Happy Halloween to all the Hip Hop heads! The Underground Report has altered its schedule a bit to close out the month with some musical treats for All Hallows’ Eve.
The latest edition of the Report looks back at some of the best independent music from September, highlighting songs from seven artists that need to be on your radar — if they aren’t already.
Jonah Cruzz – Chakras
Atlanta often gets pigeonholed due to its influential sound, which has helped AutoTune and trap beats become preeminent forces in Hip Hop today. Despite that perception, the city has always produced an incredibly diverse range of rap. Jonah Cruzz is one of the many ATLiens providing this diversity, as heard on his intoxicating cut “Chakras.”
Cruzz’s music is more reminiscent of Dreamville’s J.I.D and EarthGang than Young Thug or 2 Chainz due to its soulful production. His rhymes have a conversational tone, which allows each word to be more impactful than those relying solely on double-time raps and melodies. “Chakras” displays this skill in expert fashion but also shows his ability to craft an infectious hook tailormade for the track’s funky vibe.
“Chakras” is the cream of the crop on Cruzz’s recently released It’s A Beautiful Thang EP, but the whole project is definitely worth a spin.
Snow Tha Product – Today I Decided
Atlantic Records missed the mark by not putting its promotional weight behind Snow Tha Product. She has star written all over her thanks to her bilingual rapping abilities, but the label never seemed to know what to do such as an asset. Atlantic’s loss is fans gain since Snow’s been able to drop music on a more consistent basis now that she’s back on the independent scene.
One of the Snow’s best releases of late is the audacious “Today I Decided” produced by DJ Pumba. The song is a chin check to her doubters and a declaration that she’s done playing nice. Snow lets the world know she’s sick of not getting her just due, so it’s time for her to stop being so humble. The edge works well, adding fire to her already intense delivery. If Snow can put together a project full of cuts like this in the near future, it will be hard to deny her for much longer.
GRIP – Bernie Mac
Atlanta’s GRIP (not to be confused with the late Grip Plyaz) caught my attention with an album called PORCH. The project dropped in November 2017, but I didn’t catch it until a few months later. The quality of the record put GRIP on my radar, so I was glad to see him pop up recently with a new joint titled “Bernie Mac.”
The song is just as dope as anything on PORCH, if not more so. GRIP’s whole style is right in my wheelhouse, and it’s on full display on “Bernie Mac.” He’s unapologetic about being an MC, puts an emphasis on his rhymes and sticks to his guns instead of playing to what’s hot.
“They call you conscious if you actually rap/Vernacular acrobat, this one ain’t for the platinum plaques,” he raps on the track. I couldn’t have said it any better. Those lines are what the Report is all about.
Ezri – Happy Birthday Nas Freestyle
You would easily be forgiven for forgetting — or not even knowing — Ezri is signed to Mass Appeal Records. On a label housing the likes of Nas, Dave East, N.O.R.E. and Black Milk, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. But don’t sleep on Cleveland’s Ezri, who could turn into the label’s first homegrown star.
Ezri dropped his Be Right Back EP on Mass Appeal last year then resurfaced in September with an outstanding freestyle celebrating his boss’ birthday. His “Happy Birthday Nas Freestyle” is a clear sign of his promise and potential, featuring almost two straight minutes of rewind-worthy bars delivered with an impeccable flow. Ezri is a lottery pick prospect, so don’t sleep on him.
Chester Watson – 40 Acres
One of the hidden gems of the independent music scene is POW Recordings, an imprint founded by journalist Jeff Weiss. The small label has cultivated a roster of esoteric artists brimming with talent — especially within Hip Hop. Miami’s Chester Watson is a perfect example of a rapper I may have never discovered if it wasn’t for POW giving him a platform to release his Project 0 album.
Watson describes his work as psychedelic, and it makes sense after listening to his LP. His work has an off-kilter sensibility and uses a lot of dark imagery with minimalistic sounds. It’s akin to the work of Earl Sweatshirt but not derivative of the Odd Future member’s music. “40 Acres” is the peak of Project 0 as Watson becomes an open book, displaying a vulnerability that allows a deep connection with the listener. In the braggadocio-filled world of Hip Hop, Watson embraces his struggles on “40 Acres” and stands out from the crowd in doing so.
Wynne – Buzzer
Wynne has gone viral a few times over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. A babyfaced white lady freestyling with a rapid-fire flow is something that can grab social media’s attention. The biggest question has been whether or not Wynne could transition from a viral curiosity into a full-fledged rapper with a sustainable career.
After keeping her name out there for the last year or so with some remixes, Wynne finally made her proper re-introduction with an original single called “Buzzer.” The track features more of the breakneck speed raps that earned her notoriety. But more importantly, it shows she’s capable of creating a compelling cut for more than a bite-sized Instagram post. “Buzzer” is a spectacular display on its own merit, but it’s even more exciting to think about what Wynne will create as she expands her repertoire.
Ren Thomas – The Showdown
I probably would’ve rolled my eyes at taking anyone from VH1’s Signed seriously if not for knowing the talent of one cast member. Nilly, a proficient lyricist who came up in the Baton Rouge rap scene, landed a spot on the series and made re-think any generalization I had about a reality show cast of rappers. If not for that, I might’ve missed out on Ren Thomas.
Like Nilly, Thomas was a cast member on Signed and — in my opinion — was penalized for being “too Hip Hop.” There’s no such thing as too Hip Hop for the Report, which is why Thomas’ IceRocks-produced single “The Showdown” was an easy selection. It’s pure boom bap and bars, but the New Jersey-repping MC also concocts a memorable hook that gives “The Showdown” an extra dimension. Thomas is right at home in the Report because “too grimy” is a badge of honor here.