Cocaine Blunts blogger Noz is back to bring us some of his favorite tracks right now:
And two more that were cut for broadcast:
JESSE THORN: It's The Sound of Young America, I'm Jesse Thorn. From time to time on the show we like to talk to the hip hop blogger Noz of the popular rap blog Cocaine Blunts to find out what hip hop music is worth our time and worth seeking out. It's great to welcome Noz back onto The Sound of Young America. Hey Noz, how are you doing?
NOZ: Pretty good, how are you doing Jesse?
JESSE THORN: How are things in New Jersey?
NOZ: Things are how they always are in New Jersey; incredibly exciting.
JESSE THORN: Let's talk a little bit about rap music. I live in Los Angeles, where it's perfectly reasonable for a local radio station, and this is true, to say that they carry all the hip hop classics from The Notorious B.I.G. to Tupac Shakur to DJ Quik. While DJ Quik has had some national hits, certainly, I think he is in part a regional phenomenon; so, before we talk about his latest record, maybe you could tell me who he is and where he stands in the world of hip hop.
NOZ: Quik is an LA rap and production legend. He's from Compton, came up on the heels of the NWA craze and brought a more playful and fun loving vibe to the gangster rap scene.
JESSE THORN: Tell me a little bit about Ghetto Rendezvous, this new song we're about to hear.
NOZ: I guess in his recent work he's kind of evolved a lot as a rapper. In his earlier stuff it was more straight forward raps about the world around him, and today he seems to be using rap as a cathartic thing where he's just pouring out whatever problems in his life onto the track.
JESSE THORN: Let's hear DJ Quik and Ghetto Rendezvous.
Noz, let's talk about Max B and his song Where Do I Go. This is a New York guy and he has a very distinctive sound that is kind of halfway between rapping and singing, but not in a way that's reminiscent of some of the folks that have gone before him in the halfway between rapping and singing genre, like Bone Thugs or Nelly. It's sort of a triangulation between rapping, singing, and a charming mumbling. Tell me a little bit about this song Where Do I Go.
NOZ: Well, Max is a rapper who's kind of big on the mix tape circuit for several years. He's from Harlem, kind of the guy from New York. He's been rocking with this kind of half sing-song, sort of drunk uncle singalong style. It's very catchy and fun, but it also has a darker element to it where - - I don't know, you can just kind of get into it.
JESSE THORN: Well let's hear Max B and Where Do I Go.
Noz, you're in New Jersey these days, but you lived for a long time in Washington, D.C., and your next pick is from a Washington, D.C. rapper named Fat Trel. The most distinctive music, especially urban music, of Washington D.C. has always been go-go, which is a specific kind of club music that's performed by a band with a big percussion section and it has a distinctive loping sound. It's something that everyone in D.C. knows about and very few people outside D.C. know about. What's the relationship between go-go and hip hop in D.C., and what's Fat Trel's relationship to those two worlds?
NOZ: Go-go has kind of eclipsed hip hop forever in D.C. Even as late as the early 90s it wasn't even cool to like hip hop in D.C. – as I understand it, I wasn't there. Trel is a young local rapper, very lyrical but also with a gangster edge to it. He seems to be the first rapper in D.C. that is actually getting a following in D.C. before crossing over, which is a big thing. That's very important to that crossover. I think with Wale they kind of jumped the gun and pushed him nationally before he had that kind of following.
JESSE THORN: Let's hear Fat Trel and Tokyo Spinach, which actually samples a go-go track, Tokyo Spinach by the Backyard Band; one of the most popular go-go bands in Washington D.C.
I have to tell you, I am very excited to talk about E-40, not least because as a Yay Area representative it is almost my regional duty to talk about E-40, but also because I have been listening to his new record, which is two CDs and about 79 songs, over and over and over at the loudest volume that my car stereo can muster. He was sort of an elder statesman in this hyphy movement that was a big play for national attention and a huge local scene in the Bay Area in the early to mid 2000s; but it also has a lot of influences from the mob music that was more typical of the Bay Area hip hop scene in the 1990s.
NOZ: Yeah, these are his third and fourth albums that he's put out in the last year, he's just been hyper-productive and trying to find a balance. I don't think he's at all concerned with crossing over at this point, I think the hyphy thing kind of fizzled on the national level. 40 is a guy who is an acquired taste, and I guess that's the definition of great art. You can be divisive.
JESSE THORN: Let's hear E-40 and Concrete from his brand new record.
E-40 is one of those rappers who is epically legendary where he is from. As a San Francisco native, he is in the pantheon of hip hop with The Notorious B.I.Gs and the Nozes and the Tupacs, in San Francisco, because he's made his legend in Vallejo, which is in the San Francisco Bay Area. Outside of it you get a very split opinion of his very distinctive style.
NOZ: Yeah, it's a weird style. He raps really fast, kind of around the beat. He's not - - it's very loose and he has this weird nasally Elmer Fudd style intonation.
JESSE THORN: He always hits consonants, especially Rs, really hard. And R is a sound that most rappers drop completely.
NOZ: Yeah, and then he as the “Oooooaaaahhh.”
JESSE THORN: “Oooooaaaahhh.” I did a pretty good one there!
NOZ: I think you have me beat on the 40 impression.
JESSE THORN: Noz, thank you so much for once again being here and serving as our guide to the world of hip hop, it was great to talk to you.
NOZ: Thanks a lot, Jesse.
JESSE THORN: You can find Noz's writing about hip hop online at CocaineBlunts.com, and you can also find him in the latest issues of The Fader and Wire magazine. Thanks again, Noz.