My Case for Most Improved Artist of 2013
2013 hip hop is without a narrative. Trap sputtered out like Drill did. Instead of riding some massive new bubble of a movement we saw a little bit of everything. This makes crowning MVP very difficult but Most Improved is not nearly as hard. No one has impressed me this year like Nickelus F who dropped two pitch perfect mixtapes and another very interesting one, producing a lot of his best music himself.
Vices was the first to catch my eye and when I saw Nickelus F on the cover with tissues wadded up and jammed up his nose I had a shake your head moment. Only this dude would think of this. Vices is the rare case of a mixtape so good that it didn’t even get better during further listens. He took the Houston sound (producing the whole thing himself) that Drake uses to make pop tragic-romance and turned it into a strumming evil he confessed over. In no uncertain terms he was there to tell you “You got a skeleton my closet holds a graveyard (Beast of Burden).” If you’d like to hear more about Vices you should check out the review I wrote earlier in the year (https://freemusicempire.com/2013/02/09/nickelus-f-vices-mixtape-review/). It did much more than just open my eyes to Sweet Petey as an artist. It awakened a great curiosity. Where did all this come from? What was the process of making Vices like? How could he have the stones to sing when his nose is so damn clogged up?
He followed Vices with PTPT and I can’t tell you how excited I was. Not just because of Vices look at the titles on this project. Its final song is called The Scorpion Shat A Diamond & It Shined On Dem Hoezz. In a lot of ways PTPT represents everything you need to know about F this year. He’s fearlessly jarringly funny in the darkest ways as he raps “Just laugh at these empty pockets and all of these twitter mentions f#$% that I need a commission I stick my whole fist in the ass of hip hop and have the whole game clinching” over the pops and whizzes of the masterfully disarming and catchy beat he created for The Exchange. He somehow sings hooks that stick in your brain, can rap forever and find perfect M.O.P. samples to loop but when I tell people about his year I lead with “this dude said he stuck his whole fist in the ass of hip hop.” He doesn’t expend his jokes on others alone or get cheeky in any way, if anything, he leads with himself as the issue. He’ll tell you that J. Cole made Nas proud and he still can’t make his mom proud and describe himself in a brutally short summation that will floor you like on the song Watermelon and Chicken where over smoked out boom bap he blurts out “Bright future black lungs,” and it seems like such a casually cruel way to describe yourself. The song A Suggestion From Sloppy Seconds is not about some groupie as sloppy seconds, its him. It’s how women describe him.
Yellow Gold 2 is the collaborative sequel from F and producer Ohbliv. It’s great lyrically but the most important take away is how valuable F is behind the boards. A song like Give A Damn flows and his verses work but it doesn’t have the sharp samples or odd background noises you can find on PTPT. Good Treatment showcases more funny sadness and sad funniness but the beat again is dialed down enough to lose your attention. Yellow Gold 2 is good but it brought me back to PTPT with renewed admiration for Sweet Petey’s diabolical ingenuity.
The brutality of Nickelus F is in honesty and he turns it on women, haters, and the industry but mostly himself in a way so few people are willing too. One of the ways positive reviews go wrong is when the reviewer gives the impression that their blessing has given the artist new vim and vigor. It’s the exact opposite; F brought me into his world this year. Now I know who Radio B is due to multiple impressive guest features and can track his music. If you asked me when the year began about F I would have told you he could kill a 16 but he’s a shock rapper. Now I know so much more and it’s because his music is better by a staggering margin.
Stream or download PTPT below:
Stream or download Yellow Gold 2 below: