Back to the Abyss: February 2019

Back to the Abyss returns to bring you the best of Harley Geffner and Lucas Foster's Soundcloud excursions.
By    March 19, 2019

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Well this is late as hell, but Lucas and I are back with a selection of our favorite February tunes from Soundcloud. The tracks range from country twang to EDM-influenced beats and bubbly champagne pop. I guess it’s all still classified as rap, but very few of these tracks draw to mind traditional rap imagery. Lucas distilled all the best stuff from the month into a mix, but a lot of what we write about below didn’t make it into the mix and some of the mix, we didn’t write about. We also switched up the format and included individual embeds throughout, so it’s a bit more digestible. We’re not promising these as monthly going forward, by the way, because life is crazy and who needs more deadlines. Not that we stuck to this one anyways. So without further ado… – Harley Geffner 

Tracklist:

909Memphis – Best Man (Prod. False Cut x Vince La)
THOUXANBANFAUNI x UNOTHEACTIVIST – PAY ME
BIGBABYGUCCI – Me & Myself (prod. smoove)
BABYFANTASY – Miller Lite (prod. Ly Bands)
FREDDIE DREDD – GO! (PROD. RYAN C)
WIFIGAWD – PRESSURE INTERLUDE (PROD. ROLAND JONES)
La Goony Chonga – No Quieres Lio (Prod. J Hawk)
BIGBABYGUCCI – Matrix (Prod. Harold Harper)
Hunned Mill x sickboyrari – shawty (prod linus)
FIJI HB – ✮P0P Sh0ve~it✮ ft. @HOODGOTHBBY(@prodsupersonic)
CP – EX MAN (PROD WHY ZOO)
909Memphis – Lose You (Prod. Cash Bently)
Varg & Bladee – Perfect Violation
Marcy Mane & Cartier God – Paying 4 It
Lil Xelly -W0MBO (Noir Brent x Nikai x Komla x Jamo)
BABYSOSA – EVERYWHERE I GO (prod. Gawd)
Lil Percy – Wrong Side (prod. Gawd)
COWBOY + WIFIGAWD – BELLY OF THE BEAST (PRO. LIL TRVSH)
ICXXY – BLVXXX DIVMXNDS (PROD __TETHRA64)
ssj ashura – nobukuni
DOJA CAT – WAFFLES ARE BETTER THAN PANCAKES

 


909Memphis – Mixed Feelings


Lucas Foster: 909Memphis is about to be overqualified for mention in this column. That’s partly because he’s aesthetically distinctive. He has the middle part of a Miami Vice extra, the strong jaw-line and symmetrical nose of British nobility and fashion sense of a Ayami Kojima illustration. That’s partly because he knows what he’s doing, knows where culture is and where he is like at the end of the decade and an era. But his imminent come up is really indebted to his gifts as a singer and pop songwriter.

I had heard a lot of guitar samples mixed with autotune in the first days of February. On Mixed Feelings I heard way more than what I wanted from this micro-trend. It’s a cohesive album that serves as an exhaustive showcase of Memphy’s bag of tricks.

This is the natural conclusion of the waves of sounds and trends and moods and textures that have happened around Memphy in the circles he runs in on the internet and in the DMV. It’s not so much of the moment as a definitive portrait of 2019 underground music, and maybe he’ll be the last of his cohort, this generation and era, to pop off the web and into the mainstream.

This tape is already doing numbers and everyone I show it to, from cutting-edge British tastemakers to Austin indie kids to middle-aged pop fans, understands the appeal immediately.

The first half is, of course, a mandatory expression of joy, ambitions of balling in the future and portraits of endless women in his life today. The melancholy production, heavy in guitar samples and crisp as a dream pop album, is experimental enough to confuse him as indie rock or emo-influenced. I asked him as much on facetime and he laughed “I’m not gonna pretend to like some shit that ain’t even relevant anymore.” I liked him that much more when he recognized that his real influences were Chris Travis, Yung Lean, Bladee, Denzel Curry and everyone else he was listening to when he first started smoking weed. It meant this is a natural outgrowth of everything that’s been happening on the internet since he was just a college soccer player born in Britain who liked rap.

His singing here is bubbly, crisp, and in his natural vocal range. On “Blue Faces” he is much more than a good hook-writer, stretching himself into gorgeous falsetto heights around a downtempo guitar beat so melancholy you forget he’s singing about spending money. The track works in contradictions and irony as only a special artist can, and is complimented by a grouping of seven similar sounding but distinct songs. This probably would be enough for me to sing his praises here, but the mood shifts on the relaxed, undeniably pimp, trap&B of “Work.” Any pop rap album needs a good female-sung chorus and here Reddish Blu does it right.

