In the Cut: XXL’s Song Picks of the Week
It's been a pretty wild week in hip-hop. Then again, if you looked at most weeks through the scope of hip-hop, just about every one would be considered wild. Either way, Chief Keef is out of prison, and you can't help but be excited for the young Glory Boy, but also worry about what trouble he might get into next. Gucci Mane put out a new song and is continuing to tease Trap House 3, which we're sure will be better or at least just as good as Trap House 1 and 2. And of course, rappers old and new traveled to our nation's sweaty underbelly for South By Southwest, where artists like Yelawolf put on lively shows while the rest of the city's visitors explored Austin's great cart food options.
In our new weekly column called In the Cut, the diversely-opinionated XXL staff celebrates another lively week in hip-hop and picks some of their favorite releases from the past week. Some are songs, some are videos, all are incredible in their own way. See you next week, rap world.
Gucci Mane - “Hell Yes”
Guwop tries his hand at Future’s sensitive, auto-tuned crooning and nails it. Whether sincere or manufactured, Gucci sounds legitimately melancholy here and going platinum in ‘Auskralia’ has never sounded so lonely. I can only pray Trap House 3 sees more of this. – Neil Martinez-Belkin, Assistant Music Editor
Birdman ft. Lil Wayne, Future, Mack Maine & Nicki Minaj - “Tapout"
This song is pretty vulgar and also features Mack Maine, but the way Future says “Million Dollar Ooooh” is incredible, so now I recite that particular part very often, and in public. - NMB
Drake - "5 AM In Toronto"
I know this came out last week, but Drake's "5AM in Toronto" was on repeat for me this whole week. Before I go on my pro-Drake rant, I must say thanks to all those who fired up Mr T.O. to body this cut because the boy sounds ten times hungrier ("I'm on my King James shit, I'm tryin' to win here again") and 20 times as confident ("Give these niggas the look, the verse, and even the hook/That's why every song sound like Drake featuring Drake"). You can't go wrong when these two factors come into play when Drizzy's on the mic. Nothing Was the Same!!! – Ralph Bristout, Assistant Lifestyle Editor
AZ - "Thank You (Freestyle)"
AZ returned this week with a gem on this dope joint that featured the legendary DJ Doo Wop providing a medley of beats. Everything the original Sosa's been dropping as of late sounds good. I'm looking forward to that Doe Or Die II. – RB
Chief Keef - "Now It's Over"
It’s a joyous occasion for Chief Keef fans everywhere. Yesterday, Sosa was released after serving 60 days in a juvenile detention center. His first order of business was feeding the streets once again. “Now It’s Over” is his comeback cut that finds him relishing in the moment. He returns with unapologetic rhymes and a tough hook, showing the time away hasn’t affected him musically. It’s a strong start to the #SosaBack campaign, which will pick up speed when Bang: The Mixtape Pt. 2 drops later this year. – Eric Diep, Editorial Assistant
Yelawolf ft. A$AP Rocky & Big Henry - "Gangster"
Yelawolf went through some hardships after releasing label debut Radioactive, but looks to redeem himself with Trunk Muzik Returns. One of the tape’s few posse cuts is “Gangster,” which features A$AP Rocky and newcomer Big Henry. Produced by WillPower, now going by SupaHotBeats, the song illustrates revealing tales of friends close to those deeply involved in the hustler’s grind. In other words, “Gangster” is gritty hip-hop at its purest. Catfish Billy is back. – ED
Lupe Fiasco - “Jonylah Forever”
You’ve probably heard about the violence that’s very real in Chicago right now. While the music stemming from the popular drill scene is a direct reflection of the city’s current woes, there’s no denying that a voice of reason is necessary to echo what’s really going on. “Jonylah Forever” by the most hated-yet-beloved rapper from the Chi, Lupe Fiasco, is a more literal deliberation. Six-month-old Jonylah Watkins shouldn’t have taken five bullets that were aimed at her father, who was changing her diaper at the time. The somber hook, and Lupe’s imaginary plot of what could’ve been Jonylah’s fate is heart-aching. This is headphone reality rap that should rally you up to stand against injustice and the decaying system, but you don’t hear me though… – Jaeki Cho, Senior Online Editor
AraabMuzik - “Motion Picture”
The way AraabMuzik pummels the poor MPC gets the overarching energy so hype, it makes you want to nod your head until your neck cracks. Plus, the weary, synthesized, night-cruise-before-a-robbery melody sets an ominous mood for some criminal-minded ventures. “Motion Picture” gets you in that zone, and the dance music tidbit finale is an excusable slot for you to sly up on a shorty. Bong! – JC
Ghostface Killah ft. Adrian Younge & William Hart of the Delfonics - "Enemies All Around Me"
Ghostface's collaborative album 12 Reasons to Die with Black Dynamite composer/editor Adrian Younge has been at the top of my must-listen list since it was announced back in November. Now, hearing Ghost over Younge's spaghetti-western-by-way-of-Wu-Tang production - featuring the incredible William Hart of the Delfonics, no less - has me more excited than ever. – Sean Ryon, News Editor
Marco Polo ft. Big Daddy Kane - "Nite & Day"
I've been following Marco Polo ever since I saw a massive ad for his debut album Port Authority plastered above Fat Beats (RIP) back in '07, so to hear one of my earliest favorite producers link up with an icon like Big Daddy Kane has me in somewhat of a underground rap nerd trip. Marco's crisp boom-bap drums and densely-layered samples provide the perfect back drop for Kane, who after 20-plus years of making music, can still tear a whole in your speaker with his rhymes. – SR
Blu & Exile ft. Andy Allo - "Ease Your Mind" Video
For those of us who remember Below the Heavens, hearing Blu and Exile re-connect is always a positively nostalgic experience, especially after rumors that Blu was heavy in the crack game (not as a dealer). But he looks like he's back to normal in this Wes Anderson-inspired video that shows Blu and Exile on a boat, which is probably a metaphor for something. – Dan Buyanovsky, Associate Editor
T.I. - "Addresses" Short Film
I love this "short film" purely for its ironic ignorance. It's like T.I. doesn't even remember going to prison on federal weapons charges, three years ago. In the video, he's seen holding a semi-automatic rifle and balks pretty convincingly about killing someone who has apparently wronged him. Oh Clifford, you'll never learn. – DB
The-Dream - "Tron"
If I woke up in a new Bugatti today, I'd probably listen to this song on repeat and drive around South Beach with no shirt on. What I'm trying to say is, The-Dream unexpectedly goes in harder than a lot of the trap rappers I've heard in recent memory, and yes, I'm saying that about the guy who wrote "Umbrella." The world's a crazy place. – DB