Our top 10 just got ever-so-slightly shook…
Michaelangelo Matos: Two old pros with nothing to prove except that they can still go ahead and fucking bang, with a record that flutters as well as stomps.
Jordan Sargent: Something like “9x’s Outta 10” is rare and special. BlaQKout features no crossover attempts or ill-advised collaborations; instead, it’s full of weird songs like this one that could be called “genre experiments” if it weren’t for the fact that each song basically creates a new genre. “9x’s Outta 10” dazzles in its discipline, with Kurupt constructing deliberately stilted verses in order to stick with Quik’s circular and slowly mutating beat. By boxing themselves in, the two force each other to become surgeons, and it’s a role that they play perfectly.
Martin Kavka: If this had been released when I was a teenager, I might be a deeper fan of hip-hop now. The production on this track displays far more skill than whatever it takes to find and arrange a simple loop, and I think I finally understand the skill sets behind “flow.”
Chuck Eddy: Incrementally shifting minimal mantras over warped operatic sample — strange, obsessive, and somehow threatening for reasons I can’t pinpoint partly because I have no idea what the heck Kurupt’s rapping about, except probability equations. But when the anger boils up, it briefly loses its footing, so I’m still not positive the experiment fully worked.
Martin Skidmore: Tremendously tense and jittery hip hop from the veteran pair, with minimal clattering beats that got my shoulders working, some choralish backing, and lyrics that mostly stay as minimal as the beats. I was particularly keen on the fact that the flow barely flows on the chorus, being as percussive as the beats, thereby turning into something more like a riff. One of the very best hip hop singles I’ve heard this year.
Rodney J. Greene: I made the “Oh shit!” face when I heard this. Like when I first heard “Top Billin'”. Like when I first heard “Grindin'”. Like those tracks, “9x’s Outta 10” is built around a hollow drum loop with miles of empty space to reverberate, Quik subtly working in some windchill sighs like the sound a whole deserted city would make just to scare you. It’s the perfect soundtrack for rapping rings of cacophonous nonsense where popping syllables carry more meaning than definitions, and danger is invoked more by bloodthirsty snarl than direct threat. The way Kurupt’s rhymes are so thoroughly structured, yet so unconventional in their organization, is exhilarating, especially once filtered through his zealous, stentorian flow. Rap is rarely better.
Al Shipley: Drums this harsh and prominent are still rare enough in rap that when they come along, there’s a built-in audience of overenthusiastic listeners ready to pile on the “Grindin'” comparisons. But it’s the weird row-your-boat spiral of the refrain and the hiccuping vocal samples that make this more than just a cheap pump of percussive adrenalin, plus the fact that it’s coming from a couple guys who you might expect to still be churning out relaxed ’90s G-funk.
Anthony Miccio: I’d love to get excited about this pleasant if tinny homage to the Clipse, but it mostly makes me want to listen to J-Kwon’s “Tipsy.” Pretty sure that’s Kurupt’s fault, as I could name a dozen or so rappers I’d rather hear over this beat.
Hillary Brown: Not entirely without interest, but this is a little too scaled back in some ways and a little overdone in others. Despite what Jay-Z says, it could use some melody and less Beastie Boys influence.
Ian Mathers: Maybe it’s just because I’m recovering from an illness, but I’m finding “9xs Outta Ten” particularly disorienting, especially once the clipped, stuttering female voices come in. But they don’t seem to be singing words, and between those voices, the video-game-machine-gun beat and the constant flood of hectoring from Quik and Kurupt, I had to listen to this half a dozen times before I could parse the rapping as sentences and phrases rather than just a bracing flurry of words (I’m still trying to figure out what “I’ll be in rare [rear?] motion” is supposed to mean in context). Normally I’d say that’s a bad thing, but I keep listening to the track, over and over, so I have to assume Quik & Kurupt have found a way to make it work for them, because this is heady, compelling stuff.
Alex Macpherson: The first time I heard “9xs Outta 10”, I literally made this exact face. The uncompromising austerity of the skeletal beat brings to mind fighters who practice monastic levels of self-denial because that’s what makes them stronger; the near-religious intensity is magnified by the cut-up sample of a lone, elegiac voice, which sounds more like a boy chorister than the expected female soul singer. But it’s not just the beat which fucks with your mind: Kurupt delivers a coolly measured, cyclical rap in a meter so unorthodox that you’re constantly on your toes, never knowing exactly where the rhymes will fall: one minute they come thick and fast, cascading down as if they can’t wait to reach your ears, the next giving way to abrupt pauses. Astonishingly evocative imagery, too: radiated mushrooms, cannonballs, typhoons and tycoons. It’s a dash of ice-cold water to the face: shocking, bracing, revitalising. (Also: BlaQKout is essential: it lives up to every promise set here and more.)
Edward Okulicz: The shuddering, thundering, minimalism of this would sound amazing on any dancefloor you happened to hear it on, and when the operatic cut-ups are meshed in with it, it’s pretty much over – the effect of one drum pattern and one sample is impressive. And Kurupt’s rap is the sort of thing that probably makes bedroom MCs rhyme along thinking they’re moderately bad-ass because it’s so catchy you can’t help but want to. I do, but then again, I’m very white.
Renato Pagnani: How great is Kurupt here? At 1:27, when it appears that Quik is going to drop a verse, he only manages to get in a line and a half before Kurupt yells “Stop!” only to resume decapitation of Quik’s irradiated husk of a beat. Kurupt sounds so reluctant to relinquish control of the microphone it’s as if Quik, once he began rapping, looked over at Kurupt and realized he best leave the booth. Right then.
Matt Cibula: “Hey man, help me save hip-hop.” “What, you mean with creativity and balls?” “Yeah, that’s it.” “Okay, cool.”
Tom Ewing: Mazy, uncompromising, everything at right angles to everything else and when the female vox come in they don’t soothe, they slice. A better argument for keeping things hardcore than grumbling about autotune, that’s for certain.
Anthony Easton: