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Mano Sundaresan got iced out for the holidays.
DaBaby – “Walker Texas Ranger”
Every time a new meme pops up someone is always quick to say that it’s the worst one yet. But let’s not act like meme history is all gold. Case in point: Chuck Norris facts. For me, sixth grade was terrible for all of the reasons that sixth grade tends to be terrible, but it especially sucked because you couldn’t have a conversation without someone name-dropping Chuck Norris. For a brief, irreversible moment, my class’s language and culture revolved around hyperbolized claims about the Texas Ranger. “Nothing can escape the gravity of a black hole except Chuck Norris.” “Chuck Norris proved Newton’s third law, there is no force greater than Chuck Norris.” “Chuck Norris can divide by zero.” (I went to a weird math school.) My insecure ass totally bought into it; we gave each other autograph books at the end of the year and my classmates’ scrawled bubble letters in mine spelled out different iterations of “Never stop loving Chuck Norris!”
We don’t live in a better time – this is the dystopia and there are two guys with bizarrely-shaped necks who keep popping up on my timeline – but we should be grateful for artists like Charlotte’s DaBaby who can rework even the most cringeworthy bits from 2007 into goofy, shit-talking anthems. He’s been putting out hits like “Walker Texas Ranger” for years and many have equally absurd video treatments. The Reel Goats-directed video is the closest thing to a 2019 western crime drama we’ll get. DaBaby tips his cowboy hat, draws finger guns then retracts them into “Woah” dance moves. I don’t want to spoil the gripping storyline but there is hand-to-hand combat and stunning CGI and the events unfold the way they do because DaBaby is very horny.
He’s really good at rapping, bending that assertive triplet flow into a slouched whisper with ease, but it’s his buoyant personality that makes you want to run back the video.
Big Boogie – “Sicko Mode”
I don’t even know what to think about the Kanye-Drake beef aside from that I hate talking about it. One is an aging narcissist out of touch with his powers and the other is Drake. In the past few months, “Sicko Mode” turned from a popular Travis Scott song to an even more popular Travis Scott song with armchair investigative journalists, Kanye included, parsing Drake’s part for references to an unconfirmed affair with Kim Kardashian. I wanted to leave “Sicko Mode” in 2018 but Big Boogie’s take on the Tay Keith part is too important to pass up on. Big Boogie’s “Out like a light” becomes “We can beef but I don’t fight, though.”
He’s shitting on internet beef over the beat that sparked the second-biggest one of 2018. A little heavy-handed in theory but Big Boogie’s presence is more than enough to make it work. I read a YouTube comment comparing him to Quavo, which is far from perfect but makes sense on the surface. Auto-tune gives his voice the same, hook-ready sheen, but his tone is earthier, less compressed. Plus he can really rap. “My diamonds fruity, grocery store, Boogie Simmons” sounds cooler than anything Drake or Travis said on the original. Signed to Yo Gotti’s CMG, he’s one of Memphis’ fastest rising talents and worth following this year.
Foreign Jay – “Bad Guyz”
It’s hard to place Foreign Jay’s sound. A trip through the Cleveland rapper’s SoundCloud page reveals the whole spectrum of hip-hop – drill, emo rap, no-melody rap, a “Life Goes On” interpolation, etc. He raps a lot like Chief Keef (does that even mean anything anymore?) but has a leaner, more gravelly voice. Also Chief Keef would never make a song as funky as “Bad Guyz” (although anything is possible after that EDM song).
Shabazz PBG/Lil Uzi Vert – “Shells”
This song should be bad. It probably would be if Lil Uzi Vert weren’t on it. But Lil Uzi Vert is on it, the beat sounds like an interdimensional police chase, and after multiple listens Shabazz PBG’s chorus becomes mind-numbingly addicting, so it’s actually…not bad? I’m excited to hear Uzi continue to rap over this sort of minimal production that is becoming the norm, his flows fill the negative space nicely.
Future – “Crushed Up”
People have stolen elements of Future’s style wholesale over the years, but “Diamonds in the face crushed up, I can see it” is the kind of picture-painting you can only get from him. The song and video are typical Future extravagance – he’s pacing around in a high-ceilinged mansion surrounded by models, and it’s snowing inside – but his performance makes it all so much more nuanced. The way his melodies dip at the ends of even his most eccentric flexes – “I just put my whole damn arm in a fridge” – makes them a little less bulletproof. It’s definitely sad and I don’t know why.