Hip-Hop Starter Kit: DaBaby, Rico Nasty, Noname, Lil Baby, Smino Weekend Edition's final music starter kit surveys the modern landscape of hip-hop, from the energetic bars of DaBaby and Rico Nasty to the spoken word-influenced Saba and Noname.
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In The Wide World Of Hip-Hop, There's A Style For Everyone

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In The Wide World Of Hip-Hop, There's A Style For Everyone

In The Wide World Of Hip-Hop, There's A Style For Everyone

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/801995410/801995411" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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DAVID FOLKENFLIK, HOST:

We've been starting this new year off with some music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

ANDREA BOCELLI: (Singing in non-English language).

TRAVIS SCOTT: (Rapping) Made this here with all the ice on in the booth.

LEANN RIMES: (Vocalizing).

(SOUNDBITE OF INSTRUMENTAL SONG MONTAGE)

FOLKENFLIK: We're introducing you to genres of music you might not listen to or maybe you think you're not a fan of. Today, we're going to talk about hip-hop with Briana Younger. She's a music editor and writer at The New Yorker. And she told us hip-hop got its start in the 1970s in New York City and then just exploded.

BRIANA YOUNGER: The genre travels everywhere from there. You know, you end up with the West Coast. That's, of course, your Tupacs, your Snoop Doggs. Travel south, you get OutKast, Geto Boys, 8Ball and MJG. And then it just kind of evolves into this melting pot wherein all of these regions and these sounds and these styles come to play with each other and just - for better - got weirder and weirder.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE LONDON")

YOUNG THUG: (Rapping) I'm a run the compound. I supply the cigarettes and bread. I got a main and she gone ride. She took a quarter and she fled. I'm in the Lamb, so she gone ride. I see the pain in shorty light brown eyes. I'm at The London with some big thighs, no fries. She eat steaks with the fish sides.

YOUNGER: That is "The London." And Young Thug is a rapper from Atlanta, who, arguably, has one of the most unique voices in current rap. As we heard a little bit there, that - the high pitched, squeakiness of it - instantly recognizable.

FOLKENFLIK: And you mentioned a little bit about regional differences. There were a couple of tracks you wanted to mention that sort of evoke Southern rap.

YOUNGER: Well, Southern rap is probably the style that's most recognizable and associated with hip-hop today. Outside of the usual suspects, superstars like Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, the new names you're more likely to see on, say, the Billboard charts are making trap and Southern-inspired rap. It's fun rap. You hear it a lot at parties, clubs. It's not super cerebral, though, contrary to some schools of thought, it's also not entirely brainless.

FOLKENFLIK: So let's hear a little bit of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABY")

WHEEZY: Wheezy out of here.

YOUNGER: So I've singled out this Lil Baby and DaBaby song called "Trap" (ph) because they're just kind of two sides of the Southern coin. Lil Baby has this more melodic, woozy, sing-songy flow that's come to be very popular these days, while Dababy has more attributes of a technician in the way that he uses, like, his syllables and fits them within the flows. So this song is called, aptly, "Baby."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABY")

LIL BABY: (Rapping) Baby ain't a trapper, he a rapper. Baby making classics. Baby in the hood getting active. Baby keep it real with his people. Baby like a preacher. Baby probably still sell [expletive].

DABABY: (Rapping) Huh? Baby probably still got them bows. I tell my [expletive] I'm faithful, but I still got the [expletive]. Baby getting jiggy on stage with the Glizzy. Baby CEO, he shake the game like he Diddy. You would think...

YOUNGER: Another high-energy sound, though, of the moment is this sort of punk, hardcore style of rap. I think Rico Nasty is one of its foremost practitioners. A lot of her music is just super visceral. It makes you want to go to, like, a rage room. After all, there is now a new generation of artists and fans who have grown up on both rock and rap music. And so they kind of just come to play in the music of Rico Nasty and her peers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RAGE")

RICO NASTY: (Rapping) I just booted up, so I'm concentrated. How much money can I make on vacation? Walk up in the party, know they eyebrows raising. Two bands on my shoes...

