I’ve always felt that what defines an artist as “Beast Coast,” more than anything else, is flow. This vague term refers to a diverse collection of artists: the ferociously nostalgic Joey Bada$$, psychedelic lyrical stylists Flatbush Zombies, even the increasingly pervasive A$AP Mob. These artists each have a totally unique sound within the context of New York City hip hop, which is why they can feel unified without stepping on anyone’s toes. What gathers them all together under this label, and what recalls the city’s legendary musical history, is the densely swung rhythm that the artists embody. At the end of the day, each rapper is able to feel amazing over sparse boom-bap instrumentals. Josh Marks fits snugly in this tradition.
“Keep On” starts innocently enough with even, dark piano chords. Quickly, and without warning, Marks erupts onto the beat, met by a bright melody that fills in any extra spaces. Before the beat drops in full, he carries us over to a snare hit with rapid dexterity, bouncing from each measure to the next. The groove remains a pulsating, understated platform for Marks to spit over, and he does so with infectious energy. His lyricism is so playful and fierce that you can’t help but grin: “Hold up, wait just a moment yo/ Instrumentals ain’t shit, unless my fuckin’ vocals is on it.” The hook is a relaxed, almost counterintuitive melody that provides a nice dynamic break from Marks’ relentless bars, before smoothly dropping right back in. He has a youthful hunger that does justice to his influences with a snarky tint of modernity, which is exactly what hip hop needs more of.
Josh Marks’ new mixtape, StraightJacket, will be released December 13th.
Written by Preston Fulks