The Rotation (10 January 2022)

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The Rotation is a new series in which our writers share and briefly discuss what music they’ve been giving the most spins over the past week. Whether it be revisiting classics, digging into the underground, or fresh drops, we hope to break down projects we might not have a chance to review otherwise and put you on to something dope!

Future – Astronaut Status (2012)

With the past couple weeks being somewhat dry for new music, it’s been a lot of throwbacks. It is easy to forget this classic mixtape among Future’s stellar discography, but it really ranks among his best despite being a bit dated. It definitely has that early 10’s trap sound, with production not nearly as clean as something like DS2 – But it works very well. Future might be known now for his uniquely polished and melodic trap anthems, but Astronaut Status was where he was beginning to really stretch the limits of his voice (there’s often a filter on his voice here, which makes it sound even more other worldly) while staying true to the classic trap sound – a la Gucci Mane and Jeezy, who make guest appearances. This could easily be seen as a top 3 Future project.

Listen to Astronaut Status on DatPiff

Cunninlynguists – A Piece of Strange (2006)

While certainly an essential backpack album, A Piece of Strange remains underrated; It is also one of the best Southern hiphop albums of all time, but is rarely considered for the discussion due to stylistic differences. The exceedingly talented Kno comes through with some of the most lush and beautifully haunting production you will ever hear – Rife with vocal samples and operatic strings, it is all very dense. On top of that, Deacon and Natti (Deacon in particular) alongside stellar guest appearances from CeeLo Green, Tonedeff, and Immortal Technique compsose a fascinating concept album relating the rap game to Biblical tales (Particularly Genesis and man’s fall from grace) While it might be too backpacky to ever get the recognition it deserves, A Piece of Strange is Southern rap at its finest and deepest.

Listen to A Piece of Strange on Spotify

Stalley & Apollo Brown – Blacklight (2021)

The newest album from prolific Detroit beatsmith Apollo Brown comes as a collab with Cleveland native Stalley. Apollo, coming off the phenomenal Lovesick with Raheem DeVaughn (featured on our R&B AOTY list), continues his pattern of recruiting for full projects with a variety of MC’s. He brings his signature soaring soul loops, heavily inspired by Dilla and Preemo, to build an old school atmosphere. Stalley, especially coming from Ohio, is the type to just vibe out in a traditional rapping style. With many similarities to Curren$y, he tends to talk about cars, the industry, and the player lifestyle. He often opts to slow down or get melodic as well, which helps Blacklight to standout from Apollo’s usual stuff. This is among both artists’ best work, which is high praise given their extensive discographies.

Listen to Blacklight on Spotify

Gunna – Drip Season 4ever (Fresh)

Gunna often gets some hate for being boring or a Young Thug clone, but he always brings a powerful vibe to his music and simply well constructed albums. DS4‘s greatest strength is its balance; There are plain trap bangers, borderline R&B slow songs, and some surprisingly personal moments (such as describing his time in the hospital due to drug use). The feature list is star studded as well, with Thug and Future delivering like always, and standout verses from Roddy Ricch, Kodak Black, G Herbo, and 21 Savage. Production is Gunna’s unique brand of dreamy trap, and many songs feature intros with classic R&B samples which add a lot of character to the album. While DS4 might not reach the heights of the third entry (certainly his best project to date), it is one of the most balanced and quality mainstream trap albums of recent years. Gunna deserves all of the praise and popularity which come with this. Check out our full review of DS4ever!

Listen to DS4 on Spotify

Fashawn & Exile – Boy Meets World (2009)

Guys like Fashawn and Blu are almost like the West coast equivalent of Cunninlynguists in that they are distinctly Cali, but have a backpack mentality which keeps them from getting the recognition they deserve. Fully produced by Exile, Boy Meets World is certainly Fash’s best project and nearly rivals its contemporaries (namely Below the Heavens). Over Exile’s warm and welcoming jazz piano chops, Fashawn delivers a sprawling meditation on his come up. He explores what its like growing up rough, dealing with bullshit in the industry, and relationships. He is showing us all of the things he went through which made him the man he is now, and how he can continue to grow better because of it. Boy Meets World is simply a comforting listen and a highly underrated West coast backpack project.

Listen to Boy Meets World on Spotify

Check out previous entries in The Rotation series

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