A lot of young players coming up in the hip-hop game right now are turning their backs on the old school, cut-and-dry concepts that helped to mold so much of the genre’s greatest work, but there are others – B. West among them – with a much different agenda when they step into the recording studio. Rather than trying to reach into the future without a sonic sexton, B. West is looking to the classics for a bit of compositional inspiration in his new single “The Narrative,” and from where I’m sitting, it results in some of the realest hip-hop vibes to come out of the underground this season.
B. West’s vocal is by far the heaviest element in this mix, and because he isn’t having to compete with some oversized instrumental componentry I think it’s all the easier for him to flex with these verses and give us a good idea of what he can deliver without pressure. I remix would likely highlight his buoyancy as a rapper, but for what we’re getting in this incarnation of “The Narrative,” there’s no debating that we’re getting the point he set out to make with this release.
The music video for “The Narrative” reps an underground aesthetic that isn’t necessarily old-fashioned but instead indebted to a DIY tradition that is still, more or less, influencing the foundations of what hip-hop is today. The culture of regional scenes as we once knew them is admittedly dying, but there’s something entirely true to the grassroots artistry that is the true rap model in this video I can’t help connecting with every time I watch it. There’s no arguing B. West’s admiration for the gods, and specifically those who came into this genre without a lot of ego in their sound and stories.
While a lot of players wouldn’t have been able to pull together the swing of this rhythm without a major bassline, I think it would have got in B. West’s way for the better part of “The Narrative,” which is why I’m glad he left it out of the mix completely. There’s no room for a thick bottom-end if he wants the vocal element to maintain the agile, unrelenting shape that we’re getting out of it here, and thus, the indulgences thus far deemed common in the bulk of contemporary hip-hop and trap coming out of the underground this spring are wholly missing from the big picture of this single.
At once both a terrific nod to the OGs who made hip-hop everything we love about it today and a statement on what really matters to him as an artist both in and outside of the recording studio, I believe B. West has a real treasure of a track and music video in “The Narrative” that is bound to strike a note with plenty of dedicated rap fans right now. This isn’t a niche genre, nor is this performance a candied version of the aesthetics it’s become known for in recent times, but instead a representation of what hip-hop is at its purest.
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