Curren$y, Ab-Soul, Mac Miller – all these names should be familiar to anyone with a passing fancy in hip-hop. A much less recognizable name is Thelonious Martin, the 22-year-old rapper/producer who brought all these emcees together on a single mixtape.
Martin’s latest “Wünderkid” is a more classically formulated mixtape than we typically feature on Broke Beats – the collaborative effort surrounding a single producer and/or DJ’s work is something more typical of DJ Whoo Kid – but Martin’s smooth, cooling work behind the boards brings new life to the industry trope.
With nods to his boom bap heroes (“Ode to Madlib”) as well as scowling gangsta cyphers (“Atlantis”, “Purp Interlude”), “Wünderkid” has a broad palette that pays deep respect to everything from NYC bridge rap to bluesy R&B to Midwest sample soul. As the title suggests, “Wünderkid” shows the makings of a young auteur.
The big draw is, of course, the guest list, which, in addition to the aforementioned buzzmakers, includes Smoke DZA, Domo Genesis, Joey Purp, Retch, and Boston’s own Michael Christmas. Christmas’ verse on “Jazzercise” lends gravel to the soft, chime-blessed lounge jazz that Martin works into the background, and it’s refreshing to hear a local boy do right by one of the industry’s rising beatmakers.
However, Topaz Jones’ work on “The Home Team” is the shining feature on “Wünderkid”‘s tracklist. The Montclair representative takes a spicy horn number and plays off it like the beat was tailor made for his pert and technical flow.
Elsewhere, on “BadGuyGoodGuy,” Martin creates a double-sided symbiosis with Retch and Ab-Soul. The song is Martin’s take on “Guilty Conscious,” as it positions Retch and his venomous, lippy rasp over a sinister set of keys arguing with a voice of reason in Ab-Soul. The track is a perfect example of how Martin sets up his emcees for success – every pairing seems organic.
It’s a trick few producers are able to manage so expertly this early in their career.