Odd Mojo, "555"
According to the tenets of numerology, repeatedly spotting the same sequences of digits means that angels are trying to communicate with you. And every sequence of numbers has a different meaning. In a new video by Prince George’s County rapper Odd Mojo, the angel number 555 (the song’s title and a sign of positive change) is the focus. She gets the number tattooed at start of the video and is cautioned that she’ll start to see it pop up in her life, to which she scoffs. Like clockwork, the sequence starts to reveal itself in games of Uno, hopscotch and on birthday cakes.
The song itself is somewhat of a musical sermon, in that Mojo takes the opportunity to assure listeners that there will be a turning of a new leaf in their lives. She lists money struggles, police officers’ unnecessary killing of Black people and relentless bouts of anxiety as prospective roadblocks, but what is especially calming is that Mojo’s voice has the type of soothing nature that you’d hope your therapist or favorite advice-giving radio host would. And she uses that serene delivery in such a matter-of-fact, poetic fashion that you can forget that you’re bumping your head to rap music rather than listening to an uplifting audiobook.
YTK, "Let It Off"
When Mariah Carey released “Shake It Off” in 2005, the song was masterful at embodying the spirit of the album on which it was featured. “The Emancipation of Mimi,” her 10th studio effort, gave Carey the opportunity to publicly shed her skin after coming out of a personal and professional funk. And as the optimistic, danceable, while still reflective “Shake It Off” suggests, it was time to put her best foot forward and enjoy life the way she deserves to rather than carrying the dead weight of an unsalvageable relationship.
If an artist were to rework “Shake It Off” today, one would anticipate its core message to somewhat fall in line with Carey’s encouraging note to self. But when Baltimore’s YTK released his new single and video “Let It Off” in early May, he couldn’t have gone further off the path. The track goes over the original’s production, and YTK interpolates Carey’s melodies to talk about how he’ll unload his weapon on anybody who steps out of line. The video shares this performative recklessness as he and others are dressed in all black, with ski masks on, brandishing all types of guns. “Let It Off” teeters on parody, and it’s part of a semi-recent wave of rappers flipping harmless pop hits of the 2000s into ironic slasher tracks. But it had the perfect mix of comedy, nostalgia and solid performance to go viral. At its peak, Mariah Carey replied to the video on Twitter with a cheeky threat to sic her lawyers on YTK.
Tate Kobang, "Stop the World"
From the outset, Baltimore rapper, producer, and songwriter Tate Kobang showed that he’s more than capable of making tracks that will break through and stand out on the national stage. That was apparent in his first single, “Bank Rolls” in 2015, a Baltimore neighborhood-saluting anthem that used Baltimore club music as a production foundation and helped land him a deal with 300 Entertainment. After the success of that initial coming-on-the-scene moment fizzled, Kobang switched his focus to songwriting and producing (most recently, he and fellow Baltimore native YG! Beats co-produced Nicki Minaj’s new track “Fractions”), and found a second wind behind the scenes while still releasing music.
“Stop the World,” a new song produced by Philly supergroup Working on Dying, shows his playful spirit and willingness to try different forms. Kobang delivers falsetto melodic raps about being head over heels for someone that he’d do anything for, especially in his world, where people tend to not show you any favor unless you’re of an elevated social standing. The hook’s lullaby structure will make it nearly impossible to not have “Stop the World” planted in your mind during — and after — listening.
D.C. singer Marti’s new track “Easy” sits at the crossroads of soul and indie rock. Her voice — some rasp, some warm bellows — sits atop light guitar strums and drum taps as she sings to a lover who seems to be trending toward turbulent behavior in the relationship. When she says, “Some people know what true love truly is,” it sounds as if it comes from a place of mourning, as if that feeling is a fleeting one for her in her current situation.
In the song’s video, Marti and her lover (surrounded by dreamy, cream-colored drapery) halfheartedly embrace each other, often not even acknowledging that the other is there. It’s a refreshingly nuanced account of love when it’s not in its honeymoon phase.
More roundups on the DMV hip-hop and R&B scene: