What a weird year 2017 is turning into. Internet rappers are morphing into stars and villains, genres are evolving so quickly that people stopped trying to name them, and Young Thug is yelling “yeehaw!”
Apart from the speed at which music is changing, the most mind-boggling thing about music in 2017 is how segmented it’s become. We’ve still got big stars like Drake, Lorde, and DJ Khaled making music for the masses, but other artists are effectively finding their niches and realizing that success can be just as sweet when you cater to a modest but dedicated fan base. Morphing under pop, rock, and hip-hop, we’re seeing little pockets of new styles develop, and each one has its own stars.
Predicting the future is harder than ever—anything can happen. One explosive moment can start a chain reaction, and the power of social media and connectivity adds oceans of fuel to the fire. And who’s most connected? The youth. Fight against the kids all you want, but they’re going to end up winning every time. Just try to keep up.
40. Squidnice – “Trap By My Lonely”
Image via Getty/Scott Dudelson
Squidnice has the makings of a star. He’s got the complete package: voice, charisma, and delivery. “Trap By My Lonely” is his biggest hit and this shit slaps. The Belly sample sets the tone for the grimy, hypnotic production and a chorus that gives the feel of a chant or rallying cry. The New York rapper has a lot of potential and if he’s able to continue to crank out hits like “Trap By My Lonely” and “Everywhere I Go,” we will be hearing a lot more from Squidnice in 2017 and beyond.—Eric Isom
MEET THE HIGHER BROTHERS, THE RAP GROUP CLIMBING OVER THE GREAT FIREWALL OF CHINA
We have a strange idea of China in the West — if it’s not Trump aggressively spitting out the name like it’s a cuss word (Chy-Nah) then it’s as a nebulous, bogeyman who steals our jobs and threatens to make Chinese the international business language of the world. We also think of it as a creative no-man’s land where a lack of access to Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube has led to a country into darkness. Only that’s not exactly true.
Chinese censorship may stymie artist flow, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways around it. When Melo, a lyricist and rapper from the rap group Higher Brothers, wrote a viral song about Uber with the lines “I don’t write political hip-hop. But if any politicians try to shut me up, I’ll cut off their heads and lay them at their corpses’ feet” he was brought in for questioning by the Public Security Bureau. But that didn’t stop him or his group mates from continuing to reach the youth with their music. The Higher Brothers, who hail from the city of Chengdu, make the rap songs that consistently blow up.
They’ve released four singles off their latest album Black Cab, “Made in China,” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Dab,” “711,” and “WeChat,” which features Keith Ape, to mass internet adoration. We spoke with the group about their writing process and where they pull inspiration from.
What would you all say is the hardest part about making your music? How often do you come up against Chinese censorship laws and how do you create around them?
MasiWei: There’s nothing exceptionally hard in making music for me. I just do it. The censorship laws hasn’t affected me and my process of making music.
DZ: The hardest part of making music is when I’m job searching or working full-time. I almost let making music music become my hobby. I balance it as best I can. Censorship hasn’t affected me personally.
PSY: The hardest part of making music is in the beginning, when I don’t have an exact plan. Or when I didn’t have hope in the possibility.
Melo: The hardest part of making music is my family not understanding what I’m doing.
What groups/rappers are your biggest influences? Do you remember how you first heard them? What was happening at the time?
MasiWei: 50 Cent is my biggest influence. After watching “Get Rich or Die Trying” in middle school, I started looking for more hip-hop music. It eventually inspired me to make my first demo.
DZ: Kendrick Lamar. The first time I heard him was on CCTV5 Sport TV. It literally shook me. Kendrick introduced rap music to me and I’ve been loving it ever since.
PSY: Migos! The first time listen to Migos was when I was in my friend’s car and they got me so high off of it.
Melo: J.Cole. When I read his lyrics… it’s just so amazing.
It’s clear that you have great crossover potential, but is that the goal? Are you creating for a specifically Chinese audience or do you have global aspirations?
MasiWei: Our focus is to make music for everyone, for the world.
Do you consider China or Asia as a whole a new hub for rap?
