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Harley Geffner drinks carbonated holy water.
COWBOY KILLERR x TETHRA-64 – “SHYNE64”
The Rare Boyzz (R1) are making noise in Philly and it’s easy to see why. R1 rapper Cowboy Killerr’s new Planet X tape comes straight from the the 7th layer. He captures the zeitgeist of a trauma-riddled generation by doing what guys like Lil Gnar and Lil Wop think they’re doing without all the gimmicky shit. The project is Cowboy at his most refined, playing the darkness lurking through his mental off of the fluttering flutes and early 2000’s video game drum and bass sounds of producers Tethra-64, BMB Loko Los, KappCEO and Drako Bill.
He’s coiled in alleyways and dungeons, “shyning” down Broad street, spawning from a place where planets burn with sprightly Yee-Haw adlibs.
On the standout track “SHYNE64,” Killer and R1 producer/rapper Tethra-64 trade bars over a playful flip of some arcade shit with SGP-style stuttering bass by Teth. Tethra sips holy water from a priest’s daughter and Cowboy handles hook duties, grainily droning, “Times gettin baaad now I’m juugin saaaad.”
It’s usually the levitating melodies that linger in my head when I’m not listening to music, but Cowboy’s hook surprised me with its staying power. The filtered vocals and extendo-drone keep popping up at the most unexpected times. I’ll be sitting under a tree in Pan Pacific Park on a gorgeous day and I’ll hear his hook about bad times. It’s incongruous and makes no sense, but I love it.
KUR – “I’m Back”
Philly flamethrower Kur isn’t one to mince words. Every breath on his new track is intentional, filling crevices I didn’t even know existed in the plush production with a gaudy double-time flow. For all the twisting vocals that are so popular these days, it’s refreshing to hear someone rip through a song without coming up for air.
After a short hiatus since his last tape, which was riddled with Maaly Raw production, Kur announces his presence with “I’m Back.” He tells himself to stop thinking with his heart and get back in his bag, back to his bars. And he has a lot to get off his chest, rapping about the lost ones and childhood couchsurfing that inspires his grind, fleeing from the thots trying to hop on his wave, feeling too defensive in his thousand dollar jeans.
Coming from the tradition of Philly battle rappers, Kur has a loyal, but somewhat stagnant fanbase. I hope that changes because he’s doing what good rap fans wish Meek was still doing.
TRACY x KAZI – “Hearts and Hugs”
When I first heard “Hugs” by internet-borne Prettyboyclique member Kevin Kazi, I wasn’t blown away. His generally grizzly voice didn’t exactly sit right on the soft-tinged strings of the song. It felt like he was stepping into territory typically reserved for his more melodic PBC counterparts. Kazi shines brightest when the production can match the aggression in his voice. It was a decent foray and not a bad song, but it was missing something.
That something was the emotional weight of Virginian and former GBC member Tracy’s post-punk vocals. A few weeks after “Hugs” dropped, Tracy hopped on the same Leesta-produced beat and made a song called “Hearts” following his recent heart attack (won’t get into it, but see his explanation here), which in its own right, was nothing special either. When some genius (who goes by the name of Archive Angel) put the two together, he created a blissfully balanced track.
Kazi makes use of a double-layered vocal technique that Kodak Black popularized and Tracy’s pitch fits neatly between Kazi’s highs and lows. He meets Kazi in the middle, shining a blacklight over the cadence Kazi is zeroing in on. The magic of beat leasing.
RAH SWISH x FETTY LUCIANO – “How We Got It”
Rah Swish carries the raw energy of pre- and not yet-gentrified Brooklyn on his back. Coming from East New York, he raps with the same gusto you could expect a generational Brooklynite would clap back at a perceived slight with. He makes laser-focused hit em up music with drill bells to match. He’s not Desiigner with his scattered and careless energy; he’s a tactician, dutifully releasing his chakra in constant, but controlled bursts.
The NBA (Never Broke Again) and Swish Ent. member links up with Rowdy Rebel’s younger brother, Fetty Luciano, who just signed to Def Jam for a new video that encapsulates the shit I’ve been missing from New York since GS9 dropped out of sight. Rah spatters his Ruger-toting verse with BAHs that come from the deepest cavities in his chest. Fetty, being the first GS9 member to be released from prison since the conspiracy charges landed many of them behind bars, reps the squad with a typically vicious verse, dipping hard into Yung The Producer’s Computers-reminiscent keys.
FUTURE – “Scammalot”
I can’t usually listen to an artist for more than a year. Even if I like them and know they’re putting out music that should theoretically check all my boxes, I just need to be constantly bombarded by new sounds and styles. I’ve been conditioned by the warm-hued notifications, the cookies on my computer that know me better than myself, and my mother’s refusal to let me take ADHD meds when I probably needed them as a child (she works in Eastern medicine and taped bullshit magnetic beads to the back of my ears instead). I can’t make it through more than a minute of any given song without feeling the urge to refresh the feeds curated by our algorithmic overlords. It can feel like I have a new favorite artist every week.
I’ll listen to randos on soundcloud with 65 plays on their music who paid for a repost before I will listen to drops from some of the artists who I consider my favorites. It’s dizzying.
But there are a few constants in the game who have been able to ground me amidst the never-ending shitstorm of content vying for my attention. Every Future drop, leak, or syllable still warrants my attentive ears. The other few artists I place in this category love experimenting with their sounds so it remains fresh to me, but Future has hooked me since 2014 with the consistency of his hazy, self-loathing, stripper anthems.
Scammalot is a throwaway track that Future dropped unceremoniously on his Youtube channel, probably to get ahead of a leak. Even when he’s phoning it in with disconnected phrases and barely a recognizable central theme, his only occasionally veiled emotional cries for help still drag me back to the same street corner every time, begging for my next dose.