Harold Bingo still spins his shirt over his head like a helicopter sometimes.
One of the best parts about discovering a new artist is the subsequent dive into the work of other artists and producers who circle their orbit. The early days of G-Unit’s rise were filled with good natured discussion about Lloyd Banks being a more skilled bar-for-bar rapper than 50 Cent. Or when Fat Joe noticed a clearly talented up & comer from around the way and began a symbiotic artistic relationship with Big Pun. Once upon a time, it seemed like almost any top selling artist could simply birth another one — if their A&R skills were up to par.
Nowadays, the ripple effects of a big name rapper shedding light on an associate don’t go nearly as far. Sure, the name recognition will get you some perfunctory spins and placements on the sites du jour but the more discerning fans are more interested in knowing who you sound like and what scenes you’re involved in. Gone are the days when a 50 Cent or a Lil Wayne could will multiple projects and artists into mainstream relevance by sheer force of magnetism.
While DaBaby isn’t on the level of any of the artists mentioned from a sheer crossover popularity standpoint, he’s found a chemistry with Salisbury’s Stunna 4 Vegas that has allowed both of them to raise their respective profiles. This isn’t a case of a lesser light benefitting from the stardom of a frequent collaborator. “Animal,” “4X” and “Fan Freestyle” remain among DaBaby’s most watched videos on YouTube, even as Interscope-supported fare like “Baby Sitter” and “Suge” dwarf their plays out of the gate.
After hearing them together, the listener has no choice but to head down the Stunna 4 Vegas rabbit hole. He’s dropped some serviceable tapes that are available on the primary streaming hubs but the true magic lies in the YouTube loosie videos. Between his collaborations and DaBaby and his own one-offs, he’s created a lane for himself & caused speculation as to whether he’ll follow in DaBaby’s footsteps by signing to Interscope.
He’s not someone you can readily compare to another rapper, although he has spiritual brethren in the DMV, DFW, or any regions using Memphis and South Florida as stylistic templates. He’s gotten a fair amount of mileage out of the ‘hashtag’ flow that Big Sean (and/or various members of Young Money) made popular. He avoids the gimmicky word association tropes that the aforementioned artists fell into, using the flow for more efficient writing (“I see that bag, gimme”). His energetic delivery makes every bar feel urgent yet you never get the sense that he’s trying all that hard. When he says that all of these raps come to him in one take, it doesn’t sound like a flex, it sounds like a statement of fact.
Like DaBaby, he’s able to inject humor into his songwriting and avoid lapsing into the boilerplate. His songs don’t always have hooks but they all have one liners that etch themselves on the brain. “I’m in the mix like an instigator!” “Had her eating dick, with courtesy.” and course, “I pop a Perc, it give me more stamina!”
While the eagerly anticipated Big 4X hangs in limbo, here’s a quick primer on the best Stunna YouTube loosies:
Baby and Stunna are already several bangers deep but this is one of the biggest songs for either artist, racking up 11 million YouTube views in 6 months. It is easy to see “Billion Dollar Baby Freestyle” getting there soon. Fingers crossed for a Joggers video. This is the song that lets you know they function as far more than the sum of their parts. DaBaby closes strong but it’s Stunna’s show. The hook is insistent and it’s a song that will have you barking out random lines.
2. “Hell Yea”
Stunna’s three most watched YouTube videos are his DaBaby collaborations but this is the solo song that is gathering the most traction. Judging from the immediate popularity of this, “Mr. One Take” and “Double D’s,” it won’t be long before his own songs are racking up views at the same pace. The video enhances the song because it’s hard not to bust out laughing at the face he makes while he threatens to keep you from selling on your own block. He shares DaBaby’s gift for the darkly comedic, eliciting laughter for ostensibly cold blooded threats by name dropping NBA journeymen. (“stay with the rod, I never get caught like Telfair”)
3. “Punch Me In” series
Kind of a cheat to include all three songs but it wouldn’t feel right to have such a list without them. The first installment sets the tone. He compares a rival’s drug use to Gunplay’s, does a Lil Uzi shoulder shimmy and jumps all the way past skeezer and hoochie to bring back “floozy”. He threatens to bring “doomsday” which also sounds like a threat that would be issued during the 1950s.
Part two is more purposeful, with Stunna promising not to let any rivalry derail him his newfound following. The third video starts with Stunna tossing a man into his own trunk and riding off with his girlfriend. And the man speaks as if this is a common occurrence? The whole dynamic is vexing.
Stunna’s still got his eyes on the prize, though. “I ain’t signing no deal if I can’t be on this hot shit” is a helpful reassurance to anyone who was worried about him racing to purchase beats from lesser, name brand producers now that he’s on.
This is the first song that hints towards a possible deal with Interscope and he’s still in rare form, even with all of the newfound attention he’s received. Rappers are giving out smoke left and right at the moment but he’s probably the first to promise a “fuckton”. Also: “You ain’t no shooter, you grazed him. You probably hit him and hate it” ranks really, really high in the recent “you don’t want to live like this” bars pantheon (Mozzy is high on this current leader board).
This song precedes the release of the more commonly played ones but is a perfect example of what makes Stunna’s music so infectious. The verses are fairly boilerplate but the hook and beat carry the day, hinting towards something more engaging. There is an aside about selling a pound of shake that makes me envy the world him and Baby live in, where there’s always another person to rob and nothing ever seems to come of it. DaBaby and Stunna don’t just run off on the plug twice, they find the sucker who is willing to deal with them a third time.