MasiWei: Rap is becoming more popular in China, because the Internet is making the world closer. Higher Brothers is representing China and we want to continue putting Asia on the map. 88Rising has been helpful in getting our music outside of Asia.
DZ: Rap music is everywhere now, not specific to one place.
PSY: Yes, because Asians love hip-hop culture. Higher Brothers has a chance to make rap unique to us and it’s our time to do that.
Melo: Asia is becoming a popular place for rap. Nothing can stop good rap from becoming popular. Good stuff is good stuff.
Premiere: Trinidad James Announces New EP ‘FATHER FiGGA’ and Drops Video for “DAD”
Trinidad James is back on his grind as the Atlanta rapper announces his new EP FATHER FiGGA as well as drops the first single from the project just in time for Father’s Day.”DAD” features production from Honorable C Note and finds James doing what he does best: boasting about his bands, jewelry, and sexual exploits.He brings this narrative to life in the accompanying music video, where a kid (played by Shamori Washington) is hesitant to kick it with his granddad (played by James) while his mom is out. Little does he know, James got the sauce. He isn’t afraid to get into some mischief during a corner stone run.
He’s also, shall we say, virile?
And he knows how to keep his grandson company when the night hits.
Image via Vevo
James’ new project title and single aren’t the only things the rapper is doing to celebrate Father’s Day as he’s also teamed up with Watersidemrkt for his own special line of Father’s Day notes.
Peep the video for “DAD” above and purchase the single on iTunes. Trinidad James’ new project FATHER FiGGA is due out later this year and will feature a number of guests.
On June 13th, XXL Magazine dropped their highly anticipated Class of 2017 Freshman cover. Since 2007, the hip hop publication has been stirring controversy with each cover, sometimes hitting the nail right on the head and other times missing the mark completely.The wait is over. Introducing the 2017 XXL Freshman Class, Generation Next! #XXLFreshmenhttps://t.co/SueW5esJ1apic.twitter.com/MfFZkAAKAh
This year’s class featured Kamaiyah, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, PnB Rock, MadeinTYO, Playboi Carti, Aminé, Kap G, Kyle, Ugly God and XXXTentacion. While I was happy to see a couple of my hard working favorites, Kamaiyah and Amine, on the cover. I was disappointed to see only one woman featured in the class, especially since this has been an amazing year for new female MC’s. This year’s list was filled with rappers with catchy songs and even catchier production, but not many that have longevity.Sure, the beat to some of these tracks goes off when you’re turning up with your friends, but how many of these artists will be around next year or the year after?
It’s become unclear to me if the XXL Freshman List is for artists who are popular right now or those who we should be on the look out for right now. So as an avid lover of all sides of hip-hop—old, new, underground, and everything in between here’s a list of popular and underground rappers whose grind isn’t going unnoticed!
One of New York’s most promising artists is a 21-year-old Brooklyn native by the name of Jimi Tents. The rapper has been bubbling on the scene since the release of his debut project, 5’O Clock Shadow. Influenced by the gentrification in his neighborhood and inspired by greats like OutKast, his second project, I Can’t Go Home, proves that Jimi is one to keep your eye on.
Playboi Carti, Lil Yachty, Migos, and More Rappers React to Higher Brothers’ Turnt Up “Made in China” Video
Sometimes, the best criticism you can receive is from your peers, and that’s especially so when it comes to the rap scene. 88rising allowed such a platform for Rich Chigga last July, where Cam’ron, Desiigner, Ghostface Killah, and more shared their opinion on the teenage artist who’s now making some pretty big moves in his own right.
88rising is back with another round, and this time the spotlight is on Higher Brothers, a rap group out of China who fuse their own unique approach with a stateside energy that could fit into the latest crop of new school acts.
Migos, Lil Yachty, PnB Rock, Playboi Carti, Kyle, and many others rappers sat down to watch Higher Brothers’ video for “Made in China” and offered their first-take reaction.
Playboi Carti was definitely feeling the vibe of the performance.
Same goes for PnB Rock.
Check out the full reaction video above, the “Made in China” video below, and if you’re looking to hear more music from Higher Brothers, our friends at Pigeons and Planes got you covered.