FOLKENFLIK: So I think you can make a pretty good case that it's aptly named "Rage."

YOUNGER: Yes, that song is "Rage."

FOLKENFLIK: You got anything a little bit more mellow for us to listen to?

YOUNGER: Of course. For that, there's rappers like Mavi, who is from Charlotte and a student at Howard U, in fact. He's definitely more cerebral, very lyrical in the traditional sense, very technically skilled in terms of his wordplay, his use of syllables and cadence, very message-oriented And there's, like, a whole slew of young and upcoming rappers in this sphere, this kind of lo-fi, loop-centric style that will incorporate things like experimental jazz. And that really demands and rewards attentive listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SELF LOVE")

MAVI: (Rapping) Snatched me by the eye, said I'ma fight whether I like or not. And she told me reasons why, but that's the private part. Burnt the midnight lighter, killed the drive in me to tie the knot. My game slop, but if I name-dropped you, you still got my heart. Driving off...

YOUNGER: And another region that kind of basks in the mellowness, even though it's ironically the home of gangster rap, is the West Coast - sunny California. They've done a really good job, I think, at preserving their specific regional sound, kind of that bass heavy, like, funky bass. And Buddy's "Trouble On Central" just plops you right there in the middle of Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TROUBLE ON CENTRAL")

BUDDY: (Rapping) Just so good at being in trouble. Spending my days out in the ghetto. Mama say that I need to be careful going downtown on the blue line metro.

FOLKENFLIK: And you've talked about, in the past, the idea that there's a poetic element to a lot of hip-hop we can listen for. Give me an example of that.

YOUNGER: Obviously, hip-hop has evolved from poetry. But the Midwest in particular of late has done a really fantastic job of kind of calling on that lineage of, like, spoken word and bringing it up to date.

(SOUNDBITE OF GHETTO SAGE SONG, "HAAGEN DAZS")

YOUNGER: There's this newly formed supergroup called Ghetto Sage. It's made up of Smino, Saba and Noname, who all tend to make that kind of super vibey, laid-back rap that also very explicitly dabbles in more poetic forms. They only have one song collectively to their name under Ghetto Sage. It's called "Haagen Dazs."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAAGEN DAZS")

SABA: (Rapping) ...Look like I'm in boots. One hand on the wheel, but I whip it, it feel like a ten to two. They killing for tennis shoes. But the people dying out here for less, though. Meanwhile, them same shoes that the clubs said ain't the dress code. You say you fresh, though. I'm on the bread. I'm on the pesto. I'ma invest, though. She feel the heart...

FOLKENFLIK: OK. So if somebody's ready to give hip-hop a try, what should they choose to listen to?

YOUNGER: Well, I do want to say, you know, we barely even scratched the surface here.

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah.

YOUNGER: There really is something for every taste, every sensibility. That said, diving into maybe the Dreamville compilations - "Revenge Of The Dreamers III" could be an interesting place to start simply because they assembled so many different rappers from so many different styles, so many different regions and just put them all in dialogue with each other, which is what hip-hop is all about.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COSTA RICA")

GUAPDAD 4000: (Singing) I got fans in Costa Rica. I got bands in Costa Rica. I got fans in Costa Rica. I got bands in Costa Rica.

JACE: (Rapping) I got the Mike Jack nose just before the vitiligo. Norman Bates with the eights, I'ma go psycho. Laundromat with a temper, this a vicious cycle. Feel like Rihanna, [expletive] go wherever I go.

FOLKENFLIK: That's "Costa Rica" from "Revenge Of The Dreamers," a compilation, a suggestion from Briana Younger of The New Yorker. Briana, thanks so much.

YOUNGER: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COSTA RICA")

GUAPDAD 4000: (Singing) I got bands in Costa Rica. I got fans in Costa Rica. I got bands in Costa Rica.

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