Mano Sundaresan doesn’t have any sneak disses in the chamber.
Drake* – The Best in the World Pack
This NBA Finals series was all over the place, at times some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen, at other times heartbreaking and hard to stomach. The Raptors victory was glorious, Homeric in scope, the narrative hard to miss and impossible to understate. One of the most star-studded, polarizing dynasties in NBA history was toppled by an unassuming team from north of the border, led by a silent killer who let his game do the talking.
I’m happy for Toronto, and I’m happy for the team’s goofball mascot Drake*. Yes, he’s been talking to the press as if he played starter minutes on the team. Yes, there was a time when he repped a different team every day. But this has been a long time coming. Just think for a moment about how many DeMar Derozan deep twos Drake* and the fanbase had to sit through. The Kyle Lowry slander. Jonas Valanciunas being billed as their center of the future. This is not even factoring in everything before Masai Ujiri.
In celebration of the championship, Drake* did reckless interviews, partied with the team, and went on his IG live talking shit in the thickest Toronto accent he could muster. He also put out two new songs. They aren’t particularly good — one features a terrible attempt at the “Broken Language” flow and the other is a discount “Ric Flair Drip” — but they’ll be everywhere so long as this championship is etched into our collective consciousness. Benihanas will be boycotted, Pusha T subliminals will be overanalyzed, and Drake*’s monstrous reign will continue.
03 Greedo – “Can’t Fuccin Believe It” / “Look Bitch”
If you’re looking for a better two-pack, try the new 03 Greedo singles. He told The Fader that he recorded both in 2017, well before beginning his 20-year prison sentence last year. “Can’t Fuccin Believe It” is as textbook as the Greedo-RonRon rapper-producer tag team gets. You might recognize it from Greedo’s mixtape Purple Summer 03: Purple Hearted Soldier, which was taken down from streaming services. The other song is “Look Bitch,” a slow-burning addition to Greedo’s catalog of pimp rap. Produced by Cardo Got Wings, it’s sourced from the material that Greedo said will end up on their upcoming project Greedo Got Wings.
Rylo Rodriguez – “Project Baby”
In 2019 there are no rules to making a rap song. You can dip your voice in Auto-Tune and croon your heart out over that throwback R&B song your mom always played around the house. In fact you should. Everyone’s doing it. I’ve heard so many instantiations of this trend recently that the shock value of hearing something like this — Rylo Rodriguez rapping over “Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey — is close to zero. That doesn’t make it any less effective, though. The Mariah sample transports Rodriguez to his upbringing in Mobile, Alabama, bringing out some of his most pained, transparent writing yet.
This isn’t breakup music, it’s wake music. It’s Rodriguez running around the hood barefoot, tiptoeing over bullets, hoping he can make it home. It’s hopscotch on the block, eviction notices, screams from his momma. In a DJ Smallz Eyes interview, Rodriguez said he’s been in over 20 shootouts since the sixth grade, and that he’s constantly thinking about death. That sort of trauma irons memories into your consciousness, and he hasn’t forgotten a thing.
Lil NZA – “HiGHBEAMZ”
Rap groups like YTO3 and 4700Citglo are defining the new sound of Queens, NYC: frenetic raps over airy keyboard melodies that drip neon. Lil NZA is in 4700, but his roots extend hundreds of miles past Queens. He grew up in Broward County, FL, and lists Kodak Black, Tommy Wright III, and Lil Uzi Vert as influences. Even when he’s hurtling at lightspeed on songs like “HiGHBEAMZ,” you can hear how Lil NZA bends words differently from others in the scene. NZA and his peers are making some of the most high-octane rap in NYC right now. It’s only a matter of time before they start turning heads outside of the city.
Troux – “Trenches”
Don’t sleep on regional music video directors. I stumbled upon D.C.-based director Fool With The Camera through the video he did for “Drip or Drown” by Gunna. When he’s not getting big placements, he’s primarily working with emerging DMV artists, and his YouTube channel is a goldmine of talent from the area. “Trenches” by D.C. rapper Troux is the latest gem. Troux has commanding control of his voice, hitting melodies that would make Shy Glizzy jealous. Every bar is wrought from a place of tension. He’s grateful for what the streets taught and brought him, but he’s forever haunted by the detectives and the caution tape, the loaded clips, the fear of losing it all.