Watch: Higher Brothers, The Chinese Migos, Flex Like ‘Franklin’
Geopolitics might not be the first thing that comes to mind as you watch the NPR premiere of the new Higher Brothers video for “Franklin,” featuring Jay Park, but the global implications are real.
The crew hails from Chengdu, China and flows like Donald Glover‘s favorite Southern trappers, Migos. Unlike their American counterparts for whom conspicuous consumption fits the capitalist agenda, Higher Brothers are revolutionary by virtue of their very existence in communist China. Even their transmissions are often covert. Yet they’ve broken through the Great Firewall of China to release a debut album (Black Cab) that highlights their infatuation with American culture — from the single “711,” a homage to the convenience store chain, to “Franklin,” a song inspired by the gun-toting Grand Theft Auto 5 character of the same name.
Just like the popular game, the visual from Black Cab is virtual fantasy made for stealth flexing. Lounging on Cadillac hoods in all-black, members Masiwei, DZ Know and Psy P. look every bit the part. The video comes courtesy of 88rising, the same outfit behind Rich Chigga, who turned rappers, from Ghostface Killah to 21 Savage, into believers with his fanny-pack attack on “Dat $tick.”
If all politics are local, Higher Brothers are proof that the trap has gone worldwide.
“Double Cups & Taco Trucks is a project that represents more than food preference and drug use,” explains T2 Ghetto Hippie, the Houston rapper responsible for the bugged-out music video of the same name. “It’s a phrase that reminds me of home… and the contrasting reality that is everyday life in southwest Houston. It represents everybody who is still able to find happiness regardless of the struggles and harsh living conditions of low income neighborhoods. Even if it derives from a double cup, some tacos, or anything as simple as that…it’s finding peace in the little things. Finding good vibes in bad situations. Smiling through the darkness.” Word.
Today MASS APPEAL premieres “IDGAF” a new track from the artist’s debut DC&TT. T2 has previously collabed with local hero Z-Ro on “Hustletown,” and worked Chris Rockaway and Trakksounds to create his new project, with the stated goal of “redefininig Houston rap.”
“This project isn’t about celebrating cough syrup,” he explains, “but more emphasizing what it’s like in my neighborhood, and portraying how it feels to play the game of life with the hand we were dealt. With what I believe is my most wholesome sounding body of work andtwo of my favorite songs I have ever made with other artists (Maxo Kream & Dizzy Wright). I feel like ‘Double Cups’ is really going to help bring some eyes to what we got going on down in Houston.”
“Architectural designer” has to land pretty high on the list of unexpected day jobs for musicians, but that’s the world singer-songwriter Anne Dereaux traverses. Dereaux began her journey in architecture in pursuit of a career path that would be deemed professional and acceptable but that would still fulfill her creative inclinations. Through college, her passion for singing pulled her in another direction — but she’s never had to choose between the two. Nothing goes to waste when one career somewhat informs the other.
“When you think about architecture, it starts with a large concept, and the best designs are able to bring that concept down to the smallest details — the cabinet knobs, the floor finishes,” Dereaux says. “I try to approach my music that way … so that it’s also multilayered and three-dimensional.”
Dereaux’s latest single, “Chop,” from her forthcoming EP Book Of Lolita, achieves that goal. The production, courtesy of FKi 1st, highlights the Nashville-born, Los Angeles-based singer’s Southern roots. An interpolation of OutKast’s “Spottieottiedopalisicous” pops out immediately; the bridge is chopped and screwed, and there’s even a flash of Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin‘.” At points, her voice has a subtle, sultry drawl as she warns off potential lovers, but it also glides into more pop-R&B territory.
“Chop” offers an alternate narrative to Dereaux’s debut single, “Mo(u)rning,” which found her transitioning through heartbreak into awakening and rebirth, the video evolving from darkness to sunset. Sometimes, though, it’s not so easy to come out with clean hands. “Chop” represents the period when old wounds still feel raw and the heart becomes more weapon than sanctuary — a take on the old adage “hurt people hurt people.”
