Shady Nate – Send It Overnight and HD’s Fresh

Shady Nate – Send It Overnight (produced by AK-47)

My favorite DJ Fresh beat of ’11 wasn’t actually by DJ Fresh, but it’s totally in the same vein of ’80s emotionalism & lush enveloping production. It’s a bit more immediate (and less subtly brilliant) than a lot of Fresh joints, although that might be unfair since the current pace of hip-hop production requires a flood-the-market style, so Fresh has been forced to churn out minor variations on similar themes when a few years ago he might have been able to stick to a few basic archetypes per year.

I wasn’t blown away by the big Fresh tapes this year, with one notable exception; HD’s Fresh is one of my favorite rap records by some measure, and I think it’s because he took so many left turns on it. Rather than going for lush Jam & Lewish joints, he did unconventional flips of well-known ’70s soul breaks, but freaked them in original ways. And the other tracks on the record had really stark, dissonant harmonic beds, like the haunting “Black Politics.” Or when he goes for the melodic sweet spot as on “Come Fuck With Us,” it’s balanced by some weird, atonal spazzing synths during the verses. More than a few of the tracks — the appropriately-named “Claustrophobic,” or the title track — seem to be aiming for atmosphere and texture more than particular melodic hooks or historical references to old school R&B. It’s a more nuanced production style, almost like you can feel Fresh getting bored with more obvious maneuvers. HD is a pretty exceptional rapper, too, not the next [x, y, z] but a flexible performer whose vocal style has muscular gravitas.

HD – Come Fuck With Us feat. Kiwi The Beast, G-Dirty, J Dizzle, 600BJ, B-Stroll & Lil Joe

Oh yeah, I interviewed Fresh & Shady Nate this summer, if you missed it.