Alphonse Pierre wrote this on the Staten Island ferry.
Beautiful Dogs (Chip Skylark & Tobias)– “Table Manners”
Each month it’s required of me to talk about at least one rap artist or group that I’m genuinely confused by, and this month it’s the ECW rap collective (every time I type their name I want to watch Rey Mysterio v. Psicosis). By my count on Soundcloud, the Brooklyn based collective has 15 official members (one of them being recently incarcerated rapper Chip Skylark) and a whole list of affiliates (which producer Tobias is listed as). It’s a damn mess. Their music is spread over an absurd amount of Soundcloud accounts, with some on Bandcamp, too. They might give 2012 Raider Klan a run for their money in the least accessible rap group competition (not really).
The group slides into a wide open lane in the New York rap picture as their lo-fi, gritty and dark sound doesn’t have any other New York counterparts. And their sudden detours from a gritty sound into brighter tracks (at least sound wise) like “Washed Up” remind me of Metro Zu’s “do whatever the fuck we want” way about making music during their peak.
Now that we have that out of the way, Chip Skylark (Google VIP Skylark to avoid getting the Nickelodeon character) has established himself as the star of ECW, and linking with promising producer Tobias to form the duo Beautiful Dogs results in a pretty freaking great debut track in “Table Manners.”
The song has no build as Tobias’ thudding bass and hi-hats are instantly present and the second Chip Skylark comes onto the track, “I’m at the table tell em catch up,” his intensity is felt overshadowing the corny pun. Chip doesn’t let up at all on the track. “I’m a real Brooklyn nigga,” he says emphatically, eventually even calling out his own city: “My city need to me to restore a little faith ho.” Chip’s voice is deep and energetic, and Tobias is just as talented, as the 10 second outro after the drums suddenly stop is slightly haunting.
I think I change what I’m most excited about in New York rap every week, but for now it’s this. Good rapping, good producing, not giving a fuck, and even some live shows in a shitty indie wrestling ring. Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on here but give me more of it. Free Chip Skylark.
Flee– Flee Going Stoopid
Honestly, Queens might be the most foreign borough to me. Somewhat like Staten Island, a lot of the music in Queens exists in a bubble overshadowed by artists from Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx. But Queens rapper Flee has found his way around the bubble, partially through Soundcloud and also by capturing the word of mouth that has been elusive for so many Queens hopefuls.
Flee Going Stoopid, produced entirely by the underrated Stoopidxool—who has recently become the most prolific member of BeatPluggz (yes, the guys with the “Plug!” tag)—benefits from having Stoopid’s bouncy yet calm production laying a solid foundation. This allows Flee to pretty much do whatever the hell he wants vocally, aware that he always has Stoopid’s consistent production to fall back on. A track like “No Sense,” where Flee spends the entire duration of the song in a high pitched drawl doesn’t work, but Stoopid keeping the production fairly simple keeps the song grounded.
Other than “No Sense,” most of Flee Going Stoopid is very good and Flee’s vocal flexibility manages to keep the featureless 12 track effort fresh throughout. Standouts like the catchy “Guac” blend Flee’s desire to reach his highest pitch with a common voice inflection reminiscent of a more melodically inclined Key! (who is very underappreciated). “Guac” starts out with Flee repeating, “Me and Stoopid going stupid,” which you’re guaranteed to have stuck in your head by tape’s end. The track is also filled with some of the most enjoyable Flee lines: “I do not want regular Bape so Imma go to Japan.”
The hometown representing “Queens” might be the best Stoopidxool beat on the project (and there are a lot to choose from) and Flee does it justice with a solid hook: “Young nigga from Queens/I know niggas walking round with infrared beams.” Every word that comes out of Flee’s mouth on the track is quotable and that is a feeling felt throughout the project. On “Dora’s Interlude,” he makes “Nigga, fuck Dora we out here swiping shit” work as an opening line and something as simple as “Ooo Wit Da Left” irresistible.
Flee Going Stoopid is a perfect introduction to Flee, an artist that you’re sure to hear about more down the line as his name becomes one recognized throughout New York. And, with his knack for melody and crafty hooks it’s only a matter of time until Flee stumbles into something that catapults his popularity. Hopefully Stoopidxool is still on the beat when that happens.