Her EP seeks to examine how experiences with heartache affect us — first on a personal level, then on a larger scale. “Chop” is a transitional song that moves the EP towards its macro ambitions, investigating what happens as pain is projected outward. “What does that [hurt] turn into?” Dereaux asks. “Does that mean we have lots of children out of wedlock, lots of single-parent homes, lots of difficulties generally connecting? That turns into parents making difficult decisions to raise their kids — it starts to get into a larger story.”
Squid’s distinctive voice and left-of-center charisma is unmistakable, but this one sounds nothing like his other hits so far. With these three tracks, the rising rapper is showing some range, and we’ll find out what else he has in store soon. The Trap By My Lonely EP is on the way, and that’s a good thing because everyone needs a little Squid in their life.
Watch our infomercial with Squidnice below, and get ready for the Trap By My Lonely EP.
Staten Island’s Squidnice Debuts Two New Singles Ahead of EP Release
Staten Island rapper Squidnice is imbued with the type of charisma that makes him comfortable performing an impromptu freestyle to distract annoyed influencers from the fact that they have to wait at the door of a party. Which, ironically, is exactly how he first met the Highsnobietycrew.
The 20-year-old’s rise to success was largely prompted by the infectiousness of his 2015 single, “Trap By My Lonely.” Since then, he’s become a favorite of now-defunct New York agitator brand, Hood By Air, and secured himself as one of the stylish new guard in NYC’s vibrant hip-hop scene.
Ahead of the release of his forthcoming EP, Trap By My Lonely, Squid debuted two A Lau-produced tracks, “Lit Now” and “Still.”
“This is something for the fans to hold on to until my EP drops,” the rapper explained. “I’m gonna drop new content every week till then. TRAPPEN!”
Keith Ape & Higher Brothers Link Up For “WeChat” They receive messages from Migos, Lil Yachty, Famous Dex and more.
88Rising has connected Keith Ape and Higher Brothers for a brand new song titled “WeChat.” For those who aren’t already aware, WeChat is a Chinese social media application developed by Tencent first released in 2011. By 2017, the instant messaging service was one of the largest standalone messaging apps, hosting over 938 million active users. The video finds the Chinese rap crew recording selfie videos and receiving messages from the likes of Migos, Lil Yachty, Famous Dex, G Herbo, Smokepurpp, KYLE and more.
And in case you’ve missed it, check out our recent interview with Rich Chigga where he shows us his moves, talks about homeschooling and superpowers.
Jimi Tents On A Changing New York And His New Project I Can’t Go Home. The budding Brooklyn rapper refuses to return empty-handed.
Embracing what he calls his “duality complex,” Brooklyn rapper Jimi Tents isn’t afraid of confronting the truth: “I’m somebody who wants to save the world but also acknowledge that the world is fucked up,” he told The FADER over the phone recently. On his debut mixtape, 5 O’Clock Shadow, Tents showed himself as a storyteller, with East New York and its quickly gentrifying surroundings as his enthralling setting.
In the months following his initial success, he found himself grappling with harsh realities when his childhood home was slated for foreclosure. “I’m not the first or last person who’s going to be in that position, and the bounce back gave me the momentum to say, ‘I’ll never put myself, family, or loved ones in this position,'” he said. “‘So I have to grind and propel myself forward.'”
Its undeniable that through the ups and downs, Tents has always felt the importance of staying true to all parts of his story — and in I Can’t Go Home, which premieres below, he cohesively threads together uptempo summer records (“Rick Rubin”) with reflections on depression and loss (“Below The Surface”). During our conversation, he opened up about coming of age, his transition between the boroughs, and how he carries his ties to East New York through his music.
I Can’t Go Home
Tell me a bit about your beginnings — what was it like growing up in East New York, and how’d you break into music?
My parents are West Indian immigrants — I grew up in East New York the majority of my life. My dad is Jamaican and my mom’s Guyanese. Getting into music wasn’t hard, because while neither of my parents are musicians, their appreciation for music is extremely vast. I grew up listening to rap, R&B, soul, oldies, reggae, rock, you name it. Any and everything. Outkast’s Stankonia, Andre 3000’s The Love Below, 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Trying, and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, are examples of some projects that have stuck with me throughout. There’s a lot. I was just listening to Panic! At The Disco, actually, and they really influenced me a lot as a young kid who would watch TRL a lot. Jay-Z, Nas, and Lil Wayne, are big influences too. I love artists who carry a message.
