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A snapshot of Butters the cat, a soft tabby in mid-meow. She was a great one.

Noteworthy Hip Hop – April 2023

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #162. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.


Selections of noteworthy hip hop.


I wanted to start this month with a shout out to my late, great cat, Butters, who just passed away. We got her in 2012 and had her for a beautiful eleven years. She was one of the softest cats of all time and loved to just flop in your arms. She was missing one of her fangs and had a pellet lodged in her knee, so we are pretty sure she had a heavy dose of life experience before we got her. She wasn’t afraid to take a bite out of your arm if you were sleeping and she was hungry, but she was one of the nicest, most cuddly cats to ever grace this green earth. We miss her so much already!

Anyway, sorry for the downer intro there. If you’re still reading, here are some of Butters’s favorite albums from 2023 so far.

The album cover for Larry June x The Alchemist – The Great Escape, featuring a hand wearing a yellow driving glove and orange-banded wristwatch resting on a car's steering wheel.

Larry June x The Alchemist – The Great Escape

The Alchemist seems to do no wrong these days. No matter who he is working with, Alchemist cooks up beats that feel customized for their style. On his latest, The Great Escape with rapper Larry June, we see why he continues to be one of the best and most consistent producers out there. For what it’s worth, Larry June is no slouch either. June’s lackadaisical delivery mixes perfectly over Al’s jazzy keys and subtle drum loops. It feels easy to underestimate how good this is because it feels so effortless, but I think that’s Alchemist’s special ability to turn everything into a blissed-out vibe that goes down ever-so smoothly.

The album cover for Lil Yachty – Let’s Start Here, showing a group of people in business wear in court or an executive board room. They're laughing maniacally.

Lil Yachty – Let’s Start Here

I’ve never been a Lil Yachty hater. I really love his track “Broccoli” with Shelley fka D.R.A.M. and his feature on “Pretty Boy” with Joji from a couple years ago was great! But, I’ve also never actually picked up a Yachty album until now, and I probably wouldn’t have listened to Let’s Start Here had it not been for the continuous buzz that seemed to circulate when it dropped. “This is a major pivot for Yachty.” “It’s nothing like you expect.” I had to see what the change was, and I’ll be honest, it is impressive. Let’s Start Here is less of a hip hop or rap album and more of a psychedelic rock piece with heavy guitars and a large chorus, featuring a bit of rapping. This is a shift in style and focus for the rapper and well worth the listen. I would never have thought Yachty had it in him, and I’m excited to see where he goes from here.

The album cover for T-Pain – On Top of the Covers, with T-Pain in a blush suit lying provocatively on his side with a long-stem rose clenched between his teeth.

T-Pain – On Top of the Covers

Unlike Lil Yachty, I did throw T-Pain away when he first popped onto the scene. What can I say, it was 2009 and I was deep into “real hip hop” and Jay-Z’s “The Death of Autotune” rang true to me. But, in retrospect, now that I have left my pretentious music douchebag persona in the past, I have a lot of respect for T-Pain, and his influence on hip hop in the 15 years since is undeniable. But, with On Top of the Covers, T-Pain is leaving hip hop behind in favor of covering some of the classics of rock and/or roll. And he crushes it! From Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me” to Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Going to Come,” T-Pain shows his vocal and stylistic range. He even makes me not hate Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which is truly one of my least favorite songs. By the time he closes the album out with a perfect cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” I have started to wonder what T-Pain can’t do. Maybe rap?

The album cover for Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy, which shows the dark silhouette of a man dancing. He's wearing a costume decorated with sharp sticks around his wrists and waist, and the silhouette is completely dark except for his lips and teeth.

Young Fathers – Heavy Heavy

Somewhere between spaces of rock and roll, gospel music and hip hop, the Scottish-based Young Fathers thrive. On their fourth album, Heavy Heavy, the trio blast organs and guitars under choruses encouraging you to “brush your teeth, wash your face, run away” and “feel the beat and go numb.” These are tracks that carry well in an intimate space like on your headphones in your bedroom, but clearly have potential to blow the doors off a stadium if they should so choose. They offer as many chances for call and response as quiet contemplation, an appealing balance for any nuanced listener. I just wished they were coming to a US tour so I could hear them blast out my ears for myself.

The cover album for JPEGMAFIA x Danny Brown – Scaring the Hoes, featuring two men, two women and two cop cars arranged along an image of a stylized cross, done in the style of a 1970s Blaxploitation film.

JPEGMAFIA x Danny Brown – Scaring the Hoes

Given the history of its two iconoclastic creators, it should come as no surprise that Scaring the Hoes is one of the wildest hip hop albums in recent memory. Although it is produced entirely by JPEGMAFIA, it does feel like a truly collaborative album, with Danny Brown shining as much as Peggy. They both offer eclectic verses dealing with the music industry, personal philosophies and occasionally a bit of their odd politics. Peggy’s production veers from glitchy, screeching EDM beats to acid-drenched horns over fast pitched claps and distorted synths. In the grand scheme, the title carries a lot of meaning for the album – this isn’t something you want to put on in the car when you are driving around with friends or trying to impress a date. Scaring the Hoes is for when you are peaking, alone in your basement and want to set that paranoia off on the right track. This is perfect music for a basement dance party of one.


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


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