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Yung God – “RITE NOW”
Yung God secured his place in the pantheon of rap nerd “actually’s” when he recorded “Caillou” and a YouTube uploader mistakenly attributed that based anthem to Based God. An innocent mistake that relegated Yung God to warming the back bench of early 2010s based freestyle extraordinaires with various one hit wonders and SODMG affiliates. He persisted and made a lot of interesting and forward-thinking music for no one in particular—evolving from carefree based freestyles a la “Caillou” to sad and lonely odes to drug dependence as his addiction progressed. Around the same time as Goth Boi Clique and Peep, he discovered the joy of mixing guitar samples and trap drums, but to this day no one really cares. In a frustrating but expectedly cruel twist of fate, someone stole his whole early career shtick and ran with it to the bank.
Yung God languishing in obscurity in the same universe Ugly God has a record deal is proof that we’re living in hell. Not only is Yung God’s left-field-of-Lil B cloud rap sound apparent in Ugly God’s music, but Yung God started a psuedo-movement in based world called “Ugly Mob” five or six years ago—that Ugly was hyper aware of. It’s not so terrible that Ugly God blew up, the public wasn’t ready for this stuff seven years ago like it was two years ago, but it’s pretty gross Ugly never even gave a four word Twitter shout out to Yung God or the fringe SODMG affiliates he fanboy’d over in 2014.
This song is better than pretty much every Ugly God song and you probably still haven’t listened to it or even started to care. Life isn’t fair, the music business is cannibalistic, and Yung God’s amateurish approach to the business side of the music industry did him no favors. But this sort of biting used to end careers, or at least get noses bloodied. Are we so cynically poptimistic that this is okay now?
Tay-K – “After You”
The long-awaited follow up Tay-K single is here, and the initial response from fans and media feels like he was never gone (even though he was technically gone by the time he first arrived). Any rapper as nimble as Tay-K figures to have a massive back catalog, and it seems feasible he can maintain buzz through a murder case (or even part of a murder bid). This song sure is good enough. His precocious 17-year-old manager Ezra has helped keep everyone hungry for more, and this surprise single was another tactical victory against the looming threat of public ennui.
Tay-K’s earlier hits took off because they balanced the disconcerting truth of his reality with youthful exuberance and carnival ride melodies. When his legal situation made his reality that much more palpable, observations became think pieces and those energetic sounds became semi-disturbing. This is almost a response to that. He ditches any “duality” and makes straight menacing murder music, putting on a sinister cadence to compliment the stripped down beat. His lyrics are more directly discussing murder and somehow colder than any drill rappers. It’s weird that this unsettling focus on the most uncomfortable subject in street rap is going to be background music at high school parties.
Comethazine – “Bands (Prod. Foreign Heat)”
Maybe it’s not so weird that “After You” is going to soundtrack some 15-year-old white kid’s first run in with alcohol poisoning. Comethazine’s musical formula is so infectious that he just used it to conjure 10 million plays in two weeks (curiously, this is also the first result when you search for “Ater You” on SoundCloud). It’s probably disingenuous to call this a Tay rip-off, but the seventeen year old’s influence is so apparent that you can’t unhear it once it’s noticed. No matter who influenced this single, it would still be unwise to write off Comethazine. Internet Hippy noted that he’s up next, and if there’s anyone you should trust when it comes to emerging artists, it’s him.
Joey Bada$$ – “THUGZ CRY (Prod. By 1-900 & NasteeLuvzYou)”
A couple of years ago, Joey definitely couldn’t have pulled off a re-interpretation of Purple Rain-era Prince’s signature single. Today, after meeting all of his idols and then pseudo-ghost writing a chart-topping single, Joey looked around, shrugged and realized he’s pretty much the most qualified guy around. Doing a hip-hop cover of any Prince song requires serious chutzpah, especially now that His Royal Badness has ascended to pop star heaven. I almost wanted this to just be a kitschy product of his participation in an Australian radio show—it’s a lot easier to write a scathing review filled with righteous indignation than one of earnest appreciation—but the track is the most impressive bit of pop-rap songwriting released so far this year.
It sounds like the conversation Joey and Kanye started when Joey learned he inspired “Real Friends” has continued: The indulgent song structure, intricate vocal mixing, and flip of “When Doves Cry” into a space age soul sample all take cues from the maximalism of The Life of Pablo. Kanye comparisons are used too often because people think things they like have to be culturally momentous, not just pretty, but it’s really hard to draw a direct line from MBDTF or Yeezus to the popular rap albums released in 2012 or 2015. Close to no one has his budget and ear for arrangement. When someone actually sounds like Kanye West, it’s jarring. So is getting away with a Prince cover.
Young Scooter – “Trippple Cross (Feat. Young Thug & Future)”
Future and Thugger teaming up to play Godzilla and Mothra over the the rap game’s proverbial Tokyo was supposed to be the summertime blockbuster that never ended. But as the super slimes reign of terror has unfolded, there’s been a lot less screaming; the citizens of our megalopolis are less and less impressed every time they phone in another predictable collaborative ballad. Four years ago brains would explode if they saw promotion for this song, it was a time when Gucci’s proteges were ascendant and Zaytoven snare patterns weren’t so acquainted with private school WASPs who pay thirty a gram and cat ladies reading checkout stand gossip mags.
Today we know exactly what we’re getting before pressing play. The simple, almost lifeless beat is similar enough to Bhad Bhadie’s “Hi Bich” to make any street lyrics seem out of place (it’s laugh out loud hilarious that when this specific fuzzy-sounding synth plug-in is used on a Travis Scott song people like to say the word “industrial” a lot), and each rapper’s contribution is so on brand that by the end of the three minute (surprise!) song you wonder if there’s a reason to listen to any of them again.
The obligatory addendum is of course that listening to DS2 on acid changed my life and Young Thug is the bestest, sexiest GOAT to ever live, and uh, I played Young Scooter mixtapes in my car in high school. That doesn’t mean I’m going to hold water for them when they make something so boring. Mainstream Atlanta trap is stale at this point—even the music of their generational talents. There’s still a lot of interesting music being made in the city, but it’s all made by the stylistic offspring of this group. This song really feels like the second “end of an era” moment after people stop pretending to like the same Migos album they heard in 2017.