October 18, 2016

Will Hagle waves his terrible towel. 

Young Thug may be the Freddie Mercury of our time, but Jimmy Wopo is nearly as capable as both those legends at getting stylistically inventive with his vocals. The production on “Nanana,” the latest of the Pittsburgh rapper’s songs to receive visual treatment, is basically a lo-fi, computerized version of the drum beat from “We Will Rock You.” Wopo sings, screams, mumbles, and raps his way through what he blatantly identifies as a boom-boom-clap beat, even employing the same melody and rhythm as Mercury around the 1:17 mark. Wopo is a young artist with just one, eight-track long mixtape to his name—far from the level of the artists mentioned in this paragraph’s opening sentence. A better comparison would probably have been to Roger Taylor—a talented, versatile musician who I did not know existed until a Google search led me to him the other day.

The video for “Nanana,” like most of Wopo’s, is low budget but full of friends and energy. All he needs in order to visually bolster a track is a Pittsburgh playground and a video editor capable of distorting his eyes every once in a while. Wopo, who looks like an amalgamation of Desiigner and Young Dolph, brings a physical energy and vocal versatility similar to his doppelgängers. He stalks around with a baseball bat and a double cup, wobbling and dabbing. He alternates between soft delivery and shouting. But while Desiigner’s energetic presence compensates for his lack of lyricism and originality, Wopo’s only adds an extra element.

“Nanana” isn’t on Woponese, Wopo’s aforementioned eight-track debut mixtape. The songs on there, though, are a quality introduction to his music. “Elm Street” is the obvious banger, a repurposed version of “Boyz N The Hood” that might not make Eazy E turn over in his grave. “Prime Time” has a slowed beat that accentuates some of his better lines. “iJack” finds him injecting strained emotion into his delivery. “Ayo” is also good.

The buzz building around Wopo is starting to get impossible to ignore. He’s getting looks from both Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller—the only two recent rappers to make it out of Steel City. He’s on the track list for Riff Raff’s forthcoming Balloween LP. When you search for “Nanana,” at least in my YouTube account, Wopo shows up just below My Chemical Romance and just above Akon. That might not yet be on the same level as Young Thug or Freddie Mercury, but it’s a good start.