Rap Up for the Week of 1.10.16

The Rap Up is back in 2016 with new tracks from Kanye, Kevin Gates, Cozz, Nocando, and more.
By    January 10, 2016

Torii MacAdams taught Stan Smith how to play tennis.

Kanye West – “Facts”

With each passing season, Kanye West’s foray into haute couture is increasingly akin to Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of sartorial hubris. The muted beiges of Yeezy Season 2 were clearly designed with the Mos Eisley Cantina’s dress code in mind, the Yeezy Boost 750’s are heinous in every colorway, and the 350’s are blatant rip-offs of the Nike Roshe Run, which came out in 2012. The idea that West has an innate gift for design is an essential part of his hagiography—West, the forward-thinking stylist and West, the forward-thinking artist are inextricable.

That West has proven to be an enthusiastic spokesman for his own clothing line is to be expected. More surprising, though, is that he’s seemingly eschewed music in service of his clothier aspirations; Yeezus was released more than two-and-a-half years ago, and SWISH’s theoretical 2016 release is shrouded in typically Westian mystery. “Facts,” likely a throwaway song, feels more akin to marketing than music, partially because it’s bad (I don’t know who’d argue otherwise), and partially because it’s a diss track aimed at a multinational corporation by a spokesman for another multinational corporation.

There’s no logical reason to side with either West (and by proxy Adidas) or Nike–they’re multibillion dollar businesses which survive by creating false need. With “Facts,” West simultaneously advances a pro-Adidas narrative and makes himself look foolish; there’s ample empirical data to show that neither Yeezy nor Adidas has “jumped over Jumpman.” “Facts” is anything but.

 – “2 Phones / Zeta Castle Gang (Remix ft. Kevin Gates)”

The release of the “2 Phones” video occasions both an apology and a feteing for a newfound Hero of Modernity. First, the apology: In the November 6th edition of the Rap Up, I opined that the song is “‘only’ pretty good.” I was wrong. I underestimated the catchiness of “2 Phones,” and for my initial error in judgement I ask forgiveness from my six readers and Kevin Gates.

More importantly, Rap Up readers should take a moment to laud Zacari Nicasio (ZacZeta) for invading the stage at the otherwise utterly meaningless People’s Choice Awards and promoting Gates’ forthcoming album, Islah. It appears that Nicasio’s reward for his audacity was a verse from Gates–fair compensation considering the volume of tweets, Vines, Instagram videos, and photos of the incident. A more cynical person than I (if there was one) might entertain the notion that Gates paid Nicasio to plug his album, but that seems too conspiratorial, even for a guy with a song about putting cell phones in refrigerators to avoid wire taps.

Young Sizzle – “Woah Woah” / “Grandma”

There’s a pleasantly ersatz quality to Young Sizzle, the rap pseudonym of 808 Mafia’s Southside. Southside/Sizzle traffics in well-trodden trap themes (malfeasance, fucking) and says nothing of substance or personal import–and that’s fine. “Woah Woah” and “Grandma” are well-performed and excellently produced, but they’re minor works nonetheless—an inevitability for art without depth or innovation. They’re wax fruit, or plastic plants: harmless artifices, inoffensive in their existence, enjoyable on the surface.

Cozz – “All Eyez On Me

Before Kendrick Lamar scatted his first skibbity-bop, Cozz seemed a midway point between Lamar and the boisterous yawk-yawking of labelmate ScHoolboy Q. Cozz’ debut, Cozz & Effect, issued by the normally somnambulant Dreamville, was one of the best Los Angeles rap albums of 2014. The comparison to Lamar is increasingly irrelevant; Lamar is 28 going on 58, Cozz is “a 90’s baby, but [he] grew up in the 60’s.” Lamar’s 50’s are doddering, Cozz’ 60’s are Rolling.

 – “Last Man Standing”

In the video for “Last Man Standing,” Nocando literally has an open third eye. Most rappers with a tertiary aperture are overzealous lecturers–favorite topics from most to least painful: mind sex, Real Hip-Hop, how shitty their day job is. In “Last Man Standing,” Nocando avoids overly-woke pontification. He’s the guy riding the bus with half-a-pack of cigarettes in his pocket, resilient.

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