Music: Five of the best artists you’ve never heard of (the Hip Hop edition)

Hip Hop by Tom NashIt’s about time I finished the trilogy I started last year with the Instrumental Hip Hop Edition and continued with an introduction to the most criminally underrated and underappreciated Hip Hop groups of our time; CunninLynguists.

This time around, I’m going to share a selection of songs from more artists I feel don’t get the praise they deserve. Those artists are, in no particular order:

Sean Price
The king of ignorance. If you like Hip Hop that’s cynically formulated to moisten teenage girl panties (I’m looking at you, Drizzy), Sean P is not for you. If you like whiplash-inducing boom-bap and your rhymes full of witty punchlines and wordplay, you might just have found your new favourite rapper.

Heartburn by Sean Price on Grooveshark

A certified Hip Hop legend, Sean Price came into the game in the mid-90s, known as Ruck, as one half of Duck Down Records’ Heltah Skeltah (look up their debut Nocturnal– tis a classic) and a member of the Boot Camp Clik collective, along with Black Moon, Smiff n Wessun and the Originoo Gun Clappaz… Yep.

In 2005, he went solo, releasing the amazing Monkey Bars and he hasn’t looked back since, putting out mixtapes, a Heltah Skeltah record, a shit ton of guest features and another couple of solo long players; every verse/song/album uncompromisingly rugged; not a radio or club friendly track or feature to be found.

He’s also one third of super-group Random Axe with Guilty Simpson and Black Milk.

The Hex by Random Axe on Grooveshark

Now if that beat doesn’t give you whiplash and make you want to punch something that doesn’t deserve it, I don’t know why you’re reading this.

STFU PT.2 by Sean Price on Grooveshark

If you’re looking for beats that knock from a rapper that doesn’t take himself too seriously, check out Sean P. No regrets will be had.

Pharoahe Monch
OK, this one is more an ‘artist you’ve heard at least two tracks by’ than never heard of, especially if you are in your mid twenties to early thirties.

This could also be included in the ‘When rappers sample songs you know‘ series I’m working on too, if you think about it:

Simon Says by Pharoahe Monch on Grooveshark

It’s the Godzilla theme, if you don’t know how to search for things. No, not that horrendous American version.

Oh No by Mos Def & Pharoahe Monch on Grooveshark

Half of Organized Konfusion with Prince Po, Pharoahe Monch has been dropping multi-syllabic awesomeness since the early ’90s, although not quite as regularly as Hip Hop heads would like. Although he’s appeared on tracks with Eminem, Method Man & Redman and Busta Rhymes, he tends to be relegated to chorus duty on most of his guest features.

Put it this way- there aren’t many emcees that can keep up with M.O.P.’s energy. Monch more than managed:

No Mercy (feat. M.O.P.) by Pharoahe Monch on Grooveshark

With 1999’s Infernal Affairs, which featured Simon Says as the lead single, he set his solo career in motion, following that with Desire in 2007 and W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) in 2011.

Dude knows how to make a song (and video) with point too:

Hmm; topical. Released nearly six years ago, that. In fact, Monch is big on concepts:

Assassins (feat. Jean Grae & Royce da 5'9") by Pharoahe Monch on Grooveshark

The first verse of that one is by our next choice:

Jean Grae
Now let’s clear this up once and for all. If someone can rap, call them a rapper, emcee, lyricist, whatever. It doesn’t matter what gender they are. Jean Grae could slaughter your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper so just listing her among female musicians does her a disservice. You just listened to Assassins, right?

Don't Rush Me (feat. 9th Wonder) by Jean Grae on Grooveshark

Maybe you’re of the school of thought that believes Hip Hop is a shallow, vacuous genre of music that celebrates ignorance… Putting Sean Price first in this list probably didn’t help, thinking now.

Anyway, if you think that, just try and catch all the wordplay in the following track on your first listen:

Can’t be done, right? There’s just too much.

If you do the Tweeters, @JeanGreasy is a must-follow too, I don’t think anyone else is better at moron-baiting. It can be a joy to behold sometimes.

U… Me… All Of Us Ft. Da Beatminerz by Jean Grae on Grooveshark

Here’s a challenge for you: Most rappers have a ‘style’ or ‘flow’ that they stick to, never really deviating from their tried and tested rhyme patterns and cadences. Have a listen to Jean Grae’s body of work and try and find two flows that are the same.

She RINSES this track, TEARS up these grimy strings and organ stabs and does more than hold her own with Pumpkinhead and Immortal Technique on this, but never with the same cadence or rhyme patterns:

The Ilest by Immortal Technique on Grooveshark

Or perhaps this track she did with Herbaliser will convince you. It should- she ‘plays’ every rapper you hear on that track. Even the blokes, yes. Obscenely talented, this one.

R.A. the Rugged Man
Again- if you’re looking for club-friendly choons or something you could stumble across on the radio, an artist with songs titled Cunt Renaissance and Every Record Label Sucks Dick is probably not going to float your boat.

If you’re all about lung-shattering, multi-syllabic flows and awesome lyrics, the man formerly known as Crustified Dibbs could be your new favourite rapper.

How about a history of everything important or influential in Hip Hop in just under a minute and a half? (he does the last verse- about 2:20ish in)

The Renaissance (Feat. Black M by R.A. The Rugged Man on Grooveshark

Or a show-stealing verse about being a US grunt in Vietnam from the point of view of his Army veteran father? Cos he can do that too: (again, second verse)

Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story ft. R.A. the Rugged Man by Jedi Mind Tricks on Grooveshark

You could also catch him being gross with Cage before he went all emo and became friends with Shia LeBeouf:

Bottom Feeders Ft Smut Peddlers by R.A. The Rugged Man on Grooveshark

Awesome. And like Sean P, Rugged Man is another fella that’s not afraid to have a laugh and dick about a bit.

He’s got a new album coming out this year. Sounds like it’ll be sick. I advise you to seek it out when it drops.

I decided to go alternative for my fifth choice. Some of you might find this confusing but Ceschi is one of those rapper types that doesn’t talk about bitches, bling and biscuits (guns). He also has an awesome singing voice that he uses to great effect on many of his guest features. In fact him and Deacon the Villain from CunninLynguists unofficially duke it out for the title of ‘Underground Nate Dogg’ on a regular basis.

Shame by Ceschi on Grooveshark

Ceschi regularly flips styles between multi-syllablic rap, sing-songy rap and just plain singing- sometimes within the same verse. He’s managed to take a genre known for being raw and gritty and make something beautiful from it, without remove one speck of the grit. Commendable…

Cold Sores (prod: Dynamo414 /cuts: DJ Emoh Betta) by Ceschi on Grooveshark

Head honcho at Fake Four Inc- an independent label that boasts an impressive roster (including Blue Sky Black Death, Sadistik, Radical Face, Astronautalis, Factor, Child Actor and many more), Ceschi oversees some of the most creative Hip Hop being made right now. And when he’s not creating a rollcall akin to any backpacker’s wet dream, he makes a pretty good song himself- or just tears up any guest appearance he makes.

Example: He takes the second verse on this track and obliterates it:

09 Faded ft. Ceschi by Noah23 on Grooveshark

In fact, if Ceschi’s on your track, you better step your game up- like Noah23 did on Faded just now and like Kristoff Krane does on Mouth of the Beast.

I’ll leave you with this awesome little number- which should be familiar to anyone who checked the piece on Instrumental Hip Hop. Ceschi sings and drops some rappity raps on it:

One by One (feat. Ceschi) by 2econd Class Citizen on Grooveshark