The Rap Up: Week of February 2, 2018

The Rap Up returns with words on Fredo Santana, YBN Nahmir, G Perico, and more.
By    February 2, 2018

Lucas Foster doesn’t roll with the Tide.

yung gleesh“My Condolences (Feat. FlyGuyTwan & JayT1800 Prod. by Plu2o Nash & Mayhem Meech)”

Fredo Santana has not been eulogized as much as beatified. While properly canonizing his legend requires understanding his complexities, and coming eye to eye with them is deeply uncomfortable, the discomfort reveals someone greater than a tragic antihero. On either side of a tattoo no one outside of Englewood can understand, a thousand yard stare reflected his enormous personal struggle, eventual triumph, and all of the crumbling institutions that he outmaneuvered. Understanding him as a product of failing societal mechanisms alone is still inappropriate. He did more for his family and his city than we will ever know, and happened to create powerful, historically significant music along the way.

It was always ridiculous to see moral panic about his music when, from the start, he looked at you with that sort of pain. Now it’s maddening to see anti-drug PSA’s attached to his death. Drugs aren’t a hip hop problem, they don’t appear as an outgrowth of the cultural malfeasance of those dang rappers with face tattoos. Fredo told us explicitly that he was off drugs to cope with the sort of acute PTSD most addicts know through Hurt Locker. Ask the 30-year old white guy in South Ohio who just had his sixth fentanyl OD why he’s doing dope; it isn’t because he saw a double cup in a music video. We’re all getting high because it’s the best way to fill the void that the collapsing social order tears open a little further every day that capitalism gets a little later.

Every time another self-righteous dilettante uses the death of a man like Fredo to start posturing behind a twitter pulpit, we’re that much further away from understanding why hip-hop is enamored with drugs in 2018. Hip-hop has always reflected and magnified reality, and Fredo put his 10x magnifying glass on realities and revealed more (while saying little) than a thinkpiece ever could.

This Gleesh tribute is very appropriate then. He doesn’t try to overwrite it—good pain music rarely does. The hook is a blunt force admission to self medication as a response to trauma, Gleesh (another hugely influential artist, but that’s a story for another time) addresses the loss that he and hip-hop just suffered, the loss of Yams before that, and realizes there’s nothing more to say.

 FBG Duck“Slide”

FBG Duck paying his respects to Fredo was already lost in the news cycle in a way that would be impossible five years ago. Drill isn’t as popular and the voyeuristic coverage of Chicago gang culture is now a bizarre media niche, not a DJ Akademiks Youtube channel.

This song, though, is doing very well—and for good reason. He kicks off by refusing autotune (a wise choice, I’ll predict right now that 2018 will see a lot less of it) and goes right into doing what he does best. His melodic yet raspy delivery compliments the gorgeous post-drill beat. It’s drill rap as God intended it to be, gleeful and terrifying, catchy while sneering at the idea of pop, and matched with the visual commentary of a bouncing camera focused on a big group of men and their bigger guns.

 YBN Nahmir“Bounce With That”

YBN Nahmir is the second best artist out of Alabama right now (OMB Peezy is that good) but is he really “out of Alabama?” By his own admission, he never jumped off the porch, preferring to stay inside and play Grand Theft Auto, chatting with his shooters on Discord, and clouting up with video game commentary Youtube videos. He seems to have happened into hip-hop, rapping for fun until “Rubbin’ Off The Paint” started doing numbers.

It’s only appropriate, then, that this single is almost divorced from the sort of regional subtextual clues that can enliven rap nerdery. He sounds more like a Sacramento gangster rapper borrowing an LA producer’s beat than a Deep South native. Upon further inspection, it makes sense: All his GTA homies were from California. Authenticity is a tricky thing to analyze here. Nahmir is forthright in acknowledging the realities of his come up and I am thoroughly uninterested in checking the gangster of every internet-based rapper. It’s easy to dismiss him as a GTA gangster and harder to accept that this is where the culture is now, and that he makes good music.

Piercing the illusion of a street rap image so early and continuing to rap about the things he does, however, rubs his music clean. He flows very well, but a straight braggadocio track is harder to appreciate when you have to question the veracity of his claims. He reminds me of a few vert skaters in the X-Games, performing to the absolute peak of skateboarding as a sport in a controlled environment yet incapable of the stylistic tics that make skateboarding an artform. I appreciate anyone who is willing to spin three times 20 feet in the air on four wheels, but I’d rather see my friends express themselves with swan-armed wallies over rough concrete. Just the same, I can’t hate a 17 year old kid for being tremendously successful and talented, but those things alone aren’t always compelling.

 Step Brothers“Lay Some Treats On Us”

Did anyone else notice this release, or am I just not reading enough tweets and blogs? Maybe it’s evidence of hip-hop’s current trend of subgenre stratification that there was no collective media applause for the critical darlings’ new single (loosie?). They occupy a lane, the hip-hop intelligentsia wants them to keep driving straight but also wants to act bored when they do. Is it anything to be mad about, though?

Just a week ago everyone was transfixed when Migos released the same album they released last year. There should be space for The Alchemist to flip some jazz samples and trade gleeful, self-aware, post-backpacker bars with Evidence. I mean, at the very least, it’s better than all the bigger acts that try to fuse traditional rapping with Mike Will Made It Type Beats into a lab-tested mutant sludge. Anyways, the song is good, Alchemist flipped some snare drums around with some drive-in movie trumpets and they go bar for bar. Maybe you can already hear their “pens” in the “Rotten Apple,” but you also just heard Logic get a Grammy nomination.

 G Perico“If I Ruled The World (G-Style)”

If I ruled the world It Was Written would be taught in 8th Grade US history classes (seriously, play the album to a 13 year old white kid and they’ll definitely come to a better understanding of structural racism); and we would play this G Perico remix in Unit 8 to better demonstrate how Nasir Jones’ second published text seamlessly integrated the sounds of his West Coast contemporaries. With the knifing piano sample scaled back, Lauryn Hill absent, the bassline blown up, and G Perico’s throwback delivery, this sounds more like Too Short than 1996s nominal prince of New York City. With a 90 second freestyle, G Perico just improved my understanding of the hit single of one of my favorite albums. That’s pretty special.

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