This week finds two veterans and two relative newcomers getting the spotlight. An Oakland veteran known for pushing out projects relentlessly gets himself some blog-friendly production for new recognition. Meanwhile, one of the album cuts from a heralded album already grabbing some “best of 2012” talk made its rounds far too quietly last week. Also, one of the HipHopDX Staff’s favorite new artists continues to defy age and regional dialect with his out brand of ventilation – word to Phife Dawg.
Tito Lopez – “Pressure (Venting Session #5)”
Tito Lopez was a bit of an enigma for me; then again, he still is. Once I checked that viral vid with Dr. Dre, my curiousity reached new heights with this guy. Remember when Dre cosigned Kendrick Lamar and then K.Dot got his big boost into mainstream Hip Hop? Well, I’m still waiting for Tito to get that thorough push. This latest track, where Tito’s really just going off (or “Venting” as he puts it), is just what you need sometimes. Strip down all of the extra bells and whistles, get those sing-songy hooks out of the way, and just spit. Like, really, spit. That’s what Tito’s doing here. He covers so many different things within these bars – from acknowledging his rhymes might be too complex for the kiddie rap lovers who prefer simple rhymes to shunning anyone who thinks that Southerners need to sound like hicks (he’s from Mississippi). Tito Lopez is seriously the business when he raps. I respect his knack for placing words together in a way that brings back the ’90s Rap cyphers in New York City, even though he isn’t even from there. You can tell who he’s studied, and you can tell who he’s going to knock out the box with the right opportunity. I’m excited for this guy’s career. – Kathy Iandoli (@kath3000)
Blanco & Yukmouth f. Krondon & Mitchy Slick – “Hot Tamales”
The burning question for me lately has been when does the Spanish production team known as Cookin Soul find the time to sleep? Since discovering the work of Big Size, Milton and Zock on their Tribute to Teddy Pendergrass, I’ve been amazed at not only how versatile and prolific the team has remained, knocking out project after project without sacrificing quality for quantity but also how they’re able to let all the emcees they produce for shine thanks to an understanding of what kind of beats are best for each artist. I really didn’t have an appreciation for Fiend until the “Iron Chef” mixtape nor did I make a concerted effort to bring anything by Nipsey Hussle into the car to rock before Cookin Soul released their RAW album last month. The other rhyming half of RAW, Blanco, will once again be showing up on a project produced entirely by Cookin Soul, the Cookies & Cream EP. Also featuring Luniz’ Yukmouth, Cookies & Cream leaked its first track this week which sees the two Bay Area emcees – along with 2/3 of Strong Arm Steady – ripping into beat from the Valencia trio that’s named after a Mexican dish but takes second place right behind DJ Scratch’s work on “What’s Happenin'” for greatest use of a Bollywood sample. Truly global music to get excited about… – Michael Sheehan
Killer Mike featuring Emily Panic – “Anywhere But Here”
I maintain that May 2012 has been the best month for albums in Hip Hop since November 2010. O.C. & Apollo Brown made an introspective gem in Trophies. Ab-Soul’s #ControlSystem is simply brilliant, while Killer Mike made his strongest album to date (in a highly respected catalog) in R.A.P. Music. “Anywhere But Here” is quickly contending to be my favorite track on the LP, as it shows why Mike rockin’ over El-P production makes all the sense in the world. Over one of El’s more gentle beats, Mike Bigga gives a stream-of-consciousness verse that captures the disenchantment going on right now in New York City and everywhere. Emily Panic’s chorus gives the track a lot of accessibility and just enhances the mood. Mike uses the first verse to talk about New York in a way that feels critical, but not disrespectful. The second of the two-verse record turns the criticism on the powers that be in Atlanta, Mike’s hometown. The masterful emcee states, “So you ask what happens to a dream deferred, well Langston, he kills himself.” Mike has this ability to puncture ears with his powerful thoughts, and without any interlude preaching or slamming Trap beat, he makes one of his best examples to date with “Anywhere But Here,” one of my favorite records of this year. – Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)