Brandon Callender is starting a petition to turn The Rap-Up into a k-pop comebacks of the week column.
Sosamann – “Cheetos”
It’s easy to imagine the music video for a song called “Cheetos.” With a title like that, you don’t need Hype Williams or Cole Bennett. Sosamann spends the first third of the video walking around a gas station store carrying around an ungodly amount of hot cheetos. He follows that visual by eating cheetos and rotel dip talking about how he’s going to start “flexing like Jake the Snake.” To end the video, he creates a cheeto mural that spells out “TSF” to rep The Sauce Familia in the cheesiest way imaginable. It should be immortalized in Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. If this track’s anything, it’s celebratory. Sosamann isn’t taking himself too seriously. He just wants to have some fun and talk about his accomplishments all while securing a Cheetos sponsorship.
Larry June – “Mr. Midnight”
Anytime I see CardoGotWings co-sign a rapper, or in Larry June’s case, produce an entire album, I have to check them out. On Mr. Midnight, Larry’s third project to release in 2019, he and Cardo bring out the best in each other. It’s is a change of pace from 2019 Bay Area rap. There’s no autotuned hooks sung by Yhung T.O. There’s no high-speed punchlines and disses being dropped. It’s 30 minutes of Larry dropping game about hustling while rapping about weed, clothes and the car he owns that’s so new he had to show the valet how to park it. His colorful descriptions turn even the most mundane of things into feature-length films. Larry makes music that’d soundtrack a late night drive in the summer.
22Gz and Shawny Bin Laden – “ReRok”
In case you forgot about Rap-Up traditions, we have a contractual obligation to include at least one song from Brooklyn, the DMV or Detroit. Queens’ Shawny Bin Laden and Brooklyn’s 22Gz come together on “ReRok” to bring the two boroughs that are pushing New York’s music into the future closer. This track comes with a star-studded New York rap cast: You got 22Gz and Shawny with the verses, Qasquiat directing the video and a beat produced by Cash Cobain. The beat feels like it was made for a Castlevania final boss fight. It starts off bare bones, with just drums and the melody bleeding into the beat, so you only catch snippets of it. Then you have Shawny and 22Gz racing against the beat, with all the twirling and splits making the song feel faster than it actually is. By the time Shawny gets to the end of his verse, the beat’s evolved into its final form. They’re almost rapping on two different songs.
JayDaYoungan and Yungeen Ace – “Dead Man Walking”
JayDaYoungan and Yungeen Ace are just 21 and 20, respectively, but they’ve lived a lifetime of experience. Between the two of them, they’ve seen felony charges for drug possession, the lives of friends and family members being taken away due to gun violence.
“Dead Man Walking,” a single from their collab album Can’t Speak On It, is the duo attempting to make sense of the circumstances they’ve been subject to. Ace opens up the song, rapping, “I’m deep in the trenches don’t know where to go / Run down, kill or rob seem to be all we know,” as part of a worrying and pessimistic hook. The hook takes up most of the song’s runtime, but the short moments when Jay and Ace speak are telling.
Ace discusses how he always connected with the streets, never his teachers. Then he says he’s “surviving on this ocean on the deep end.” His words are delivered with an indescribable weight. He’s trying to find ways to cope with loss and the pain that you experience after that. On the other hand, Jay is more concerned with the people that’ve snaked him and left him out to dry. He’s unhappy with the way people treated him in his past and wants nothing to do with them now.
Jay and Ace are making an attempt to explore their trauma on this song. They’re crying out for help, not just for themselves, but for their communities, and no one’s listening. Listening to this song, I got reminded of something Polo G said in his interview with Alphonse Pierre: “We just deal with it ourselves. Nobody ever comes to check on these kids, and without that it’s just a never ending cycle.”
Mavi – “Sankofa”
Mavi’s raps can be described with one word: dense. In the double header of “sankofa / warning,” the Charlotte MC goes over production from Novablu and Ovrkast. “Warning” is like a message hastily scrawled onto a note. Mavi’s intentionally vague. Between rapidly spoken tongue-twisters and internal rhyme schemes he’ll reveal a little about himself, but only if you’re paying enough attention to catch it. He’ll call himself Dionysus and his songs prophecies; lines later, he’ll dismiss all of that and say he’s destined for an unpoetic death.
He described the way his music works best himself, saying, “jus bc a song drop on it’s own don’t mean it’s a loosie. It’s a whole pack in one hit like a juul” in a tweet. Mavi’s just 20 years old, barely past the dawn of his of his career as a writer, but the brilliance he’s shown has caused him to gain the ears of Pink Siifu and Earl Sweatshirt, some of rap’s most talented wordsmiths. Iron sharpens iron; for someone with as much raw talent as Mavi, that sort of mentorship and attention can be life-changing.