Mano Sundaresan is finger-wagging on the block, but he’s not Dikembe.
Adonis & VHS – Victoria
Victoria opens with a woman reciting the “Oracion A San Miguel Arcangel,” a Catholic prayer in Spanish calling upon San Miguel for protection from the devil. For how terse it is, Adonis and VHS’ debut project as a duo oozes soul. It transports you to the Los Angeles that they know. Long Beach rapper Adonis flips through gritty memories from his home turf — Glocks under ponchos, scaling fences, looking for his next meal. VHS weaves in samples that are rooted in his Latinx identity — mariachi horns, pattering drums, flutes that were cool in Mexico decades before they were used in a trap beat. For late-night cruises all summer.
Quadie Diesel & Roe Didit – “OMG”
I first heard of Delaware rapper Quadie Diesel through an XXL video in which 13-year-old rapper Matt Ox mumbled a word or phrase relevant to him for every letter of the alphabet. “H” was Heineken, and “Q” was Quadie Diesel, who, like Matt Ox, is affiliated with hip-hop collective Working On Dying. Quadie has largely remained under the radar compared to his WOD peers. It might be because he’s the group’s wild card. It’s impossible to tell what you’re going to get when you click on a Quadie Diesel song or video. He’s constantly experimenting with his delivery, and he’s getting progressively weirder. Like Valee, he came up on a sinister whisper flow, but he takes liberties with it – sometimes drowning it in Auto-Tune, other times eschewing it entirely for a more aggressive approach. Here, he locks into the flow, hopping around with Matt Ox who is looking more and more like an evil demon.
Don Toliver – “No Idea”
Don Toliver popped up on radars after Travis Scott dropped Astroworld last year, and for good reason. He stole the show on “CAN’T SAY,” one of the strongest features on an album whose merit was largely derived from the sum of its features. Scott didn’t list the features on streaming services, so fans were fiending to know who that guy with the alien, buttery voice was. It wasn’t Gunna. It wasn’t Lil Baby. It definitely wasn’t Young Thug. Frankly, it sounded nothing like a Thug clone. It was Don Toliver, a Houston rapper who had some sort of Travis-Scott-meets-Akon-meets-Cee-Lo-Green thing going for him.
Signed to Travis Scott’s label Cactus Jack Records, Toliver put out his debut mixtape Donny Womack days before Astroworld came out. It was generally less interesting than “CAN’T SAY.” People raved about it in the disingenuous way that people rave about artists they just discovered. The songs were perfectly serviceable, mostly big-sounding R&B in the vein of Astroworld, but there was nothing as electric and chantable as “smokin’ hella weed, I’m on that alcohooool.”
With his new single “No Idea,” however, he may have finally reached that mark. Wondagurl (who belongs in the best working producers conversation) provides a massive soundscape of synths and flutes for Toliver to croon over. And Toliver doesn’t disappoint, coming through with slurred vocals that dissolve into the beat like fuzzy memories. It sounds like the mental sludge after a drunk night out, lethargy and anxiety and horniness masquerading as feelings.
7981 Kal & Polo G – “FTG”
7981 Kal just got a big look in the form of a duet with Chicago rap star Polo G. We’ve covered him several times at POW, but the Dorchester, MA rapper’s fan base is still mostly based in Boston. Aside from this being a moment for Kal and Boston, it’s a fascinating intersect of the drill scenes of two cities. On the whole, it sounds like the Lil Durk thread of melodic rap, which might suggest that Boston drill rappers are pulling heavily from him, but at this point, who isn’t? Kal’s writing keeps his music distinctly Boston, no matter how much he wears his influences on his sleeve. He hinted at having music in the tank with Durk, so this might not be the end of the Boston-Chicago exchange.