The Rap-Up: Week of September 14, 2018

The Rap-Up returns with the latest from Thelonious Martin, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, and more.
By    September 14, 2018

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Mano Sundaresan once rode in a Lyft that smelled like weed smoke. He took two Capri Suns.

Thelonious Martin“Guidelines (feat. Mac Miller)” (prod. Thelonious Martin)

I’ve always struggled with commemorating artists’ deaths. There have been so many to whom I have felt little to no connection but I’ve still felt obligated to respect. Historically, that’s been my frame of mind whenever an artist has passed – respect – and not something more base or pathological. So when Mac Miller passed, I realized it was the first time I felt truly emotional about an artist’s death. I can’t say I was his biggest fan, but I lived with and through his career and catalog. I withstood freshman year of an all-boys high school with “Donald Trump” blasting out of Jeeps in the student parking lot, oily high-schoolers splayed over the car hoods. I thought I had all the answers listening to Watching Movies with the Sound Off while shelving books at the library the summer before my junior year. Faces floored me on first listen. I don’t even know what I was doing when I heard it but I know it floored me. It still does.

Mac’s last song is him doing what he does best, rapping his ass off, and I don’t think he’d have it any other way.

YoungBoy Never Broke Again“Permanent Scar (feat. Young Thug & Quando Rondo)” (prod. Cardiak & Kenny Beats)

I’m officially using my newfound column clout to coin a new verb: “Beach House 3.” Basically, if any song or project was released too late for it to have a potentially massive impact during the summer, we say it was Beach House 3’d. This song was definitely Beach House 3’d. It’s off YoungBoy’s latest EP 4Loyalty, released earlier this week, and while it’s fine to listen to in slightly cold Middle-of-Nowhere, MA, it would’ve probably sounded angelic in that hellish, late-summer heat wave. Also, Kenny Beats is producer of the year.

Warm Brew“Psychedelic”

When you think of L.A. rap’s geography, the last place that should come to mind is the Westside. It’s home of the $10 beer and the $2 Uber (they’re in ludicrously high supply). There are cotton candy colored storefronts and oversaturated sunsets and white people posing in front of these things. There are as many biohacking coders as there are Instagram models with 10K followers. It’s the furthest thing from hip-hop, but it’s often from these whitewashed environments that the some of the most unique marginalized perspectives emerge.

Warm Brew’s Serk Spliff, Ray Wright, and Manu Li grew up in a pre-gentrified Venice and Santa Monica and have translated their alienation and means of coping to compelling alternative rap. The group collectively float on “Psychedelic,” a frantic ode to their preferred escape mechanism.  It’s perfectly busy, well-orchestrated without devolving into clutter. There are strings that actually work and don’t make the beat sound like the Call of Duty video montage type beats that Daniel from Insecure makes. Most importantly, it’s just three dudes rapping fast about drugs, a song form that I haven’t appreciated since high school when I was bumping Flatbush Zombies.

Bari“The Prefix” (prod. Monte Booker & Smino)

Smino is so damn cool. His music is sometimes just a little too tongue-in-cheek, but he gets away with it with his confidence and technical ability. Bari, who’s from Smino’s Zero Fatigue collective, uses similar flows, but his voice feels less present, more layered and breathy than Smino’s buttery crooning. It’s like if Smino’s straight-edge rap-singing was coated with SoundCloud rap vocal effects, giving it much more presence but less groundedness, if that at all makes sense. The result is something much weirder and more glitchy than anything I’ve heard from Zero Fatigue, and while the sample size here is small, it showcases another talented St. Louis artist with an undeniable ear in Bari.

BasedTj“Paper Chase” (prod. BasedTj & Lukrative)

When I tell people about BasedTj, I’m good at hyping him up but I’m always incapable of articulating what his beats sound like. The SoundCloud producer, who’s now probably best known for his work with SahBabii, makes beats that are genuinely pretty. There’s an innocence to them. A typical beat by him starts with a distant-sounding idea that’s eventually fleshed out by equally minimal layering. All of his beats reveals themselves to be much greater than the sum of their parts.

On this one, hear how the opening piano is joined by guitar and bass. It’s so simple, but anything more would feel excessive. Even the drums are bare and unprocessed. He finds interesting ways to add unexpected sounds to the blend, like the violin and organ later in the song. The rap-singing isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be when the production is so excellent.

BasedTj’s SoundCloud page is an odd joy. There’s a melody pack here, a tiny fragment of a song there (usually titled something like “haha”), sometimes a repost of a song he produced for someone else. He’s clearly having fun with it, something that’s rare universally but bountiful on SoundCloud.

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