The Rap Up: Week of January 5, 2018

The Rap Up returns for its first edition of 2018 with new music from Warhol.SS, Bruno Mars & Cardi B, and more.
By    January 5, 2018

Lucas Foster has a live band accompany his writing sessions.

Warhol.SS“New Year Part 2 (Lost & Found) (Prod. Staccato)”

I’m not like other girls, I hate the term “art rap.” Mainly ’cause I don’t know what the fuck it means. Is Young Thug not artsy? Is Lil Peep not artsy? (I promise, I’m more obtuse and less fun at parties). But “art trap,” yes, that, THAT nomenclature makes my ears perk up.

As his name suggests, Warhol.SS is the coolest indie rapper currently working to fuse his “weird” and quirky tendencies with the same snares and 808s that bring you to a kitchen filled with baking soda and black iron. He tours with a live guitarist, who compliments his jet sets with rhythmic melodies and Paige-esque solos. His records are always a bit different from what his Soundcloud peers are doing—just off kilter, just off in left field, just a little weirder than rap weirdos, and always in the future.

If you wanna know what music in 2018 should sound like, listen to this damn song. There’s no ultra-convoluted digital audio workstation of 14 synth melodies and twice as many drums; just an elegant pairing of a 2-note, cinematic string sample and snares and claps in time with a trap rhythm. The vocals aren’t the highfalutin fare of Trippie Redd autotune or the comical, demonic whisper-croak of Lil Wop. Nah, this is the type of clean monotone autotune that should make the ghost of 2007 Kanye West cry tears of joy.

 Bruno Mars“Finesse (Remix Feat. Cardi B)”

Cardi B has once again worked her magic. This time she breathed new life into a nearly year-old Bruno Mars album cut. A quick 8 bars and a call-and-response exchange with Bruno was just enough to jack up a lounge pop B-Side into what should be a hit. On a track that many peers would have trouble figuring out how to rap on, she almost overwhelms the relaxed grouping of barca chair synths and Bruno’s sweet singing with her swagger.

The video may be equally important to mass appeal. “Finesse” is the sequel to “Treasure’s” VHS tape recollection of funk and disco. The video is a pitch perfect amalgamation of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s theme and ’90s Rap & B, all the way down to the animated border and paint splatters. It’s in tune with the track, looser and more open-minded with its interpretation of a bygone era than its conservative and robotic prequel.

At a time when pop music can sound robotic and data-driven to the more cynical among us, this is pop music at it’s best: a nostalgia-inducing expression of joy just understated enough to be comfortable boombox background noise and danceable enough for room-shaking speakers.

 Famous Dex“I Don’t Love The Bitch”

I helped my friend move on Tuesday. This was an awkward exercise, for my man was an old head who had the unfortunate experience of reading this column every week. We had a lighthearted debate about the importance of T-Pain, during which I just barely contained myself from showing a video of Famous Dex laying down ad-libs when asked what was good about hip-hop in 2017. This is Real hip-hop.

This song also is real hip-hop. As his career progresses, Famous Dex is continuing to increase his stock with constant experiments that update his sound. This is not what he favored earlier in his career of high octane “Oh Man! Goddamn! Dexter” adlibs over bouncy post-drill beats; it’s airy and ethereal, a much calmer Dexter. The beat is pulling you downward, into the pastel colorway of the video where Dexter is being famous, taking pictures with fans and hanging out the side of an expensive car in alternating purple and blue and green tones. It’s clear that Dexter’s strategy of constantly dropping content is paying off, even in unexpected ways.

 Raekwon“The Sky”

Legends never die. This song, alongside the release of a very good album last year, prove Raekwon immortal. But has Raekwon ever really made a bad song? It’s a question worth investigating. [ed. note: Immobilarity was released before Lucas was born, I think]

This is of course a variation of the rawest Old School East Coast sounds he’s worked with for more than two decades. The song’s bopping keyboard sounds like 1998 Ma$e meets ’96 Wu. Its keyboard bop and Raekwon’s bars stunting wealth are more than enough; the song doesn’t even need a hook to bridge the two minutes of flawless rapping.


Oh what a Black Kray feature can do for a song. I didn’t initially want to enjoy something that sounds so similar to many artists who populate my Soundcloud stream, but the bored futurism of Kray and Starfox here is as pretty sounding as it is modern. Kray is punchier than usual—not in his expected slow-motion croak—but right in step with his rhyming partner, hopping up and doing the most through Hyrich’s lush, yet robotic melodies.

 Chxpo“Robbing Spree (Prod. Nedarb)”

Chxpo has been on a robbing spree for at least 18 months now, stealing our hearts and streaming plays with what seems to be one never-ending freestyle across all the best production on the internet. Nedarb is on a similar warpath, having come up as both one of the most purely talented producers working in Los Angeles through his constant collaborations with Lil Peep’s Goth Boi Clique and other Hollywood socialites. Together, they worked their magic some more on “Robbing Spree.” Check out this excellent post-trap banger to find out why people both in and outside LA’s cloutland are excited about Chxpo and Nedarb’s 2018s. If there is a more excellent pairing of artists moving into their prime, let me know.

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