By the time the month of October is over, each member of California's rising rap quartet that flies under the banner of Top Dawg Entertainment and Black Hippy will have performed in or around Orange County. Kendrick Lamar, Ab Soul, and Jay Rock are coming to play The Fox Theater in Pomona and Schoolboy Q is joining ASAP Rocky and Danny Brown for their sold-out tour stop at the Observatory in Santa Ana. In case you haven't kept your finger on the pulse of what's buzzing and blowing up in today's hip-hop, or can't be bothered to drift between blogs, we've compiled the five strongest representations of the new sound TDE is bringing to hip-hop. Rest easy, Californians, we can be very, very proud about the lyricists we're producing nowadays. There's a rap renaissance going on, and TDE is at the center of it.
5. Ab-Soul, “Black Lip Bastard (Remix) (feat. Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, & Schoolboy Q)”
Every crew in hip-hop is allowed their free-for-all posse cut where they're allowed to sound-off in cipher form, even if they aren't much to write home about. For the TDE/Black Hippy squad, it's the remix to Ab-Soul original “Black Lip Bastard.” Within a little over five minutes of time, each member rips through a verse, pushing their flow and pen to the brink of blacking out. Regardless of their position in TDE and Black Hippy, each member comes across as equally bloodthirsty and intimidating. TDE are at the top of the hip-hop game, and having a track where every member gets a chance to use their prose to position, posture, and pose should be enough to get the folks over at the Library of Congress excited.
4. Ab-Soul, “Terrorist Threats (feat. Danny Brown)”
Suburban-bred Carson native Ab-Soul is not the “secret weapon” he's been labeled as — he's already come out strong enough and received enough exposure — but he's probably the TDE member most likely to duly pull out a reference to a conspiracy theory with a cult following or an arcane philosophical outlook. Every time he's in a period of potency and in control of a mic, expect an outlandish, comfortably bizarre DMT trip into territories charted by black helicopters and cutthroats. On “Terrorist Threats,” he teams up with Detroit behemoth Danny Brown to create one of the most paranoid, perfect examples of what Ab-Soul brings to TDE. He jumps from everything to seeing “Hitler in the picture when the twin towers dropped,” to Sumerians and resisting government. If this was being uttered outside of the realm of an Ab-Soul song, this would probably sound like a rant on an Alex Jones supported forum, but in the context of this song Ab-Soul makes it reality.
3. Kendrick Lamar, “Hiiipower”
It's 2012, and Compton's Kendrick Lamar is currently the best new rapper on the radio and arguably one of the brightest talents blogs and fans of the genre adore. At the moment, eyes and ears are set on him and a lot of people are expecting him to bear the burdens and banners of west coast hip-hop all at once, while simultaneously creating classics and turning water into blood-red wine for Crip drinkers. Give the message and mood of “Hiiipower” some of your time, and you'll hear why he holds this weight. Lamar can create reflective, uplifting anthems at the rate record labels can turn out one-hit wonders, and at the same time keep his bars barbed.
2. Schoolboy Q, “Nightmare on Figg St.”
As the “groovy gangsta” of the group, former Los Angeles gangbanger Schoolboy Q mixes his tenebrous twist on strictly-street hip-hop with a swag-rap style to create a real-life character as criminally minded as he is flashy. In his lyrical machinations, bodies fly, chambers are emptied, drugs are sold at a pace faster than their highs, women are used up, and he's the most deranged, unhinged pill-peddler on the block. Oh, and if you have a dollar that isn't getting used for guns, drugs, or clothes, chances are he or someone around him will be taking it. By force. With verbal venom like “Let's bake coke and cook crack. Fuck the sheriffs, fuck the gang unit, fuck CRASH. Pimp ho's or wring ya bread,” Q's “Nightmare on Figg St.” is the standout representation of his frame of mind and conscience, or lack thereof.
1. Kendrick Lamar, “ADHD”
At the moment, we cannot think of a better song in the collective catalog of Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock. This song took us a few spins to fully allow to sink in, and we can't say that too often about many songs coming out of southern California nowadays, let alone hip-hop from Compton. Think of “ADHD” as a public service announcement, if public service announcements were creative and felt crucial. “ADHD” is rap music as a poetic art-form just a beat away from rhythmic spoken word. Lamar can tackle all aspects of today's culture and come out crowned as the victorious critic, and this track embodies that with each bar he bodies. This is the reason why we have placed our hopes in this twenty-five year old.