Thanks to the hyperactive world of the internet, there are unknown artists catapulting onto the upper reaches of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Look at the top five right now: Makonnen at No. 2 and Bobby Shmurda at No. 3, each with their first chart hit; Rae Sremmurd at No. 4 with their second chart entry. This week, another crop of relative newcomers tries to mimic that success. PARTYNEXTDOOR is the most established of the bunch — he’s signed to Drake‘s OVO label. His free Colours EP continues to distill and refine the brand of R&B that drove PARTYNEXTDOOR 2, his last full-length, into the top 20 on the Billboard 200. Shy Glizzy, whose gleeful “Awesome” made some noise on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay earlier this year, released a new mixtape, Law 3, attempting to build on the success.
Unlike those two artists, Tunji Ige and LuiDiamonds haven’t touched the charts yet. Ige wants to skip competition with the up-and-comers and jump straight to the big leagues: he told Complex that he hopes his new album, The Love Project, scares “established rappers.” LuiDiamonds works with Atlanta’s Awful Records. (Father, who released the acclaimed Young Hot Ebony earlier this year, is probably the best known affiliate of the label.) While Ige announced his intentions loudly, LuiDiamonds released a new project, Lewis, with little fanfare. Check out all four releases below.
PARTYNEXTDOOR – Colours
“Stop looking for a reason to hate me, just hate me,” sings PARTYNEXTDOOR on “Girl From Oakland,” one of four tracks on Colours. This is the kind of uncompromising lyric that has become typical in a post-Drake and post-Kanye West world. The attitude comes with a sound, which PARTYNEXTDOOR excels at, creating tracks that simmer, stew and slow down as they progress. Pleasure and pain usually go hand-in-hand, described with the aid of breathy, erotically layered vocals. In “Juss Know,” he sings: “I remember everything, just know,” and that’s a threat, even though it’s sung with sweetness and a feathery touch. “Don’t Worry,” with Ca$h Out, may be the closest this artist has come to a radio-friendly track — a single DJ-Mustard-esque riff propels the song forward, rising and falling. When rappers enter the equation, PND begrudgingly picks up speed.
Shy Glizzy – Law 3: Now Or Never
In between the second and third installment of Shy Glizzy’s Law mixtape series came Young Jefe, which included “Awesome,” an infectious bundle of self-congratulation and a minor hit. On Law 3, the rapper sets up “Cocky” as the sequel to that track, relying on the same sort of three-word hook: “I’m so [insert adjective here].” Elsewhere, Glizzy shows more willingness to roam. “Legend” features heavy rock riffs, and Young Chop, best known for his work with Chief Keef, contributes a beat that flips flowery strings to grim effect. “Ridin” is a triumphant number, full of squelchy bass, where Glizzy shares his spotlight with those around him. Most surprising of all is “Handcuffs,” which has an icy sound, pop-friendly and clean. The rapper employs a mournful, half-singing style here, and he references “Tony Montana” — maybe he’s been listening to a lot of melodic Future songs. (Both artists appeared on DJ Esco’s No Sleep mixtape at the end of last year.)
Tunji Ige – The Love Project
Ige is very clear about his intentions with The Love Project. He told Complex: “So many times over the recent years, there’s pivotal albums that appeal to one crowd — I wanted this to appeal to all and with this in mind, I had the idea to make a song in every realm of hip-hop. I wanted a simpy love-dovey title… to be the hardest rap album of the year.” The Love Project isn’t the hardest — hardness is out of favor with “established rappers” anyway — but it does a good job of pleasing multiple demographics. Start with the single, “Day2Day,” where Ige sounds at ease rapping “I can make a hit on my day-to-day.” It’s a common boast, but this one actually sounds like it could land on the radio. “Ball Is Life” contains a vibrant mixture of rap and gospel uplift. On “Red Light,” Ige discusses the variation in his songwriting style: “when I rhyme, sometimes I write songs, sometimes it’s just line after line after line.” However he does it, its working.
LuiDiamonds – LEWIS
How many rising stars can Atlanta support at once? Plenty — Young Thug, Makonnen, Rich Homie Quan, Migos, and maybe the various rappers on Awful Records as well. The latest effort from that label is titled Lewis, a project from LuiDiamonds. It’s an unhurried, woozy collection. (Father shows up on one track here.) The track “Jugg” feels unstable, with a beat that threatens to skitter away at any moment, but Lui’s relaxed style holds everything together. “Rainfall” encourages debauchery — “I got lots of liquor, lets get drunk as f—” — but also manages to stay cool and narcotic.