The Playlist: hip-hop

Today it's the turn of hip-hop in our new playlist series – cast your ears over the best of the latest tracks and mixtapes

Ign Igblor – New Wave 2

So far in 2014 there's been a rush of media outlets trying to get to Chicago and cover the rap scene in the city nicknamed Chiraq. This usually involves a film team turning up, trying to follow around Chief Keef, being repeatedly let down by Chief Keef and then finally talking to him before realising he's a mumbling teenager who's about as articulate and engaging as a bar of soap. There have been some notable exceptions, such as Ethan Brown who went to Chicago for Playboy, but most of them miss the more innovative elements in Chicagoan hip-hop in favour of salivating over drill and the violence connected to it. One of those less-derivative figures is Ign Igblor, a rapper who has more in common with industrial techno than trap, and whose abrasive beats are mixed with a Kanye West-style flow and lyrical content that moves from nihilistic rants to existential crises. Not exactly head-nodding stuff, but definitely not lacking ambition

Raekwon – The Living Room

The schism between the RZA and Raekwon is threatening to completely derail the Wu Tang Clan's "final" album. Things kicked off when Raekwon said the RZA was delivering sub-par tracks and was ruining the legacy of the group. The RZA countered by denying any rift and adding that without Raekwon he might pull the plug on the whole project; giving him a 30-day ultimatum to get on board. In between the beefing they both found time for some creative pursuits, with the RZA taking part in a spoof screentest for the role of Lesley Knope in Parks & Recreation, while Raekwon simply released another track which showed that he is still Wu Tang's best living MC.

Themed mixtapes (The Boondocks, Game of Thrones, Illmatic)

There has been a slew of themed mixtapes in the past couple of weeks, ranging from the painfully bad to the perfectly acceptable. Easily the most poorly thought-out themed mixtape in the short history of themed mixtapes was the Game of Thrones effort, Catch The Throne, which was an attempt by HBO to reach out to its “multicultural audience”. It was an interesting angle considering most soundminded people would assume those fans of Game of Thrones who happen to not be white might want exclusive footage/interviews from the show rather than a hastily assembled mixtape featuring Big Boi half-heartedly rapping about Khaleesi and how evil the Lannisters are.

On a more interesting note there were some good Illmatic 20th anniversary mixtapes with the pick being the Nah Right x Upnorthtrips mixtape which featured contemporary New York MCs updating tracks from the seminal album.

Another stand-out was the mixtape that helped promote the 20-year old animated series the Boondocks. Its success might have had something to do with the animated series beating NBC's The Voice in the US TV ratings. Adult Swim managed to attract Killer Mike, Smoke DZA and Troy Ave for an 18-track ode to Huey, Riley and Grandad.

Gucci Mane & Young Thug – Young Thugga Mane La Flare

Atlanta's most prolific MC-and-teacher-team hook up for a typically trap-laden and slightly-odd mixtape. In anticipation Young Thug has been knocking out a steady stream of tracks with increasingly strange titles (All Types a Drugs, Chickens, Eww Eww Eww), even though at the moment no one is sure exactly who he is signed to. On Young Thugga Mane La Flare he manages to out-weird Gucci Mane, which is quite the achievement, delivering Auto-Tuned, falsetto-cloaked verses about selling drugs that are so high-pitched and emotional it feels like he's going to burst into tears at any minute. It's a strangely alluring mix and with the abstract/menacing mutterings of Gucci Mane alongside it's likely you won't hear anything quite like it all year.

Pharoahe Monch feat Black Thought – Rapid Eye Movement

Pharoahe Monch has been busy promoting his new album PTSD, which is – if you can get past its terrible artwork – a good listen. Rapid Eye Movement is the centrepiece of the album and there's not a lot to it: stripped-back production, boom-bap beats and Lalo Schirfin-style strings and bass with Pharoahe and Black Thought stitching rhymes over the top of it. Monch also went on the influential Peter Rosenberg podcast (there's a great profile of Rosenberg in the New Yorker) and spoke about his time on Rawkus Records and how he is far from living the high life.


Lanre Bakare

The GuardianTramp

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