Welcome to the second episode of Under The Radar, where we break down some of the best releases from the last couple of weeks that you may have missed. We track down some of the best smaller artists releasing music and put them on blast either because no one knows them or because they should be at the top of the charts. Every volume will have three artists that are all similar in genre, yet totally different in style. This volume sees us take a look at some of the best Urban releases from the past couple of weeks with us focusing on some new faces like Kweku Collins and Gallant, as well an older face in the music industry with Mr. Lif.
Kweku Collins – Nat Love
For Fans Of: Lo-Fi hushed Trap with Chance The Rapper-esque delivery
We live in the age where Trap has become the driving force of Hip-Hop. This and the downtrodden homemade aesthetic of Grime are the two biggest styles that have been hitting the clubs in the last two years. Kweku Collins‘ debut album, Nat Love is filled with music that in two very different ways borrows from both of the sub-genres. Collins’ style takes from Trap in terms of some of the delivery – he often mumbles while sounding simultaneously elastic, his instrumentals borrows a lot from Trap in terms of percussion and rhythm, and his lyrics sometimes feel like something that he’s jotted down in list form. Yet he mixes this with the DIY ethos of Grime. Not even the sound of Grime, just the ethos.
Collins’ made this entire album in his bedroom, and as a result everything feels very Lo-Fi. The instrumentals are varied, including pretty acoustic guitars/lush keys, murky samples and percussional instrumentals that are thrown against the occasional Trap high-hat in complete contrast. Collins’ vocal delivery is carefully balanced between delicate and over the top, with the sort of charisma you’d hear from artists like Chance The Rapper. He always sounds poetic and confessional as he often bounces between singing and rapping.
There’s something refreshing about Collins’ approach to delivering these modern styles in his unique way – it doesn’t sound like he’s fucked on lean, it’s more like someone alone writing self-aware notes in a diary while he’s high on weed. Collins isn’t revolutionising Hip-Hop by any means, but it’s good to hear the Lo-Fi sounds that this style of Hip-Hop can actually bring, and Collins does it with the finesse of someone who wants to carve his own lane.
Mr. Lif – Don’t Look Down
For Fans Of: Conscious underground Hip-Hop of the 2000s.
Halfway through Mr. Lif‘s new album, Don’t Look Down on the track Mission Accomplished, his guest AK (The perceptionists) says ‘Ya’ll ain’t cleaner up nothin.. In fact it’s worse than it was before we left!‘. Mr. Lif has spent the vast majority of his career trying to make a difference in the society that he’s living in. Although this is his debut album on the independent Hip-Hop label Mellow Music Group and his first in seven years, his previous work on Definitive Jux should have been seminal. Mr. Lif has always tackled subjects head on, and he’s always offered interesting insightful raps.
Don’t Look Down comes at a time when society is seeing the most racial tension for a long time, and one has to wonder if Mr. Lif has taken this to heart. He’s never really got the attention he deserves as a rapper who’s consistently put forward music that tries to reach and educate people. On his new album he doesn’t spend so much time tackling dense subjects as he does spend time unpacking parts of himself and reflecting on a career which has tried to shine a light upon dark subjects and make them universal.
He tackles these themes in a way that’s very relaxed compared to previous works, with him giving his themes the time to breathe while simultaneously giving himself the time to shine on the mic like we haven’t seen him previously. He’s an MC that’s aged well, and one that deserves more attention. The production on here is always on point with there being a vast array of sounds built upon solid, traditional instrumentals. He gives himself and his fellow underground MCs like Del the Funky Homosapien the grounds to spin their web of fantastic rhymes and it never feels too cluttered with ideas.
Gallant – Ology
For Fans Of: The more commercial side of RnB. Yet not drab like Sam Smith or overtly sexual like The Weeknd.
Gallant has got a brilliant voice. A voice with the capability to hit both the most powerful high notes while sounding seductively calm and in control when in his register. Not only that but he never overstates this and unlike many of the RnB singers, or singers heavily borrowing from RnB, he knows that modesty goes a long way.
After many false starts, Christopher Gallant‘s career finally started to take off when he was scouted by business manager Jake Udell. From there he’s been given the freedom to start making his ambitious RnB. Gallant takes control over his voice, because he knows that his music is made to soar, and he doesn’t have to over-sing to do that. His songwriting is brilliant with him grasping hooks and giving them the space they need. This space also gives us the opportunity to get to know his persona within his songs. His lyrics are often personal as they let us into Gallant’s insecurities while remaining totally self-aware and perceptive.
His ambition also comes into play musically, where he dives into many different styles of RnB. Gallant plays around with modern electronics, he dives into instrumentals typically found in 80s RnB, and he often has rhythmic songs that are taken straight out of the dance orientated RnB of the 90s playbook. All these styles are tied together in a slightly overlong yet modernised package, with Gallant’s unhappy face plastered on the front. Ology may not be the best RnB album you’ll hear this year, but it shows one of the most promising new faces for the genre. This deserves to be at the top of the charts.