These Artists Are Taking Hip-Hop In New Directions
Some old and some new faces have been taking hip-hop music in some pretty cool directions over the past year. The following artists are ones that made my list of those who continue to take hip-hop music in a new direction. I admit that there are others I could have included, but due to restrictions of content length I was compelled to narrow it down to only the five musicians below in this article.
Toward the end of last year Ian Bavitz, or better known as Aesop Rock, released The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers Records). Two singles from that album, "Blood Sandwich" and "Rings" began building up steam and picking up speed on the airwaves early on in this year. As always the lyrics were complexly abstract and as per norm for Bavitz they were heavy on the homonyms. Some have labeled his wordplay as being too verbose, but I've always felt that anything interesting enough to get you to pick up a dictionary or google a definition to learn the meaning of a new word is worth paying attention to.
Jaime Meline and Michael Render, a/k/a El-P and Killer Mike, a/k/a Run The Jewels, came out with Run The Jewels 3 (Run The Jewels, Inc.) and released it digitally during the last week of 2016 as well as physically in the middle of January 2017. It featured "Talk To Me", "2100 (featuring Boots)" and "Legend Has It". The back and forth banner between Render and Meline was like eavesdropping in on a conversation between two old friends who had not seen each other for quite a while and had a lot of catching up to do. Listening to it was also like getting a political punch in the face. Killer Mike and EL-P saw there was something messed up going on and going down on the streets across America and they damn well were going to tell us all about it.
Andre Joseph, or CEO Cleezy, is a relative newcomer to the game that I've just come across this year. The only single to come off of his "I Accept Your Apology" thus far is "Fly Away". I've heard the whole album a few times and there are definitely some other gems buried in the grooves, the title track being one of them. Cleezy's specialty is mashing up hip-hop sub genres in the beats and backings then taking sniper like aim with his well chosen lines. Like a great magic trick worked in three acts Joseph first presents us with what magician's call the pledge and shows us something simple that we see everyday. Then comes the turn where he turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, perhaps like making something disappear. That's where you look for the secret, but you won't find it because subconsciously you really don't want to know - you want to be fooled. Finally, as every master in the art of sleight of hand could tell you, you must give your audience the prestige, the part of the trick where any Houdini makes what disappeared reappear again.
Lizzo (nee Melissa Jefferson) released "Coconut Oil", her debut EP with a major label a little over seven months ago and the single from it, "Good As Hell" was featured in the "Barbershop: The Next Cut" film soundtrack. She's one of the few women to break through the glass ceiling of the Minneapolis, Minnesota alternative hip-hop scene. Smart lyrics, great selection of samples, versatile instrumental arrangements and a ton of tongue in cheek hot sauce attitude are the trademarks of her truly unique sound. Back in 2014 Jefferson was included in Time Magazine's list of artists to watch and she's yet to fall short of that well deserved accolade. Not unlike CEO Cleezy, listening to her music is akin to watching a stage wizard practice the hocus-pocus craft of sleight of hand. Now you hear it, now you don't, and then there it is again. Oh my God, how did she do that?
Hip-hop MC and spoken word poet Arlo Maverick is from Edmonton, Alberta and nine months ago this Canadian artist dropped his "Maybe Tomorrow" album. On it he does an amazing job of fusing reggae, soul, electronica, jazz and R&B with hip-hop. Well thought out lyrics that tell honest stories inspired by experiences from his life. Originally part of the Poli Live group, a three time nominee for the Western Canadian Music Awards, Maverick has since gone solo. His narrative has a similar quality to Run The Jewels' folksy kind of banter with its embrace of the everyday events that have such a huge impact on shaping who we are. A choice of instrumentation that leans more toward the visceral as opposed to the emotional element is the bedrock of this rapper's audio style.
So, these are some of the trail blazers out there who are leading the way toward new directions in the hip hop field. I think it'd be great to know which artists you'd include and why. Just hit me up and leave your comments to share your thoughts with me and my readers. This could turn out to be not only an interesting dialogue, but I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship (dolly back, fade to black and cue up the Casablanca movie soundtrack music, LOL).