Elvis Costello & The Roots - "Walk Us Uptown"
The reality is that if Elvis Costello released a song anywhere ever, we would never post it on HipHopDX. It's not because he isn't a brilliant legend, whose music should be heard over loud speakers in Every City, USA. It's just that he's not "Hip Hop" or even a distant enough cousin of it so rationalize placing him on our site. Of course if he released some scary Rap song like the Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys did, we'd post it in that same "WTF" manner. Anyway, "Walk Us Uptown" is the first release from Elvis Costello & The Roots' collaborative project Wise Up Ghost coming September 17th via Blue Note Records. This first single is funky, as Elvis Costello's nasally vocals ask "Will you walk us uptown? And wherever you go you know we'll follow." Questlove's drums and The Roots band's instrumentation add a new feel to Costello's sound. It sounds like Black Thought is humming in the background, similarly how he does on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The song could have been on The Roots' fifth studio album Phrenology or something, but this is much better. It's unfortunate that it was "Slept-On" this week, but there was something here that is miles more important than a few more clicks in Audio. A song/project like this shows how far Hip Hop has really come. Hip Hop collaborates with Elvis Costello now – and in a non-ironic manner. That's amazing. However, while The Roots should be proud to have worked with the legendary Elvis Costello, Elvis should be equally proud to have worked with the legendary Roots as well. - Kathy Iandoli (@kath3000)
Fredro Starr & Audible Doctor - "That New York"
I've always been a fan of artists, filmmakers and writers who paint vivid pictures of the urban underbelly and juxtapose it with scenes of the high life happening 30 floors up across town. That's what Audible Doctor and Onyx's Fredro Starr pull off on their new track, "That New York." "The city of dreams is turned into a nightmare" and things are bleak from the get-go as we're dropped into a world full of past-due bills and sneak attacks, a place where everyone is desperate to get rich whether it's by dealing drugs, playing the lottery or resorting to busting into a bodega wearing a black mask saying "let me hold that paper." Fredro bounces between worlds. Hip Hop's been good enough to let him burn down Seventh in the GT and smoke blunts, not outside the aforementioned bodega, but up at rooftop bars near Columbus Circle. But obviously not that good as he goes from "Uptown to Bucktown" with some coke he bought with his gambling winnings. Whether this narrative is truth, fiction or some of both, it would all be lost if it wasn't for the top tier production from Audible Doctor. He crafts a dark and downtrodden kind of soulful sound that's usually impossible to pull off. The beat takes us back to that graffiti covered train from the Golden Era without forcing the nostalgia down our throats. Most importantly, his work on the track is restrained enough to let Fredro's scenes from the streets of Gotham unfold. -Michael Sheehan
F. Stokes - "Lets Build"
Last year, I spent my Valentine's Day (with my date) at a Doomtree concert in Philadelphia. My girlfriend is a huge fan of Dessa, Cecil Otter and Lazerbeak, and having been writing about the group and its members since reading about them in Urb magazine way back when, so am I. F. Stokes, who has made albums with Lazerbeak, opened up (along with Lushlife, I believe, who's also dope). I have never seen a non-local opener, who's not a household name, master a ceremony better than F. Stokes, who hails from Chicago/Wisconsin, now carrying New York ties. Stokes actually had the crowd sit on the ground on a dirty, sticky floor to listen to one of his songs, not an easy ask, especially in Philthadelph. Sounds strange, but if you caught the sincerity and charisma in his set, you would have sat down too.
A year and a half later, it's great to see "Lets Build." This is F. Stokes at his best—part Spoken Word, part 2013 emcee, who is able to put a message in his music with a delivery that grabs 100% of your attention. It's super Punk Rock how well Stokes can make great song in just over two minutes. If more people heard this man's music, let alone saw his show, they would understand why I am convinced he is one of the best artists in Hip Hop that even the blog-bookmarkers aren't yet up on. - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)
RELATED: F. Stokes Recalls Interning For 50 Cent, Explains Moving To Harlem Because Of Malcolm X [2012 DXnext INTERVIEW]