I was exposed to a lot of different genres, with East New York being as diverse as it is — that middle ground between Ozone Park, Brownsville, and Highland Park is super diverse. I had friends blasting Daddy Yankee growing up, and then my family would be playing reggae. It was a huge melting pot and had a huge influence on my music.
“Rick Rubin” is one of the songs we got to hear off I Can’t Go Home — can you tell me a bit about that and some of the other tracks that have been pre-released?
This album is for that person who has talent or something special about them, but is stuck in the daily routine of their life and feels unsure to take that leap in order to be successful. The overall goal is to go out and get it — it starts off somewhat aggressive, and moves through emotions like frustration, bliss, resentment, fear — all these different emotions — and “Rick Rubin” is like the focal point of the entire album. I wanted it to be the fun track, to represent the light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to make the album something you could play from start to finish, and then from finish to start, and get two sides of a story about the character who made this music. “Rick Rubin” is my shit — that, “Domino Effect,” and “Should’ve Called Pt. 2” are the ones we released first, and those ones were for the people. They were not so much about my story and more about relateability. “Rick Rubin” was a really fun summer record and pays homage to the great influencer in hip-hop that Rubin is.
As you mentioned, the project reflects on a lot of deeper themes — some I picked up on are growing up, and pursuing your dreams. And you show a lot of love for your neighborhood. What was the process of bringing all of those ideas into one cohesive work?
In a way the project recaps where I’ve been in the last year and a half, the perils I’ve experienced, what I’ve achieved since my first release, 5 O’Clock Shadow. I really wanted to touch on where I’m from, and highlight the fact that gentrification is fucking up a lot of peoples’ lives. I guess there’s some good coming from it, like safer neighborhoods and better quality of life for some, but for the people who are from there, born and raised there, it’s really an uncomfortable space to be in. Especially as a New Yorker, and it’s happening all over. Another theme was chasing my dreams, because I Can’t Go Home is more a state of mind, it’s like, Okay, I won’t be coming back home — and I won’t be trying to go back until I have something to offer. I can’t just sit on my ass and watch this bullshit carry on, I want to be the kind of person who gets involved.
How did gentrification in East New York specifically impact you and your family?
In early 2015 when I debuted 5 O’Clock Shadow,, it had a great response, and really gave me the momentum I have now to put out a project like I Can’t Go Home. On the heels of that release, I felt unstoppable, on top of the world, like my career was about to take off. And then a few months later, we found out our house was going under foreclosure, and that we were going to be losing everything. We had to grapple with what our lives were going to come to, where we were going to go, where we were going to stay. I come from very prideful people, hard working people who don’t really ask for shit. We were really trying to fend for ourselves, and for me, as a young man transitioning into manhood, it made me feel fucked up, that I wasn’t able to help my family through this the way I wanted to. I went from feeling on top of the world to having to leave the place you called home: the place you got into your first fight, you had your first girlfriend, smoked your first joint — all of these moments in a person’s life being swept away. Being pushed out of my home. It was a hard transition but I’m not the first or last person who’s going to be in that position, and the bounce back gave me the momentum to say, I’ll never put myself, family, or loved ones in this position, so I have to grind and propel myself forward.
A standout track for me is “Below The Surface,” which touches on grief and depression. Can you break down what went into that track?
Yeah, shoutout to Saba, who jumped on the record and spilled his piece. That record is one of the most vulnerable records on the album — at first I didn’t even know if I wanted to include it. I wanted to tackle and touch on all the things that were bothering me. It was less about relating, and was more about venting — I recently broke down the record on camera, and it was a lot to realize how much it actually touches on. It touches on losing a loved one, tackling depression, not being in a state of mind where I felt the most confident in myself. Even suicidal thoughts. I’m not a sad boy rapper, and for the most part I like to be positive and forward thinking. But that particular song was written when I was at my lowest low. The message of the song is, These things can affect you, they can bother you, and inconvenience you, but there’s a light at the tunnel. You can embrace these emotions and feel these feelings. You can pump fake and act like you’re fine, but it’s okay to admit you’re not okay. You don’t have to show it, but acknowledge it.
