Certified music head and TSL EIC Vince Thomas doesn't have time to scour the web for new hip hop (not that he's all that impressed with it anyway). Luckily he has editors. Even more fortunate, he has associate editors. Every week, one of them — James Carr — presents his top five(ish) of the week, keeping Vince's Walkman bumping while he keeps James in check.
1. "Streams & Rivers" (Coultrain)
— This is one of those tracks that I like to email to you to make sure you get it in “Good Morning” or “While You Were Working.” It’s the kind of music that doesn’t get nearly enough pub. There’s no Pitchfork for this kind of black music. You have sites like Soulbounce and SoulCulture , but they don’t do those Pitchfork numbers…so cats like Coultrain flow crazy under the radar. I’m anticipating his new album. His debut was auspicious. And he’s part of the Hawthorne Headhunters collective, which dropped what might have been my favorite album of 2012. This particular cut is fly. The production is very RZA-inspired – sounds like a cross between “Duel of the Iron Mic” off of Liquid Swords and a joint off Cuban Linx that’s escaping me right now. And Coultrain always comes with left-field harmonies and vocal arrangements. I’m looking forward to the new album later this month.
– Very nostalgic. I’ll never turn down Dilla. First heard this back in 2007, when it was on the Ruff Draft re-issue. Played that album so much I think it broke my iPod. Definitely blew my car speakers. This might be the worst song on the album, but it might also be my favorite. I miss this man.
3. “Congratulations” (Cocaine 80s ft. Common)
– This is an interesting song. It eclipses four minutes. There isn’t a very conspicuous hook. Common's story is dope, even if it's told with post-prime Common rhymes. I’m diggin’. But, then again, I dig everything these dudes do. This is my favorite collective right now. No.ID is killin’ it with his production. But it’s your boy James Fauntleroy who’s the star to me. He wrote some songs for Rihanna; he’s doing a lot of work with Justin Timberlake, these days. He’s just got a real verve for songwriting. Common, quiet as kept, is the least essential. On all their EPs, he just swoops in randomly to spit a few Chicago-Com bars and flies away. He was actually substantial on this track, though. Do they have an album dropping? Why am I even asking you?
4. "Who Am I Working For?" Remix (Tinashe ft. A$AP Nast)
– I’ve never heard of A$AP Nast. A$AP Ferg, yes – but not Nast. How many A$APs does Rocky have running with him? Nast, by the way, is the nickname for one of my close dudes. B-Nasty. I bet he could out-rhyme this cat…and B-Nast can’t rhyme. But, word, this A$AP Nast verse is kinda typically vulgar and cadenced just right to get the shoulder shrug; but it’s not enough to make me dislike the song. Love that ambient production. That’s not Clams Casino, is it? Couldn't be. But it’s one of those mood-setters that run with Rocky’s camp. That’s his whole appeal to a head like me – that production. But what about this little girl, Tinashe? You got info on her, JC? Is she even pubescent, yet? She sounds like my little fifth-grade cousin…without the church. I mess with this one, though. I’m cool with it.
– J. Cole is fairly dope to me, but in a very narrow way. This particular track falls outside of those parameters. I like his new joint with Miguel, “Power Trip.” It grooves a ton, has that boxed-in production; plus, I like Cole’s woozy hook…and even the song's sentiment, somewhat. But you can miss me with the "J, Cole spitting hard" joints, like this one. His dopest verse to me is still on Blueprint 3.
6. "G.U.R.U.' (Marco Polo ft. Talib Kweli and DJ Premier)
– This joint was cool. Not in a “Meh, that was cool” shoulder-shrug kind of way; in an “Aw, man, that was cool” semi-wistful kind of way. I miss Guru because I miss Gang Starr, and I miss the era of my life that they soundtracked. After Guru died, I pumped nothing but the Gang Starr discography for a solid week. My landlords above me had twins in junior high, Max and Sloan. I played so much Gang Starr – so loud – they can probably identify “Code of the Streets” within the first note. At any rate, this joint here was a nice way to eulogize him. I don’t want to call Marco Polo a boom-bap sycophant, but he’s definitely a zealot. This “G.U.R.U.” joint is off of the upcoming PA2, his follow up to Port Authority – which dropped about five years ago. On Port Authority, dude was pulling rappers out the antique box – O.C. Ed O.G., AG – we’re talking “once great,” but, at this point, “center of the earth”-underground. Problem is, music shackled to bygone eras never sound fresh. Like, the snare Polo is using is super-duper ’90s-centric…as is that little clarinet sample. So although this joint appealed to my heart and sense of nostalgia – with Kwe’ running down Starr albums and telling personal anecdotes about his relationship with the Ruler Universal – it was also kind of boring. I will, however, add it to my go-to Gangstarr iPod playlist, just off of GP.