Torii MacAdams’ real first name is Aubrey.
Boogie – Nigga Needs
Knowing that your shit’s fucked up is hard. Having a sense of humor about it is harder. Boogie is waist-deep in murky water full of struggle and awfulness, free of waders–but so are we. He’s the one who’s making jokes about his pruney, waterlogged skin, the slithering monsters that may lie just beneath the surface, and those who refuse to admit that they, too, are soaked to the core with pettiness and yearning. Ultimately, quipping about your shortcomings is a deflection–actually fixing your shit is the hardest. Boogie’s working on it, I think.
In the video for “Nigga Needs,” two miniature versions of Boogie–one with blood running from a gunshot wound to his side, the other with a black eye and holding a sleeping toddler–are placed on white pedestals in a white gallery for white patrons. Though these miniature Boogies rap about his needs, his contradictions, and his achievements, the comparatively gigantic visitors either don’t hear him or don’t care to interact. The message here, as in the video for Vince Staples’ “Señorita,” is glaringly obvious: people–white rap fans in particular–view his suffering with academic removal, and will eventually appropriate it whether or not he’s still hemorrhaging his sorrows and his actual blood.
Drake – Two Birds, One Stone
In a Wild West saloon brawl, someone invariably gets thrown through a window–that’s Drake, Wilhelm screaming his way through plate glass, landing with a thud on a dirty, wooden sidewalk. In every pillow fight, someone invariably swings wildly, misses, and breaks a vase–that’s Drake, embarrassed, hoping it’s still salvageable. In a slapstick comedy, someone invariably hits their head and burns their hand on the stove–that’s Drake, stumbling into the rake poised to thwack him in the nose. In middle school, a classmate strung a thin, metal wire across a walkway, hoping to clothesline someone. Later that day, he ran into it himself, bloodying his forehead. That wasn’t Drake, but it could’ve been.
I understand why Drake made “Two Birds, One Stone”–Pusha T dissed him last week on “H.G.T.V.”–but I can’t understand his tactics. Of all the available angles, why in the fuck is he attacking a probable criminal on matters of street credibility? He attempts to burnish his reputation by rapping:
Gave back to the city and never said it if I didn’t live it
But still they try and tell you I’m not the realest
Like I’m some privileged kid
That never sat through a prison visit
Congratulations, dude. You, like my octogenarian country club member grandparents, have sat through a prison visit. Somehow, Drake’s riposte gets weaker when he alleges that Pusha T was nothing more than a middle-man in drug sales (which he’s deduced by looking his opponent in the eyes). Why would he admit Pusha T has actual, criminal bonafides when he has none of his own to brandish? Drake, who’s immensely wealthy, the most popular rap artist alive, and is considered physically attractive, is simply incapable of playing to his strengths. Pusha T’s going to burp him like a baby.
Curren$y ft. Starlito – Told Me That
“Told Me That” sounds like the Beats by the Pound and Curren$y single that history (read: Master P) denied us. Though the producers and the New Orleans rapper were both No Limit soldiers, the foursome of KLC, Mo B. Dick, Craig B and Odell acrimoniously left the label in 1999, three years before Curren$y joined the 504 Boyz. Master P was the commander of the platinum tank, but Beats by the Pound was its engine, so integral to the label’s success that when they departed, so too did a wave of rappers-turned-loyalists. No Limit never recovered.
Here, Cardo, a native Minnesotan, adds a purply twist to Beats by the Pound’s menace and piano trills. If there’s a rap equivalent to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, it’s Cardo, a connoisseur of cow bells, treacly synths, and roiling bass.
T-Pain ft. Lil Yachty – Dan Bilzerian
Dan Bilzerian is a bicep. His chest hair fell victim to laser-removal, he suffered three heart failures before he turned 31 (two of which were drug-induced), and, after video emerged of Donald Trump saying “grab ‘em by the pussy,” Bilzerian Instagrammed a photo of himself grabbing a woman by the vagina. The son of a corporate raider, he claims the vast sums he spends on automobiles, guns (he reportedly keeps them all chambered and loaded), and cocaine was earned through the graft and craft of high-stakes poker. As Friend of the Weiss Drew Millard proved in an August 2015 story for Vice, that origin story is a lie. His father’s byzantine network of offshore accounts is Bilzerian’s primary form of income, and the Securities and Exchange Commission is likely owed every penny of these trusts. Perhaps a better insult than I can dish out is that T-Pain, who named a song for the military-humping eccentric, can’t even pronounce his last name.
OMB BloodBath – Not So Gone
Within the past month, I’ve heard two people decry the gentrification of Houston’s Third Ward, one of the city’s historical centers of black life. The first was Lance Scott Walker, the venerable author of Houston Rap Tapes, who told me, “They’ve mowed complete blocks down [there], bulldozed all these old, beautiful shotgun houses, and put up whole square blocks of apartment buildings to where you don’t even recognize the neighborhood.” The second is OMB BloodBath, who on “Not So Gone” raps:
White folks is building condos to get us ran out the hood/
They tryin’ to call Third Ward ‘Midtown,’ how that shit sound?/
Where a historical place is a playground for the rich now?/
We ain’t never had shit, they expect us to put them sticks down?/
We ain’t never had shit and they ain’t tryin to give us shit now
While I have no great insight into the changes underway in the Third Ward, it’s worth noting that five of the nine fastest growing cities in the United States in terms of sheer numeric increases are located in Texas, with Houston placing second. (Five of the 11 fastest growing cities, percentage-wise, are also in Texas.) There’s been a lot of ink spilled about spiking rent and home prices in Northeast and East Los Angeles, the disruptive app formerly known as San Francisco, and Brooklyn, a borough-turned-brewpub, but, because Houston isn’t a media stronghold, it seems the plight of the Third Ward has escaped national notice. Perhaps it’s time we consider what gentrification will do to Houston rap, too.