I’m a connoisseur of hip hop and this list has taken me a while to comprise because there are some who deserve to be here who aren’t here - because it’s my top 10 – not 12 or 15. That said, I do like some commercial hip hop. I can get down with some Kanye, E40, Jay Z, Whiz, 2 Chainz and all them but my passion is for the underground. In life, it’s tough to go left when the majority is going right but these are the types of auteurs who shape and define counter culture in my opinion. I feel these guys are some of the true geniuses of hip hop regardless of how well they sell. Here's a taste of each of them. Enjoy.
1. Doom – Guv’Nor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW-9TcDTKa8
2. Deltron – Madness http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzj9F-ShaHE
3. P.O.S. – Purexed - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JHbUuWzVNE
4. Pigeon John – So Gangster https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZdoYCUKk-U
5. Sage Francis – The Best of Times http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA8hzUDXvtk
6. Slug – Happy Mess http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U34i_jmE1Kg
7. Brother Ali – US http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsPaYZ26Cw0
8. F. Stokes – My Simple Town in the USA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWxWfxINlck
9. Murs - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hiHi4mLbQU
10. The Grouch - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENSWHwyweiE
As I completed this list I realized there are quite a few missing from an arbitrary “Top 10” so I wanna hear some of yours in the comments below. – The X
The Aristocats and the song was My Favorite Things from the 1959 musical, The Sound of Music. The vision and the song weren’t really related but it was a bread crumb that let me to inquiry. Of course, the version of the song that came to mind was actually John Coltrane’s 13 minute version because the musical was a bit before my time. I remember now, it was just after Halloween and that song’s imagery tends to conjure up thoughts of the holidays for most. Anyway, not being able to get it out of my head, I gave in and did what people in our era do – I “voiced called” it up on YouTube with my iPhone playing through my car speakers. That’s when I first discovered Pomplamoose’s version. I didn’t immediately like it but there was something so charming about this rendition that I had to hear it a few more times. The music was melodic and familiar, like the sights and sounds of Pomplamoose, the San Francisco Bay Area duo comprised of Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte. For me, Pomplamoose are an example of what I love so much about this new era of giving pink slips to the gatekeepers of “cool.” Real talent can be shared with the world via avenues such as YouTube without some A&R rep first giving it the nod of approval. Pomplamoose sold over 100,000 songs to fans in 2009 after performing in 2008 and have continued to find success both together and with their solo careers. They’ve worked with celebrity acts like Ben Folds and Barry Manillow (Dawn) as well as fellow YouTubers like Lauren O’Connell and Wade Johnston. The latter collaboration between Conte and Johnston on Here is one of my favorites. As Pomplamoose, Jack and Nataly create video performances of their songs for their online audience using only two rules: 1) What you see is what you hear. (No lip-syncing for instruments or voice and 2) If you hear it, at some point you see it. (No hidden sounds). For something new and refreshing, give them a listen.
I discovered P.O.S. through my favorite Minnesota underground hip hop act, Atmosphere, who headline the Rhymesayers Entertainment slate. P.O.S. really represents one of the coolest things about being a non-conformist. He’s totally and unabashedly out of left field. He actually reminds me of who Pharrell may actually be in a parallel universe. Before I get into this review, to get the best understanding of who P.O.S. is consider listening to the track Out of Category from his previous offering, Never Better where P.O.S. spits some honest lyrics about who he is and how he got there. With his latest, We Don’t Even Live Here, P.O.S. is completely in his zone as a pure punk-hip hop artist. The first track Bumper is a great opener for what’s to follow. It’s pumping bass drum and modulated synth riff get you banging you head off the bat.
Throughout P.O.S. flows with such intent that if he had any insecurity about his standing as an emcee you could never tell. He doesn’t. I haven’t heard such passion since Public Enemy though here it’s much less specific to the African American experience and more to the human condition. And even though his lyrics are generally serious and cover social/political issues, he manages to have fun with it (note his recurring chuckles). Fuck Your Stuff is the anthem for anti-materialism and ironically is the closet thing to commercial you’ll find here with its use of the old school tr-808 classic snare. The production on How We Land is top notch as Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon provides his signature melodic, enhanced vocals blending smoothly with Stef’s own clean vocals. One of my
As a musician P.O.S. exists between worlds in a sense because despite his talent as an MC, very few mainstream hip hop heads may ever give him a listen due to the punk overtones and the alternative fans may dismiss him because he’s a black rapper in a very different way than the visually bi-racial Slug. Nonetheless, P.O.S. has more than earned his place among some of the genre’s best MC’s despite his lack of airplay. He offers something new, honest and uncompromising. Either you can Get Down with him or you can’t but if you’re more mainstream, I’d suggest doing a YouTube search for his track Optimism for a way of taking some honey with your first dose of P.O.S. We Don’t Even Live Here is the product of a continually advancing rhyme style and elevated consciousness that puts and keeps P.O.S. truly out of category.