Conscious hip-hop has become my favorite emerging music genre, so I figured I would dedicate an entire series to all my favorite finds in that realm! In no particular order here are my current top 10 conscious hip-hop finds. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope they can help life your spirits and perspectives! Most of these end up on my Nü Qü, so if you like this vibe, then feel free to follow the playlist for a weekly update on the freshest conscious hip-hop tunes.
#1] “Chasing Ghosts (feat. Rite Hook)” – Slaine
Mixing an instrumental rock sound with a hip-hop feel, Slaine raps bars over guitar melodies about a failed relationship due to the struggles of addiction in his most recent tracks “Chasing Ghosts.” This rap rock vibe is setting the stage for Slaine’s forthcoming LP, The Things We Can’t Forgive. The production quality of both the audio and visuals are impressive; directed by ILL MANNERED the music video allows you to better digest Slaine‘s lyrics and the musicianship that makes “Chasing Ghosts” magic. Piano melodies and vocal harmonies soften the hard edge of Slaine‘s voice, while vulnerable and heart-wrenching lyrics take you on a trip.
#2] “First” by Concept
Over a chill lo-fi beat, St. Louis native Concept takes you on a journey of poetic lyrics with unique meters and rhythms in the “First” track of his most recent full-length album Dive Deep. He speaks to his truth, his purpose and his perspective as jazzy saxophone melodies float around emotive piano comping. This talented singer, rapper and songwriter fuses hip-hop and jazz, bringing an old-school and nostalgic feeling to the table while speaking to modern day struggles of being a black man in America. Eloquently spoken, poignant, and tastefully showing up for himself through his struggles in love, loss, pride, and finding inner strength, Concept is an artist to keep on your radar.
#3] “Money” by Meltdownz
Hailing from West Aukland, New Zealand, MELTDOWNZ is like a higher-pitched Mac Miller with a twang. His flow is conversational with plenty of nuance, crescendos and decrscendos within each phrase. It gives his song “Money” a bouncyy feel, with smooth ethereal synth vocals soaring over a phat beat. “Money” is a major chiller and showcases MELTDOWNZ’s unique voice in this vast hip-hop genre.
#4] “10 & 2” by NanaBcool
This song feels like it belongs on an old Kendrick mixtape. The vocals are different timbres, but the hard-hitting old-school vibes bring a heat to the beat. Laying in pretty blunt on the imagery, Ghanaian/American rapper-singer-songwriter NanaBcool weighs in on the topic of police brutality in his track “10 & 2,” which was released in February to celebrate Black History Month. He collaborates with UK producer Hurricane to bring a harder, urgent sound, balanced by a calm presence in the smooth flow of the song. Classical piano licks at the end bring an alert energy toward the end that personifies the constant state of awareness NanaBcool explains he must have even when he’s in a calm mood.
#5] “Future Past” by Mezmah
Mezmah has a unique perspective to bring to the table having grown up both in the UK and in Africa, so his different cultural influences shape the narratives and landscape of his music. His single “Future Past” comes from his album Better Late Than Never, released earlier this year, and speaks to brighter days. In the song Mezmah says, “I got my my future on your past,” speaking to the rawness of two people not connecting but being able to see a good outcome of even a less-than-ideal situation. Recently signed to a management deal in 2020 means we’ll be most likely be seeing Mezmah pop off in the already buzzing UK and European hip-hop scenes.
#6] “Love & Frequencies” by Boy Nash
Boy Nash raises the level up notches with this track talking about vibrating on a wavelength that simply cannot be touched. Boy Nash, a talented MCee from London, lays down his energy in “Love & Frequencies,” as one of those “we are not the same” type statements. From bar to bar, it’s an intoxicating song that makes you want to join whatever pilgrimage Boy Nash sings about being on. It’s a spiritual one, “so enjoy… and safe journey.” His beautiful accent articulates his prose into encouraging and empowering verses for the lone wolfs out there to keep shining their light, while soulful r&b vocals echo his melodies in the chorus and outro. “Ride the wave, don’t be afraid.”
#7] “All On Me” by SUPER FREDDY x Ozy
SUPER FREDDY is a Canadian artist of Cameroonian origin, part of the Ice Coast Entertainment Collective, fusing musical influences of jazz, r&b, soul, hip-hop, Afrobeats and house. His track “All On Me” has the feeling of a free-verse flow over a jazz improv sesh. With the help of a Canadian collaborator Ozy, “All On Me” is smooth from start to finish, and reminds us to keep our circle small and take accountability for and ownership over our own lives. By staying true to his purpose of creating art and helping people, SUPER FREDDY can hopefully inspire others through his music to believe in their power to do great things in life, even if it does sometimes seem a bit meaningless as we’re all just flowing on a big rock in space. SUPER FREDDY humbles us in “All On Me,” reminding us of what’s really important.
#8] “Heartbound” by Ja Harlin
This song is fittingly titled “Heartbound,” as it really tugs at the heart-strings with an old-school Odesza-esque EDM track under beautifully articulated rap verses about staying true to your own and minding your business. Minnesotan r&b hip-hop artist Ja Harlin really serves to give back through his art, sharing his raw, vulnerable and expressive music with others to help ease the mind. This song offers a reprieve from the distractions of life, like a warm hug around the heart to bring you back to focus.
#9] “Quiet Storm” by Queen La’Rouge x Polarbear Triple
Getting her start in Chicago writing poetry, Queenie La’Rouge is now better known as a creative artist, song-writer and ghost-writer, and her track “Quiet Storm” brings all her magic to the forefront. Easing in with a piano ballad feel as a tease, Queenie comes in swiftly on her first verse with powerful assertiveness. Polarbear Triple adds another level of suave and swagger to the track in his feature by the second verse. The two of them carry themselves in a way that demands attention and witness to the greatness they speak of living and obtaining.
#10] “Facts Don’t Fade” by NFT
There’s something so delicious about an interchanging bi-lingual tune. NFT spits bars in both English and Spanish in his track “Facts Don’t Fade,” one the facets of his music demonstrating the Latin influences of this Harlem, NYC artist. The repeating quote, “Memory fades, fact still remains… If everything’s changed, one way it’s the same,” in the chorus is a simple way to say “facts don’t fade.” It’s a classic tune that says it like it is.
I hope you enjoyed these tracks enough to add to a playlist or share with a friend. Hopefully they, at the very least, touched you in a way that they touched me. I’ve added all of these songs of the conscious hip-hop variety to my Nü Qü playlist. Stay tuned for Vol. II of this Conscious State of Mind series, featuring my favorite conscious hip-hop finds!