It’s easy to see why some bands are really successful despite releasing consistently average music. Take Coldplay, the worse they get the bigger they get.
And then there are bands who despite consistently releasing excellent music always seem to fly under the radar, no matter how good their material is.
In Hidden Pleasures one of our writers introduces you to 5 of their favourite acts who deserve more credit than they get.
This week it's our resident hi[p hop expert Colin Gannon's turn to introduce you to his selection of Hidden Pleasures.
Days after the publication of a LA Times cover on Drakeo The Ruler, authorities dragged him to court where he was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder (among other charges), all stemming from a 2016 cold case. The allegations are, as he and his lawyer maintain, the result of his growing fame and tendency to taunt rivals and police.
The artist, Drakeo, raps in a self-styled street-code about burying rivals, cowardice and authenticity - brusque, vampiric and occasionally inscrutable (the track title and phrase ‘Flu Flammin’ translates directly to house-robbing). His modus operandi is remaining punishingly offbeat and his chosen instrumentals possess either hushed drums or are entirely devoid of percussion, he prefers to use his gruffy, spine-chilling voice as the propulsive force.
His most recent release, Cold Devil, festers itself in the back of the skull days after listening. Drakeo, still behind bars, is a menacing avant-rap stylist unseen before—and that’s what makes him so special.
“Motion picture scripture, every song scored/They want grief, unsheath the long sword/It's hindsight of the fights I've endured/In my twilight, getting right with the lord.”
How do you go about justifying or defining the multiplicity of Ka’s whispering genius? A New York City Fire Department captain by day, a piercingly talented street-poet by night. And it’s this cloak of darkness come nightfall where his rhymes dwell. No drums, just obscure samples, prayers, reflections, sage wisdom and vivid noirish imagery.
The underground veteran’s raps sound nothing remotely like words written on paper, or text displayed on Genius, but more like elegiac street-corner graffiti written in cursive with chalk. His latest solo release, Honour Killed The Samurai, takes the code of the Japanese samurai to project everyday life in Brownsville, Brooklyn, surrounded by violence and devastation. Writing about his lyrics seems indignant to his craft. Words are often superfluous. With KA, they curtail knowledge and pain.
I implore you to read through his lyrics—even with cursory glances as Ka's music is subdued and will never go viral or win a Grammy—as there’s endless interpretation and emotion to be extracted. One moment it’s complex, multisyllabic rhyme patterns, the next, rewind-worthy one-liners with implacable depth and bravura. He is not of this time, and against all odds, he’s in pursuit of a true artistic legacy.
Somewhere in Brooklyn, a 19-year-old prodigy is readying a MF Doom-type underground rap takeover, or, more realistically, he’s at work; scribbling down quick-witted lyrics that lie somewhere between channelling the cultural reckoning of Malcolm X, the metaphysical state-of-being, blackness in modern America, and dealing with the inner-demons and anguish that the living plain has brought to his existence.
He chronicles depression in such eye-opening fashion, your senses feel like they’re curdling, detaching from the nervous-system. It’s devastating, lo-fi therapy rap. Eyes closed, PIGEONFEET summons pain evocatively, “Cough up in the race, caught up in the place/Gettin' lost in these days, harder to place,” he coarsely grumbles, he feels stagnant and petrified.
MIKE’s stream-of-consciousness bars are packed with bleak glimpses into his tortured soul, and with production that’s appealingly gauzy and perturbed, it’s powerful. Do not for one moment sleep on him.
You’d be forgiven, upon first glance, to look at G Perico’s Jheri curls and instinctively assume he’s some form of Golden Era revivalist. When you first hear his slick-talking and gritty high-pitched bounce, fellow West Coast stalwarts Eazy-E and DJ Quik immediately jump to mind.
Perico is much more than a nostalgist, however, as his seriously consistent 2017 showed. With three biting full-lengths last year, each punchier and more cohesive than the last, it’s inevitable he’s developed a buzz.
Perico verges on mainstream acceptability with his unimpeachable ‘90’s swagger and laconic flows, yet, for reasons likely pertaining to a shift in popular rap consciousness, he hasn’t managed a Billboard hit. Transatlantic superstardom, as with most rappers of his kind, is harder fought again.
“My uncle smoked crack/I used to sell it to him/I used to drop it in his pipe and watch him go stupid, “ he raps on Can’t Play in his immediately recognisable yelp, plain-spoken and with a removed, icy demeanor. You’ll be hard pressed to find a rapper in 2018 that’s simultaneously so grimy and so unapologetically exuberant.
Behind some of the most thoughtful hip-hop releases of the past 15 years, LA rapper Blu’s well-documented label struggles and battles with mental illness have seen him reduced to the sidelines.
It’s worth scouring through his discography - from his timeless collaborations with producer Exile (‘Below the Heavens’, ‘Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them’) to solo releases (‘York & Her Favorite Colo(u)r’) - to lay witness to his cunning wordplay, liquid-gold flow and his uniquely heartfelt musings on spirituality, life and death, and perseverance. With just spurts of productivity and drive, he’s managed to develop an oeuvre that’s both underrated and magisterial in underground hip-hop circles.
On Amnesia, he closes out with the kind of raw lyricism that has come to define not only his artistry, but his outlook on life, “Naive is the dry leaves on the ground/Lookin' past the tree/To the blue sky askin' 'Why me?'"