Lucas Foster solved a Rubik’s Cube while writing this.
C Struggs ft. Classik Mussik & Pooca Leroy – “Privilege”
Trap rappers are like Shakespearean character actors in that they spend entire careers trying to perfect a select few narrowly defined roles as they were originally written.
On this C Struggs cut we see three men assuming supporting roles in the archetypal change of pace lust song. The qualifiers for such cuts are simple: It can be snuck in the midsection of any mixtape in the genre; it has a male R&B singer on the hook; a beat that is filled with warm and velvety melodies in the R&B tradition; and holds a minimum of three promises to butter up their romantic interest. This is a strictly traditionalist approach with all three characters flawlessly executing a timeless script’s smallest details.
It may be a scarcely noted blip in a saturated market, but there are many excellent runs of Julius Caesar that exist equally anonymously.
Kodak Black – “Snap Shit”
After being teased in social media snippets for the years, “Snap Shit” was finally released this week like an NBA player who found some lost high school game tape would drop a new Hoops Mixtape in the middle of a regular season. Though the stigma surrounding his criminal charges is ever-present, so is Kodak Black’s God-given skill set; specifically, the rap voice, charisma, and knack for writing hooks that separate a good rapper from a star. As he often did in his rap career’s infancy, here he coasts on these talents alone, but still manages to flash the rarified gifts he still possesses.
He wanders carefree and unfocused in a half-time hesitation flow, dragging two syllables to four or six, floating rudderless over a melancholy violin sample. He makes the track work with just the slightest bit of effort, falling short of his more inspired efforts but delivering a nice gift to those of us who have followed the Project Baby since he released that first tape.
Lupe Fiasco – “All While Doing A Rubik’s Cube One-Handed”
— DROGASLight Out Now! (@LupeFiasco) October 25, 2017
Lupe Fiasco has made a Lil B song, and not in the unintentional or uninformed way that many industry rappers have made Lil B songs. Instead, this is a reproduction of a particular kind of deep cut from a particular type of Based God cloud rap mixtape. The slightly off-kilter beat could have been a Keyboard Kid throwaway and sounds more like something in the middle of a SoundCloud playlist made by an anime avatar than something from a Lupe Fiasco project, while the freestyled verse with socio-political themes immediately reminded me of “I’m Solid.”
Of course, the freestyled verse was serious and topical in a way that a Based God verse could never be. When Lil B attempts to break character, his rhymes are wrapped in internet addiction and post-irony. With Lupe assuming that aloof and unencumbered vantage point, he’s able to shake self-imposed shackles of ambition and self-seriousness. The result is a sort of stylistic fusion that strikes socially conscious rap’s difficult to place balance between cliche and pretension.
The climax of the song is simple: “White people having serious brand issues, can’t kiss you behind the scenes, fuckin’ us from the back/ Got too comfortable with Barack/ Now uncle Trump’s making me feel so un-wonderful with the hat/ Who watchin’ you by the cap?” Without over analyzing things or trying to get cute, he just captures the collective subconscious and photo copies it in a well-composed and entertaining bit of rapping.
Rich Homie Quan – “Bossman”
After Thug and Quan made THA TOUR, Rich Homie was given the opportunity to live out his days as Young Thug’s Sancho Panza. He flinched. Three years later he is quite definitely Still Goin In, but in the way a 35-year-old NBA center is still crashing the boards twenty minutes a night for a check.
This is still a solid song, though. It would have been better had it been released as an album cut in 2013 rather than a single in 2017. After Goin In for four years, he could stand to go back to the well to dredge up a less over-used flow.
Pouya – “Daddy Issues”
By somehow staying relevant among a surge of rappers of a similar complexion making similar music, Pouya took the option to stay comfortably seated at the Memphian, lo-fi table of internet underground rap. This is a welcome change of pace.
In a catalog filled with a white guy LARPing as a ’90s Memphis gangster, “Daddy Issues” is one of the few songs that Pouya has made that is wholly believable. Mikey The Magician’s morose use of a piano sample and the beat’s downtempo pace makes the track initially seem interchangeable with songs about depression or addiction ubiquitous among micro-genre peers. Instead, the entrance of claps with multiple layers of sung vocals on the hook bring you to the realization that here Pouya is trying to do something resembling a conventional pop song. In fact, it’s nakedly an ode to the specific type of internet emo girls who are already listening to Pouya and who take interest in the pint-sized Floridan outside of his music.
The song does most of what it’s supposed to (he made a catchy hook), and it especially works if you choose to read it as his attempt to suffocate or communicate those feelings of affection that bubble below the surface.