Conscious hip-hop is such a cool sub-genre of music because it always feels good, it’s uplifting and empowering. There’s endless ways of speaking positivity into music lyrically and poetically, and the supporting music is always incredible because people who speak good words have good taste in sounds too, no doubt. Here are my most recent finds of the conscious sorts, which you can also listen to via my Nü Qü playlist. I hope you enjoy!
#1] “Notions“ – Famoso & Lafleur
I love the classic lo-fi vibe, straight bars, and nostalgic r&b vocals of this song. A sweet intro with a piano melody leaning over a low, rumbling bass groove sets the scene. Soft, smooth vocals bring the track to life as the kit kicks in jazz comps on saxaphone and synth. “Notions” is the intro track of a 4-track EP titled “MicroDose,” a cross-over collaboration between Niko Lafleur’s two projects, Famoso & Lafleur, with rhyme master Bob Famoso, and KLA with the lovely singer Kayla. This track highlights how shifty people will get things all wrong just because they don’t know what time it is. The artists speak their truth from their perspectives; they’re in their lane and all good, encouraging others to do the same.
#2] “All Together” – Joey Economics
“Even though life doesn’t go as planned / Divided we fall, united we stand.” “All Together” is part 1 of 3 to Joey Economics‘ conscious-rap campaign to create more empathy, We Are Different And The Same. The key here is unification. The song is a call to action to turn the page so we can finally be on our way to bettering how things have been going, which have obviously not been suiting the greater good. Between the phat bass groove, sharp percussion sounds, catchy melodies and positive message, you’ll be singing along by the final chorus. This LA-based artist’s versatile style stems from being a rap free-styler and finding his own flow through inspirations of Golden age hip-hop, bringing positive energy and raw perspective to educate and uplift his audience.
#3] “Awake” – Tayong x Conman Conrad
“Awake” is an anthem of solidarity, a song you bump on a playlist for a march or peaceful protest. With a jazzy, old-school trip-hop beat, Tayong speaks on politicals in poetics, delivering an articulate message on racism in the world. “The power is in the people; the power was never evil.” Conman Conrad contributes important lyrics with substance that cut deep and carry, highlighting the experience of being Muslim, adding another layer to Tayong‘s powerfully constructed single “Awake.” This UK artist values his musical integrity and artistry, which is evident in the quality of his self-engineered beats and carefully crafted lyrics. The diversity in his music showcases his versatility as an artist; “Awake” is categorized as conscious hip-hop, but I even catch a bit of a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe within the instrumentation and melodies.
#4] “ride or die” – Jay Squared
Waterfall and bird nature sounds open the track to a glitchy electronic percussion beat. Suave, raspy vocals come in hot with the witty words, “Damn I need some water. Whenever I see you, baby girl, ooh I need a moment. Thirsty!” This one is a classic love story showcasing “need”: boy meets girl, then ride or die until the end. “I’ll ride for life” are sweet words every person in love would want to here. “Awake” is part of a four-track EP entitled We Loved for 24 Hours, so there’s more of his cool love songs if you need them. It’s a really sweet tune, a reprieve of sorts. This Detroit alternative hip-hop artist experiments with the culture and blends the boundaries between poetry and experimental hip-hop.
#5] “Deep Trouble” – PattApp ft. LocalBlanc
This is straight up a hard-hitting, gritty lo-fi banger, as classic sounding as can be with 90’s hip-hop energy, trap and boom-bap influences. The flow is powerful and raw, with a flair reminiscent of the softer side of A$AP Rocky’s melodies. His story is supported by almost an eery back beat. “Deep Trouble” is the second track on PattApp‘s new two song return Long Nights. It grabs your attention right away, ensuring that you have both ear buds in. “Deep Trouble” immediately got a placement on my personal nighttime cruise playlist. Painting vivid pictures through his lyricism on his personal experiences and refreshing perspective, PattApp proves his place in the list of up-and-coming artists to look out for in the Midwest.
