Torii MacAdams knows it’s a Kodak world.
Gucci Mane & Drake – Back On Road
“Back On Road” is a Mobius strip of Drake’s influences: each time you think you’re oriented, there’s another twist. His infatuation with Atlanta is longstanding–he outed Courtney from the Hooters on Peachtree; unintentionally dubbed Toronto “The 6” because his ghostwriter sung about Zone 6 on a reference track; stole Migos’ flow after remixing “Versace;” signed Makonnen to burgle his entire career; and decided he needed to be part of Future’s moment with What a Time to Be Alive. Gucci Mane’s release from prison was met with widespread celebration and, like all good things left in our repugnant world, desperate cooptation by Drake.
What’s strange about “Back On Road” isn’t that Canada’s foremost Stone Island aficionado sunk his manicured claws into Gucci Mane–that’s what he does–it’s that he’s split time during his most recent album cycle pretending to sign to Boy Better Know and impersonating Dexta Daps. Drake’s concerted efforts to become Skepta bleed into “Back On Road,” where his monotone chorus has a refrain of “Yeah, I’m back on road.” (To be “on road” is the London slang equivalent of being “in the streets.”) For those keeping score at home, this is Drake, a Canadian Atlanta-obsessive, siphoning Gucci Mane’s post-prison popularity and shoehorning London terminology where it doesn’t belong.
There’s something exhausting, cynical, and baseless about Drake’s fandom; he can’t sit idly by and appreciate other artists and other scenes, he needs to insert himself. Honoring someone’s work and wedging yourself into the narrative are vastly different. If he was interested in the former, he’d have played Gucci Mane on OVO Sound Radio, whose listenership is unlikely to be well-versed in his endless catalog, or posted about him on social media. “Back On Road” is just self-serving.
Clams Casino ft. Vince Staples – All Nite
Clams Casino made a name for himself plying then-complete strangers (Lil B, Main Attrakionz, and Soulja Boy) with cloud rap instrumentals. But the vocalist who seems to truly unlock the producer’s avant-garde potential is Vince Staples. The clanking, jangling qualities of Clams’ beats on Summertime ‘06 perfectly accented tales of Long Beach, a salty, rough-hewn port city.
According to an interview with Pitchfork, “All Nite” was actually made in advance of Staples’ debut, and the collaborations which ended up on the album were a result of those initial sessions. It makes sense–“All Nite,” with its metallic stabs and whistling bird calls, could easily have slotted into Summertime ‘06. Staples, ever-excellent, begins in media res: he wakes up atop another man’s main bitch, his phone’s blowing up, and soon thereafter he’s headed to North Long Beach to cheat death and talk shit.
French Montana ft. Kodak Black – Lockjaw
Billing this as “French Montana featuring Kodak Black” is misleading. The influence of French Montana–the only rapper named after a state and a country–on “Lockjaw” is limited. He splits the chorus and may have three-quarters of a verse combined, but he’s essentially a mush-mouthed sidekick in a video filmed in Kodak’s familial home, the Golden Acres projects. Revelers waving Haitian flags, punk kids on dirt bikes, and glossy donks litter the streets between single-story orange houses. There Kodak, with his arm in a sling, his teeth in gold, his hair in braids, is the biggest star in the world.
Secret Circle (Antwon, Wiki, Lil Ugly Mane) – Keep It Low
Lil Ugly Mane isn’t for everyone. If you’re being ungenerous, he’s a photo-shy bedroom weirdo, worshipped by Internet dweebs, whose music is derivative and unpolished. Those criticisms have some validity–he’s a better producer than rapper, rarely performs, and interacts with fans through an irregularly updated Facebook page. He doesn’t tweet, ‘gram, or have a record label (unless you count Ormolycka, a one-man operation constantly months behind on shipping, as such). I think Ugly Mane’s great, though. There’s no other rapper who would’ve released Three Sided Tape, a mix of self-produced rap, dance, and noise outtakes, or a zine companion to his final, I’m-fuckin’-outta-here album. He’s a maverick in an era where mavericks shill soda and get billed below Travis Scott.
Secret Circle–Antwon, Wiki, and Lil Ugly Mane–is a single member away from the Millennial indie rap supergroup I always wanted. If only SpaceGhostPurrp hadn’t descended into madness. Wiki has most of what I look for in a rapper; he’s a petulant city-dweller with a distinct voice and an even more distinct, gnarly, gap-toothed look. But, try as I might, I’ve never been fully attuned to the rhythm of his rapping. People whose opinions I respect seem to really enjoy Wiki, so I’m willing to keep listening.
Usher ft. Young Thug – No Limit
[Bypass the Tidal-exclusive fuckshit here]
“No Limit” is outrageous in the best way possible. As the title hints, the conceit of “No Limit” is a series of puns based on Master P’s fallen rap fiefdom; Usher will make you say “Uhh!,” passive-aggressively threatens to “murder that” like C-Murder (depending on your stance on the rapper’s judicial proceedings, a triple-entendre!), and offers “that Ghetto D.” Usher’s guest, Young Thug, is comfortable alongside a more traditional crooner. In his tender moments, Thugger’s basically a more jism-centric R&B singer, and the instrumental from Brandon “B.A.M.” Hodge isn’t markedly different than many of the softer moments on Slime Seasons 1-3. “No Limit” is a superb summer song–self-aware in its sleaze and humor without overt winking and rib-elbowing.