David Ashley – Strictly 4 The Heads

“A mf started the series spring 2016 and kept it going til like January 2k17. I’m just now bringing shit back because it just be feeling invigorating to hit mfs with this music as soon as I make the shit. I try to do it regularly for the Heads and release em on Fridays. Just sharing where my head is at and what’s going on out here. I feel like this series perfect for a nigga like me because all these records in the same vein of what I got coming on my new project in January, u know, like straight up Chicago shit as far as bars go but over a goddamn Colourbox sample or some shit like that. That’s fun part of the whole shit tho, finding samples that wouldn’t be go-to’s or rapping a certain way over certain sounds n shit. I feel like when I’m on that shit I’m giving mfs ME…a nigga who grew up out west and outside the city and wound up in some weird art spaces in Pilsen or some shit lol. Shouts out to Pilsen tho. Sometimes I be wondering if mfs will catch some of the references tho. That shit be fun too. Like, I got a one in pt. 16 that ties in like 3 bars with who I sampled. Lil shit like that be cool asl. That 4 The Heads shit.

Also that nigga Mr. Love Song aka Molly Wa reposted my shit on Instagram so I can pretty much die peacefully now.” – David Ashley

Rich Jones – Dreaming (ft. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, prod. J Kelr, Kenny Keys)

“In times like these, how do you cope? How do you not only endure but flourish, nurturing whatever magic and wonder that does still exist in the world today? I’ve found some semblance of an answer through making records and the friendships I’ve made while doing it. That is especially true for this song. Look out for my new album The Shoulder You Lean On, dropping 11/2.” – Rich Jones

blvck mass – forest

“Forest is really a product of me trying to refine my sound and find a consistent voice in my music. When I was making all of the beats for this project, I tried to find really emotionally-charged and atmospheric samples to run relatively simple drum tracks over. When I first started doing my own vocals, I would kinda just write whatever lyrics and throw them together on a song, as long as they rhymed had a certain flow to them. Now I’m focusing less on rhyme schemes and filling time, and trying to write lyrics that are actually meaningful to me, that are expressive and don’t take a backseat to the instrumental.

I kinda stumbled into this project on accident, to be honest. I made the title track “Forest” a couple of days after I went for a walk by myself in a small area of woods near my house. I’m from a small town in Canada that’s pretty environmentally conscious so there are forests fucking everywhere. I started developing this concept of a proverbial “forest” in this song, but all it really means is a state of solitude and reflection. The song turned out great and I felt like I had more room to expand on the concept, and that eventually turned into these 6 songs.

The entirety of the work was done in the summer when all of my roommates had moved back home for the summer, so I was spending a lot of time alone, probably too much to be honest. Especially at night. I was trying to flesh out this idea of being stuck in your head all of the time that I really did get stuck in my own head and it took me to some kind of dark places. But I see that as a positive in the end, because I let go of a lot of those nasty feelings on the album and now I don’t have to carry them around with me. Plus, I feel like a lot of those feelings of disillusionment and isolation could resonate with a lot of people who are going through similar things.” – blvck mass

NOID + RAPHY- Atebet

Years after the first rumblings of based music, Detroit Lines is keeping the spirit of cloud rap alive and doing work to expand and evolve the genre with some of the waviest releases of the year. I was first turned on to the label by their compilation tape featuring some of my favorites -Squadda b, Prada Mane, and Killavesi. This latest release is nothing to sleep on either.

Lil Tay: A Brief Overview

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.

No, Nicki Minaj is Not Guilty of Cultural Appropriation

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.

adobo – old news (prod. tomb$)

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.