LowkeyKendel croons some identifiable and melancholic bars about drugs over a dramatic sample that sounds lifted straight out of a seventeenth century symphony.
If this song isn’t in the next Bladerunner movie I’ll shoot someone with a laser. Anyway, please bring Moistbreezy to Brazil.
Ahsh spits viciously in this stylish and minimal freestyle video, all while rocking some crazy, futuristic, and distinctly militant garb. Her eye for aesthetics and ear for beats shine equally brightly in this piece.
Lil Tay has been making big waves this month. The nine year old, previously known for her provocative instagram videos (she likes to swear and discuss precisely how broke you are), was seen first in a video alongside Chief Keef on April 7th, before clips surfaced of an April 15th altercation between Bhad Bhabie, Woahh Vicki, and Lil Tay herself. According to Bhad Bhabie, conflict arose after Lil Tay and Woahh Vicki called Bregoli’s best friend a “dumb n*****,” leading Bhabie to challenge them to a fight outside a mall (both Woahh Vicky and Lil Tay frequently use the n-word online). Lil Tay has previously gotten into internet beef with youtuber Ricegum, who you probably don’t remember from the time he made a Jake Paul diss; open conflict with Bhad Bhabie seems just as much about courting internet clout as it does personal differences and bigotry.
Digging up information on Lil Tay online proves difficult; her instagram has been repeatedly deleted (probably because you have to be 13 to have an account), and Tay has only done a single interview to date, focused primarily on her music rather than the artist herself. While we don’t know who Lil Tay’s parents are, her old twitter bio claimed the account was run by her mom, who may be the woman seen adjusting a Glo Gang headband for Tay in the aforementioned Chief Keef clip. It’s also safe to surmise Lil Tay’s parents are extremely loaded, given their daughter’s penchant for rocking Gucci and Vuitton.
Now, the music: “Money Way” by Lil Tay is a boilerplate trap track for 2018, clearly derived from the Lil Pump formula, but substituting the shock value of a 9 year old white girl for Pump’s oddball charisma (note: Lil Tay may be half-Asian, specifically Filipino?). Two months prior to the March release of “Money Way” came “On My Wrist,” with lower production value and even less attempts at “rapping;” that’s probably why that song remains unavailable on major streaming services.
Lil Tay shocks on first encounter, but the trends precipitating her rise have been apparent for a minute. White rappers have been en vogue since the 2010s started, typically at the edge of the scene but increasingly carving out larger and larger swaths of territory. In the last year, we’ve seen G-Eazy and Lil Pump go #1 while hewing closer to traditional rap aesthetics of the moment.
The success of rappers like Rich Brian (FKA Rich Chigga) in translating vine personality into hip-hop star power presaged the current wave of rappers utilizing a personality-first model to break big (think Boonk Gang and Woahh Vicky). And this digital incarnation of the cult of personality is just a retooling of how celebrities and reality television stars used to parlay screen success into studio smashes (Paris Hilton and Tila Tequila both had short-lived musical careers; Bhad Bhabie rose to infamy on Dr. Phil). And we would be remiss not to cite the talented-as-hell (fight me) Matt Ox, a 13 year old white rapper who performed at the same illroots party as Chief Keef, boxed with fellow-Philadelphian Lil Uzi Vert, and contributed a standout hook to “$$$” off XXXTentacion’s recent #1 album.
Rumors are currently swirling that Lil Tay has signed a record deal of some sort, though there appears to be no official substantiating evidence. And while she’s currently making the rounds as a meme, much like Matt Ox and Bhad Bhabie before her, there is a clear dearth of musicality that ought to preclude her from capitalizing off her 15 minutes of fame in the same way. Moreover, it seems hard to believe that Tay will remain attached to the idea of rapping; she seems more preoccupied with flexing, using well-worn hip-hop tropes to accentuate the flex as opposed to flexing to highlight her rap bonafides. If Rich Brian asked “what if all the aesthetic markers of a rapper were transplanted onto a figure with absolutely no connection to them,” Lil Tay asks “what if all the aesthetic markers of a rapper were transplanted onto a figure with absolutely no connection to them and no interest in performing that connection?” While the answer might amuse for a moment, the moment is quickly passing.
This is why we can’t have nice things. After announcing two singles this week, Nicki Minaj found herself under fire for perceived cultural appropriation after dropping the artwork for “Chun-Li.” The title refers to the character from Street Fighter II, the first female character in a fighting game, while the artwork depicts Minaj decked out in Fendi and sporting Chun-Li’s signature “ox horn” hairstyle.
