Torii MacAdams and Lupe Fiasco don’t listen to Tribe together.
PicoThaPlusman – Go
I won’t pretend to know much about Baton Rouge’s PicoThaPlusman. He’s braided like Larenz Tate in Menace II Society, ends every tweet and Instagram caption with two plus signs, and is, in some arcane way, affiliated with 3T Brax, another of BR’s promising talents (Is the crew 3T? Ape Taliban?). Perhaps the less biographical information the better–I wasn’t drawn to him by any particular affiliation or haircut, but by the photo DailyLoudTracks attached to his song “Know About Me.” Standing in front of rail-thin teenagers sporting their first tattoos and just-started-’em dreadlocks is a guy (a kid, really) in a Julius Erving Sixers jersey. Surrounded by neutral tones and front-lit by a camera’s flash, Philadelphia’s red, white, and blue is particularly eye-catching. That, apparently, is Pico.
There’s something about him that’s reminiscent of prelapsarian SpaceGhostPurrp, and it’s not just their shared reluctance to use the space bar. Pico, like Purrp, makes music that’s slightly anachronistic and seems to borrow, consciously and unconsciously, from a mental mapping of the South. And, while Purrp used a series of pseudo-hieroglyphics to add to his mystique, there’s a similar sensation that, while listening to Pico, you’re becoming privy to some hyper-local, teenaged coven. This wasn’t made for Kevin Gates or Boosie’s generation, and it certainly wasn’t made for me–it was made for kids from BR, and that’s what makes it so intriguing and, in turn, shrouded.
Vince Staples – ’06
The coda of Vince Staples’ Summertime ‘06 was a snippet of “‘06,” prefaced by a gauzy voice saying “Next time, on Poppy Street:.” In retrospect, what I thought was a preview of his next project–the then-unannounced Prima Donna–was something of a throwaway track, belonging not to the LP or the subsequent EP, but the neither-world of the Adult Swim Singles Club.
Whatever the method, any new Staples is welcome–he’s Los Angeles’ most vital voice: a self-aware, truth-to-power goon whose nuance doesn’t impede on his enjoyability. “‘06” is two, concise minutes of tomfoolery, but its (semi-) absence from Summertime ‘06 makes sense; although it would’ve fit in the late-album suite of “Get Paid,” “Street Punks,” and “Hang N’ Bang,” it’s inferior (albeit narrowly) to all three songs. In Staples’ preferred mode when rapping about violence, it’s raw and stripped down and sounds like an alarm clock that won’t stop talking shit.
Because Staples is such an endearing, erudite personality, listening to him actually rap is a reminder of the Crip he was, is, and may forever be. Los Angeles’ “other” gangster rap star, YG, is less media-savvy, so it’s harder to unconsciously uncouple his public persona with his music. Staples lures us into the Norf Norf with an easy, gap-toothed smile and thick hockey stick eyebrows. The jokes about Chris Paul’s ugly-ass shoes and emojis are the warm docent who welcomes us to the 2N Gangsta Crip Museum, where behind a thin pane of glass sits a violent, fucked up childhood.
Migos ft. Young Thug – Cocoon (Remix)
MigoThuggin may never see the light of day because Lyor Cohen turns to ash in direct sunlight. He’s Lord Capulet: wealthy and domineering, a self-assured malefactor whose supposedly steady hand seems oversold. He’s the serpent, 300 Entertainment the forbidden fruit: what he offers–“a new kind of record label”–appears to be the same underhanded tactics rebranded as fresh and rebellious. Every Migos and Young Thug song is a reminder that, artistically speaking, Cohen only adds degrees of separation between creation and release. The “Cocoon” remix would be wonderful–and would probably still exist–had Offset, Takeoff, Quavo, and Thugger never put pen to paper at 300.
Jeremih ft. Chance The Rapper, Young Thug & The Weeknd – Pass Dat (Remix)
Chance The Rapper is cloying and, to paraphrase Long Island’s native son Barry Schwartz, The Weeknd makes music for male-male-female threesomes. But it doesn’t matter, because Teddy Pena and RetroFuture’s production on “Pass Dat” is weightless like bubbles from a child’s plastic wand and unnaturally pink like sunny day cotton candy. And, importantly, it’s pliant; the “Wobbly ‘H’”-inspiring Canadian crooner and a disinterested, overly-autotuned Young Thug are equally at home, though you’d have to be a truly talentless squawker to fuck up this beat. Still, the “Pass Dat” remix is an inferior product to the original, which wasn’t begging for a disparate cast of characters to pervert its singular, simple beauty.
Lil Yachty – Not Being Able To Name Five Songs By Biggie Or ‘Pac
Read about the controversy here.
I feel like this happens every six months and it has to fuckin’ stop: a rapper born in the mid-to-late ’90s says something outwardly controversial about rap’s canon and a bunch of people who are, if not middle-aged, spiritually so, get their baggy Enyce jeans in Gordian knot. It’s a non-controversy that begets a couple, central questions about rap music–a relatively young genre–and its progression: What do we want from our young rappers? Do we want acquiescence and rules-following, or open disregard for one’s predecessors?
For every Yachty there’s a Vince Staples–neither have any outward reverence for old (yes, old) rap, yet Staples managed to make one of 2015’s best albums without spooning Stretch & Bobbito Show cassettes at night. (For the record, I don’t really believe that the first song Staples heard was Lil Bow Wow’s “Bounce With Me.”) Lil Uzi Vert can’t freestyle on command, but neither can Young Thug, a virtuosic vocalist who’s helped reinvent rap flows. Reflexive pearl clutching at rappers saying the darndest things is a base instinct, one which overestimates the solidity of the canon and so-called gatekeepers’ importance to it. And it has to fuckin’ stop.