For the very few followers that regularly check this blog for its intended purpose, which is to bring you quintessential hip-hop music, discovered and reviewed monthly, you’ve probably realized that it’s been notably quiet for several months. My travel-clogged holidays and expanding work schedule have both impeded my ability to actually lose myself in the expansive world of internet hip-hop blogs. However, this is only partially responsible for the radio silence on my digital digging in the crates. There has in fact been something else at work which I cannot deny: the slow but invariable transition from my initial passion for writing to the laborious duty of scrambling to make the blog’s schedule. Of course with any personal or professional project, the excitement during the honeymoon phase can quickly fade as the scope and weight of the project settles in. In trying to keep to my monthly schedule, I’ve certainly felt the fun and excitement of hip-hop discovery disintegrate into the frantic scramble to meet my “deadlines”, wading through the many mixtapes and releases that deserve attention. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve definitely come across some amazing projects when busting out the shovels and digging through the profound recesses of the internet. Many of the amazing joints that were brought to you in 2014 were discovered through this disciplined monthly routine.
But in discovering and reviewing hip-hop music, passion is absolutely essential. So how to best take back the passion? Well, it just so happens that I have a few ideas for improvement.
When The Spirit Moves Me…
As mentioned above, the monthly nature of my blog has been one of the sources of constant stress and my increasingly robotic tendencies. To address this, I’ll only be posting when I literally have these jams on repeat in my headphones. That means the monthly updates wont necessarily occur on a predetermined schedule, but will instead be replaced with intermittent posting when I feel that you simply have to download a recent release. Because trust me, if I can’t stop listening to it, I am pretty certain that you might just feel the same way.
…Don’t Sleep on SoundCloud…
If there’s been one huge takeaway that I’ve had in the last month, it’s that you cannot sleep on SoundCloud. There are more up-and-coming hip-hop artists, labels and free-to-download projects uploaded to SoundCloud than anywhere else. A lot of these are what you would call “loosies”, single tracks that aren’t necessarily part of any larger album, but they’re still total bangers. I’ve been more regularly updating my SoundCloud page and reposting tracks, playlists and new artists on a regular basis, many of which are not of the hip-hop persuasion. Be sure to follow my SoundCloud profile at soundcloud.com/paul-kuhne (and yes, you now all know my real identity, behind the concrete cassette tapes). And if you’re not already on SoundCloud, I highly recommend that you create a profile and dive in to explore.
…Or that Twitter Feed…
Equally important will be my push to generally take advantage of the vast world of Twitter, where I’ve been increasingly fascinated and impressed with the daily content making its away through my feed. This ties into a broader personal choice that I’ve made in 2015, which is that I will be sourcing nearly all of my news updates from Twitter. A bold move, I know, although Twitter is still a mostly democratic platform for sharing updates, and used by both revolutionary anarchists and hedge fund managers alike. In the hip-hop realm, my favorite blogs post frequently and I’m excited to say that I think that it’s a platform ripe for underground discovery.
…And Keep The Reviews To The Point.
Yes, my reviews started off notably succinct and slowly snowballed into more verbose, lengthy treatises that tended to ramble on. I get it, and I’m going to keep it briefer. These reviews wont exceed more than 150 words, with the goal to be keeping them to only about 1-2 paragraphs. Yea, it’ll be challenging to restrain myself, but it is something that I’ll do my best to honor. You’re here for the music, not necessarily a lengthy commentary on the socioeconomic nuances in track number 5.
And with those adjustments, I’ll be shifting “In Steady Rotation” into a blog that I hope is more accessible, fun and worthwhile for hip-hop heads. But enough about my reflections and digital musings on the challenge of blogging. Let’s plunge into the music from the last few months.
What’s been rotating lately…
“BeFOR Our Time”
Jay Prince is an East London producer and spitter that came across my radar via SoundCloud. His most popular track off of his recent EP is “Polaroids” which harks back to the soulful choruses of old-school Outkast while still delivering, a bouncy, roller coaster ride of a flow that waxes nostalgic on his struggles coming up. There’s a lot of nostalgia on this project, both with production and content, the former being reminiscent of the early 90s, while the latter conveying his challenges growing up in poverty while trying to blow-up in a big way. Check-out the mixtape on SoundCloud below.
When I say Alchemist and Fashawn, you should respond with a resounding “Hell yes!” That was my initial reaction upon hearing that Fashawn had dropped a project with the veteran producer, known for his love of guitar and string instrument sample loops. And boy oh boy does it deliver. Fashawn first came to my attention after the head-nodding jam “Golden State of Mind”, and the Choosey track “Matters”. His voice, flow, and delivery probably defines the essence of what we’d call “a spitter”. There’s no doubt that his microphone is probably covered in saliva when he’s on stage moving the crowd. And the EP finishes off with one of my favorite tracks of 2014, the painfully dope: “Never Waiting in Vain”. Listen to it below and for the love of god pick this up.
I was a little hesitant about including Elhae’s new project “Aura” on this list due to its heavy R&B influence, but honestly, I would be lying if I said that his release wasn’t inundating my eardrums on a daily basis. Elhae, part of the Soulection Collective, is an immensely talented singer and rapper that hails from Atlanta, and blew my mind with the drop of his January track “Halfway Love”. Starting with an MJ sample of “Rock With Me” over soft piano playing, the song shifts into a goosebump-inducing, haunting journey through romantic obsession and loss. The rest of the album is laden with other hybrid R&B/hip-hop jams that will keep you immersed throughout the listen. Oh and our man Jay Prince makes an ill cameo on “Time For You” before the EP wraps up with the very dope, Nas-influenced “The World (Outro)”. Yea, you should check this one out on SoundCloud below.
“It’s All Happening”
It’s high-time that I pay my long overdue respects to the St. Louis emcee Rockwell Knuckles, who has been pumping out absolutely insane hip-hop for nearly five years now, ever since the drop of his 2010 project “Choose Your Own Adventure”. His new project, “It’s All Happening”, deviates slightly from past albums, with fewer sing-songy, hook-centric choruses, while delivering more heavily on serious bars and his always stellar production. His second track “DSB”, which stands for “Destroy Something Beautiful”, defines that narrative shift with Rockwell and Indiana Rome alike pushing their way through the proverbial mass media crowds to showcase creative destruction in its most beautiful sense. It’s pretty damn gorgeous.
Technically, I have not listened to Joey Bada$$’s new album from start to finish, or even from start to halfway for that matter, but the tracks that have been posted to SoundCloud have been beyond dope. His track “On and On”, quickly transformed into my new travel anthem for 2015, and his other shared tracks, with guest appearances from Action Bronson and production from Statik Selektah, are worth checking out. From those few jams alone, and Bada$$’ already respectable canon of solid work (see Summer Knights and 1999) I would recommend that you cop his new album today.