Milwaukee Hip-Hop Round-Up: El-Shareef & Derelle Rideout, Ju Preach, Hakeem Paragon, Joey Burbs
Also: Yogie B & Keez, Blax, Will Static, Renz Young, Lean Beatz
El-Shareef & Derelle Rideout – Matching Verts
Perhaps the quintessential Milwaukee producer, Derelle Rideout can usually be counted on to provide the standout tracks on any project he contributes to. Any album produced entirely by him, then, is worth getting very excited about. Local journeyman El-Shareef has never sounded better than he does over Rideout’s blissful, punchy production on their collab LP Matching Verts, an album that should be in store for a lot of spins once spring rolls around.
Ju Preach – “Preach4Ever”
We flagged Ju Preach’s single “Notice” in an earlier installment of this roundup, and like most everything coming out of IshDARR’s CCM camp right now, it was catchy as hell, in an unusual, sticky, minimalistic kind of way. So it goes without saying that IshDARR fans will find plenty to enjoy on the full EP, which features many of the same producers IshDARR leans on. Despite that familiar sound, Ju Preach has a charisma that’s all his own, and a knack for stretching his voice and playing off of the unusual ways these beats crest and bounce. It came out all the way back in August, but I keep coming back to it every few weeks, and each time it sounds better.
Hakeem Paragon – Paragon’s Ladder EP
Lots of artists rap about their demons from time to time, but some do it with
more intensity than others. Paragon’s Ladder, the latest EP from Milwaukee
rapper Hakeem Paragon, documents the worst period of his life, a months-long
fog of depression that found him fighting off suicidal thoughts. Just how bad
was it? “Impulses to swerve my Camaro into oncoming traffic at high speeds,” he
tells the Shepherd. “Nightmares of
killing myself over Facetime to show my wife what she did to me.” So, yeah,
that bad. There’s no sugar-coating it, this is not an easy listen, and the
unsettling production from local producer Water.lo doesn’t do anything to calm
Joey Burbs – “Conversations”
And now for something a lot lighter. “Conversations,” the bouncy latest single from 21-year-old Milwaukee rapper/producer Joey Burbs, is a welcome respite from what’s been a very, very bleak January. The song, he says, is about “the talk of other people and doing what you feel will make you successful and happy. Everyone has an opinion and a lot of people may hate, but those are the people that always seem to not be doing anything worthwhile themselves. All they do is have these ‘conversations’ while others are working and achieving dreams.”
Yogie B & Keez – “All We Do”
If you’re like me, you’re still probably shaken from that Hakeem
Paragon EP, so here’s another palette cleanser: “All We Do,” a party track from
the local bro-hop duo Yogie B & Keez. I’m not a fan of this stuff at
all—sorry, Asher Roth—but there’s a demand for it so somebody’s got to do it,
and Yogie B & Keez do it better than most. They also get points of
self-awareness: They are not trying to be anything they aren’t.
Blax ft. G.R.A.M.Z. – “Nothin’”
You might remember Blax from back when he went by the name Adebisi and fronted Milwaukee’s most popular live hip-hop band of the era, Fresh Cut Collective. In the years since, he’s lived in New York where he collaborated with producer Ski Beatz and the Jet Life family, but these days he’s back in Milwaukee and preparing for the release of an album called Be Well next month. His fierce single “Nothin’” offers a taste of what he’s been working on.
Will Static ft. Smoov – “Too Long”
Will Static used to run with a Milwaukee hip-hop collective called DRS, but these days he’s riding solo. In advance of an upcoming EP, this month he teased his first solo single, “Too Long,” a territorial little track set to a twisty Classix beat that promises there’s much more to come.
Renz Young is another Milwaukee producer with a gift for bringing out the best
in his collaborators, but he tends to save his best tracks for himself. His
latest one is mighty smooth.
Young – “Lovenvy”
Lean Beatz – “In The Whip”
For symmetry’s sake we’ll end this roundup with another prolific local self-producing rapper, Lean Beatz. He’s been on an Atlanta-inspired, self-medicating Future vibe for a while now, and it carries through his latest single, “In The Whip.” Cold stuff. Very, very cold.