Does Your Dusty Uncle Keep Talking About the Golden Age of Hip Hop? Put These New Songs on an 8-Track Tape and Watch Him Vibe Out
It’s Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas and you’re sitting around the television set with your extended family. Your Aunt wants to watch Ghost Hunters, your mom wants to watch House Hunters, but you, your dad, and your uncles win majority and throw on whatever sports program is relevant on that particular holiday. But that’s where the agreements end. Inevitably, the NFL or NBA game will cut to commercial and somewhere in between State Farm ads, a Travis Scott refrain will play out underneath a shoe commercial and you’ll be forced to hear your uncle’s take on today’s hip-hop climate.
“I can’t even understand what they’re saying”
“It all sounds the same”
“It’s all about money and drugs”
He’s wrong, of course. You know that. Even your mom knows it because you played her the Key Glock album on the way home from the airport. But nobody’s going to say anything. Sure, historically, the Old Man is less physically capable than the Young Man but somehow the Old Man’s ability to fire from the hip and find passion in an argument over essentially nothing is unmatched. If you take him on in your current headspace, you’ll just end up challenging him to a physical fight and your grandmother does not want to host a beat down in her front yard. So you stay quiet.
Maybe you’re like me and your relationship with your uncles has been awfully strained since you stopped watching college football in 2016. Maybe your uncle stopped discovering new music after The Clash broke up and any mention of hip-hop goes over his head. But an uncle can be anybody. I have some friends that behave like uncles. Socks with sandals, Coors Lights, Poker nights, etc. I have a friend that played a People Under the Stairs song when we were all just trying to hang out. That’s some uncle shit. This goes for them, too.
The first step to combating dusty uncle behavior is to go out and buy an 8-track recorder and some tapes. The recorder does not have to be high quality, in fact, the dustier the sound quality the better. With these two archaeological artifacts, you will then create the ultimate dusty uncle mixtape by recording the songs I’ve listed below.
Boldy James & The Alchemist – Carruth (Produced by The Alchemist)
Alchemist has been around forever. He was on the boards for Em on some of his first tours and yet, every year, his name is attached to one or two of the best rap albums in the field. Last year, it started with Yacht Rock 2 which featured grand, mostly feel-good instrumentals and verses from many great rappers who also happen to be close friends to Al. Then in November, alongside one of the best rapper-slash-food-critics of all time, Action Bronson, came Lamb Over Rice, a 20-minute excursion into the depths of Al’s vinyl crates and Bronson’s hippocampus (in the track Sven, he plugs Ginkgo Biloba, an herbal brain supplement).
Just 38 days into this year, Al teamed up with Boldy James, a Detroit legend, to put out The Price of Tea in China, which will certainly be another contender for best rap album of 2020. My favorite track on it is the first one, Carruth, which is a dense introduction to Boldy James through childhood memories and current-day celebrations. The reference to ColecoVision, an early 1980’s game console, will certainly throw off anyone trying to identify what year this came out.
Medhane – I Was Just in the Mara (Feat. Maassai) (Produced by AFB)
Medhane and Maassai connect on this one like Pusha T and Malice on the Lord Willin’ intro. No hook, just a stream of consciousness with a torch passed halfway through. Maassai says, “Flat feet still take a stance, thin wrists always breaking hands,” and I think that’s tight.
Mike – Scarred Lungs Vol. 1 & 2 (Produced by NAH & Bluezy)
My favorite rap album last year was Mike’s Tears of Joy and this track is the opener. It sports one of the most disjointed instrumentals I’ve ever heard but Mike floats over the top of it, introducing us to much of the subject matter that comes up later in the project. In his two quick verses, he mentions his mother several times, clearly still mourning her death. Uncles love moms- as they are actually related.
Griselda – Freddie Hotspot (Produced by Beat Butcha & Daringer)
I’ve never been to Buffalo but I’ve listened to a lot of Griselda, and the Westside Gunn verse in this song makes me think that I could give a tour of the downtown area. Everything about Griselda screams 90’s hip-hop. It’s so old-fashioned that it feels fresh. Also, Conway mentions Rod Strickland, which feels like blowing the dust off an old box of participation trophies.
Navy Blue – In Good Hands (Feat. Ka) (Produced by Navy Blue)
I’m confident that Navy Blue’s debut album, Ada Irin, will be talked about for a long time. He’s been releasing quality projects on Soundcloud and Bandcamp consistently for the past few years but with the release of the track “Higher Self” and the accompanying music video, it was clear that Navy was shifting gears.
Though he’s been around for awhile, Ada Irin is an introduction. Like when the movie title credits don’t roll until halfway through the first act. He polishes his sound a little bit and enlists only one feature, Ka, one of New York’s most respected elder statesman of rap. This beat, to me, sounds RZA-influenced and the average age of the two rappers on this track is 35, so therefore, this song is essentially from a bygone era.
Ovrkast & Pink Siifu – Uck (Produced by Ovrkast)
Before his 2020 project, Try Again<, I only knew Ovrkast vaguely, as a producer. I was excited to listen to the project because it’s stacked with features from the most exciting young rappers in the world. Two months later, I’m still listening. The production is obviously top tier but it turns out that Ovrkast is a very capable rapper too and he doesn’t break a sweat as he trades punches with his feature list. After all, they’re rapping over his beats. It’s like home court advantage.
This track dons a sample that I feel like I should recognize, but sadly do not. And the mix stands out among the rest of the album because no matter what speakers you play it on, it always sounds like it’s coming out of an old CRT TV.
Goya Gumbani & Ade Hakim – Process of Elimination (Produced by Ade Hakim)
Ade Hakim is one of the best young producers in the world and this song makes that point with authority. It’s sample based, which is familiar to the “golden age” of hip-hop but honestly, beats didn’t sound like this back in the “golden age.” This is some new shit. To quote them, a different wavelength. The best thing an artist can do is take inspiration from art in the past and expand on it- take it to a higher place. And that’s exactly what these two do here.
Rapsody – Aaliyah (Produced by Eric G)
Ignore the fact that this samples a Sabrina Claudio track from 2017 and focus in on the Talkbox that sounds straight out of an old G-Funk song. Rapsody channels and references the late great Aaliyah in this standout from her 2019 album, Eve. A project where many sounds and production styles orbit around a rock solid Rapsody like planets to an undying star.
Okay. That part is done.
You’ve got an actual tape of modern songs that, to an uncle, sound like they could’ve been made in a different millennium. I recommend that you record a lot of these tapes because uncles are everywhere.
And I know you already feel like you’re carrying too much nonsense around between your phone, wallet, keys, juul, weed pen, film camera, digital camera, loose change, idea notepad, and doodle notepad, but these tapes are essential everyday luggage. What if your friend does some dusty uncle shit? What if you run into your actual uncle at Mariano’s? You have to be prepared to dish these things out.
The best part is that now you can stay quiet when you feel an argument coming on and still come out feeling like a winner. Your friend/uncle says something intentionally controversial about 645AR and instead of arguing in favor of pushing boundaries and going viral, you stay quiet and hand him a tape. That’s it.
This is where you get to sit back and let it do the work. If you just sent him a Spotify playlist, there’d be no sense of urgency and your friend/uncle would never get to it. But a tape feels important and reminds him of his personal golden age. In pursuit of an endless drip of nostalgia, he’ll listen to it the second he gets home.
Read Caleb’s review of G Herbo’s PTSD here!