What? Hip-hop superstar Kanye West may have stretched sonic boundaries on his latest record, 808s and Heartbreak, but there was one small problem — he forgot to rap. Enter New York indie hip-hop producer/rapper 88-Keys, whose debut, The Death of Adam, was executive produced by his buddy West and features a healthy mix of melodic hooks, distorted vocal effects, and killer rhyming skills. Adam tells the story of a man’s suspicious death that may or may not have been caused by his main vice — sex. The record features some truly nasty rhyming — but always with a giggle instead of a snarl — and the beats are top-notch, ranging from the soulful (“Handcuff ‘Em”) to the sexy (the Wings-sampling “Dirty Peaches”).
Who? Long Island, NY, native Charles Misodi Njapa earned the moniker 88-Keys after legendary hip-hop producer Large Professor witnessed his prowess on an Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard. After briefly attending New York schools Hofstra University and Queens College to study medicine, Njapa dropped out to pursue his true passion — producing hip-hop records. 88-Keys has since worked with the hip-hop elite, including Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Consequence. The Death of Adam itself features an impressive list of collaborators, including Phonte of Little Brother, Bilal, Redman, and Mr. Kanye West himself.
Fun Fact: 88-Keys’ love for Polo Ralph Lauren is what we’d call a little extreme. He claims that he’s worn Polo attire every day for 16 years, and owns over 700 articles of clothing from the preppy-favored brand. And when he gets writer’s block, 88-Keys heads to the Polo store in New York City to shop for inspiration.
Listen: 88-Keys, “5 Stay Up! (Viagra) ft. Kanye West”
Watch: 88-Keys, “True Feelings”