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A Hip-Hop Anthem for Sinatra Fans — Really — in Richie Cunning's 'All the Gold in the World'

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a black and white photo of a man with a beard in a suit jacket and bowler hat
Richie Cunning's new album 'Big Deal' mixes hip-hop with a suave, supper-club vibe. (Artist photo)

Welcome to Pass the Aux, where KQED Arts & Culture brings you our favorite new tracks by Bay Area artists. Check out past entries and submit a song for future coverage.

I don’t know Richie Cunning. We’ve never met, or crossed paths online. But the San Francisco rapper’s new album, Big Deal, feels like an algorithm directly wired to my brain, a late-night project made for diehard listeners who obsess over Tony Bennett and Pimp C in equal measure.

Yes, jazz and hip-hop have intersected before, but Big Deal isn’t so much an outgrowth of bebop as the easy-listening $1 bargain bin. Cunning paces the album like a mid-century supper club appearance, Mantovani-esque orchestral strings swell and fall. The spoken-word voices of Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin weave in and out of the mix. Cunning even covers “More,” the theme to Mondo Cane, recorded by easy-listening singers from Johnny Mathis to Steve & Eydie and Tom Jones.

This isn’t entirely a rat-pack throwback, though, evident on the rebuke to that swingin’ scene’s casual misogyny, “All the Gold in the World.” With an instantly addictive hook over a church-like pipe organ, the track pays tribute to mothers, sisters, aunts and the women in Cunning’s circle of friends and acquaintances who’ve taught him to be a better man through “teaching me love, grace, humility / Your strength in the face of ugliness and hostility.”

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You’ll hear Maya Angelou, who has her own curious entry in the easy listening bins, closing out the track. And in another nod to mommas? I haven’t noticed one swear word on the entire album.

Richie Cunning’s ‘Big Deal’ is out now.

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