Good Hip Hop Meets Radio
In any performance art, the most important and elusive quality is self-identity; the ability to create with not just any point of view, but one that’s your own. And hip-hop, for all of its studio-rat mentality, does qualify as performance art.
Local rapper Prote-J, a standout at this summer’s Leaders of the New Cool hip-hop showcase, knows exactly who he is: a wide-eyed preppy charmer with an infectious swagger weighed down just enough by everyday concerns like student loans. Floating at a slightly higher elevation is Prote-J’s deft maneuvering of his ebb-and-flow lyricism; his way with wit and linguistic nuance sets him on a plane with Lupe Fiasco’s trickster persona.
A kind of coming-out party, Prote-J’s new full-length mixtape (available for free download at www.prote-j.com), the aptly titled Good Hip Hop Meets Radio, opens with its best track, “Here I’m Alone,” a Dipset-influenced banger with a surprisingly mournful refrain. It’s a wise contrast that invests his humor with a dark undercurrent much as the best stand-up comedians do. “Let’s Go” presents Prote-J’s ladies’ man sensibilities with a midtempo two-step that’s elegantly constructed with a wink and a smirk.
Later, Prote-J highlights his radio-friendly adaptability with “Distance,” an uplifting hip-pop outing with an equally impressive guest spot by rising local R&B singer Chanelle Ray, and shows an aptitude for street narratives on “Hold That Thought.”
Prote-J succumbs to his own gravitational pull toward the end with a string of wearied tracks (“Goodbye,” “Promises Break”) that suggest he doesn’t wear self-pity as well as his full-zip sweaters. Still, it’s not often that a fully formed personality with both skills and mainstream instinct comes along – Drake and Charles Hamilton come to mind – let alone arriving with such a keen identity.