Hip-hop reacts to Ferguson
As the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, unfolded, an increasing number of hip-hop artists made their voices heard via TV interviews, new tracks and blog posts. Killer Mike was one of the first artists to voice his concerns, taking to Instagram with a stream-of-consciousness post under a picture of Michael Brown’s mother, where he simply asked for a moment of compassion and reflection. The rapper, whose father was a police officer, also wrote an op-ed piece for Billboard in which he aired his concerns about the actions of the police: “This week I have seen tanks, rubber bullets and tear gas used by police against the citizens that pay them. This is not Egypt or Syria or Palestine, but today it feels that way. It feels as if death can come, without reason, from a uniformed government official and, if we do not press back against this Blue Wall of Silence and gang-like mentality of our local police, we all are in danger.”
He was interviewed by Fox and CNN, as was Talib Kweli – who spent most of the interview trying to get his point across while being interrupted by Don Lemon – as the pair emerged as hip-hop eloquent spokesmen post-Ferguson just as Questlove did after Trayvon Martin’s death. Frank Ocean took to Tumblr for a short post about the Ferguson police reaction after the shooting, while Common made a stirring and considered speech at the often gauche and gimmicky VMAs. J Cole released Be Free, a call for peace after the shooting and subsequent riots, Kool AD spoke out about the “senseless murder” of Brown, while three of Chicago’s best rappers: Chance The Rapper, Common and Lil Herb contributed with the anti-violence ode Fight or Flight.
Run the Jewels – Blockbuster Night Part One
If all that wasn’t enough for Killer Mike to deal with the Atlanta rapper also has a new record to promote. The follow up to the first LP from his collaboration with El-P as Run the Jewels is out in late October and the first track from it makes it clear the pair are following a similar path. Blockbuster Night Part One is just as abrasive and energetic as anything off RTJ, with Killer Mike and El-P exchanging verbose verses that mash together metaphors about magicians and threats of acrobatic wrestling moves.
Vince Staples – Blue Suede
Earlier this year Staples released Nate, a tale of growing up in a household in which the breadwinner is dealing and again showed that he’s got a level of maturity which some of his running mates – say, Mac Miller and most of Odd Future – lack. Blue Suede sees him ratchet up the energy telling stories of retail therapy, anxiety over an ephereamal career and a reference to WWE star Shawn Michaels. His debut LP, Hell Can Wait, is out before the end of the year.
The Alchemist – Rookies of the Future (feat. Riff Raff and Action Bronson)
Action Bronson has been busy. The summer started with the launch of his own food show on Vice – entitled Fuck, That’s Delicious – in which the former chef opines about his favourite cuisine. Then he went on to tease and release the psych-hop track Easy Rider, before a collaboration with Hudson Mohawke was leaked and ripped. He showed again that regardless of who’s behind the mixing desk he can find a way to make his brash, bellicose flow mesh. He also teamed up with controversial joker Riff Raff – who fell out with Sam Smith after the pop crooner cropped him out of a VMA picture – on Rookies of the Future, which is produced by Alchemist. It features Riff Raff’s well-rehearsed nonsense braggadocio (sample lyric: “My blue velvet velour shirt clashes with my fluorescent … ensemble”) and Alchemist’s smooth boom bap, while Bronson turns in another dose of funny yet threatening rhetoric.
Raekwon – I’ll Be Good
Ahead of his album F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art), which is out this autumn, the chef has been serving up a weekly dose of nostalgia-tinged tracks every Thursday. His throwback Thursday series has seen him sample the Spinners. Rose Royce, Horace Brown and 80s tweak stars Rene & Angela. I’ll Be Good – which was also sampled by Jay Z and Foxy Brown – is arguably the stand-out, but the whole collection could compete with most of the year’s best mixtapes.