Lucas Foster knows Hancock is a masterpiece.
Jaden Smith – “Icon”
When I was 11, I met a vulnerable and precocious 8-year-old named Jaden Smith on Christmas Eve in Reno at a showing of Pursuit of Happiness. Ten years later we meet again, and he’s definitely too cool to talk to me now. After making the exercise of adolescence a public spectacle, he seems to have outgrown the third eye he sported on Twitter as a high-schooler to reach the next stage of his evolution as a multi-platform multi-media personality. Here, he’s on his phone sitting in an expensive foreign car for his video shoot in a way that only stars can get away with, but maybe not quite getting away with it.
It’s clear he’s reaching outward from the shadow of Will and toward the heights of his father’s 1990s run. Like Big Willy, his music is trendy, profanity-free, and self-confident, but he’s working too hard to avoid the comparison to recognize the similarities. This track, with its generic trap production and flow, is a solid pop single, but very unremarkable in a sea of similar sounds. That’s not to say it’s bad; the two million youtube views in less than a week are testament to its popularity, but die-hard trap fans and old heads alike will have a hard time finding replay value.
Beatking – “Scream”
Joining a long line of overweight 30-something H-town rappers canonized in the city’s rap tradition, Beatking has his city buzzing with a club-friendly combination of cutting-edge trap production and classic Houston delivery. After seeing this track bubble up from a mixtape cut to a club favorite in his hometown, the Club Godzilla has cleverly re-released it, with possibly the most X-rated music video to ever sneak through Youtube’s content filters.
Complete with girls fellating eggplants and technicolor lights dancing across twerking asses, the music video is a trip down the more psychedelic avenues of club music. With the molly-rock crunch of its production and bellowing chorus (“If that pussy clean lemme hear ya scream!”) this single fuses the blissful ignorance of ratchet music and brilliant elegance of 2017’s peak trap production.
Philthy Rich ft. Bankroll Fresh – “This One”
It’s nice to hear new Bankroll Fresh music, regardless of context. It’s a reminder that before he was tragically murdered 18 months ago, the Atlanta rapper was hanging in the same area between regional sensation and global star that Gucci was occupying in ‘05 and Hoodrich Pablo Juan occupies now. Despite countless rappers emulating his stutter-step flow, it seems history has left him clearly in the “regional sensation” side of things, as most listeners outside of die-hard trap fans and Atlanta club-goers have trouble recalling the most polished street rapper to emerge from Atlanta during Gucci’s last incarceration.
While this single doesn’t quite compare to the inventive wordplay and forward-thinking production that defined the height of Bankroll’s career, its function as a pulsing and anthemic flashback to Atlanta’s classic sound is perfectly in tune with the BMF and Cash Money aesthetics that Bankroll constantly referenced and emulated.
The Diplomats – “Once Upon A Time”
This week’s Dipset “reunion” and Cam-Mase “beef” was intricately orchestrated and poorly disguised promotional theater for the aging New York Rap Class of Y2K’s various projects and hustles, and was joked about as such. As Twitter and VladTV comment sections clowned these artificially constructed cultural moments (either as a 40-something crowd re-enacting the glory days of their youth or the most transparently fake beef since the Big Brody vs. Tyrone celebrity boxing match), it seems that most of the joke’s burn was tempered the second the Heatmaker’s vocal sample dropped on this Cam and Jim Jones track.
While many aging artists comedically flail at impersonating the day’s trends in sound, here Jim and Cam stick with the exact sound they trademarked with the exact producers they coronated during their mid-2000s peak. The sweetly complex orchestra of the soul samples and tart smack of production came together like the Tajin seasoning on my Thanksgiving fried sweet potatoes—word to Aunt Cindy.
Nebu Kiniza ft. Lil Yachty – “Wake Up”
The Lil Yachty formula of nursery rhyme melodies and trap percussion tropes has been rolled out for two years with various artists attempting to cash in the red-braided teenager’s clout tokens. Beyond rap forum tinfoiling about the context of its recording, the track is listenable, but not quite lovable in its execution of this recipe. While everything is in place sonically, it lacks an introduction to who, exactly, Nebu Kiniza is beyond an artist capable of conjuring the connections and resources necessary to secure a Lil Yachty feature.
This song is the sort of bloatware that makes me consider where exactly “trap” is in 2017—when becoming exhausted with songs in both the “post-Yachty nursery rhyme trap” subgenre and “bad-white-boy-emo-trap” and “bad-white-boy-parody-trap” subgenres it’s time to consider just how long we have until rap critics better than I declare trap dead as disco.
OMB Peezy ft. YoungBoy Never Broke Again – “Doin Bad (Prod. By CardoGotWings)”
OMB Peezy has quickly established himself as a force in the post-Boosie lane of “pain music that’s poppin’” alongside Kodak and 03 Greedo—so much so that the YoungBoy feels almost too on-the-nose. Nevertheless, the first time I heard this song I played it five times in a row, and any true fan of raw southern rap would do the same.