#6] “Jacoby” – Ma$k On
Ma$k On‘s flow is simultaneously raunchy and hype with uplifting and empowering double entendres. He definitely flips his verses. Native American flute and Spanish style guitar melodies give the track a fresh feel, a unique sound that’s worldly and palatable. “Jacoby” is the first single off Ma$k On‘s forthcoming debut album. His commentary on the album: “I wrote this song with the grind in mind. Jacoby is a friend of mine who is always quick to pull up the past or some stat on you, so I made the chorus thinking of him. Don’t let no one slow you down.”
#7] “The Last of Us” – Krsnafari
Krsnafari is a London-based collective seeks to push a message of positivity through their art. Each individual is creative and talented on their own, but coming together they’re able to make magic happen. “The Last of Us” is truly medicine music, and is the title track of these healers’ debut five-part EP, an example of the trio’s ethos at work. It’s intelligently composed, fusing r&b, hip-hop and house elements, incorporating spiritual mantras in the lyrics and reggae-style singing melodies overlapping in harmony. Krsnafari comments on the project, “Our mission is to use ancient mantras in music. Mantras are phrases & teachings that when repeated have lasting positive effects on the body and mind. This is what the industry needs, quality message music.” Touching on topics of street crime, mental health and economic inequality, Krsnafari offer a meaningful and impactful piece of art to dive deep into.
#8] “I Don’t Know Why” – Robust
Chicago-born, Puerto Rican rapper Robust released his single “I Don’t Know Why” on May 5th as a preview of the full Situation Chicago 2 album to be fully released on May 21st. Other artists who will be featured on this larger project include Umphrey’s McGee ft. Bela Fleck, Jeff Parker of Tortoise, V.V. Lightbody, Fess Grandiose, and much more. Last year the first Situation Chicago album raised over $35,000 to help music venues closed from the pandemic, and Robust & Co. are hoping to out-do that this year with this second installation. Be on the look-out this Friday for Situation Chicago 2, and show your support!
Robust brings the heat with this funky jazzy track. From start to finish it’s a refreshing, groovy and smooth operation. He shows his city some love in the music video, which was produced by Nightwalker, by capturing shots of him biking around Chicago, showcasing street artists’ work, and simply vibing in his stomping grounds, speaking about spreading love.
#9] “Don’t Wait” – Stapes x Spitty the Sequel
This boom bap r&b style hip-hop track showcases wordplay with catchy hooks. A lush soundscape with warm drums, open high-hat play and splashing cymbals while a flute sample fills in the spaces between the bars. With lyrics “Don’t Wait – Time Waits for No Man. You’ll get left behind,” the track provides a reminder to keep on the hustle no matter what. “Don’t Wait” actually comes from Stapes‘ first full-length album Sampling Life, released earlier this year, which is as cinematic as it gets with a golden age vibe. Spitty the Sequel gives you a blast from the past, while also maintaining a new-age hip-hop feel. If you like what you hear, make sure to also check out his recent EP I Come Back Because I Love You.
#10] “Watch Out” – Tr3 Dash
“Watch Out” is biographical and relatable, giving off some Hoodie Allen vibes with more grit. The composition gives a darker feeling, with emotional piano chords and sax melodies wailing out toward the end. Tr3 Dash speaks to having to separate from fake “homies” that only call when they need something. Watch out for the snakes in the ground, and the women playing games. Watch how you’re moving and what you’re saying. Over a steady tape-style beat, Tr3 Dash basically spits bars advising people to “watch yourself before wreck yourself.” As the second single of the year, “Watch Out” shows the world how this Ohio-raised artist stands apart and that his music is for fans of true hip-hop.
If you like what you heard and you missed my last collection of conscious hip-hop tunes, be sure to check out my Conscious State of Mind Vol. 1! There’s plenty more where that came from, and Vol. 3 will be right around the corner!