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Mano Sundaresan still gets his swag on from time to time.
ILoveMakonnen x Gucci Mane – “Spendin’”
The most impressive thing about ILoveMakonnen has always been how far he can stretch his voice without effects or processing. His voice is breathy and slick, naturally compressed-sounding, and suited for everything from glitchy pop to emo rap. His best songs have a glossy finish but are rough around the edges. He records quickly, usually freestyling, and often leaves vocal aberrations in the final product. You can hear stutters where he’s searching for a bar and lilts in a hook that don’t consistently land the same way. You hear the process in his music, which is rare and refreshing and sometimes hilarious.
Per Paul’s excellent profile from 2017, this song was recorded in one take, after Makonnen withdrew $2,000 from his bank account (a flex I can get behind). His voice has gotten leaner, less gruff, but on the chorus he chirps like the unhinged auteur of old. Gucci Mane pops in for a tamer contribution full of not-tame brags: “You make mistakes, you made friends, I make millions.” With songs like this, Makonnen could slide right back into the current rap ecosystem that he helped create, but I doubt he’d settle for that.
Shoreline Mafia – “Players Club (feat. AzChike)”
The comment section on the original Rappin 4 Tay “Players Club” music video is a firestorm right now. It’s one-third Shoreline Mafia fans, one-third old people saying that Shoreline Mafia ruined the song/aren’t from the Bay, and one-third Drake fans who just discovered “Who Do You Love.” I don’t have any analysis here, just wanted to map that out.
Kee Riche$ – “Closer to My Dreams”
I thought we silently retired the “Closer” instrumental after Chris Brown gave it a miserable go last year but Kee Riche$ can be the one exception. The five minutes never feel like a burden as the Compton rapper gives an extended life update. The song is a bittersweet ode to his mom, dead homies, and craft. He’s been recording more than ever, avoiding trouble, and getting closer to his dreams. Just 20 years old, he possesses an introspectiveness rare for artists his age.
Yung Lunchbox – “Triflin”
Lunchbox tagged this song “horrormusic” on SoundCloud and that is the only way to describe it and most of his catalog. He’s one of the best producers out of New York right now. People here have mixed opinions on Mudboy and “Mo Bamba” belongs deep in a void somewhere in our collective consciousness for at least a year, but the atmosphere Lunchbox created on that album is staggeringly heavy. He’s a master of doing a lot with a little, often basing instrumentals around nothing more than a single melodic idea and some deep ambiance. His beats don’t bang, they bellow, like wind rushing past you on yellow concrete as a subway whirs by. They’re grey and frenzied, for mosh pits and winter walks. Hip-hop needs a horror movie scored by Lunchbox, Metro Boomin, and DJ Paul.
Trae tha Truth – “I’m On 3.0”
I’m only including this because I knew all the words to the first two “I’m On” posse cuts growing up and this is the way-too-long blog-rap-reminiscent part three I didn’t know I needed. It is understandable but also very funny to me that all nine minutes of this song build up to an E-40 verse. Should’ve been Chamillionaire, who they somehow nabbed for the video. I’m 99% sure Trae tha Truth is the only one who could get OutKast to start making music again.
Soulja Boy, Lil Mosey, and Sauve – “Last Supper”
In what has been an achingly slow hip-hop newsweek, Soulja Boy is kind of relevant, as he tends to be for about a week every year. This time it’s about Tyga, who Soulja Boy claims had a less successful 2018 than him. That’s just false, Soulja Boy didn’t make “Taste,” but let’s take this once-a-year opportunity to revisit Soulja Boy’s career. For all of the shit he gets, he’s made a lot of great songs. I’d buy a Soulja Boy greatest hits album. “Yahhh!” would still be absurd and amazing if it came out today.
He’s always hopped on trends, and the misses (like this song with Lil Mosey and whatever a Sauve is) are brutal, but let the man live. He probably has more hits than your favorite rapper and has nailed Breakfast Club trolling in a way 6ix9ine could only dream of. He’s making bootleg video game consoles with hundreds of pre-saved games on them, has a biopic coming out this year in which he’ll probably elaborate on how he ended that guy from the home invasion, and just accused his ex-cameraman of hacking his SouljaWatch website. No one but Soulja Boy could get away with any of this. The proof is in the pudding.