The only Wildcats Torii MacAdams recognizes
are Trumaine and Krushinski
Paul Wall ft. Curren$y & Devin the Dude – “Crumble the Satellite”
Devin the Dude is rap’s Cheech & Chong, an intelligent duo who made decidedly low-brow music and movies about marijuana-centric misadventures. Devin is an equally green-thumbed connoisseur, whose work too belies a degree of tact. “Crumble the Satellite” is undeniably a weed song, but it doesn’t have the annoyingly elated, sophomoric quality that’s endemic to Wiz Khalifa’s work. (We get it, Wiz, marijuana is fun and you’ve been known to partake.) That Curren$y is his normal drugged/restrained self is unsurprising–more revelatory is Paul Wall’s patience. You can practically hear him ash his blunt between lines, surely the influence of the Dude and Spitta Andretti.
Big Grams ft. Run The Jewels – “Born To Shine”
I want to like Big Grams, I really do. Shit, I even liked the second single, “Fell In The Sun.” My hankering for the project’s success can’t fully mollify my feeling that, by collaborating with honkeys Phantogram, Big Boi is catering to an undesirable minority of his fanbase. When Outkast were at their very best, they were an Afrofuturistic supernova, a spaceship piloted by Iceberg Slim and Arthur Lee. This is a Prius driven by some guy on the G-Train taking up two seats with his fixed gear bike. Big Grams is a Brooklynite’s vision of Atlanta.
The trundling pace of “Born To Shine” is discomfiting, as is Sarah Barthel’s use of “fuckboy,” which feels as performative as every dumb thinkpiece about fuckboys, softboys, and Pillsbury Doughboys.
Mick Jenkins – “HeadAss”
Mick Jenkins has clearly been watching hockey fights on YouTube. With “HeadAss,” Jenkins essentially skated onto the ice, pulled Vic Spencer’s jersey over his head, and punched him in the nose. Despite the non-event that was the Meek Mill–Drake kerfuffle (It’s undeserving of “fight” or “beef.”), it’s been a strong year for rapper-on-rapper insults. “HeadAss” receives added style points/penalty minutes for being released on Spencer’s birthday.
Isaiah Rashad – “Nelly”
It might be foolhardy to use “Nelly” to draw conclusions about Isaiah Rashad’s theoretically forthcoming sophomore album–the song’s release wasn’t accompanied by any information–but I’ll try anyway. If “Nelly” is, indeed, the album’s lead single, TDE fans may be in for a serious moment of (Ab-)soul-searching. The song itself is solid, if sleepy–what worries is the possibility that the entire project is equally so. Financially, TDE is probably being buoyed by Kendrick Lamar. Creatively, they’re sinking with a Titanic-worthy verve.
Isaiah Rashad has never fully fit in with the TDE camaraderie. If you’d asked me about the label a year ago, I would’ve said he and Kendrick Lamar were somewhat redundant figures. After the release of To Pimp A Butterfly, I deeply, deeply hope that’s not the case; Rashad’s a young, talented rapper, and his label’s misguidance could derail a promising career.
Cool Amerika – “Ratchet”
In Devin Friedman’s excellent piece on Magic City, Cool Amerika were portrayed as wide-eyed, ascendent dollar-throwers; at the time of publication, their single “Make Sum Shake” was fueling “asshole naked” plyometrics and acrobatics. “Ratchet,” their latest effort, manages to epitomize the contemporary Atlanta sound without feeling group specific–Cool Amerika are the result of trickle-down trap-a-nomics: they’re youthful like Rae Sremmurd, adlibbing like Migos, and autotuned like Future.
Prime Ft. Tom G, Richie Wess & Yung Dred – “Till I Die” (Remix)
Tampa Tony, who Prime et al. want freed, was reportedly a locally famous rapper who, in 2008, was sentenced to life imprisonment for possessing 24 kilos of cocaine. South Florida’s Jam Pony Express, whose “drag” mixes predated DJ Screw, also receive an exceedingly rare shoutout. Much ado has been made about the Internet killing regional rap, particularly in the South. Reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. There’s simply a measure of localized culture and folklore that’s nearly impenetrable for outsiders. Drake can sample Fat Pat, but he’ll never have stories about Pat Lemmon or Corey Blount.
LE$ ft. E.S.G. – “Beautiful Day”
LE$’ recent loosies are enjoyable, entirely low-stakes affairs made by a Houston rap classicist. The “Beautiful Day” instrumental is a reimagining of the version of E.S.G.’s “Swangin’ & Bangin’ ” that appeared on his Sailin’ Da South, a sunnier (and, oddly, censored) version than the original. E.S.G. sounds raspier and more pinched than he did in his wildly underappreciated prime, which ultimately doesn’t really matter. That he still makes music at all is cause for celebration.