There was an anecdote shared to us regarding a local hip hop gig down south that showcased performances by relatively fresh hip hop acts who were inspired by Atlanta and drill – you can imagine how rowdy the crowd had gotten just from that fact. While the ruckus was indicative of a good time, a b-boy – quite well-known in the state’s scene – was utterly confused by the sight of hip hop fans moshing and jumping and rappers shouting their lungs out à la hardcore bands. Some from his posse were even befuddled by the amount of expletives used – but then again, a lot of b-boying is to breakbeats and safe hip hop à la Bomfunk MC’s.
This Cosby-an, sterilised idea of hip hop and the need to dictate its ‘propriety’ is more common than you’d think – consider what passes off as good rap music in the Malay market and you’d get the idea. If radio-friendly, saccharine rap tunes don’t do it for you, and you’ve grown blasé of hearing ‘lyrical’ rap over repetitive boom bap beats for the umpteenth time, this edition of Tracklisticle is a curation of HxC rap – for want of a better term – over the years, from the early ‘90s to current day.
1. Onyx – Slam
Though their first few songs were jazzier, thus closer to the Native Tongues Posse in sound, and saw none of the faux-hardcore scene imageries and gruff barking of their more well-known later releases, Onyx is most remembered for ‘Judgment Night’, the titular track off the OST of a movie of the same name. While that Biohazard collaboration was an efficient first attempt at marrying heavy metal with hardcore and rap, it also unfortunately bore responsibility for inspiring shitty rap rock in the coming years. ‘Slam’ from debut album Bacdafucup, with its music video featuring a full-blown mosh pit, fares better in hindsight – and they did it without having to adapt rock instrumentation in order to come off as ‘hardcore’. Let the boys be boys!
2. Wu-Tang Clan – Bring Da Ruckus
While a good number of Wu members can be credited for the unfortunate lyrical-spiritual-miracle lyricism prevalent in hip hop to this day (here’s looking at you Inspectah Deck), the late ODB also arguably pioneered the raw, borderline incomprehensible flow of today’s trap-inclined young’uns. But debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) didn’t really have much of the former, it’s lofi, dirty, and unapologetically a product of the disenfranchised. “Bring the motherfucking ruckus,” isn’t your standard hip hop call-and-response like the abominable ‘Hip Hop Hooray’, it’s telling you to fuck shit up.
3. Tyler, the Creator – Radicals
Did the Odd Future crew bring moshing back to hip hop? They certainly did for us circa 2010. Watching live videos of these kids performing galvanised a waning interest in the genre; hip hop after the ‘00s underground was getting stagnant, Def Jux was dead, Rhymesayers increasingly boring, and there were way too many battle rappers who made bad music, but here were a bunch of teenagers giving zero fucks about what constituted hip hop – the first real salvo against the ‘realness’ of the culture. No where was this punk-esque attitude more embodied than with leader Tyler, the Creator, especially so on ‘Radicals’. Kill people, burn shit, fuck school.
4. OG Maco – FUCKEMx3
‘It G Ma’ is very moshable and all, but credits go to former hardcore bandmember OG Maco for having inspired that track. Lesser known than ‘U Guessed It’, ‘FUCKEMx3’ is unapologetic about what it is – and a good minute of the track is dedicated to just OG Maco chanting exactly that; fuck ‘em, fuck ‘em, fuck ‘em.
5. Death Grips – Takyon (Death Yon)
And here we get to the obligatory Death Grips mention. Consisting of MC Ride and drummer Zach Hill, to quote ourselves from four years ago, the duo is “what you’d think the term afropunk denotes as opposed to the actual reality of afropunk.” Zach’s mathematical drumming is at odds with the abrasive, discordant synths and Ride’s mad dog delivery – if you’re one of those hip hop heads who are anal about the archaic idea of a rapper’s ‘flow’, look elsewhere. ‘Takyon (Death Yon)’ is from their surprised debut Exmillitary – pre-Pitchfork hype – and it is comparatively less atonal than their later tracks, though it’s still not quite accessible. Regardless, this is the perfect gateway to Death Grips – a rap group that’s also a punk band of today’s zeitgeist.
6. Ho99o9 – Casey Jones / Cum Rag
Of course, after the obligatory Death Grips mention, there’s Ho99o9, though comparing the two is lazy writing. For one, unlike Death Grips, Eaddy and theOGM are consciously appropriating the tropes and images of hardcore punk and thrash – hell, their live performance is inspired by GG Allin’s stage antics (though they have yet to defecate on stage). There’s also a clear adherence to horrorcore tropes as exemplified in their lyrics and horror movie visual aesthetics. ‘Casey Jones / Cum Rag’ plays more to their punk influences – complete with a music video directed by the man responsible for The Art of Punk documentary.
7. Bones – RestInPeace
When Bones performed with A$AP Rocky on Jimmy Kimmel, the mainstream media branded him as trap meets metal. They weren’t that far off the mark. A cursory search of Bones’ live shows would reveal gigs that combine the thrashing of metal (Bones regularly headbangs) and the posse swaggery and dabbing of Atlanta rap shows. ‘RestInPeace’ is a succinct cut, made for a quick headbanging before going back to the dab.
8. Chief Keef – I Don’t Like (feat. Lil Reese)
No current rap subgenre is as aggressive as drill and Chief Keef is the King of it all. ‘I Don’t Like’ isn’t just a song to get your blood pumping – there’s palpable anger to Keef’s admonition to snitches, like someone’s about to get beaten the living crap out of them with the song playing in the background. Snitches, be wary.
9. Orang Malaya – Keep It Lit
‘Cause we can’t pimp this dude enough.