Summer Jam 2016: Top 5 Under-the-Radar Rap Releases from This Summer

By Kristopher Tondre
Music Reviewer

Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like a bit of a slow summer as far as new music goes in the rap world. Aside from Gucci Mane coming home, and the slew of rappers collaborating with him just to come across as “cool” if only for the moment, there haven’t been many ground breaking, leave-me-in-awe albums released. However, dig a little deeper into the blogosphere and what you might find might just provide you with some great songs and future soundtracks to those last minute summer adventures. Here are my 5 under-the-radar rap releases that provided with some great music these past couple of months while the temperature kept rising and the gas prices went lower.

June by Hak

June by HakThe “sun-burnt rhymes” crafted by Hak for his solo debut carry on like a warm breeze on a nice summer day. A day where the sun shines bright in a sky dotted by fluffy, white clouds as you cruise the country roads with the windows down, music pulsating out of the car speakers. From beginning to end, the project is a slow burn of soothing city lullabies that tell the tale of this young man as he ventures out on his own into the music industry after spending the last half of the decade as part of the group Ratking.

If June was a novel, it’d be a coming-of-age story. It’s a youthful project that offers glimpses of hope and exploration of not just the environment before him, but also of himself. This project is a reflection of Hak, the musician, the artist, and the person.

Where there seems to be an influx in the vanity of people in most of the music that gets released this day and age, this project feels more like a personal memoir set the tune of hazy sounds that carry like crashing waves from track to track. It’s a breath of fresh air that smells like flower petals carried in the wind, refreshing glasses of lemonade in the afternoon and the scent of burning lumber as you get cozy around the bonfire under the starry sky late at night. June sounds like summer, and months from now when the temperature drops and I’m snuggled in a hoodie walking to class I will press play to Hak’s debut, close my eyes, and for that brief moment it will feel like what has supposed to have been the hottest summer yet.

Mind of a Gemini by Deniro Farrar

Mind of a Gemini by Deniro FarrarQuantity not quality, in a world of mass production where trends can start and end in the course of 24 hours, it’s refreshing to hear someone take their time with their work so that each and every statement made by the piece makes an impact.

This is the way Deniro Farrar operates as obvious by the release of his latest project, the seven track Mind of a Gemini, his first release in about a year since he dropped his collaborative EP with producer Young God. Each song on the EP explores a different characteristic of what it means to be born under the astrological constellation, the same one shared by such legends as Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar.

Much like 2Pac before him, Farrar has a distinct voice that he’s used to tell his story of growing up in the hood, and the struggle of what it means to be a black man in America. Even at only seven tracks on this brief EP, Farrar says more than some musicians do with twice as many songs.

90’s nostalgia, Malcolm X speeches, songs of distrust, paranoia, success and much more are all explored over southern funkdafied boom bap beats that help amplify Farrar’s gruff voice as he tells his tale yet again.

Live Fast, Die Slow by Woodgrain Caskets

Live Fast, Die Slow by Woodgrain CasketsA little over 20 years ago, Andre 3000 took the stage and made the statement heard around the rap world. During a time when all the focus was put onto the feud between rappers from the West Coast versus East Coast, Andre declared that “The South got something to say!” Two decade later and the South is running the rap world. Still, there are often artists and projects that get lost in the mass amount of music being released, the South being no exception.

With their debut project, the diabolic duo of Proz Taylor and Deezie Brown have crafted an incredible album in Live Fast, Die Slow that should stand the test of time. Though both have released music prior to their formation of Woodgrain Caskets, this accumulation of regional sounds, from Texas and Mississippi respectively, crafts a hazy sound like a black leather jacket wearing Watch the Throne.

However, where the duo of Kanye West and Jay-Z rapped about their high class lifestyles, LFDS captures the sound of two young, gritty rappers working to obtain that opulent lifestyle through hard work and dedication to their craft. Both Brown and Taylor bring different experiences going into this project, but their natural chemistry shows throughout this brief debut making for a truly enjoyable listen.

MONDA by Cousin Stizz

MONDA by Cousin StizzAfter taking listeners on a trip through his home with Suffolk County, Cousin Stizz returns to shed light on the people that make up his city. 

Named after a friend of his who passed away to cancer, MONDA is a somber sophomore effort from the Boston-based rapper as he waxes poetic about the hustle that got him this far into the music industry as well as everything he’s experienced in Suffolk County. As much as rappers try to portray a luxurious lifestyle that they either currently dwell amongst or hope to obtain, Stizz offers to show the grit and grind of what it takes to make it in this world. It’s an approach that I think has enamored him to so many listeners as they know when they press play on a Stizz project, the stuff he talks about is very much what he’s experienced or living through. Songs like “Reup and Bake” truly is a song of determination that I think captures the spirit of who Stizz is and what he hopes to accomplish.

Consistency is what separates a good artist from a great artist, and already Cousin Stizz is showing a consistent grind that hopefully pay off in his favor as he portrays his home, his friends, and just who he is as a person through some great music.

Midnight Music by Tommy Gold

Midnight Music by Tommy GoldIt seems like nowadays, a lot of artists are rushing the promotion of their projects with false release dates that leave fans disappointed and at times upset with the artists their fans of. A few days after artists such as Frank Ocean and Travi$ Scott were reportedly going to drop the follow up to their debut albums, one artist surprised fans with a new project and actually kept his word when he said it would be released.

Enter Tommy Gold. With the release of his second project, Midnight Music, the growth can be heard from the young emcee in comparison to his past work that was No Good. Producing almost the entire project by himself, the sounds on MM range from heavy bass with hard hitting 808’s to a jazzy mellow sound like that of BADBADNOTGOOD. The lyrics alone are that of young angst much like Earl Sweatshirt before him with a DIY attitude like the entire Odd Future camp.

It’s only been about a year since the release of his debut project, yet the growth and progress made since then is incredible. It’s a dark and sinister project full of youthful rebellion and an attitude that becomes infectious as the project continues to play through. A late addition to the sounds of the summer, but one that’s perfect for rolling through the suburban residences late at night under the street lights.

Holly Henrichsen

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