The Jafakin patois is an age-old tactic in rap. During the 90s, rappers used it to pay homage to West Indian roots (Busta Rhymes), express their love of weed (DJ Quik), or merely collaborate with Supercat, Beenie Man, Shabba or Bounty Killer. The trend never really went away even though there hasn’t been a major dancehall breakout star in America since Sean Paul. Kevin Gates does an impeccable Kingston lilt. Snoop Lion shall forever live in infamy. Last year, brought Yeezus and “Shabba.” While dancehall limelighters like Busy Signal, Mavado, Vybz Kartel, and Popcaan have successfully collaborated with rappers, even if they’ve never reached the Sativa-ascendent heights of “Dolly My Baby.” Then there’s Ras Trent.
But until the emergence of Atlanta’s Zuse, it’s hard to think of a rapper who so effectively merged the two worlds. Raised between Atlanta and the island of Marley and Scratch, the self-described “Kingston Gunman,” oscillates between thick-accented boasts of licking “pum pum” (shouts to the original king), clutching AK-47s, and rapping over industry beats with a similar unhinged eccentricity you’d expect from the best rappers in Black Portland. Accordingly, Young Thug is all over Bullet and Plugged, the two very strong tapes that Zuse has dropped already this year. Whereas lesser artists always bend to the leaning leopard whims of someone as conspicuously weird as Thugga, every Zuse track is it’s own ecosystem of “bullet” ad-libs, ultra-violent hooks, and cocked-back aggression balanced with unusually melodic singing. If these two turned up for a complete mixtape, it could be the best collaboration since the Refugees met Bounty Killer (X 12, without Clef’s inane need to turn everything into an opera).
On paper, Plugged should be underwhelming. It’s largely comprised of Zuse rapping over the beats to “Believe Me,” “Hookah,” “She Twerkin’,” etc, but he’s preternaturally incapable of using the same flow as the original editions. He also starts out the “Hookah” freestyle with “Zuse so dumb he a retard/ODB boy, I’m bizarre/killing the game with no green card/got the game locked/no key card.” Don’t ask me why I can’t get those lines out of my head, but I can’t. There’s an improvisational heavily self-medicated quality to the songs, solid one-liners and his zigzagging melodies tend to stay lodged in your head. And in a rap game where no actual rap albums are released and the ones that do are generally focus-grouped until all originality is snuffed out of them, it’s refreshing to hear a rapper trapped between worlds. Half rapper, half-dancehall king, croaking threats, speaking Spanglish, licking shots at rivals and licking fingers full of molly — without concrete barriers blockading the sides. It’s not weird for the sake of being eccentric, it’s weird for the sake of being raw.