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O.J. Hodding – Kicking Back (Ft. Masta Marx)

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When I first heard O.J. Hodding’s subtly accented flow clearly over a beat as smooth as a skater’s cruise down some stretch of concrete, it was like a gulp of cold water in this heat. Kicking Back quenches a thirst for clean lyricism I didn’t even realize I had.

There are a lot of new hardcore hip-hop artists coming up right now. With Desiigner, Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert releasing tracks and mixtapes that focus more on hard-hitting production than lyricism, the rhythm and flow of the Tribe kind now feels extra old school with the genre filling to the brim with gangsta rap.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. The sophistication and specificity of good production is at its most satisfying right now, in my opinion. But no one can claim they understand any of the lyrics to Timmy Turner.

Especially with Phife’s untimely death earlier this year, Hodding’s track comes at a time when it’s important to remember those legends of the 90s that paved the way for today’s rap royalty.

The simplicity in the production of Kicking Back, the first track in Hodding’s new EP Mellow, is misleading, though. That kind of subtle layering to create a smooth yet wavy flow with lyrics driving it forward as opposed to landing comfortably in an overpowering bass is difficult in its own right. This kind of subtlety is lacking in today’s bursting hip-hop bangers whose weight barely makes sense past its club and party reign. Mellow is hip hop you can enjoy in your apartment or on the subway without feeling the anxiety of not being with your crew doing cool things out on the town.

Not that Mellow’s message calls for much intellectual analysis but there’s no denying a calculated effort to communicate something clearly in each of its full-bodied tracks, even if it’s just to chill out. That’s okay too.

Elephante – Catching On (Feat. Nevve)

I feel like one of the most unheralded aspects of a hit song is the way the production mirrors the topic matter. It’s a really subtle thing, and many a song passes by without me thinking about that type of sonic-conceptual chemistry. But Elephante and Nevve’s gem “Catching On” reminded me how important it is, and it’s a perfect example of how that chemistry can make a song that much greater.

Doesn’t Elephante’s track almost sound inquisitive? Almost like it knows something that you don’t? It sounds smart, sly and aware. Which is exactly the vibe of Nevve’s lyrics, talking about how she’s beginning to “catch on” to what’s going on with her love interest. Elephante’s “wub wub” melody (as he describes it on this song’s Soundcloud page) in the chorus completely matches Nevve’s dramatic revelation, and the whole thing sounds like a huge emotional breakthrough.

This is just one of the reasons why this is a great song, but it’s my favorite reason. I wish every producer and songwriter paid that much attention to the “completeness” of a song. “Catching On” is complete because it raises a point, builds the intensity, and then resolves the issue at hand musically and lyrically without a shadow of a doubt.

K?D – Discover (feat. RKCB)

K?d has found a comfortable niche in feel-good future bass, but his fresh, RKCB-featured collaboration finds the producer taking his sound to new heights. Fittingly titled “Discover,” the track feels like the sonic representation of a life-changing realization as waves of ethereal synths reach toward the heavens while its sound slowly encompasses the listener whole.

The style of music is best compared to Porter Robinson’s “Worlds,” not only in terms of the music, but the effects it so generously bestows. Images of dazzling dreamscapes spin around my head ’til a natural high takes hold, drifting away to a location that exists only in imagination yet feels so utterly real, only a single grasp away. Alone in the dark, with a pair of headphones on, it almost feels like home.

Join me in experiencing the wonders of “Discover” below.

Billie Ellish – Ocean Eyes

Fossa Beats & Dugong Jr – Powers


I often have a dream. I’m trying to break into a run but I can’t. My feet are glued to the shoes to the ground under me. I’m in a wide leg stance, arms bent at ninety degrees. You’ve seen those models in those fitness magazines. Statuesque

I’ll wrap my forearms around my thighs, desperately trying to pull them up.I’m heaving harder than I ever have before. But nothing. I’m not strong. Usually, something bad is after me and I can’t run away.You ever heard of those moms that can lift cars on an adrenaline rush? Even that amount of strength couldn’t pull me up. I’m stuck. It’s devastating.

In my other dream I can’t see. I can’t open my eyes more than a blurry sliver. However much I try. I’m stuck forever in that limited view of the world.

In my other dream my mom dies.

In my other dream I relive the worst parts of that time, all the shit, over and over again.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s more real: the feelings in those dreams or the horizon in front of me.

You know that moment looking out at the skyline?

This beat is like those streaks of unbelievable pinks and oranges and oh my god I didn’t even know the sky could make that color. Maybe I’m on a rooftop. Or a beach. And the bridge in the song is the moment I decide I’m invincible. It drops and I realize, actually, I’ve only discovered I’ve been invincible all along. Ooh-wee it’s all for me, isn’t it? This life. All it has to offer. It’s totally within my reach. That’s power. Oh, if I just raised my arm I could touch it all. Then lift off. Fly above all those silly things I worried about before. The sky and the light are so much bigger than all these groundlings. Look at the rest of them crying, complaining. Look down for a second.


This song, a release from Mad Decent’s sub label, Good Enuff, is a perfect balance between anticipation and release. It’s like the first time the superhero lifts off in an action movie.

But what about all that shit – real or unreal, the fears that linger and face me in my dreams where I’m not strong enough? Some say there’s strength in sitting in what’s rough. I disagree. Like the song, I choose to live in the world of up and up and up. Leave the fears for when I’m sleeping. Because there’s more power in overcoming what’s trying to keep you stuck than stewing in the thing you feel is sinking you. In real life, I can fly.