Indianapolis rapper Oreo Jones makes hip-hop for people with unreasonable expectations of what hip-hop can and should be. A gifted lyricist with an ear for rich, textured beats that check off most boxes on the “new school” and “true school” checklists, Jones is both classicist and futurist. “Cash for Gold” delivers the soulful instrumentation that backpack-toting boom-bap addicts demand, the emotional vulnerability we expect in a post-Drake world, and a heavyweight intelligence that never becomes condescendingly academic. Jones isn’t afraid to indulge in classic tropes like the shoeboxes full of cash in “Sufficient Funds,” but never gets hung up on them; he uses pop-culture and sci-fi reference points without relying on them as a crutch. Most importantly, his songs are infectious, the sort that burrow into you brain and remain lodged there for days. Hip-hop in the 21st century means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but Jones is among the rare artists who can satisfy all of them.
ESSENTIAL “Stevie Nicks House”Sean L. Maloney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.