Let’s start with the obvious: we’re talking about a character in a videogame. If we consider Minaj’s new single appropriation, we would implicitly be accepting the premise that Chun-Li is somehow a Chinese cultural touchstone, despite being programmed by a group of American and Japanese men with little regard for political correctness. As NPR noted in 2014, Street Fighter is filled with racist caricatures and ethnic stereotypes, from Russian characters who fight bears to Indian ones who fight with yoga. While Chun-Li’s character design sees her wearing a revamped qipao (a traditional 20th century Chinese dress), her cultural connection is superficial at best.
Secondly, the song itself barely focuses on Chun-Li at all. Much like 2015’s “Shanghai,” Minaj’s lyrical content is preoccupied with flexing and stunting, notably free of cringe-worthy Orientalism present on songs like Migos’s “Chinatown” (Quavo’s “ching-chong” adlib is painfully ridiculous). The track uses Chun-Li as an avatar of female power, placing her in the company of Lara Croft and Storm. This lends itself to a much more benign reading than Minaj’s detractors have intially suggested.
Third, and perhaps most critically, accusing Minaj of cultural appropriation mistakenly suggests the power dynamics at play are the same as when Katy Perry dressed as a geisha or Iggy Azalea put on a blaccent. Antiblackness is rampant in Asian communities, and Asians in the West tend to lean in on the myth of the model minority in order to gain standing under white supremacy. Consider the recent incidence of blackface on Chinese state television, salt in the wound of China’s economic exploitation of various African nations. To suggest a black woman has the privilege to appropriate Chinese culture seems inane at face value, let alone after critical analysis.
While some have defended Minaj by citing her Asian heritage, this strikes me as misguided; born in Trinidad and Tobago, Minaj’s heritage traces back to South Asia, rather than East Asia. Even considering cultural diffusion across the continent, I cannot in good faith suggest that Minaj has any more “right” to Chinese culture than I do as an American of Indian descent.
This conversation highlights the ways social justice discourse has, for better or worse, permeated online culture, and how the buzzword-ification of various topics has led to their dilution, being tossed around without proper understanding of their origin or context. Feel free to get up in arms when the music video drops and is chockful of Orientalist stereotypes, but until then, let’s just revel in the return of the queen.
Some say Adobo & Tomb$ resemble Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony during Lin’s breakout 2012 season.
Actually no one’s saying that. No one’s talking at all actually because they’re too busy listening to Adobo’s latest single off his upcoming Tomb$ collab EP, Saudade. This one slaps and sounds like a “Kill Bill” score, make sure to keep it on repeat.
One of the soundcloud comments said “this song made me quit my job” and I can’t write a better review than that.
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“play with us then he get cut like a brick”
the beat on “arcadia” has the insistence of a classic neptunes track filtered thru 5 years of soundcloud rap. Some synths slither around the background as others burble up around PBC President Lil Paycheck, who continues to showcase a high degree of versatility in both his choice of beats and his vocal approaches to tracks. Full of growled shit talking, this track is a flash in the pan that indicates we’ll be getting more fire from Paycheck later this year.
“I’m so fresh I need a fuckin lint brush”
The first two bars of “T’d Up” are a quick headfake: the somber piano chords quickly give way to a rewound melody and Mike WiLL and Metro Boomin’s signature cavernous 808s and stuttering hi-hats, respectively. And while the first 2 verses are thoroughly enjoyable, it’s the third verse by Swae Lee where things accelerate to the stratosphere. A quick flow switch announces a singsong verse full of simple flexes about trips to the bank and late nights of debauchery. SremmLife 3 on the way.
“feeling good, yeah i’m feeling polite, and we’re moving all night, all night, all night”
A standout on Lenae’s just-released Crush EP, “The Night Song” has a comparatively subdued backing track when juxtaposed against the rest of the EP. This allows Lenae’s vocals and cascading harmonies to take centerstage, her voice matching the dreamy qualities of the instrumental. The whispery vocals of the prechorus in particular invite comparisons to various female R&B artists of the past five years, but that would do Lenae, her contemporaries, and her forebears a disservice; Steve Lacy’s executive production can be distinctly felt all over the record, and combined with Lenae’s vocal prowess, creates a sound at once distinct and warmly familiar.
“don’t even ask me for the weed you ain’t matching”
Wiz Khalifa’s last project, the “commercial mixtape” Laugh Now, Fly Later saw the rapper enter a lane similar to fellow stoner Curren$y: surprisingly good, and more than ever, startlingly consistent. New single “Captain” continues in this vein, with a sticky hook and a pinging beat courtesy of E. Dan. Wiz’s autotuned singing is neither grating nor barely tolerable, but actually enjoyable, almost disorientingly so. And while Khalifa isn’t coming for the spiritual lyrical miracle crown any time soon, his repeated chants of “what’s happening?” don’t wear thin due to smart rhymes that go hand in hand with this song’s club-ready vibe.
