Alphonse Pierre refuses to read that Union Pool article.
Sixpress– Untitled (Part 1)
It’s finally time to embrace snippet culture. A Tweet that stuck with me over the last couple of months was Virginia rapper Nolanberollin saying, “2018 no more music just snippets.” And he wasn’t bullshitting. So, of course when I came across Bronx rapper and Slums member Sixpress’ new project, Untitled (Part 1), I was thrilled to see it was composed of about eleven songs over the course of seventeen minutes. All of the songs hover around the one minute mark and most ignore common song structure techniques such as build ups, hooks, and outros. It’s a fast paced journey into his world and you exit it learning enough about Sixpress, but it’s still enigmatic enough to leave you wanting more. How often can you say that?
The music also has a slight unfinished feel to it. Maybe that’s because of the lack of structure I just commended it for or possibly it’s the reliance on soul samples and loops which gave Earl Sweatshirt’s I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside a similar feel—another album that thrived because of its brevity. Sixpress’ rapping also contributes to the incompleteness as at times it feels like he’s going off the top delving into these sequences of repetition and using a stop-start style that seems like he’s gathering his thoughts.
I’m not sure how receptive most would be to a project like this. And honestly, it might just be made for people like me who spent the last of their teen years compiling one minute Playboi Carti clips and becoming obsessed with finding the complete version, although it never came. Whatever it is, I admire Sixpress for creating a project that patiently speeds to its end and most importantly sounds good as hell.
YTO3– “Running Thru O3”
I don’t know much about Queens collective YTO3. I know they’re from the outskirts of the borough located somewhere near Hollis & Elmont bordering on Long Island territory, but honestly, when we look at rap from the city it’s interesting to see that most of it is located at the most outer parts of the boroughs. I guess this is the result of the cultures getting pushed into more condensed areas further from Manhattan as midwest-born NYU graduates hunt for new neighborhoods to inhabit.
“Running Thru O3” is a breath of fresh air as Cash Cobain’s consistently ethereal production is unlike most of the other beat making in the city. The group’s members rap as well as some of the better rappers in Brooklyn’s drill movement, and it really shows you how far linking up with a capable producer—instead of looking for free beats on Youtube—can take you. It’s impossible to have a New York renaissance without an underrated historic rap borough like Queens having a movement of their own. And with YTO3 and Flee something is happening there. Queens get the money!
There’s a strange misconception in the underground right now that for your music to be dark it has to be as abrasive as possible, leading to an influx of rap built around screamo, punk, and music videos that look to be clips from terrible Harmony Kormine movies. But all of that is unnecessary. Look at an album like The Infamous, Prodigy’s brooding tone over the methodical production is intimidating because of how real it feels. It’s the same thing that made Get Out one of the most successful horror films of all time. Amongst the absurdity it was real.
In Harlem right now there’s a small movement of teenagers who have found an aesthetic that is intimidating, not in a weird I’ll bite your face off way—which is how I interpret old XXXTentacion music—but in a haunting, walk through an uptown alleyway filled with needles at dawn. I guess it just feels true to their experience and here, Zatin rapping with little to no energy over the eerie Baby Blue synth feels like Harlem; or at least what’s left of Harlem—a place that is often forgotten, ignored and compacted as its residents get pushed into the Bronx. Amongst the bleakness there are some great lines thrown in here too: “Bullets flying through your chest fucking up your fit/Beat a nigga up for stepping on my fucking kicks.”
Chip Skylark & Tobias– Beautiful Dog
Brooklyn rapper and a member of the ECW collective Chip Skylark started off the year dropping a well done collaborative project with producer Tobias. I was excited for this project because Chip Skylark not only has a great name but is really good at rapping and knows it. Nevertheless, at a bulky 20 tracks there should be way more rapping on this project than there actually is.
Beautiful Dog is, for some reason, about 25% skits while another 25% of it is composed of inconsequential tracks with a bunch of low grade Kid Cudi humming. But when you lose all the fluff what you’re left with is a project simultaneously gritty and dreamy, which feels like it should be impossible but it’s not. Tracks like “Ran to the Chase” incorporate a pretty little melody with a bass that enhances the anger in Chip Skylark’s voice when he says shit like, “NYPD you know we spit in they face.” Another standout is the bouncy “I Miss My Family” which may have the best beat on the project and finds Chip loading up the song with his signature shrieks which make it feel like a banger despite him basically going through a monotone speech on the track.
There are a couple of solid features on the project, mainly from fellow ECW member Shaqqy, who glides through with two nice verses while Red Note lends her voice to a few tracks (some good singing for once). But overall, the good outweighs the very bad on Beautiful Dog and I’m looking forward to whatever both these talents do next as they continue to experiment.
6ix9ine– “Keke (Feat. Fetty Wap & A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie)”
Okay, hear me out here. I get what you’re thinking and yes, we can’t talk about 6ix9ine without addressing what he plead guilty to. But when I first decided to start writing this column, one of the main reasons was to give some exposure to a city that was thriving but being ignored by the general media. In addition, I wanted to write something that five years from now we could look back on and have a snapshot of New York rap at the time. Of course, the snapshot won’t always look good.
So, it leads me to 6ix9ine and “Keke,” which has garnered over 35 million plays in two weeks on Youtube and Soundcloud alone. He is the most popular rapper on the internet and if you go to some of the more popular pages like DJ Akademiks, Kollege Kidd, or GirbaudTx, he dominates their content. He’s also legitimately making waves on the Billboard pop charts. All the while, the media has made an effort to ignore him and pretend his rise isn’t happening. I’m not sure if that’s the right or wrong thing to do, but I feel that the media shouldn’t just cover their eyes and hope he goes away. He won’t. Instead, use the situation to pose larger conversations about society and music as a whole just as this New York Times piece attempts to.
6ix9ine says he’s putting on for New York and I don’t really believe it because it feels contrived. He can throw whoever he wants in his videos—from leftover GS9 members to a dancing Kooda B and even A Boogie featuring a revived Fetty Wap (there’s a buzzing North Jersey rap scene we need to talk about)—yet I still won’t ever believe he genuinely represents the city. I don’t know. It’s complicated and I guess that’s one of the reasons people refuse to cover it. It’s easier not to, as all it takes is one misconstrued sentence and they’ll have your head on a stick. Hopefully that doesn’t happen to me, but regardless he’s part of New York rap right now and the best we can do is try to let people know what he’s done. They probably won’t care though.