Hip-hop may be an appropriation medium, but it still takes chutzpah to sample Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit,” which has been used by everyone from The Notorious B.I.G. to Common. It also takes stones to call yourself Black Cobain, but the dreadlocked Alexandria MC doesn’t exactly exude swagger. On last year’s Now mixtape, his flow was thoughtful but rarely explosive, at least compared to Fat Trel’s rowdy and superior No Secrets, another mixtape by a local rapper that was released on the same day. Trel has since left Wale’s Board Administration imprint, but for Cobain, the affiliation finally seems to be paying off. His latest single, the Wale collaboration “4 a.m.,” moves at two speeds simultaneously; its chiming, paranoid instrumental feels like a coke jam and a weed jam all at once. For the mostly low-key Cobain, that’s just about the sweet spot, but if he measures up to the song’s boasts, we may hear bigger things on his forthcoming Young, Gifted, & Black mixtape. “Don’t compare me to rappers,” he spits. “I’m trying to be like The Beatles.”
Black Cobain performs with Wale at 9 p.m. at U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW. $20-$50.