Arts Desk

The Breaks: This Week in DMV Hip-Hop

This is the "Fuck yeah, America" edition of the Breaks, which features thoughts on the strongest local hip-hop project of the year so far (in my opinion, at least), plus new music and videos from Ras Nebyu, Chaz French, Phil Adé, and, finally, a mention of Yo Gotti’s Howard Theatre performance tomorrow night.

Mid-Year Check-In
Somehow 2014 is half over. What this means for music writers is recapping the past six months to make lists of the year’s best albums so far. In terms of hip-hop, I have a few favorites on a national level: L.A.’s ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron is still ingoldlink-the-god-complex rotation, as is Piñata, the collaborative album from Indiana’s Freddie Gibbs and producer Madlib. Then, of course, there’s YG, whose My Krazy Life surprised everyone, taking fans of vintage West Coast rap right back to 1994, which I’m not mad at. But the project that’s impressed me the most on a local level (and, in turn, has been warmly received nationally) is GoldLink’s The God Complex.

Released on April Fool’s Day, the Virginia rapper’s debut brought the 21-year-old out of the shadows and into the spotlight thanks to his arresting approach to crafting music. Despite its 26-minute duration, it’s left a lasting impact, as GoldLink has managed to carve out a distinct niche. Nothing else sounds like The God Complex, which incorporates elements of jazz, funk, dancehall, and a little bit of drum and bass in addition to contemporary hip-hop. It literally has something for everyone.

I’ll admit to being surprised by the national acclaim—not that I didn’t think people across the U.S. would like it; I just wasn’t certain it would reach them. I suppose good music is good music, and it has a way of finding people regardless. Alas, GoldLink’s music, accolades, and string of public appearances (he performed at Broccoli City festival in April and is on the recently-announced Trillectro bill) have many—myself included—thinking he could be the next artist from the area to explode. Wale’s third album topped the Billboard charts a year ago this week, and Fat Trel became his labelmate last fall. Is GoldLink next? His "I’m the next motherfucker with the juice" boast on "Ay Ay," The God Complex’s opening track, shows he believes it, but we’ll see. He has one of the 2014’s most engaging projects on both local and national levels, so people are paying attention.

Summer Bounce
Speaking of GoldLink, he and DJ Kidd Marvel threw together this "Summer Bounce" mix, which is very 4th of July weekend–friendly. Enjoy.

Talk Like a Lion
D.C.’s Ras Nebyu, another criminally underrated artist, recently released a video for the Arkitech-produced "Lion Talk." The title of his Washington Slizzards mixtape shows a clever sense of humor, but it doesn’t reveal the depth of his lyrics, which require more than one listen. If you’re familiar with his "Futuristic Black Man," you know there’s a lot of knowledge in his words, and he denounces ignorance on "Lion Talk." The impatient wait for his follow-up project, Ras Griffin lll, continues.

More From Chaz French
If we know one thing about Chaz French at this point, it’s that he channels his aggression through music. The Kal Banx–produced "YNN" isn’t as rousing as "Came Down," but it’s more of an eerie calm before the storm. You can hear something apocalyptic in the background, as well as that same sample from G.O.O.D. Music’s "Mercy."  Happy Belated, his debut EP, is due out later this summer.

More from Phil Adé
It’s been about a year since Phil Adé’s "comeback" project, R.O.S.E., was released, and the Silver Spring native is making sure he remains in the conversation of elite DMV hip-hop artists. His brand new video, "Outskirts," is an ode to growing up on the edge of the District. The around-the-way vibe is enhanced by Martin Amini’s direction, a throwback to the music videos of the '90s when MTV actually played videos. This is from Adé’s forthcoming Respect Due project, which is supposed to be released towards the end of the summer.

A Trip Back to the '90s
DJ Brenden Hill got Phil Adé and Black Cobain together for "Cases," a Kino Beats production which samples Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s infamous "Get Money." As Adé says on the song, it "feels like summertime in the mid-'90s." It’s also included on Hill’s coming District Champs compilation, due out Sept. 1.

Celebrate Independence Day with Yo Gotti
Yo Gotti, the real "King of Memphis," will headline WKYS’ Independence Day White Out (which is hilarious considering he often raps about selling cocaine) at the Howard Theatre tomorrow night. He performs around 10:30 p.m., and tickets are $60 to $100. Here’s some old school Yo Gotti:

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