It shifts from flexing to depression over the next several tracks, and while the 14 song length can feel unwieldy, and the tracks can melt into each other, I still have it on repeat.

His sound and his steeze isn’t for everyone, of course the tiny contingent of real hip-hoppers still reading wouldn’t understand the appeal. But this album is probably the first step he’ll make towards the pop charts, and I’m here for it.

Harley Geffner: It took me a minute to get past what I perceived to be the unoriginality of Memphy, as I had also grown tired of those moody, downtempo strings with semi-pained autotune. His songs had come across my streams a million times and I gave them the run of the mill middle 30 seconds listen before prematurely deeming them to be bad Lil Peep impersonations. Seeing how high you were on Mixed Feelings though, I gave it a more serious listen and came out the other side truly convinced.

While it still doesn’t feel wholly original, he’s executing bubbly auto-tuned pop at a really high level, never slipping out of range. Blue Faces is definitely the one. It’s set in a sprightly Sahbabii cartoon world and his fluttering melodies give his avatar the color saturation needed to match the lambency of the setting.

Memphy’s polished and lax songwriting is also reflected in a new track from Lil 4, a former member of Pretty Boy Clique.


staylil4 ~ “violet (intro)” (prod. blade)


HG: After the last mix, Paycheck hit me up to let me know the group disbanded (with no hard feelings). So Lil 4 is now solo and still creating these kushy melodies, and on the violet intro, is surrounded in wind chimes and soft ivory production from Bladee, the feathery autotuned legend himself. On what will be the lead track of his new tape, the piano intro plays in for a good minute, feeling like a sunny afternoon sitting in a garden as the hummingbirds take stock and the chimes dingle in the wind, before Lil 4 drops in with his throaty Bladee impression. It’s both brooding and joyful, like taking the time to consider existential questions under the sun rays filtering through the leaves in Bladee’s magical garden.


Varg & Bladee – “Perfect Violation”


LF: Bladee might be the hottest artist out right now. This song is demonstrative of why every girl with gothic font in her twitter handle and every boy with fuschia-colored hair is screaming “DRAAAIINNNN GGAAAAANNGGGG!” It’s brooding, strange, ethereal, sad, and definitively experimental without really knowing why it is any of these things.

I want to be tired of Bladee. I got a sadboys stick and poke tattoo in 2013. I’ve written about experimental use of autotune for close to 2 years now. But he’s great, and his fans have every reason to celebrate him, and celebrate themselves for knowing who he is.


CP – “EX MAN”


HG: If you like the 909Memphis and Lil 4 stuff, another song on the mix with a similar vibe comes from CP, a Pensacola, Florida singer who traffics in that same balance between moody and joyous. Despite dropping music infrequently and having a low profile on social media outside of some Jordan 6 and Champion tee fit pics, CP’s tracks always seem to do numbers, mostly sitting over 50k plays. He’s one of the smoother R&B-inflected singers making waves on the platform and some of his tracks have surprising staying power, as did his song “SHE SAY,” which has remained in some form of my bi-weekly rotation for almost 8 months now, quite the feat in today’s economy.


Thouxanbanfauni x unotheactivist – For Christ Sake 2


LF: Of course, you can’t discuss modern Trab&B without discussing For Christ’s Sake 2.

I first found Fauni and Uno through yngxan’s “cloutmix,” a now-deleted soundcloud DJ mix posted in the earliest days of 2015 that captured that moment in Atlanta art trap better than any write up ever could. That was 4 years ago. I haven’t changed much and neither have Fauni and Uno. They are still in Atlanta, pushing art pop masquerading as strip club music and taking lifestyle photos with other socialites between studio sessions. They kind of reached their ceiling, it kind of seems like they’re aware of this, and the tunes are kind of tepid as a result. Don’t get me wrong, I would come back to this tape, it has great production and interesting moments, but I didn’t learn anything new or get more excited about them.

HG: I have nothing intelligent to add about Fauni, but his instagram story from the other week is funny as hell. Him and Uno are trying to put out a fire they started on the front yard while Fauni is yelling “Yo mom gunna kiiiillllll you.” Comedy.


Doja Cat – “Waffles are Better than Pancakes”


LF: I was offline, like completely offline, when Doja Cat had a moment as a bubbling pop princess and then another as “extremely problematic” for saying homophobic slurs offhand as a teenager on Twitter. However, I am in agreement with her, that waffles are superior to pancakes in every way, and I’m strangely obsessed with this track. She’s something more than cute and odd here, and I hope she’s able to keep being her for awhile.

