New York City, as the birthplace of hip hop, was the cultural center of the famous feud between the east and west coast hip hop communities back in the 1990s. During this time both sides of the country had burgeoning hip hop scenes, albeit with differing musical ideas. Rappers on the west coast used more energetic beats based around synthesizers, while rappers on the east coast used sparser beats based around pianos and turntable scratches. One of the most prominent east coast rappers during this period was Nas, who’s debut album Illmatic set the blueprint for the “east coast sound” that would be closely followed by artists like The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. While the overall sound of hip hop has developed and changed over the last decade, OurStage’s own H2-O is a skilled MC with a sound that is very similar to Nas’ gritty east coast sound.
The first thing you will notice when listening to H2-O is that his voice sounds very similar to that of Nas. If you listen to his track “This Is Me,” you can hear a lot of similarities between the two artists. The beat is simple and sparse, but at the same time very elegant. The beat mostly relies on a looped piano sample, with only a simple bass line and drum beat backing it up. The beat is reminiscent of Nas’ classic song “The World Is Yours,” which uses almost the exact same instrumentation and tempo. In addition to the vocal similarities, H2-O also possesses a equivalently strong delivery and flow. His lines are delivered very clearly and it is easy to understand exactly what he is saying, a valuable skill that is extremely underrated. He also uses complex and unusual rhyme patterns, a skill that Nas is known for.
Considering the self-indulgent nature of the traditional pop star, it’s refreshing to come across a musician who’s honest about the good and the bad that makes him who he is. Enter Slant Da Kid. Originally from Virginia but now residing in Ohio, this young kid (see pictures below and you’ll see what I mean) hasn’t let a relocation rumple his feathers. In fact, Slant Da Kid continues to rhyme in the same down to earth manner he’s used since his grasshopper days. If he keeps it up, he might just reach sensei status.
The first thing that strikes you when hearing one of Slant’s pieces is the beat. He may have perfected the practice of honesty in rapping about who he is right now, but the beats make it clear he wants riches fit for royalty. In “This is Me,” a sweeping high range piano lick ushers listeners in on top of smooth cymbal swipes and padded snare taps, ultimately formulating a classy ballroom sound. Slant’s velvet vocals get right to the point in the chorus line and central message: Hey, I don’t care what they say/ I’m just me at the end of the day/ with my flaws and all/ the mirror ain’t lyin’ y’all/ so this is me. The first lines in the first verse allude to getting rich after a life of misery. Soon after this dream is revealed, Slant explains how he doesn’t want to be stuck in stagnancy like so many others and how he plans to land a bad bitch and ice on my damn wrist simply by playing the cards he was dealt. The kid’s a realist, and the fact that such a trait is audible in his music speaks volumes as to his potential.
There were a few nods to weed in the “This is Me,” but not nearly enough to warrant any writing on the topic. Gotta Do It featuring DMillz is different. Between the blatant innuendos, it’s nearly an anthem to the sticky icky. At least on the surface. In what appears to be a subtle declaration of his appreciation for L rides (back on the move again/ inhale the Buddah in) during the opening lines, this youthful Ohioan simultaneously motivates all others hacking away at the grindstone. He channels 50 Cent‘s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ philosophy, a notion that further unveils itself as the song progresses: back to the song cause the beat’s still cryin’/ back to the streets man dawg still grindin’/ back on the clock man they are still timin’/ can’t stop now boy cause I am still shinin’. This verbal perseverance fuels another elegant piano-driven beat floating atop, again creating a satisfying gap between the rapper’s current state and where he wants to be.
Listeners can’t help but be lured by the catchy beats, fierce ambition and honesty Slant brings to the table, which is why he’s already got a Top 10 award to his name. He’s uploaded 9 songs to his profile thus far. Check them all out and let us know if you think he’ll realize his goals in the comments!