A couple weeks ago at David Bazan’s living room show in northwest Oklahoma City, the Seattle singer was asked what he thought about Kanye West. Bazan quickly replied, “After those first two albums, he lost his [redacted] mind.” For better and worse, this couldn’t be more true.
“Yeezus” is a Dead Prez record on steroids, but with an explosion of id in place of raps that tell any kind of story. So for those who’ve already grown tired of listening to Kanye go scorched-earth on ex-girlfriends, it’s a long 40 minutes to plod through, even if the production is otherworldly (it is) and probably ought to come with a textbook. But despite what he'd tell you, West is far from the end-all, be-all of modern rap, a genre that currently offers as many different voices and characters as Nicki Minaj has outfits in her closet. Here are a handful of excellent recent rap releases, each of which you can scoop up for free online — legally.
Run The Jewels, “Run The Jewels”
El-P and Killer Mike have constituted hip-hop’s biggest bro-mance since the Company Flow mastermind produced the Atlanta emcee’s snarling, terrific "R.A.P. Music" last year (El-P’s own “Cancer 4 Cure” was great, too, and featured Mike on one of its better tracks, “Tougher Colder Killer”). So the general rap-listening public probably grinned a little bit when Mike said “Producer gave me a beat / said it’s the beat of the year / I said El-P didn’t do it / so get the [redacted] outta here” on the Big Boi-featuring single “Banana Clipper.” “Run the Jewels” is exactly what you’d expect from these two veterans: Aggressively anti-cliché, enjoyably obscene, free of the usual back-patting of industry collaboration-via-email, and amply stocked with top-shelf smack talk.
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