rhymes right past one another.Whereas the Black Hippy guys actually seem to enjoy each other's company, so when they rap together, it's an organic event that oozes both sheer skill and actual enthusiasm.

  • Rap Songs of the Week: Cam'ron and A-Trak Take It Back to Crack-Rap's Heyday

    Rap Songs of the Week: Cam'ron and A-Trak Take It Back to Crack-Rap's Heyday

    Blaqstarr, "Hands Up, Thumbs Down"In which a hearty, batshit Baltimore club track that's more than a decade old and got sampled by M.I.A. on 2007's "World Town" is cleaned up and declared "unreleased," and thus starts popping up on all of the blogs that never touched this freaky stuff back in the day. Then again, all of the Bmore manipulations flying through the post-anything world of dance have yet to match this aggro-zen simplicity: fractured acid squelches, scary-as-hell slurred vocals grunting and screaming, and a constant percussive thud that marches to the front of the track for a hypnotic breakdown.

  • Hear Shabazz Palaces Member Chimurenga Renaissance's Hypnotic 'The B.A.D Is So Good'

    Hear Shabazz Palaces Member Chimurenga Renaissance's Hypnotic 'The B.A.D Is So Good'

    Chimurenga Renaissance is a fractured hip-hop project from Baba Maraire of rap duo Shabazz Palaces, and his output is what you'd expect from one of those Pacific Northwestern poets. Sprawling, loosely structured beats valiantly explore the worlds of electronica, dub, jazz, and other rhythmic environments we've yet to name, all of them anchored by firm, in-the-pocket, and instructive rhymes delivered in a voice that merges KRS-One's dancehall cadences with the chanted lyricism of the Last Poets or Watts Prophets.On "The B.A.D Is So Good," Maraire addresses hip-hop and street life's attractively seedy side. Like a more wizened take on Notorious B.I.G.'s infamous lament — "You're either slinging crack rock or you've got a wicked jump shot" — the track connects the often dangerous aspirational spirit of hip-hop (and the "black American dream") to the addictions of the country at large.

  • Rap Songs of the Week: Nicki Minaj Dominates YG's 'My Niggas' Remix

    Rap Songs of the Week: Nicki Minaj Dominates YG's 'My Niggas' Remix

    Kari Faux, "House of Avalon"Little Rock, Arkansas' Kari Faux discovered a way to merge cloud rap and hip-house on this go-for-it rap — over and out in just two minutes, with a diversified flow that finds room for the varied styles of La Chat, Kimya Dawson, and Queen Latifah. It moves from swaggering shit-talk to fall-apart not-really-even-rapping rapping to impeccably on-point and metered-out spitting: "Because when you told them you had a dream, no one wanted to believe / I know how that can be / But I keep the jams coming like a factory / Now they watch my every move like a gallery / With the low fixed-income salary / Me? I'm trying to ball like a debutante / Fix my lipstick after I hit the blunt / Can't stop until I have everything I want."Raka Rich, Shark Sinatra, Sin Que, and D.A.

  • Caleb James

    Watch Chicago Rapper Caleb James' Frigid Video for 'Eddy Curry'

    Just in time for another burst of polar vortex wind and snow: Here comes the icy video for "Eddy Curry" from Chicago rapper Caleb James, a founding member of the SaveMoney crew, alongside Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa. In the video, James delivers his strident raps in a junkyard, flames belching from busted-up cars like a classic '90s Mobb Deep video. Heavy snow falls on the young rapper, making the clip rather timely as we all seem perpetually engulfed by snow and frigid temperatures.The song itself is produced by Nez & Rio, a duo best known for their work with Chicago major label next-big-thing King L and Top Dawg Entertainment capo Schoolboy Q. It beeps and booms along, equal parts playful and menacing. At least until a swell of horror movie strings move in before the hook, a shout-out to Illinois-born and former Chicago Bulls basketball player Eddy Curry.

  • Deniro Farrar

    'Cult Rapper' Deniro Farrar Embraces Tupac, the Internet, and Charles Manson

    Who: Charlotte, North Carolina's Deniro Farrar, 24, a blog-rap third-waver who's mixing eccentric, wobbly production from Internet heroes like Ryan Hemsworth and Blue Sky Black Death with the long tradition of dark, soulful gangsta rap. All the while, he's also exhibited eclectic, out-of-the-box taste (he remixed Grimes' "Oblivion," for example), and like so many young rappers right now, has largely bypassed the gamble that is reaching out for "street buzz," preferring the slower, steadier grind of online networking. "Before the Internet, you would have to catch buzz through the streets," he explains.

  • Creative Adult

    Hear Creative Adult's Post-Punk Road Trip 'Public Transit'

    "Public Transit" from Bay Area noisemakers Creative Adult is an aural trip through the most vital elements of '80s post-punk. It has scheduled stops in the dungeon-dance of Joy Division (thanks to vocalist Scott Phillip's Warsaw-era Ian Curtis belting it out) and pop-tinged shoegaze (by way of an extended My Bloody Valentine-like noise jam of an outro). And then there's an extended intro, piling riffs on riffs on riffs, and defining Creative Adult's often askew approach to songwriting and sound-sculpting. The point here is the group's sonic journey, which finds room for crazed catchy shouting, experimental structure, an ineffable sense of menace, and a whole lot more in just four minutes. (That menace is no doubt due to Godspeed You!

  • Hip-Hop at the Grammys: Macklemore Wins, Kendrick Lamar and the Rest of Rap Music Lose

    Hip-Hop at the Grammys: Macklemore Wins, Kendrick Lamar and the Rest of Rap Music Lose

    The Grammys' continued ghettoizing of the rap awards to the pre-telecast was actually welcome this year: It meant not having to hear Macklemore's name called over and over again and hearing that opportunistic, conscious-rap cornball "aww shucks" his way through a whole bunch of speeches. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis pretty much swept the rap awards, receiving Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song (for "Thrift Shop"), Best Rap Album (for The Heist), and, during the primetime awards telecast, Best New Artist.The industry's long been looking to find the white rapper they can hold near and dear to their hearts, ostensibly in an effort to extricate blackness from hip-hop, just as they did with rock music decades earlier.

  • Rap Songs of the Week: Young Thug and Meek Mill Pay Wayward Tribute to MLK

    Rap Songs of the Week: Young Thug and Meek Mill Pay Wayward Tribute to MLK

    Cities Aviv, "Don't Ever Look Back"Like some lost sample-slaying session between Theo Parrish and J. Dilla, this takes-its-good-ol'-time closing track from Memphis rapper Cities Aviv's excellent Come to Life (out next week) uses viscous vocals like a frustrated inner-monologue mumble, but ultimately, it's all about the slow-growing rumble of noise that threatens to take the track over but never quite does. An avant-rap track without that much rapping on it. A bedroom-dance jam that decides it doesn't feel like getting out of a bed. A sick slab of noise that's far too pleasant to appease the aggro side of the avant-garde.

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