HG: Doja Cat’s princess moment was kind of a two-edged sword. How great the exposure was can’t be overstated, but it instantly memeified her to the public. She was ready-made content with her I’m so relatable and funny insta stories where she was dancing around and squeezing her tits together in her pink-lit room or playing with stuffed Yoshi dolls. And I’m not even trying to knock her for fake relatability. Those videos genuinely looked like what you do alone in your room when noone’s watching. And the tracks were as hot as the videos were refreshing to see.

But conversation about Doja Cat on the web slightly leans into condescension as most know her first and foremost as the dancing cow girl. Her last album (which dropped before MOOO and was recently re-released as a Deluxe version) was a pumped up strut through expansive mansion corridors. It’ full of the poptimism that fuels Zumba classes in Brentwood, with major hints of Rico Nasty’s fuck you, some waving white linen vocals and early internet cat humor.  

She’s really been dropping smooth R&B jams, Puff 808’d tracks, and everything in between for more than a year and I hope that begins to reflect in conversation about her musical output. Yeah, she’s funny and sarcastic, but it enhances the playful feeling of her tracks more than it would detract from them in any way.


Superior RVPSO – “The Way It Goes”


HG: Switching gears here, I feel like we’ve got to devote a section to R1 and friends for every SC column now. The group is more than 10 strong, I believe, so there’s plenty of music to go around every month.

One of my most played songs in February was The Way It Goes, from R1 rapper and producer Superior RVPSO. It’s from his aptly-named “IM TIRED N****” EP. The song hit the sweet spot during this out-of-character-for-LA rainy cold spell (if you can really call it that). It drew out introspection through the gloomy days with some light revolving disco synths in the background and his grainy filtered voice in the forefront. It gave me the feeling of damn, this daily routine is straight robotic.

Dreary day, dreary office for 9 hours, walk my dog in the dark, write a little late night and that’s just the way it goes. It’s a guilt trip over working within the confines of our country’s absurdly corrupted value-system with what feels like no escape except in the recesses my brain takes in getting lost in the music. Like the montage of Mr. Incredible going between work, traffic and home, when you know he’s itching to do Incredible things.

The song actually refers to RVPSO taking someone’s girl and that just being the way it goes, but it doesn’t matter what he’s actually talking about. He creates this atmosphere of existential dread without explicitly referring to anything on that topic. Us music writers have a responsibility to examine lyrics and look into what an artist is trying to say on a track, but the primary way we experience music is by letting it take set a mood. Even if the artist paints their world a certain way, we experience it however it makes us feel. This was a depressing feeling song to me and it hit with some cold comfort, but others might hear it and feel inspired to nonchalantly take someone’s girl. To each their own.


Ssj ashura – “Samoji”


HG: Though Dretti Franks isn’t a member of R1, he’s definitely in the “and friends” category. The gang, Dretti and a few others have been experimenting with a sound that I believe Tethra dubbed “blast music.” We wrote about some of these EDM-inflected Drum n Bass beats in the last column, but they’ve taken on a life of their own since. Dretti dropped two short instrumental Blast EPs, divine fantasy 1 and 2 this month under his secondary soundcloud stream ssj ashura. I’m only highlighting one track from these tapes here that I think is indicative of the sound, but peep the tapes in full here and here. They’re like 6 minutes apiece, making for nice quick listens through.

Also labeled jungle beats, the tracks are races through Amazon, swinging between the vines as Donkey Kong pounds his drums from above. My roommate was playing some Formula 1 racing XBOX game this week and I dropped the first divine fantasy tape on the speakers and I swear his car was auto-refueling to it. This shit is meant for a DDR board.

Looking a few years into the future, it’s hard to predict what this ecosystem is going to sound like, but I’d venture a guess that these sprinting through the jungle sounds are only going to become more popular. The thrashy unpredictability of these blast beats creates more interesting and shimmery pockets to ride, that open and close quickly, so you’ve got to be on point to work through, around, over, under, etc. them.


TETHRA64 – “BLVXXX DIVMXNDS” (PROD __TETHRA64)


HG: I should make a full mix out of these blast beats at some point and maybe I will, but for now, hold on to one more, produced by the king of blast, Tethra himself. ICXXY, a chunky white boy who looks like he should be shooting deer in the woods upstate New York is an important artist to the scene too, and he raps with a similar filter that you’ll hear on the RVSPO song. ICXXY’s part of undaground records, an imprint started by Taco El as an offshoot of the Black Money Boys with SGP and CHXPO.

