The Rap-Up: Week of February 7th, 2019

The Rap-Up returns with new smoke from Yo Gotti, Gunna, and more.
By    February 8, 2019

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Lucas Foster is in the clear like tequila.

Sybyr – “Trashman”

As more people fall into despair, psychosis, dissociation and addiction, there’s now a dizzying array of institutions, professionals and support groups here to help, provided you or the state can pay a fee. Their solutions to a generation raised in the crushing ennui of postmodernity and living with little hope for the future? Largely ineffectual and experimental drugs with stomach-turning side effects, “self-care” (bourgeoisie language for browsing Instagram in a spa), and more research funding.

It’s a dishonest, if not parasitic, industry, and our discourse about acceptance and sharing the suicide hotline’s number will never fill the void that an increasingly bleak and isolating social order has left.

Sybyr is acutely aware of this. He is a genius, in the traditional sense of the word. A timeless artist who spawned XXXtentacion and whoever else your niece listens to with his creation of Trap Metal in 2015. A relatively disorganized vision for a group of producers, rappers, and artists he met online led to the creation of Anti-World, one of the best experimental music groups of this decade in any genre.

A gift rarely, if ever, comes with no strings attached, and he’s relatively up front about the struggles with mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, that once led to his disappearance and probably contributed to the deletion of most of the experimental, heavily influential, and sometimes straight up bizarre music he released as “Syringe.” He re-released most of his 2015-16 Syringe projects this week, and if you care about rap this decade, where it’s going and where it’s been, or simply want to hear something authentically original and brilliantly different, these are all must-listens. Click play before they are gone again.

Xavier Wulf – “Space Punks”

Before every 16-year-old with a pocket full of etizolam pills and iPhone gallery full of XXXtentacion memorial graphics discovered the SoundCloud app and $hroomhead YouTube channel, there was Xavier Wulf. The legendary Memphis native has been pulling his regional roots into an internet stew for close to a decade now, and shows no sign of letting up. He’s a rapper’s rapper, and this track has more straight bars, breath control, and battle rap intensity than any backpacking boom bap revivalist. It kicks off a very good, but very expected EP.

The music on “Space Punks” is quality but it feels stale and makes me feel old. When I first discovered Xavier Wulf and friends I was 15, 140 pounds, with white teeth and adolescent earnestness. The music he made then wasn’t too dissimilar from what he makes now, and I was as enthusiastic about it then as the Russian VK users with box braids and Kansan teens with dyed hair are today. The difference is I’m now 23, 200 pounds with a nicotine-stained grill, a swollen liver, wrinkles and a little too much cynicism. Perhaps my perspective is incorrect and clouded by pretension, but the internet underground scene feels like it’s getting less interesting by the day. Enjoy Xavier Wulf and the rest of his underground 1.0 peers while they last, that could be another year or another five, we won’t see anything like them again for a long time.

Kill Stacy & Lil Prada – “Marksman”

Kill Stacy & Lil Prada’s eponymous collaborative tape is a pleasure. I could go into excruciating detail about how this tape blends its’ Raider Klan and Anti-World influences, about it’s temporally illustrative properties. You could also listen to it, and understand where rap is in 2019 a little better.

Gunna – “1 Call”

I am a sentimental person, so this week I found myself watching C Struggs’ last interview before his March 2018 death. As always, I was struck by his jovial honesty, humility, and self-awareness, particularly when discussing the state of pop rap in 2018:

“What’s out today sounds like one big song… We’re in the Camaro, and my partner put on Sirius radio, all the goddamn songs got a nigga rappin’ autotune, talking about some trap shit, some designer shit…. And I was like, ‘why they keep playing the same song?’”

He probably didn’t mean to, but he destroyed Gunna’s career here with the blistering realness that only a 32-year-old street rapper could provide. As great as Gunna can be when imitating Thug or collaborating with the brilliance he brushes shoulders with in Black Hollywood, he is absolutely unremarkable when “in designer from head to toe” on a beat that sounds more like a Lil Baby throwaway than an original composition.

Mediocrity and decentness should be a death sentence, today they are a gold record.

Yo Gotti ft. Lil Baby – “Put a Date on It”

Yo Gotti’s late career resurgence this decade has been a pleasant surprise in a time when pop stars are more likely to spit on graves than admit they have influences. He’s been doing it since before Lil Baby was a spot on his father’s tube socks; his triple-time Memphis flow over 80s action movie samples as a prepubescent kid preserved in the historical record by German tape collectors. Somehow, even as he nears 40, he hasn’t lost a step. This track is a flip of the bassline and harpsichord sample of an Italian-language rap single that wouldn’t exist if Gotti’s friends and family weren’t doing what they were doing 20 years ago. Some people are upset about this, but Yo Gotti could never be the culture vulture here.

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