Since releasing an EP by adventurous Chicago producer Mojek in January, local multimedia and events outlet 119 Productions has been focusing its energies on a forthcoming compilation called Countdown 2 Midnight. The comp’s first single, “Vices” (with drill mastermind King Louie, Save Money rapper Dally Auston, and producer-turned-crooner the Mind), came out in July, and the second arrived on Monday. “Counterfeit” features the dream team of Noname, Saba, and Phoelix—the same young trio that decamped to Los Angeles in June to work on two of the best local hip-hop releases of the year, Noname’s Telefone and Saba’s Bucket List Project.
Noname and Saba have reputations for delivering raw, unnerving lyrics in borderline bubbly performances that still pack an emotional punch. But the rapper who caught my ear on “Counterfeit” is the fourth contributor, Brooklyn MC Chelsea Reject. She wastes no time, digging straight into questions of racial justice: “Sandra Bland, Sandra Bland, why they ain’t just let her go? / Traffic violations, loud music, ain’t nothin’ worth your soul.” The president-elect’s tweets about the Hamilton cast’s address to Mike Pence have distracted plenty of people, but Chelsea Reject keeps her eye on the ball—race relations in this country are still at a boiling point, just like they were before Trump. And now that we’ve elected a man who’s all but promised to make things worse, they should get more of our attention.