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Mano Sundaresan is #ValeeHive.
Smokepurpp – “Nephew (feat. Lil Pump) (prod. CHASETHEMONEY)”
If you told me last summer that a 29-year-old who builds koi ponds in his free time would be a major influence on face-tatted, teenage rappers in 2018, I’d ask for whatever you’re smoking then run back “With My Team” for the fifth time. Valee’s sway in rap right now is undeniable. His flows pop up everywhere. I’d tolerate it if the emergent songs were as good as their source material. They’re not.
Exhibit A was “FEFE” by 6ix9ine and Nicki Minaj, in which the Troll Dolls incarnate appropriate Valee’s eighth-note flow from “Two 16’s.” It sounds like the dusty storage closet of an Urban Outfitters, full of Culture hoodies and checkered Vans. Exhibit B is Smokepurpp and Lil Pump’s new song “Nephew.” It’s more listenable than “FEFE,” thanks to CHASETHEMONEY’s production and, well, no 6ix9ine or Nicki. That doesn’t shroud the fact that Purpp and Pump lift the “Womp Womp” flow wholesale. To be fair, it works. The beat is incredibly similar to that song’s, and Purpp tends to put on different masks when given the opportunity. He’s always been the Travis Scott of his class of SoundCloud rap. He doesn’t have his own sound.
The song is fine. It’s just a classic case of “why listen to this when you could listen to the better version?” I’m sure Valee hasn’t heard it yet.
30ROCK – “In My Head”
FOREVERWORLD is a buzzing rap collective with tentacles in different, borderline disparate corners of SoundCloud. With 10 rappers and countless videographers, photographers, and designers, the group seems to always find its way into my SoundCloud feed. (I actually have a theory that every SoundCloud rabbit hole eventually leads to a FOREVERWORLD affiliate.) There’s BBY GOYARD with his high-pitched yelp and EuroLeague references. Lil Coupe makes subterranean Auto-Tune ballads. Austin Skinner and BIGBABYGUCCI operate somewhere in between.
Amidst this sprawling ensemble there’s 30ROCK, a Memphis rapper who immediately comes off as the black sheep of FOREVERWORLD. Compared to the other members’ experimentation, 30ROCK’s rapping is jarringly traditionalist. Anyone over the age of 25 would say he’s actually rapping.
30ROCK, who told me he hadn’t actually heard of the show until after he came up with his name, raps almost nonstop on “In My Head.” His earthy growl sounds at home over these skeletal beats, produced mostly by underground regular Harold Harper. “Money Conversation” is dizzying. “Enough” shimmers. 30ROCK opts for scrappy street collages with his writing, creating fragmented scenes that read like sets of transient glimpses. There’s an oddball hyperactivity to his rapping, which is maybe the strand that connects his music to that of FOREVERWORLD.
Pi’erre Bourne – “Marie Curie (prod. Pi’erre Bourne)”
Every time Pi’erre Bourne reaches for the mic, I can’t help but think it’s some sort of social experiment where he’s trying to show how little a rapper actually has to do on his beats because of how good they are. Don’t get me wrong, there are good Pi’erre performances. There might be no verse I’ve rapped along to more this year than his verse on “Right Now” by Playboi Carti.
On his own, though, Pi’erre is just kind of uninteresting. His production on this song is plush; the synths and keys are luxurious and enveloping. But Pi’erre the rapper is on autopilot the whole way through, breaking from the singular melodic phrase he hovers around intermittently to do a terrible Trippie Redd impression.
I don’t think Pi’erre’s rap career will be a disaster. There’s room for him in the lane designed for your Champion Reverse Weave wearing friend who thinks Astroworld is Album of the Year. Pi’erre Bourne’s rapper-producer career will not come close to matching Kanye’s or even Nav’s, but he’ll stick around as long as he keeps sending beat packs to Carti and Nudy.
SICKBOYRARI – “FEEL MY PAIN (Prod. Bosssbeatz)”
I showed this video to a few of my rap-listening friends the other day and they all thought it was wack. Is Black Kray really that inaccessible? Or is this just derivative post-cloud rap overstaying its welcome, more Tumblr sad than truly existential? Call it a cop-out but not thinking about these things really helps. This song clicked for me immediately. It’s somber and haunting, the low-budget video matching its opiated crawl perfectly. The sample blares and billows. The “feel my pain” refrain feels real and sits in your consciousness long after the song ends. Kray croaks his raps from an unnamed void. He’s hanging with the dead, rapping in peak form.
1TakeQuan – “Grub Hub (Prod. Yung Pear)”
As Miguelito pointed out in his piece for POW, no one in LA is talking shit like the rap trio of 1TakeJay, 1TakeQuan, and 1TakeTeezy, who ride together as 1TakeBoyz. 1TakeJay is getting the most press, and rightfully so; his propulsive voice could work on any beat, and he’s also probably talked the most shit of the three so far. But not far behind is Quan, whose latest release, “Grub Hub,” matches up with the very best of the 1Take catalog. While Ketchy the Great’s growl is ominous and leery, Quan’s is self-aware and, at times, hilarious. There are just too many quotables here. “The way she eating dick call her Yum Yum.” “I need all blues like I work for Crayola.” “I shine hard, have you ever seen a walking flashlight?” God bless good shit-talkers.