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The Rap Wrap: BJ The Chicago Kid, A$AP Ferg, Aesop Rock & More

We’re almost a third of the way through 2016, and already it’s proven to be one of the most exciting periods for phenomenal hip-hop, soul, R&B and funk music in recent memory. Here’s some of the best new songs, remixes and videos from the last couple weeks.

BJ The Chicago Kid, The New Cupid ft. Kendrick Lamar

This track came out as part of BJ’s brilliant debut album In My Mindand the video was released this week. The New Cupid was one of the smoothest tracks on his generally brilliant album, no less of course, because it featured hip-hop’s messiah, Kendrick Lamar. 

The video, directed by Matt Barnes, stars comedian and actor Hannibal Buress as a rather uncouth cupid. Meanwhile, Kendrick and Raphael Saadiq (whose track Oh girl is sampled) add some hilarious star charm to the velvety smooth number. Buress spoke to Rolling Stone about the video, claiming it to have been a “spiritual experience. We’re gonna change lives with this one. BJ was telling how the video was missing one piece. It was me. I came into the picture and made this project whole. The cherry on top. The final stroke of the paintbrush on a masterpiece.

BJ paid me in a lifetime subscription to Tidal and 3 ghostwritten 13-bar verses about any subject matter of my choosing.”
BJ also pointed out, “I have a great group of friends. Even Kendrick paused everything he had going around the Grammys to make sure we had what we needed.”

A$AP Ferg, Let It Bang ft. ScHoolboy Q

There’s been a lot of big news out of both Ferg and Q’s camps of late, with an imminent album from A$AP Ferg, and TDE’s head honcho teasing an upcoming Schoolboy Q release, coming later this year. Now, Ferg has dropped Let It Bang, a groove-laden track that’s somehow equal parts laid back and banger.

The video, which opens with a bit of a jazzy storyline, meshes scenes of a nightclub, nightmares, convenience store robberies and disturbing reaper-esque shot of Q, shadowed and hooded, stealing the show with his heavy-hitting words of wisdom.

I for one am really interested to see where Ferg’s album takes him, having spent three long years living out his self-fulfilling prophecy as the Trap Lord. This is a diverse, dense and aggressive release, and considering the intensity of both this and his recent New Level ft. Future, I have a feeling that this is gonna be a banger-laden album to remember.

Pusha T, Untouchable (Aesop Rock remix)

This is weird. Aesop Rock over Pusha T and Timbaland (whose beat this is)? Huh? These guys seemingly couldn’t be on farther ends of the hip-hop spectrum. The glamorous head of G.O.O.D Music has the attention, money and publicity of Kanye West and co. behind him, while Timbo is, well, Timbaland, himself largely untouchable. Aes, meanwhile, the most lyrically explorative storyteller in the game, seems to stray as far from the mainstream spotlight as possible, ferociously below the radar. This remixes marries the smokey club beat with headphone lyrics, and it’s fucking brilliant.

If Aes is trying to raise the bar (and his audience numbers) ahead of the release of The Impossible Kid, he done good. This is a fabulous remix, one that showcases the darkest corners of his mind and music. Aesop goes hard, it’s basically a diss track against everyone who has ever undermined him, increasing in aggression all the way through to the Biggie sample which rounds it off.

Also I would safely say that this is the only rap track in history that has name-dropped John Zorn and quietly disses Jay-Z within sixty seconds.

At fifty six bars long, this track kills. Aesop Rock, I love you. The Impossible Kid comes out on April 29 via Rhymesayers.

Future, Low Life ft. The Weekend

Future just dropped the video for Low Life, from last year’s album EVOL. This was a streamy track to start with, as is literally anything which involves Abel Tesfaye, and the video only adds another element to that. Watch as the pair rock a decrepit, abandoned warehouse and similarly downtrodden, ghost town scenery. Expectedly including a few shots of gorgeous women posing seductively, it’s everything you might expect from a visual accompaniment to the track. While I (shock, horror) am not usually on the Future train, this track lays low enough that I’m hooked.

XXL reckon that this clip reminds them of Mad Max: Fury Road, and I have to agree. The beat is low and ominous – more end-of-the-night than club banger (despite Future’s repeated promise, “’bout to fuck this club up.”) The clip features such decrepit scenery that it does have a kind of end of days, post-apocalyptic vibe, and that’s just the way I like it. A Low Life, indeed.

Funkadelic & George Clinton, Ain’t That Funkin’ Hard On You? (Remix) ft. Kendrick Lamar & Ice Cube

Here’s a video and a track that nobody can say anything bad about. The song itself came out in 2014, but a number of remixes have since appeared. Kendrick Lamar first appeared on a Louie Vega remix last year, and a new remix, also featuring Ice Cube, appeared last month.

The space age video blends sensual funk with OTT science fiction, set in a space ship flying through space, making stops at nightclubs, in glitzy cities and beyond.

It’s basically an R&B Blade Runner. 

The Clinton & Funkadelic outfits deserve a special mention, with polkadots, hats, long-tailed coats, feathers, headdresses and more absolutely stealing the glittery show – particularly when pitted against Kendrick’s simple TDE-branded hoodie and Cube’s simple yet classy gangsta wear.

I can only hope that Cornrow Kenny and George Clinton with Funkadelic will work on more music together in coming years – Clinton’s feature on To Pimp A Butterly was one of the highlights of the album, and considering Kendrick’s endless affection toward jazz, soul and funk, his tone and flow could not match this style more perfectly.

Lamar, who was in town this week to perform in Sydney, Melbourne and at Bluesfest, is an endless highlight on tracks, and as good as the original was, he simply makes it better. Okay, so Cube’s verse feels a little weak and arbitrary, but am I going to complain? Hardly. I love his flow, and even if it contributes absolutely nothing lyrically (“Some suckers don’t like it, ‘cos I’m a psychic, and if you tricks don’t like it, hoe you can dyke it”… zzzzz) his bouncy rhythm is always a nice addition.

Image: Vevo/Funkadelic