My Education in DC Hip Hop

2009 DC Hip Hop finally existed. I mean, maybe it existed prior to then. But fucked if I knew anything about it. It’s not like I haven’t been looking or reading or trying to find out about it. And I’d like to say for a suburban white boy weened on heavy doses of Black Flag during my formative years, I’d like to think I know a hint or two about independent hip hop. I knew about Del the Funkee Homosapien before he was on that Gorillaz album. I got down with The Coup before they almost put out an album that had a picture of the World Trade Center being blown up. It’s not like I’m not into the shit. Still, DC has not been known for a strong, cohesive Hip Hop scene. In 2009, thanks in no small part to Wale, DC’s hip hop scene got some serious coverage. Below is what I’ve learned about. Get in on it.

Rosetta Stoned/Food Chain Collective.
The Kingdom of Kush
Mix Tape Download (here)

I literally discovered this band on the photo sharing site flickr. This dude SexyFitsum took some AMAZING photos of this band and after seeing them I hit the internet and was surprised to find a bunch of free music. This mix tape, credited to the Food Chain Collective is some serious fucking hip-hop. I’ve never heard anything like it in any of the hip-hop I’ve listened to. It’s some demented, energetic shit. The beats are big, the sounds are crazy and schizophrenic and the MC’s drop some retarded mouthfuls of word gymnastics. The song “Fungi” (the Metaphysical Remix this collection) is so fucking sick it hurts my brain. How this band is not getting more props I will never know. I know so little about them that it disturbs me. Sometimes I think this shit only exists in my head, but it can’t be. Rosetta Stoned are currently releasing a bunch of new songs every week which are just as fucking crazy as Kingdom of Kush. Download this shit NOW. You will not be underwhelmed.

The Cornel West Theory
Second Rome
Sockets Records

With a name like The Cornel West Theory, how can you not be intrigued right? I have been for a while. As I stated in my last post, I finally got to see this band. While I was expecting more Dalek, the comparison was not unfounded, but they were much more subdued and chilled out. There album is pretty chill too. It’s an easy listen, with great delivery. Timothy Hicks is the straight man, and his smooth delivery is complimented by Rashad Dobbins drunken zen lyricism. I can’t help but also be reminded of Public Enemy either. Again The Cornel West Theory are not as abrasive as either of the two groups I’ve mentioned. Second Rome is more of a shoulder shaker and head nodder than a fist pumper. Blasting from the windows of your hoopty is probably not going to get you stares from frightened pedestrians, but this shit is going to infect your blood. Like many hip hop albums, it’s a bit long in the tooth with 21 songs. But it holds up pretty well and manages to keep one’s attention for the long haul. Least we forget that Cornel West also drops some knowledge. That’s fucking cool.

Diamond District
In the Ruff
The Mello Music Group

Originally released as a clean-version mix tape, this debut album by a collective made up of producer Oddisee, YU and X.O., snuck up on me from nowhere. It was XMAS day, I had a bunch of iTunes gift cards (because people love me) and I was ready to spend that shit. I found this as a best of 2009 indie rap recommendation and when I saw it was from DC, I downloaded it without listening to it. Needless to say, I am pretty happy with my impulse purchase. Diamond District has a harder sound, with a definite urban feel to it. The beats are harsh and central to the sound, and if anything is going to define a sound for DC Hip Hop, it’s going to be this. As a whole, the album certainly has it’s memorable moments (“Streets Won’t Let Me Chill”, “I Mean Business” and “First Time”) and is a pretty strong debut. There are some average moments, but Oddisee at the boards and YU and X.O. on the mic are pretty strong. In The Ruff is catchy as hell, but by no means mainstream.

X.O.
1.1.10
Mix Tape Download (here)

On the heels of In The Ruff, X.O. released his debut mixtape. While not as fleshed out and not quite as adventurous as In the Ruff, 1.1.10 provides a showcase for X.O. to showcase some of his skills. I need to spend a little more time with this, which is not that easy with Diamond District still pretty fresh on my iPod, but X.O, does have my attention. And shit, it’s free. My feeling is the mixtape is where hip hop artists flesh out ideas, work on their skills. There not demos per say, because many of the songs on mix tapes don’t really make it on to “official albums”, but it does allow these kids the opportunity to get there name out.

Wale
Attention Deficit
Interscope

After two fantastic mix tapes, a single with Lady Gaga, Remixes by Mark Ronson, MTV, Rolling Stone and all types of record industry establishment hype, including big ups from the king of emotional outbursts, Kanye West, the kid who put D.C. hip hop on the map drops his debut album, finally. And frankly, I can’t get into it. The delivery leaves a lot to be desired. The production is standard and boring. The album cover even sucks. And I truly am not trying to be a hater here. I was into 100 Miles and Running. I lost my shit when the Seinfeld informed Mixtape About Nothing went viral all over the internet. I even dropped cash on the CD for more than what I could have got it for on iTunes at a local shop, but I just can’t get into it. The song “TV In The Radio” (emphasis mine) which happens to be produced by TV ON the Radio’s David Sitek, really just is not good or inspired at all. Mixtape About Nothing was pretty much amazing, and everyone should download that shit right now. Otherwise, I say pass on Attention Deficit.

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