Nostalgia can be a funny thing. While digging through crates of family photos or spinning old mixtapes can bring back good memories, some resurrect more challenging, introspective feelings. The latter thread through this collection of tracks. Some are bitter about it and rock their memories to shreds, while others think about what could have been.
10. Alexander Spit feat. DaVinci – “Pool Shark”
The affable Los Angeles rapper/producer Alexander Spit, who could’ve picked so many other names, is usually judicious with the pen. On “Pool Shark”, though, he’s edged ever so slightly by San Francisco’s DaVinci, who, over piano topspin and anvil-heavy drums, starts things by enumerating the perks of his underdog status. For his turn, Spit recounts undoubtedly intense experiences like stealing cars and tripping nuts in Death Valley. There’s no hook here, although the half-sung latter part of Vinci’s cameo sticks in its own way. —Michael Madden
9. Mobb Deep – “Taking You Off Here”
Mobb Deep have released a lot of subpar music since 1995’s The Infamous. But they get an unfair shake, because it’s flat out unfair to compare the rest of their work to that masterpiece of an album (Nas can relate, maybe Kendrick too, in a few years). When they’re on, Mobb Deep mostly succeed at evoking that unsettling, evil mafioso vibe. Latest cut “Taking You Off Here” is a perfect example, with its dissonant organ samples and steady boom-bap — the ideal background for any gangsta lyricism. Though age is finally creeping into their respective flows, Prodigy and Havoc play their familiar roles of New York street enforcers, the latter making his threats clear and present: “Come and get your ass whipped, on camera/ No tapping out on this concrete canvas.” –Jon Hadusek