In the Soil: A Roundup of Massachusetts Rap

In the Soil returns as Mano Sundaresan and Adam Gourabou round up the best of Massachusetts rap.
By    March 21, 2019

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Gogo. – “Captian” / “Magic” (prod. abu617)

Add Gogo. to the absurdly-long list of rappers with jazz in their bloodlines. The Cambridge rapper is the grandson of Ron Carter, the most recorded jazz bassist of all time and a regular on classic records by Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. Gogo is a talented trumpet player in his own right — with 12 years of playing under his bel — but his calling is hip-hop, with melodies as airtight and sticky as anyone’s in the mainstream.

We’re featuring two songs from Gogo. in this column. The first is “Captian,” which is made for twilight strolls down Newbury Street, eyeing designer pieces in the brick-frame windows and pretending you can afford them. Meanwhile, “Magic” is a guitar-heavy love song that showcases Gogo.’s vocal chops as he switches from that comfortable, Ty Dolla $ign tenor to a crackly lilt for the chorus. He’s a soaring vocalist, right up there with the other pop rappers in the scene. – Mano

Bingz – “Don’t Fake It”  (prod. Kosmiverse)

We’re evolving- memes from five years ago look like cave drawings, and babies are physically swiping and zoom-pinching the pages of books. Musically too, our chromosomes are renewing in a flash. Today’s young artists speak the language of the genre seemingly on instinct, succeeding at popular sonic and thematic tropes right out of the gate. At the core of this spawned intelligence is sharp melodic sense. Bingz is 16 years old, from the North Shore city of Revere, MA. “Don’t Fake It” is a pop-rap tune maintained by a single, savvy melodic phrase swaying throughout, assisted by production from Cambridge producer Kosmiverse. It’s a soothing atmosphere populated by inspiring reports of unbothered-ness. He floats right by fake love and phony rivals on a cloud. It may not be pushing new bounds, but it hits precisely its target for our modern tastes, and is something I sink into at least once a day since I’ve found it. – Adam

BJ/GNipsey – “THAT GLTT !!”

There are few things in rap greater than two drill rappers trading bars like they share the same consciousness. Added bonus if their voices work well together. BJ and GNipsey check both boxes here. BJ’s shrill delivery and GNipsey’s howling brags were made for each other.

One thing Adam and I were talking about recently: these Boston drill rappers are technicians on the mic. It isn’t just about the energy, they can really rap. BJ finds interesting pockets, evading traditional drill cadences, and GNipsey catches BJ’s flows effortlessly. GNipsey’s “Smack in the V / Accuracy / Fraction to me” rhyme scheme at the end is just cold. – Mano

YGizzle – “Gang Anthem” / “Real Shit (Pt 3)”

“Gizzle with that pistol too official ain’t got say a lot.” Most drill is successful by separating itself through extensively convincing imagery and wordplay, but on “Gang Anthem” this line of his feels true. He doesn’t say a lot in those regards; what he says gets straight to the point, but how he says it resonates in a way to fill the space and keep you glued. He’s loud, confident and plainspoken. Less is more, and lines like “You know what’s better than trappin? Robbin a trap n—-a”, and “pull up on a opp block hop out air it out / everybody gotta go fuck i care about?” land with that much more weight in their brevity. These things give it the feel he’s flowing impromptu and sincerely, like it’s actually the first time he’s saying any of this—like a masterful roast outside of a school. While still showcasing this blunt style, “Real Shit (Pt 3)” shifts gears, taking a more confessional, grave tone. He vents on the turbulence of his neighborhood, his thorough history, and making it out. – Adam

LaddiN ft. Lally – “Bag”

LaddiN and Lally are brothers from Cambridge. Lally is older, and already a fairly well-revered artist in the city; LaddiN just popped into my view with this song, and I am pleasantly surprised. Cue the Dragon Ball Z Fusion Dance reference. They work seamlessly well together, and even for a short song it manages to eke out a full, impassioned arc. Their voices, as expected, share a similar tone (LaddiN is on the chorus and Lally is on the verse). LaddiN sets the scene: bruised trust with tunnel vision on the money. Lally takes the baton and runs the course, taking us through mud and walls, abandonment, hunger and plotting on a lick. He sing-raps freely, ducking into melodic flourishes but keeping the flame alive in his wails. – Adam

Kadeem – “Wide Margins” (prod. Thelonious Martin)

Mattapan’s Kadeem has hung around in the Boston rap scene for the better part of this decade, steadily putting out pensive, serrated rap and collaborating with city mainstays like Michael Christmas and Haasan Barclay. A self-described “sniper” when it comes to releasing music, Kadeem is less concerned with flooding the market than he is with making every track count. When he’s not recording, he works a day job and serves as MC for Rah Zen’s show series Nightworks, which highlights the city’s beat scene.

“Wide Margins” is a patchwork of angular boasts and wordplay more slippery than black ice. Kadeem’s brags are visceral, full of scraped-up plates and lacerated wrists. His pockets are healthy but he’s starry-eyed and weary. Thelonious Martin’s beat pulses and lingers like a fever dream. – Mano

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