The Internet has become a large and mysterious place, a land where new, would-be MCs and producers are springing up everyday, all aiming to be the next A$AP Rocky or SpaceGhostPurrp. It’s a place that’s rewarded a lot of rappers in hip hop, helping translate traction on Bandcamp and YouTube into multi-million dollar record deals and cult followings. There are forums dedicated to discussing hip hop culture and emerging talent, filled with personalities of different sorts all trying to become the next successful product of this new age of “music industry accessibility” the Internet has ushered us into.
There are also entire websites and blogs, all full of people like me, who are discussing the newest events in this online culture and telling our readers about new talent as they emerge out of the unknown depths of the Internet. It’s a system that everyone plays a role in (from the bloggers to the forum personalities to the artists and producers). And this well-oiled machine works, and is quickly redefining music culture for good. But there aren’t enough hours in a day to listen to all of the aspiring internet rappers you’ve never even heard of. It’s a working order that leads to crushed dreams and questions like “If a rapper drops a mixtape on Bandcamp and no one blogs about it, did it really happen?” So considering all this, it’s a special occasion when you run into a new MC that seems like a no-brainer to make it. A MC good enough and memorable enough to make you simply say “duh” when considering their prospects of blowing up. If you don’t mind, I’d like to introduce you to Hassani Kwess.
Somebody Who’s About to Be Famous: Hassani Kwess
Hassani Kwess is a rapper and producer I first stumbled across in the late winter of last year. An unsuccessful YouTube search led me to this song, a tribute to A Tribe Called Quest’s track of the same name. Hassani’s record is an impressive outing and does ACTQ justice. But it didn’t get him a $3 million record deal or Twitter follows from all of your favorite rappers. And as of now it still only has < 3k views. I tried to find whatever else I could of his on the internet. He didn’t (and still doesn’t) have much of a web presence. He hasn’t put out that much material to date and it’s fairly difficult to find out much about him, outside the fact that he’s from D.C. I didn’t hear anything new on Kwess for almost a year and had all but forgotten about him.
Then in December 2011, Asher Roth releases his first single from his new mixtape Pabst and Jazz and it’s featuring none other than Hassani Kwess. A quick Google search brought up another new track by Hassani, this one a Chuck Inglish-produced preview from an upcoming mixtape. The Internet doesn’t know who Hassani Kwess is yet. But he’s already working with Asher Roth and Chuck Inglish, which means clearly somebody put him on. I was able to find an earlier mixtape that appears to have been released in December 2010; and after running through that a couple times as well, one thing seems apparent: Hassani Kwess is about to blow up.
Tron, Hassani’s only mixtape so far, is a 17-track offering: contemporary music with a Native Tongues ethos. Hassani raps on “VII Description (Another P.S.A.)”, “Native Tongue, son. I know my roots to the stem.” But he doesn’t have to state anything to make it obvious where his influences come from. Hassani Kwess’ music is riddled with old school hip hop allusions and references. He’s a product of the Native Tongues, most specifically A Tribe Called Quest. And Hassani sounds like he’s making the kind of music they might have made were they starting out today.
His beats sound like a combination of Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Q-Tip, and Dilla, in a contemporary context. His lyrics have an old school flow, and everything else on Tron has the same ethos. It says Native Tongues without relying too heavily on replicating their sound.
He’s unabashed about his stylistic origins too. The opening track’s beginning is reminiscent of the beginning of “Push It Along” (the opening track on Tribe’s debut album). All his title tracks are riddled with old school imagery and he raps in the same care-free manner of a younger Q-Tip. But he’s versatile too. He shows on “VII O.I. (Arena Light Show)” and “Dreams of Rage” that he can create more divergent sounds, and on “Youthful Lessons 1:21 Years…” that he can make beats you’d mistake for Dilla if you weren’t paying attention.
Between Tron and his first preview from his new tape Ruthless, Hassani seems bound to go places. He’s making music with Roth and Inglish, and their backing should help the tape gain hype and traction. On “Kick the Bass, Chuck”, Kwess sounds even more mature and complex. He stated on “II If My Mixtape Weighs a Ton” that “it’s hard to believe I’ll be better on my next tape.” And it sounds like he could be right, if his flow on “Kick the Bass, Chuck” is any indication. Between Kwess’s increasing rap skill, and the presumption that he and Chuck Inglish will combine their production like voltron, Ruthless could turn out to be quite the record.
Your best move would probably be digesting Tron and whatever else Hassani Kwess has released so far now. Because once he drops Ruthless, you’ll probably want to focus all your attention on it.
*Also, I realize that my fashion posting has been slow around here lately. I’m working hard on a few different things right now that should excite you guys once they drop. It’ll be glorious. #menswear