ROUNDUP: One Last BBQ

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This latest edition of the ROUNDUP column is…well, a whole mess of singles. Back to business as usual, in other words. Coverage here has been video-heavy lately — and that’s a good problem to have. I recall the dry years, many decades ago, when music videos were few and far between around these parts.

Since there’s a ton of material to catch up on, I can be selective, so this list is strictly hot shit, block party killers. Enjoy, and as ever, massive props to the creators & the fans.

Konflik getting serious in the studio again is good news for the human race. Especially since he’s doing that work with Nastee, a truly legendary hip hop producer (and engineer) who has been lacing hits for decades now. “Microphone Fiend,” for the benefit of younger readers who should know better, is a tribute to Rakim, one of the all-time greats. Both the re-fixed beat and his whirlwind verse are a tasteful homage … and a sign of the storm to come.

When Eyedos gets quiet, rappers should be concerned. He’s always going to keep coming back with even better material. Case in point: “Too Nuts,” an absolutely banging old-school track that Eyedos made — and got underground legend Copywrite to spit the opening verse on. Now, there’s tons of cheap jokes to be made, but Pete Nelson puts them all to sleep immediately. Features from big names are often phoned in, but Copy sounds like a hungry honey badger, and Eyedos matches it. This is a huge single.

Chyse Atkins is a top notch rapper, but he’s a multi-dimensional artist, too. His latest single, “no mistake,” is a sharp turn into live-band, slow-motion R&B, spiked with gospel and jazz, and he nails it, too. This is a compelling piece of work that sounds great at high volume past midnight. Clearly, Chyse has a lot of unexplored range and we’ve only seen the beginning for this young artist.

Jun Fargo x March Davis is a great combination. They’ve both been honing a studio-heavy brand of trap-pop, they’re both experienced songwriters who know where to put the right touches, and obviously, “Finesse” bangs. Fargo is melodically inventive but his writing is always rigorously sharp — that dude never deviates a single syllable. That’s craft. March Davis, as ever, is on some effortless mastery ish, cool, confident, breezy and still magnetic. This great combination should happen more often.

Meanwhile, let’s check in with Yung Breeze. He’s always got something new, and in this case, it’s a crushing, driving new posse cut, “Take You Out.” Those drums sizzle and so does the hook. Breeze levitates through the opening stretch, Raw Deff gets off some Def Comedy Jam punches, and D.FRENCH cleans up the inning like a boss. This is another 802 powerhouse that keeps improving every time we hear from them.

How about a total change of pace? HatePH34R is somewhere between Death Grips and Ministry, and if you played this at most BBQs, there would be problems, and fast. Still, as the asshole who savaged this guy’s debut EP back in ‘17, I was blown away by how much more confident and in control he is. I love to see artists prove me wrong, and this EP is definitely that.

Let us now return to rappin’-ass rap music. First up: a swinging, tightly produced Rex Rey remix for “Lights Out,” a cut off Pro’s masterful LP After Dinner Before Dawn that features Framework. The whole Loyalists / Aztext extended family is forming like Voltron these days. Rex Rey is the producer behind Framework’s new project, Windmills — and they do insane work. (Also check out the latest Good Wthr single, “How It Used 2 Be.”

Thought Instruments, the recent Learic & Es-K LP, just keeps providing new singles. “Feast or Famine” is typical Learic, a triple-layered extended metaphor, and the beat is a low-key Es-K smokeshow … the man knows how to do a slow burn. Part of the power of this album is how many singles work on their own, as urgent broadcasts from some pirate radio station, and this cut is lean & mean

One last note: SKYWISE has always been an elite producer/hermit and he’s been unusually busy in recent months. A fellow NEK representative, his style has always been a kaleidoscope of Western, psych-rock, boom-bap and soul influences. And this cut right here? Kind of nails a sweet spot between every single piece of that. What he’s got coming is even better.

Fire up that grill. Plug in that boombox. We are not surrendering to winter quite yet.

Justin Boland