The Rap Up: Week of August 12th

The Rap Up returns with new ones from Isaiah Rashad, Roc Marciano, Chance The Rapper, and more.
By    August 12, 2016


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Torii McAdams‘ favorite Olympic sport is still Table Tennis. 


Isaiah Rashad – Free Lunch


Isaiah Rashad verses seem the eddying of a friendly stream. They turn back on themselves, self- and outwardly-referential and reverential. On “Free Lunch,” he raps “Watch my pole vault and my go-cart/This my getaway as fuck/In my hood they call it buck.” The final line refers to Pimp C’s iconic “Big Pimpin” verse but later, Rashad twists it: “Nowadays I like to bring my nephews and my budget out/I come from where you can’t suck my dick and leave my cousin out/In my hood we call it clout.” It’s a clever maneuver that places he and his kinfolk squarely within the knowable universe of Southern living, and by extension, Southern rap.


TUT ft. Isaiah Rashad – G35


On “G35,” Rashad joins friend, fellow Middle Tennessee State dropout, and Chattanooga native TUT. Compared to Rashad, who slinks and slides, TUT’s romping and rapping his ass off. The plans hatched in his titular Inifiniti are coming to fruition for his guest star, though TUT could soon be due for his own moment.

At the end of the “Free Lunch” video, the date “09.02.16” fades in and out on a black background. The implication is that, a year after his sophomore album was initially to be released, the as-yet-unnamed project is arriving Labor Day weekend. While I’m obviously not privy to the machinations of Top Dawg Entertainment, or the recording of the album, its arrival is overdue. The better part of three years will have elapsed between Cilvio Demo and its follow-up. (Rashad was on XXL’s “Freshman” cover in May of 2014!) Unfortunately for Rashad, he and TDE are striking when the iron is cold, and it hopefully won’t do his work a serious disservice.


Roc Marciano All For It


Speaking of possibly over-extended breaks between albums, Roc Marciano has returned from the Hempstead hinterlands to dunk a priceless vase on our heads thanks, in part, to an alley-oop from Alan The Chemist. Alas, “All For It” appears not to be from the long-awaited Rosebudd’s Revenge, but Alchemist’s Craft Singles series of releases, which includes the incredible, original, prog-rock-jazz-fusion version of ScHoolboy Q’s “Hoover Street” and Spice One and MC Eiht’s middle-aged diatribe “Supply”/”Any Means” 7”.

On “All For It,” Alchemist forgoes the crackle of dusty Turkish vinyl or the swirling flutes culled from a dusty Brazilian jazz album. Here, it’s sparse, cold piano keys, thumping bass, and echoing hi-hats. In other words, it could be a Mobb Deep instrumental. Roc Marciano, a cocky-as-fuck asshole in a bubblegoose, deserves nothing less.


Ezale – We Want Some Pussy


Ezale’s a mischief-maker. Every line, be it about popping pills, handling automatic weaponry, or fucking groupies, seems to be delivered mid-giggle and no rapper, save for possibly Nef the Pharaoh, smiles with such regularity. “We Want Some Pussy,” with a refrain is borrowed from 2 Live Crew, is Ezale at his most capital-“E” Ecstatic; at Manhattan Beach (?), armed only with a gold-grilled grin and some sunblock, the Oakland rapper cavorts with women clad in more tattoos than textiles. Its charms are glassy and surface level, like Southern California waves or inebriated eyeballs. His drug use isn’t compensation or allegory for great internal tumult–he just loves squeezing serotonin from his brain like water from a sponge. He’s not chasing women to run from other problems–he just loves chasing women.


Chance The Rapper’s “Nike: Unlimited Together” commercial


I expect to be served patriotism-frosted Wheaties during the Olympics, but Nike’s “Unlimited Together” commercial are irksome. (Or, maybe, my expectations for national ad campaigns are out of whack.) Nike’s use of rappers for commercials is, historically, a mixed bag–they’ll show Future without playing Future’s music because a rap facade is almost as good as the music itself, and much less risque. It’s a smart strategy for a company seeking to maintain its primacy: rap fans feel catered to, and censorship-hugging minivan puritans eager for a fight have nothing to fight over, because there’s no music at which to feign offence. Enter Chance the Rapper.

Chance The Rapper is willing to be an uncontroversial pitchman. The Bible-based moral rectitude and communitarian ethos he’s cultivated is played for maximum effect here: Team USA isn’t just an assemblage of elite athletes, it’s an uplifting representation of our nation’s collective efforts. Who better to deliver this half-truth than rap’s hippest Sunday School teacher, a man deemed oddly unimpeachable by the music press and an “independent” artist who happens to partner with billion-dollar corporations on a regular basis? The message is, with the slightest investigation, utterly absurd–you and I have nothing to do with Kevin Durant’s ability to shoot a basketball–but when it’s delivered by Chance, and filmed in black and white, it’s expected to have cockle-stirring mystique.