Remember in high school, when the kind of music you listened to defined who you were as a person? It influenced the way you dressed, who you hung out with, what you did on the weekends. That was probably a little drastic. Music shouldn’t control you as much as you should control your music. You should take pride in your playlist! It’s no different than a wardrobe you spent years building, or a house you’ve meticulously decorated. There are very few things in life as inexpensive as music that can generate such an emotional reaction. When I heard Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” for the first time, I literally got goosebumps. You wait 90 minutes into a movie to get to the part where it gives you goosebumps, and the popcorn was nine bucks. Are you getting excited about music again yet?
We’ll keep this our little secret. I’ll do all the dirty work for you. You know the basics, like Lady Gaga, Jay Z and Rihanna. Based on those artists you already love, I will find you new, exciting music that gives you back those goosebumps. Every week, I’ll feature a few artists you may not have heard yet, that share some similar characteristics or styles to ones you do know. Then you can impress your friends with your shiny new playlist at your next party and take all the credit, I don’t mind.
Well Done: Jay Z
Everybody knows Hov. If he’s not in your playlist, you have an even bigger issue. Mr. Carter is as big as it gets for our generation. Almost 20 years in the game, 17 Grammy awards, 12 No. 1 albums on the Billboard charts. He’s the first person we’ve seen get to that “next level” in hip-hop, whereas stars in the past have either been lost to violence, jail or mediocrity (I’m looking at you, LL Cool J). But if you’ve already burned yourself out on his most recent “Magna Carta Holy Grail” offerings, here are some artists on the come-up who are sure to give a little new life to your speakers.
Medium Well: Schoolboy Q
Schoolboy Q might be the most fun rapper in hip-hop (sorry, Riff Raff). At the very least, he’s the self-proclaimed man of the year. He exudes an energy so electric that you’re forced to get “turnt up” whenever his songs pop up on shuffle. He’s been at it for a few years, making some of the most catchy, lyrically captivating songs in the industry. He’s signed to the TDE imprint out of California along with his longtime friends and collaborators Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock. He tours relentlessly, and I highly recommend seeing him live, but wear a helmet and some steel-toed shoes. I’m not kidding. His highly anticipated major label debut, “Oxymoron,” hits shelves and online retailers on Feb. 25, featuring the powdered sugar (I presume) anthem “Yay Yay,” and the infectious Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Collard Greens.”
Medium Rare: Smoke DZA
Smoke DZA is our generation’s Ghostface Killah. He spits raw street rap while wearing luxurious robes and alligator Timberlands and giving zero fucks what anybody thinks about it. He counts fellow NYC natives Jay Z and Biggie Smalls as his biggest influences, and wrote his own lyrics to their classic songs when he was developing his own rhyming pattern as a young MC. More than any other rapper out there right now, except maybe Kendrick Lamar, DZA creates a world for you to get lost in when you listen to his music. He has an extensive catalog, but I became addicted to two of his 2012 projects, the free mixtape “K.O.N.Y.” and the “Rugby Thompson” album, which was front to back one of the best albums of 2012.
If we’re going to talk Jay Z, you have to talk Brooklyn. The BK has been experiencing a revival in recent years, with young talent bubbling up and making some serious noise. One of the MCs at the forefront is G4SHI, 24, who is building a strong buzz not just in his city, but nationwide. The fact that he’s doing it without a mixtape or album available is even more amazing. Larry (his government name) originally hails from Kosovo, but he reps his borough strong, as is evident in his videos. The other thing evident in his videos is the immense focus G4SHI places on them. Rather than rushing out countless mixtape projects like other artists on the come-up, he spends the extra time crafting incredible singles and pairs them with videos that look like they were filmed with six-figure budgets rather than a friend’s HandyCam. In the YouTube age, where quality always trumps quantity (cough*Weezy*cough), this dude gets it.
If you have artists you’d like to see featured, no matter where they end up on the list, send them to me on Twitter at @longlivetheduke!