LF: R1 is a product of Philadelphia as much as a product of the internet. Rap is regional again. Where once upon a time this decade was known for dissolving those artificial boundaries, today people are starting to clique up more along state lines than internet collective boundaries. Philadelphia is definitely one of the more interesting regions making music right now, but for me, it’s the DMV.

A disproportionate amount of the music I selected was made in the parts of Maryland, Virginia, DC known as the DMV. The scene is underground and influential. It’s indie, experimental street music made for their friends and for the block.

DC’s WifiGawd made another banging tape incredibly distinct form the rest of his discography. It’s grungy, aggressive, lo-fi, and most definitely a Gangster album.


Lil Xelly – “Soldier”


HG: Lil Xelly is an interesting case because he comes with a distinctly regional DMV style, hard-hitting, and sometimes off-beat (if that’s what you want to call it), but runs more with internet crews than anything else. He’s from Rockville, Maryland initially and said the music scene out there was pretty weak and that he got a lot of hate when he was trying to come up. So he started linking with people he met online who actually appreciated what he was doing. He shouts out DMV people all the time, but he didn’t come up with any of them specifically so much as he just made it happen for himself by harnessing the power of the internet to connect him with like-minded producers and rappers.

Xelly’s got to be one of the most electrifying forces in the underground right now. He buzzes through his tracks like he’s always geek’d off an addy, foaming at the mouth to drop the next XRR or Woo-Haaaw adlib. His music is frenzied and all over the place with one-offs about orange peels or whatever else that’ll catch you off guard. But he stabilizes it with his flows that seem to click right into place regardless of the emphases not lining up with where you’d expect them to land on any given place in a beat . His best work in my opinion has always been with Brent Rambo. The two developed some great chemistry over the course of their Lucky Charms series, which I believe is 9 deep now. This track comes from his (xell) on ((🌍)) earth **  tape and sees Xelly linking back up with Rambo (with an assist from Soldado) for a melodic take on selling Doja at the Do’ bruh, just like a souljah.

He recently got a Fader write-up and as cool as that is, the narrative around him is ready to change from most-hardworking rapper to one of the most talented. It was late 2017 when he dropped that 104-song tape, let it go. I’m not taking away anything from his work ethic, he’s still pushing music at an post-jail-Chxpo/pre-jail-Gucci pace with 4 EPs in February by my count. But each individual drop deserves more attention that we can afford to give it with so many.


Marcy Mane – “Bury Bury Marcy, Tokyo Loud (Laheem)”


HG: Also out of the DMV area, MFK Marcy Mane tweeted over the weekend “I’m a real OG everyone know that.” I can’t really argue with him there. One of the founding members of Goth Money in 2013, Marcy has flown to visionary heights with both his music and his other creative pursuits since. His right brain has been firing on all cylinders for the past 6 years straight as he’s become something of a boss of the underground.

MFK and the other members of Goth Money created an imagined world called Flexico where all the trappings of their daily lives went down. And while the music reflects much of what goes on in Flexico, Marcy has taken it to another level with creating visual representations of this world too. Peep his site beengoth.net, where you can find gorgeous Japanese acrylic on Wood Panel paintings by Marcy himself of downtown Flexico, with the discotech on Haux street, or even a Popeyes-style cartoon cat playing the trumpet in a Flexican jazz club. The prints, apparel, art and physical CDs sold on his site are genuinely original designs that paint a snapshot of the best of underground fashion and culture at the moment. I own two hoodies from the site.

Known as the Screwboss too, Marcy has been running a monthly Screwboss Radio on NTS since 2017 where he screws down classics and brings 2 hours of the latest in underground music and culture. He’s a curator and tastemaker more than anything, and like he tweeted “I’m not in competition with any of you rap n****s.” But even with his bevy of creative pursuits, the music has remained at the forefront and his new album Laheem (available in CD format w beautiful cover art on his site) is stunning. He’s a soundcloud OG, but he’s about his business, so the album is not on soundcloud. (Apple Music, Spotify here)

He recently spent some time in Japan and was clearly influenced by it as his new music feels like a dark city lit by the neon signs passing by through a car window – his shawty’s rollin up in the front seat, another rollin in the back. It’s disorienting like you’re in one of those mirrors rooms, with fractal spears of light shooting from every direction assaulting your visual and auditory nerves into confusion. But he holds it down with corkscrewing melodies, whispers and bossed-up bars. He’s “smokin thraxx, high as uhh gir affe ass // grow my own cookies I’m a monster, need my own gas // make money, make a play, did that real fast.”

LF: The hardest moment on that Laheem tape was Cartier God singing falsetto on “Payin 4 It”.

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