Does it feel empowering to be able to admit this, and speak on something taboo like mental health, and have it reach a large audience?
Most definitely — it’s something that needs to be said. There are a lot of rappers that are one-sided. I have a duality complex as an artist. I’m somebody who wants to save the world but also acknowledge that the world is fucked up. I like fat asses, I like flashy cars, I like gold chains, but at the same time I understand substance and that I need to carry a message, and am in some ways a role model. I can’t be one sided, and I can’t lean towards being happy all the time. I need to speak and act on these feelings because someone may relate to what I’m saying, and it may help them. On my last project, I released a song called “Elmer Fudd,” and had fans tell me the song changed their lives — I had someone tell me they were about to harm themselves, but the record did something for them. Or that they’d lost a loved one, and that the record did something for them. That’s what I do it for, and that’s who I do it for.
T2 Ghetto Hippie may be unorthodox in his approach to rap, but he has a vision for the Renaissance of Houston’s hip hop culture that’s second to none, and if his upcoming album is anything like this latest release, Texas, not to mention the rest of the country, is in for a treat.
“Double Cups & Taco Trucks” is admittedly chill—it doesn’t get much more chill that rapping about taco trucks—but T2’s approach to its visual component was anything but. An ode to Houston culture, the video hits you hard with its dreamy yet aggressive scenes, challenging the viewer to look beyond the basics. For T2, it’s all about finding the perfect balance.
“Sonically, the song is very light-hearted, soft on the ears, and catchy,” he says. “But visually I wanted it to be much more aggressive and stimulating. Much like my moniker ‘ghetto hippie’ and the content of the album itself…I wanted to embody contrasting realities. A celebration of the simple life, yet a glorification of the abyss. Anything in excess can lead to one’s demise. Whether it’s being content with never leaving the neighborhood and settling for less or dealing with drug use…those same things that bring you up…can bring you down. Just like everything in life, it’s about the balance. And in the time I was writing this song and coming up with the video treatment, I was somewhat losing my balance. I wanted to metaphorically show that with out flat out stating it. With blessings from our go to cinematographer / director (ALuce Vision)…I took lead on directing this visual and this is what I came up with.”
Watch T2’s vid for “Double Cups & Taco Trucks” above, premiering exclusively on Milk.xyz, then stay tuned for his upcoming album.
Featured image courtesy of T2 Ghetto Hippie; Artwork by JDub Williams
The streaming platform Audiomack, which was established in 2012, releases their first-ever project. The Audiomack EP was recorded entirely at the Audiomack studio in New York and executive produced by TGUT.
The service brought in some big names for the project too, showing the type of artist support that Audiomack boasts. Curren$y, Rich The Kid, Slim Thug, Audio Push, Wifisfuneral, Two-9, L.A. Van Gogh, Riff Raff and Levi Carter all appear on the eight-track EP. Former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis also contributes to the project by providing the intro.
Curren$y fans will be delighted to hear his new track on the Audiomack EP, but they must be wondering what happened to his The Motion Picture Soundtrackalbum. Back in February, the New Orleans announced his plans to release the LP in April. Obviously, that never happened, but Spitta did drop a mixtape called The Fo20 Massacre.
The veteran MC also claimed he would not be releasing any mixtapes until his album dropped, so Curren$y’s plans clearly changed. Spitta may have simply pushed things back in an effort to let his Jet Life family Corner Boy P and Fiend’s Summer League album get time in the spotlight.
Check out the Audiomack EP tracklist and stream below. You can purchase the project on iTunes.
Audiomack EP Tracklist
1. Ray Lewis – “I’m Free (Intro)” Feat. Magdalena
2. Slim Thug – “18 Years” Feat. Riff Raff
3. Audio Push – “The Gist”
4. Curren$y – “International Set”
5. L.A. Van Gogh – “2004 (Interlude)”
6. Wifisfuneral – “2MG” Feat. Levi Carter
7. Two-9 – “Paid For It”
8. Rich The Kid – “Where is the Mack”