Koten Kyatchi, Lil Tech, Sam Shooter, fourteenK, Whereis22 & M2– “Circus Pt 1”
Staten Island hasn’t had a viable rap movement since the early 1990s when Wu Tang was on the rise. That’s 25 damn years. It has pretty much become an ongoing joke by the four other boroughs: “All Staten Island has is Wu Tang and the dump.” The dump is gone, by the way, so start getting that right. Anyway, Staten Island has begun to put together a movement for once that has some reach outside of the Island. Rappers like Squidnice, Lite Fortunato, Louthehuman, and Tribe Gvng have all brought eyes to the budding scene which has become more organized in recent months.
“Circus Pt 1” is a posse cut which turned me off at first because posse cuts suck. They’re normally never ending messes that are supposed to serve as an exhibition for the group, but you usually leave more confused. This track is also a mess, but I guess that is just unavoidable in posse cuts. Where this track impresses is in its straightforwardness. It’s only two minutes long despite featuring six rappers on the track (RIP to the days of 10 minute long Pro Era posse cuts), and the song gives you a glimpse at each artist succeeding in its mission as an introduction.
The cover art of the track displays each artist’s name, a photo and the first line of their verse so people like me who can’t stand not knowing who is rapping can be at ease. The beat produced by Rvg3r is simple, but the song’s purpose is to highlight the rappers. None of the verses are particularly weak and most of them only get a couple of lines in, but the voices of Whereis22, fourteenK, and M2 standout among the others.
Whereis22, who has gained some buzz through some production for the controversial Famous Dex and a light A$ap affiliation, hops on the track and is the smoothest of the six, rapping, “22 up in the booth.” FourteenK’s (coming off of a very good single from the summer with Lil Tech) adlib heavy verse is perfect for the times and M2, who seems the be the best traditional rapper of the bunch, takes advantage of his brief appearance.
I’m not sure what will really come of this movement, but as Squidnice’s profile rises, the underbelly of Staten Island should continue to develop as a result. Hopefully they use “Circus Pt 1” as a springboard to something with more replay value because somebody needs to put Staten Island on the map. Why not them?
Jay Critch & Desiigner– “Hit”
Can we take a minute to appreciate how amazing the music coming out of Brooklyn is right now? Here we have Brooklyn’s hottest rappers, Jay Critch, teamed with one of its recognizable names Desiigner. Don’t forget the extremely versatile Laron (a name to get used to) on the beat. I can get used to this trio. The track is a good look for Jay Critch to bring over some outside eyeballs that may come with Desiigner’s name, but Desiigner is who this collaboration really benefits.
Desiigner’s career post-“Panda” has been weird, to say the least. Interest on him has waned with people already treating him like a relic: “Oh, do you remember that ‘Panda’ song?” Some of the blame goes to Desiigner and his team for not having any noteworthy music or collaborations ready to immediately follow “Panda,” but most of the blame goes to circumstance and what happens when you blow up without an actual fanbase.
Desiigner never got a chance to win over the Brooklyn audience, so when he began to fall he had nothing to land on. Although, it wasn’t a complete disaster. He still had the G.O.O.D Music safety blanket and a few newly acquired Soundcloud fans to keep him afloat, but still, it felt empty. This track is the first step in Desiigner’s attempt to find himself in this suddenly crowded Brooklyn landscape. Vocally separating himself from the Future comparisons, much like he does on this track, will only be beneficial to him in the long run. And, it doesn’t hurt if he keeps linking up with Brooklyn’s cream of the crop like Jay Critch and Laron.
Mally Bandz– “All Night”
Brooklyn’s Mally Bandz is under the radar at the moment, but as his buzz slowly grows, the music is quickly becoming very good. The track is produced by A Lau, who is currently inescapable in New York’s rap scene. On “All Night,” he once again proves his worth. The production relies on a busy background that pairs perfectly with Mally’s soft voice. Mally packs the track with quotables like, “This glock on me won’t let me fight,” and, “Designer on me it look like I’m created.” The hook is good enough that I didn’t really mind that it’s also generic.
Mally still has a long way to go to find an actual place for himself in the Brooklyn scene. Despite personally enjoying this song, it’s really not enough for him to stand out. His song from a couple of months ago, “20s 50s 100s,” is just as good as “All Night,” but there’s still something missing. But as he releases more music and becomes more comfortable with every release, it’s worth pointing out that Mally Bandz is someone not to overlook.