Size matters on the sonic spectrum, and the three guys behind the magic in StreetSmartz101 don’t need to be told as much. Their new single “Queen’s Anthem” is intentionally indulgent and polished with a hook reminiscent of a more excess-friendly time in American hip-hop ala the mid-2000s, and though it has moments of feeling as much like a throwback as it is a track specifically made for heavy music fans everywhere, it’s supported by some of the smoothest rhymes you’re going to hear from an underground source this spring. Released just a week ago, “Queen’s Anthem” already feels like one of the ‘it’ songs of an emerging hip-hop spring.
Nothing is getting around, in front of, or even beside the bassline in this track without giving up a little bit of textural presence, and from the sounds of it, I would say that StreetSmartz101 were going for this structure from the jump. By allowing for a lot of unnecessary swelling on the bottom-end here, the monstrousness of the rhythm becomes even more impossible for us to ignore. The verses cut through the tension just enough to get some oxygen to the beat, but by and large, this is a suffocating song if I’ve ever heard one before.
The vocals are surprisingly loose and agile given the smothering instrumental components in “Queen’s Anthem,” and although they could probably do just as well in more of a stripped-down setting, these three players really blossom under the pressurized tension of the music here. It’s inspiring from a critic’s perspective for a couple of reasons, but chief among them has got to be the way they’re circumventing negative in-studio retooling by being overpowering from the get-go. It reminds me of an aesthetic similar to what metal groups like Blue Cheer or Kyuss did in their own eras, but with a uniquely Black identity existing within the source artistry.
Even the lightest melodic accents in this single contribute to the tension in the rhythm, yielding the sort of full-bodied aural feeling that only comes when the hands controlling the mixing board are more meticulous than the status quo calls for. StreetSmartz101 simply blew me away with the sonic depth they sport in this performance, and even if they decide to go in a different direction with their next composition cosmetically, I sincerely hope they don’t abandon the raw intensity that makes this song so difficult to put down.
I wasn’t following StreetSmartz101 before I got into “Queen’s Anthem,” but trying to keep me away from their future output is going to be quite the chore indeed. This is some of the more provocatively potent hip-hop to land in my new music playlist all year long, and while I don’t know that it’s going to be the lone release from this crew to score a lot of praise from the press and fans alike, it’s definitely setting a high bar for their music moving ahead. I can’t wait to hear what comes next, and I think other rap fans are going to know why when they hear this track.