Mano Sundaresan should charge a shipping fee.
Channel Tres & JPEGMAFIA – “Black Moses”
I’ve kept a tab on Channel Tres ever since I heard “Topdown,” one of the best songs of 2018, a glacial hip-house banger that oozed confidence and potential. That was off his self-titled debut EP, a compelling introduction to the Los Angeles artist’s blend of Detroit house and homegrown G-funk. Channel Tres’ music is effortlessly cool, bassy and cavernous without sounding over-produced. His raps, if you can even call them that, are pin-drop murmurs with frost around the edges, slurred incantations over the four-on-the-floor beats he typically uses.
Tres is putting out his next EP Black Moses on August 16, and the title track is hopefully a sign of what’s to come. It’s much more traditionally hip-hop than his past music, filled out with punchy low-end, standard rap drums, and glassy synth hits. It also features JPEGMAFIA, who takes the Black Moses thing pretty far: “I’m the new Moses, beard to my colon / Keep the Commandments backseat of the Focus.” Channel Tres and JPEGMAFIA are shit-talking yin-and-yang: Tres the brooding whisperer, Peggy the brazen pistol-whipper. Different approaches, same idea.
Belis – “OKRUNIT”
Fans of the SoundCloud underground can’t stop talking about Belis, a 19-year-old, L.A.-by-way-of-North-Carolina rapper, and for good reason. She’s making some of the catchiest pop rap right now, period, songs that can barely contain their own energy, dazzling enough to soundtrack the rainbows dashing around little tidepools. And don’t mistake her floaty vocals for innocence. “OKRUNIT” is swaggering and bombastic, buoyed by a heavy 94skrt instrumental. Belis has every right to celebrate. Not only has she made it, she’s also done it while battling multiple sclerosis, which left her left leg and half of her face paralyzed. MS affected Belis’ voice, giving her a slight slur and forcing her to speak in a higher register. Belis embraces this in her delivery. Her vocal register immediately brings to mind baby-voice Carti, but her catalog (just a handful of a songs, currently) reveals a more varied stylistic palette, namely an intriguing melodic side.
909Memphis – “On Purpose”
A syrupy saxophone concoction from another long-haired, blond star-to-be. 909Memphis has quietly put out plenty of luxurious pop and R&B all year, including his supremely underrated album Mixed Feelings, and pressing play on his SoundCloud page is a better heat wave soundtrack than anything the algorithms will curate for you.
Babyface Ray – “Real”
There is probably an alternate dimension where, instead of spoon-feeding Alina Baraz sappy pop instrumentals loaded with basic EDM vocal chops, Galimatias fell in love with Detroit rap and started sending packs to a smooth-talker named Babyface Ray. In our dimension, this is probably the closest we’ll get to that. Babyface Ray’s “Real” samples Galimatias’ online hit “Ocean Floor Kisses,” the ugly poster child of chillstep, a saccharine sheet of wallpaper made for summer 2015 Cape Cod montages. Nonetheless, I’m now thankful that “Ocean Floor Kisses” exists because “Real” is amazing. All those tumbling keys needed were some hi-hats and bass. Babyface Ray is about as relaxed as a Detroit rapper can get, riding the beat with the kind of cool that Galimatias was chasing. His rapping is sneakily mesmerizing, too; when he isn’t laying off the mic (which he does, a lot) he strings together multis with ease. To borrow from the top YouTube commenter on “Ocean Floor Kisses”: “Tracks with such complexity deserve the same attention you would give to a painting. Sit down, lay down, close your eyes, and focus on every single sound coming out of your headphones/speakers. That’s how you listen to music properly.”
Rio Da Yung OG & RMC Mike – “Backend”
Detroit is often the place that comes to mind when discussing Michigan’s rap scene, but Flint’s got something to say too. Rio Da Yung OG and RMC Mike are two rappers holding it down there. They’ve got on suit coats in the living room studio for the “Backend” video. It’s only right; you have to look dapper for the camera to pull off lines like “Bought a Glock-9 for $12 from a crackhead” and “Fat n***a, I put egg whites on my sandwich.” Those are both from RMC Mike, whose gruff voice and hilarious one-liners complement Rio Da Yung OG’s slick street talk nicely. This style of back-and-forth punchline rap still feels like a Detroit offshoot, but it’s in full swing right now, and these two rappers have strong enough personalities to bring the Flint scene some attention.