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Harley Geffner drops off bales like John Deere.
Stunna 4 Vegas – BIG 4X
Stunna 4 Vegas has had me running around yelling his “4 times” adlib at unsuspecting strangers the past few days. Well not actually because that’d be pretty societally frowned upon, but every time I look at someone, the thought crosses my mind to scream FO TIMES in their face. That’s the kind of energy North Carolina’s finest conjures up all throughout his BIG 4X album.
Stunna deals out his typically top-notch threats, never breaking a sweat. He’s worrying about getting m’s, but seems almost too excited to jump at the opportunity to exact his force upon those who test him. On the Intro, he raps, “N**** touch Stunna he get smoke // Slide down your block, my boys hang out the window,” and on Havin My Way with Nudy, Stunna “really be where they can’t hang (Huh?), Treat an opp block like a gun range (Hah).”
He’s the meanest possible combo of Money Floyd and Mike Tyson, playfully toying with his food until the time is necessary to unload his flurry of knockout blows. BIG 4X is a perfect 30 minute power trip, with the hardest Offset verse I’ve heard since 2015 and Stunna’s partner in crime Da Baby offering your best friend a bag to off you, before putting a hole in your back like a dolphin. Who the hell even thinks of that?
Lil Tjay x Jay Critch – “Ruthless”
Lil Tjay’s been going hard because he still remembers when he used to starve. He “remember sellin’ nicks right on the boulevard, goin’ downtown tryna steal a n**** car.” Just the other day, he was recording in a basement, but now he’s pulling up to shows in a spaceship. The pains of the lows and the exaltation of the highs seep themselves into the emotive laps Tjay runs between the highest and lowest octaves he can squeeze out in this song. He stretches and pulls words or syllables from every direction, some unexpectedly dropping down to simmer beneath the glowing piano while others are being pinched from above by heaven’s angels trying to grab hold of a living one.
“Ruthless” is an incredible display of the King of the Bronx’s vocal control. He’s never out range, even when extending himself for vocal cracks. His ear for melody is matched only by the likes of Melly, Polo G and Quando Rondo, whose new album I desperately wanted to write about, had I not heaped all my praises upon him last week.
The talent around New York right now is at a 21st Century high (I was five when the 90’s ended, don’t yell at me), so it only makes sense that Tjay grabbed Brooklyn’s Jay Critch for a verse. I love Critch, and he certainly does his thing on the verse, but he’s really just a placeholder to remind us how lucky we are that Tjay came down to bless us with his godly melodies. Critch leaves us with a trampoline for Tjay to blast off into the autotuned stratospheres, where he’ll “pop out in a fresh with tee, with some retro J’s or some fresh Nikes.”
Polo G x Calboy – “Caroline”
We have a grand melodic New York cut in the Rap-Up, so it’s only right to bring attention to this celebration of Chicago’s melodic street hustling raps too. I keep coming back to Alphonse Pierre’s article about the new wave of Lil Durk-inspired kids from the Chi harmonizing the shit out of these sinking piano riffs. It warms my heart to hear the strands of Durkio’s soothing voice in Calboy, Lil Zay Osama, Polo G and El Hitta’s raps and that he’s playing father figure for the scene.
On “Caroline,” the struggle of living in Chicago’s streets is borne out in the pain-seared melodies from Calboy and Polo G. Calboy sings warnings that when you’re out there, you better look left and right, since they won’t hesitate to take your life. But living in stressful conditions where bodies are dropping around you all the time begets unhealthy coping mechanisms. With all the killing around, Calboy wasn’t feeling right and now he’s trying to find solace in the drugs. After popping out from the phone booth behind Calboy for his verse, Polo G casually slides a troubling bar about popping X when he’s bored and hearing voices in his head next to his threats to rearrange your organs.
It all serves as a reminder that there’s beauty in struggle and that we should be thankful for these artists who flip those heavy emotions into soul-bearing melodies. Hopefully, we’re all fortunate enough to only have to experience it through their melodies.
Z Money – Shawty Paid
Z Money is on the other side of the neo-Chicago rap spectrum, less pained singing and more draping haunted whispers all over his trap houses. On his album Shawty Paid, he admits he’s addicted to serving fiends, he thinks it’s in his genes. But his addiction is paying dividends as he “ain’t even finish school ‘cuz I was prolly cookin, got me richer than a veteran and I’m a rookie.”
He’s whippin’ early in the morning with his robe on. Even his girls are delivering for him. The eerie synths from Chasethemoney and others pulsate through the basement labs while Z sips his red medicine. He’s a quiet killer, but he’s about his business first and foremost. The casualties just come with the game. With the second dolphin bar today, he’ll “Pop up like a dolphin .. get to tossin’ … hurry up and bag it ‘cuz this dope i got is awesome … scraping up the cells man, put a n***** in a coffin.”
You can hit him on the flip phone for business, if you’re so inclined.
YS – “Step In”
YS might be my favorite new artist out of LA right now. I wrote about his “Bompton” video a few weeks back, and his follow-up doesn’t disappoint. He’s feelin’ like the man when he steps in, ready to rock shit with his Zach and Cody twin glocks. I previously described his style as a confident stomp, and he shows it here, as he stampedes all over the running keys and escalating strings. One thing that’s made clear is that it’s unwise to test YS. He tells us that his “whole gang war ready, and I’m Osama // Black Timbs, black whips, feel like Obama.”