The Beat Box

Noteworthy Hip Hop – October 2020

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #132. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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Selections of noteworthy hip hop.

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Goddamn, fall is a great season for hip hop! Last year, I was overwhelmed by all the quality drops over the full season, and this year, September 25 seemed to mark the beginning of the season with an amazing selection of releases I just can’t do justice. Keep in mind though, I’m not sure I can ever do justice to the glut of good hip hop released these days. Regardless, I’ll do my best, but I am going to stick to albums that only came out on the 25th of September. I might have to revisit this legendary Friday later in the year, but this is a start.

Joji – Nectar
I struggled to write this column for October because for the last two weeks, I’ve basically had Nectar on repeat. Nearly everyday since it dropped, I’ve woken up with at least three tracks running through my head (mainly “Daylight,” “Pretty Boy,” and “Your Man”).This is my kind of pop music, full of deep bass, crisp drums, heavy synths and ethereal vocals. The lyrical content is a little banal in the grand scheme of things, but Joji keeps it interesting enough to keep the luscious instrumentals together. This whole thing drips with melancholic charisma that oozes out of the vocal work and instrumentals that I never would have thought could come from the guy formerly known as TVFilthyFrank, but here we are.

Spillage Village – Spilligion
Remember March? It feels like a different time, but that’s when JID rented out a house in Atlanta to record his third album. Instead of having some folks stop by for features, when quarantine dropped on all of us, he invited EarthGang, Hollywood JB, Mereba, 6lack, Benji and Jurdan Bryant to settle in and make a new Spillage Village album: Spilligion. As always, the Spill Vill team bounce back and forth off each other with precision and the hazy, neo-soul beats provide a gorgeous palette for their technical lyricism. Together, the crew has produced an album that feels fueled by contemporary anxieties. From the systemic racism exposed by the BLM protests to losing unemployment pay, Spilligion describes the specific vibes of 2020, letting you experience it from their cloudy, haze-infused couch. This isn’t exactly a timeless album (although there are few timeless songs, including “Mecca” and “End of Daze”), but it is timely as hell, and might help you through this interminable isolation of quarantine. Now I’m left waiting on that JID album though.

Nappy Roots – 40RTY
I’ve been saying that Nappy Roots are one of the most underrated hip hop groups for a while, mainly because they produce their unique sound with astounding consistency. They’ve never replicated the success of “Good Day,” “Po’ Folks” and “Aww Naww” in the ‘00s, but they’ve released a stream of albums that are fire, and 40RTY is just another feather in their cap. As always, this album has a steady stream of thoughtful, complex lyrics and tight beats, but also feels a little more minimalist than some of their previous work. Regardless, if you haven’t listened to them since they broke into the mainstream, come back and check out their new material. But even if you don’t, if you live in Kentucky (*wink* *wink* Amanda), you should put a note in your calendar for next September 16th so you can remember to celebrate “Nappy Roots Day.”

Arrested Development – Don’t Fight Your Demons
I’ll come clean on this one, Don’t Fight Your Demons is the first Arrested Development album I’ve listened to in full. But, if the rest of their lengthy discography holds up to the quality of this most recent project, I’ve some listening ahead of me. This is a lyrical assault on the contemporary failures of America, attacking capitalism and poverty, the police state, the COVID response, among other problems that we see on the daily. The boom bap beats and soul samples provide a traditional backdrop for refined lyricism that is fun but potent. I think I’m about to dip back to 1991 to check out their debut, 3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the Life Of…

Action Bronson – Only For Dolphins
Frankly, I’m amazed that I haven’t written up an Action Bronson album in this column yet. Unless I’m forgetting, Action is the artist I’ve seen most in concert (what can I say, he frequented Colorado a lot when I was there). I even got pulled backstage by his producer Party Supplies in Denver one night for some pre-show shenanigans, which might be the coolest thing I’ve ever done.

Anyway, I’ve got some love in my heart for Bronson, and on Only For Dolphins, he brings his usual charismatic self, delivering lyrical twists and turns over jazzy, funky beats. This is a solid release from Young Baklava, featuring everything you’d expect from the Flushing, Queens native, including some high quality dolphin sounds. I’m also happy to see Action trying to trying his hand at the painterly arts. I’m really tempted to buy the vinyl to get the poster that comes with it.

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Noah Springer is a writer and editor based in Boston. You can follow him on Twitter @noahjspringer.

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