“I want my revenge on all y’all”
Those piano chords have been waiting for Lil Boat for 48 years (originally from Baba O’Riley by The Who). Digital Nas flips the classic chords into an unorthodox and playful beat for Yachty to tear into, and not since Summer 6ixteen has a song filled me with such seething rage at those who have wronged me. “Revenge” feels like a throwback for Yachty, bringing to mind this flip of the Rugrats Theme. This song sticks out among recent Yachty songs for two reasons. One, Yachty’s melody-infused rapping and the way lines float off into sustained singing feel highly reminiscent of his early work, the Lil Boat many felt was missing from Teenage Emotions. And two, his use of adlibs, clearly influenced by his proximity to the Migos, particularly Offset. If this is an indicator of what we can expect from Yachty in the future, those who wrote him off after his first album will be sorely mistaken.
“realization/all the temptation”
Dizzy Fae’s debut mixtape Free Form is charming and intriguing, full of various vocal approaches to songs packed with plush synths that feel like they time travelled from the past and future to coexist in the now. Closing track “Don’t Hate For Me” pulses along a strident groove, and Fae matches its throbbing energy, telling a lover, “[I’m] grown as fuck, I don’t really care what you do.” Fae’s vocals are clear-eyed and her lyrics are refreshingly honest, relatable both to those scorned by a callous lover and those who had to be a little callous to protect their energy. Based on this tape, we can expect Fae to be around for a minute, but this record will keep giving for even longer. Put it on for your friends or your lover and get down to this ASAP.
“i’ve seen every hieroglyph and monument i need to see”
I stan for BXHXLD and have for a fucking minute. This review isn’t me speaking to you as a music critic, but as an unabashed fan. His album Everything You’ve Heard About Me Is True is due out on the 23rd, exec produced by the artist himself and notable Young Thug engineer Alex Tumay. New single “Control” has a distinctly Prince-ian aesthetic and feels like the soundtrack for a chase scene in a 1980s slasher flick. When he insists, “you are the one in control,” it’s not just an empty affirmation, but a reassuring mantra after what felt like the longest January of my life. 2018 energy: “We’ll never die/we are anointed.”
“gasolina all inside my blunt”
Daddy Yankee is back in vogue thanks to Despacito and Cardi B, and the hook on “see me” knows it. ARTHUR presents Lil Traffic with a hard-knocking beat and when it drops 4 measures in, it lands like a bolt of lightning. Much like “bounce out” from last month, Traffic’s vocals are distorted by a layer of digital static, like the soundcloud equivalent of the way a vinyl record crackles. But where “bounce out” is slinky and melodic, “see me” is brash and insistent, crashing and tumbling out of your speakers to demand you turn the fuck up to this.
“i’ll pretend i don’t see you texting, you’ll pretend you don’t see me wylin”
Tommy Genesis going full No Doubt on “Lucky” literally turned me into white_guy_blinking.gif in real life; I can’t remember the last time a song made me do such a hard double take. While Genesis has showcased her ear for melody before, it was usually in service of more hip-hop indebted tracks (see: “All My Friends” with Slug Christ). I keep running this song back and wondering if it’s a one-off or a fresh start, if her next record will be more like this or previous single “Tommy.” But ultimately, it doesn’t matter at all; I just feel lucky to have heard this track at all.
“clip long like a unibrow so my glock it name Helga”
There are so many legendary stories and myths that swirl around Chicago’s exiled son Chief Keef; the speeding ticket, the paintball match in a mansion, the $6 million deal with Interscope. At the heart of it all is a musician with talents not just on the mic, but behind the boards. So it was a treat to catch multiple beats by Turbo on Gunna’s new tape Drip Season 3. “At The Hotel” swirls around a moody piano and a sonorous flute line, both of which sound like you’re hearing them from the opposite end of a space station aquarium. Both Gunna and Young Jordan (FKA So Icy Jordan) hold their own, but Lil Uzi Vert steals the show with a surprisingly straightforward verse with a flow switch right before the aforementioned Hey Arnold! reference.
It’s 2018 and I want to jack this down the by-ways like I’m playing Project Gotham Street Racing on uppers, eyes closed, feeling everything and nothing at all.
Someone please tell A$AP Rocky no. After the excellent, world-beating Cozy Tapes: Vol. 1 and the insular, aesthetically refined Cozy Tapes: Vol. 2, we finally get a taste of what A$AP Rocky has in store for his 3rd studio album, Testing. It’s really boring. Rocky takes on a playboicarti affect, with a stuttering flow that does Rocky and producers Southside and Metro Boomin no favors. The beat sounds like someone googled “Lil Pump type beat” on youtube, multiple tiers below the high-production value we’ve grown accustomed to from AWGE releases; even the Twelvvy record knocked harder. Rocky’s guest features in 2017 were standouts in a discography filled with dextrous rhymes, so it’s disheartening to hear something so uninspired given the names involved. Here’s hoping to better bars next time.