When the death knell of American democracy first sounded with the mindless chanting of “Make America Great Again”, I saw no upside. To my mind, the cry of MAGA represented a nefarious “good ol days” dog whistle. Another instance of “Remember when?” that often leaves us waxing nostalgic for times when black and white folks drank from separate water fountains, there was virtually no health insurance for the poorest among us, and our government decided environmental protections could be managed by the private sector. In other words, a load of shit.
Yet if the past year has had any silver-lining, it’s been the noticeable throwback to the dope sounds of mid-90s hip-hop music. Album after mixtape after LP have dropped since January that seem like head-nods to an upside-down dreamscape crafted by golden era hip-hop fanatics. Dare I say that 2017 has made hip-hop great again? Perhaps it’s a stretch, but with releases from Lute, Meyhem Lauren, and G-Worthy, plus my own discovery of Griselda Records, the Buffalo powerhouse that produced Conway the Machine and WestsideGunn (do not sleep!), I’d say 2017 is oozing old-school vibes. And what’s even better: it stretches from the gritty streets of New York to the sun-soaked boulevards of LA. So while MAGA and the rest of the alt-right lunatics giddily froth over a time that never was, I’d say that hip-hop may be finding itself going through its own time-warp. Check it out.
Meyhem Lauren with DJ Muggs
Gems From The Equinox
The last album I bumped with DJ Muggs was Grandmasters, dropped in 2005 where Wu Tang Clan veteran and founding member GZA Genius expertly flows over some grimy beats–courtesy of the Cypress Hill veteran. Needless to say, it got rotated…a lot. You can imagine my surprise when I was scrolling through new hip-hop tapes and discovered a collabo between Outdoorsman Meyhem Lauren and DJ Muggs. Beyond the incredible album cover, featuring a gold Jesus piece holding two tech-nines, the title of the album meets the gangsta-intellectual standards of Meyhem Lauren’s previous releases, including Respect The Fly Shit, Silk Pyramids, and Mandatory Brunch Meetings. Featuring grimy interludes from blackpoitation films and hard beats from DJ Muggs, it feels like Lauren and Muggs were designed to work together. After an ominous opening, Lauren wastes no time flexing his lyrical chops over beats that walk us down the dark alleys of the big apple. But beyond some of his bars, what stands out about Gems from the Equinox is its guest features. The album is a certified journey through some of the best hip-hop acts coming out of New York right now, including Roc Marciano, Conway the Machine, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, Action Bronson, and even the late Sean Price. The album feels both like a throwback to early 90s boom bap rap, but also laces tracks witha funky, soulful edge which has become a mainstay of Meyhem Lauren and Action Bronson. After all, leave it to Meyhem Lauren to have an album that features tracks like “Szechuan Peppercorns” comfortably resting next to tracks like “Murder Rap”. It’s truly a thing of beauty. At the end of the day, Gems from the Equinox goes beyond the lyrical prowess of Meyhem Lauren: it’s a certified New York City banger that captures the renaissance that New York hip-hop is going through presently. Be sure to listen below.
West1996, Part 2
I first heard Lute back in 2012 when he dropped West1996, a refreshingly old-school mixtape that repped Charlotte, North Carolina with gusto. Lute was a natural spitter in the booth, and he seemed more than capable of telling intimate stories about tough times growing up in NC while still training his eyes on the bigger prize of hip-hop stardom. The album features so many old-school throwbacks, that you would be forgiven for thinking that it may have actually dropped in 1996, and not 2012. With a smattering of minor drops since that first release, I was excited to see his first formal debut on J.Cole’s Dreamville label with West1996, Part 2. I was initially a bit hesitant to listen, half-expecting to be greeted with silky smooth beats and the refined flow that often characterizes Dreamville signees. But fear not–Lute stays true to form. The album maintains the old school vibe first exhibited on West1996, but also evolves into a more mature and humble take on the rap hustle. Lute is honest about where he comes from, and the challenges he faces with a daughter in tow, but the tape has more optimism than even he might admit. At the end of the day, Part 2 feels a bit more lyrically and musically diverse than Part 1, but tracks like “Still Slummin” and “Juggin” are old school classics that keep Lute grounded in his roots. Take a listen below and cop it on iTunes.
Fools Gold Records is at it again. They were at it when they put out Gems from the Equinox, they flipped it when they released Risk/Reward from Grande Marshall, and now they straight ripped up the script with the release of G-Worthy’s self-named release G-Worthy. Comprised of hard-hitting emcees G Perico and Jay Worthy, and backed by super-producer Cardo, G-Worthy decides to throw it way back to the era of g-funk and pimped-out hydraulic cadillacs sliding down LA’s palm tree-lined streets. And they’ve been getting love left and right. The Fader featured a story on G Perico back in July, describing him as the next big thing in the emerging golden era of West Coast hip-hop. A few months later, LA Weekly did a feature on Jay Worthy and his move from the streets of Compton into the studio. Blogs left and right are taking notice…and you should too. There is something both incredibly nostalgic and futuristic about this album, which is a testament to its dopeness. On one hand, you feel your headphones rattling from the bounce of a classic early 90s G-Funk. But in the next, even through its old school vibes, you simply can’t think of anyone doing this in 2017, and it feels oddly refreshing. Plus, there’s no denying the insane chemistry that arises when you combine a Broadway Gangsta Crip (G Perico) and a Westside Piru Blood (Jay Worthy) into one group, and then pack the mixtape with the best beats available from veteran Cardo. From the opening g-funk riddled “Foolish”, to the smoke-filled, west-coast-slang-soaked “Versace Robe”, you need to fuck with G-Worthy. It may be one of the illest releases off the west coast this year.