Listening to Skipp Coon and Mr. Nick has prompted me to follow up my previous pieces in the series (here, regarding Yelawolf, and here, regarding Rob Roy). Peep “drift,” “angels & demons” and “when i grow up” from Skipp and Nick’s women revolution tennis shoes, then onto some thoughts.
What I think I love most about Skipp and Nick’s work is how it draws on certain clear influences (I seem to be beating a bony horse deader than dead at the moment, but “when i grow up” and “angels & demons” seem firmly rooted in the Dungeon Family lane, like 2010 iterations of the classic Goodie Mob sound) yet exists in a space that is sceneless and, in a sense, timeless.
Now when I say timeless, do not confuse it with “classic”–Skip and Nick are making great music, but it is impossible to throw a designation like “classic” around for an album that is five years old, much less five months (women revolution tennis shoes dropped in February, Sophomore Slump a few days ago). No, here I mean timeless in the sense of disconnected from a specific time, and, I hope, unaffected by time’s passage. Mr. Nick’s beats could come from any number of eras, drawing influence from jazz, old school Hip-Hop, and electronic music to form something organic and distinctive. Nick’s work toes the line between wild experimentation and comfortable convention in a way that little popular production beyond Kanye’s post-808’s output does (I’m not sure if Nick is an El-P fan, but songs like “fight” off of Sophomore Slump would seem to reveal at least a shared influence in the Bomb Squad). Though Skipp’s rapping certainly could only exist from the 90s to the present day, it sounds as impassioned and precise as some of the fiery tracks by artists like Kam, Above the Law, and Paris. And yet even through obvious and perhaps lazy comparisons, Skipp maintains his individuality, his southern accent and highly personalized outlook shining through in every image and breath. Though he is not as technically awe-inspiring as an Andre 3000, Pharoahe Monch or even a Yelawolf, to throw three familiar names in the mix, Skipp shares their love of language, understanding of the drama a voice can convey, and ability to marry content with intriguing form. The potential is there and is often on display (“fight” and “4 28 1967 pt2” off of Sophomore Slump are probably the best examples of this potential in full flight–check out “fight” below, especially the first four bars).
I don’t mean to be too hyperbolic, but I think Skipp and Nick are capable of putting out music of consequence in an age in which it is becoming increasingly difficult (I’m not really sure what this means, but ?uestlove has taken notice on Twitter, David Banner cosigned with a dope guest appearance on Sophomore Slump, and the internet Hip-Hop community still seems receptive to this sort of music). Perhaps it is impossible to put out impact music–to have the FBI watching you closely and contacting you publicly, as happened with NWA, or to be a constant, simultaneous center of controversy and inspiration as was Public Enemy. The timing is probably all wrong for a group like Skipp and Nick, but there is certainly a vacuum in the center of politically minded firebrand Hip-Hop at the moment. The conscious rap movement of the mid 2000s destroyed whatever was left of socially important Hip-Hop, leaving the term “conscious rap” as empty a label as any other in popular music.
So I suppose my goal is simply to champion Skipp Coon and Mr. Nick as artists to watch for their talent and perspective, unique in what often seems like a wasteland of rappers saying so little (I have to admit, even though I’m not a huge Talib Kweli fan, I was sort of taken by the earnestness and execution of his anti-big oil manifesto “Ballad of the Black Gold.” It’s not “Fight the Power,” but it at very least has a pulse). They are a duo that quite clearly loves what has come before them but are looking to push things forward. I’ll certainly be checking for them in the future and I suggest you do the same.