Harley Geffner stays paid.
Rico Cartel – Clever Lil Steppa
438 / Chop Squad member Rico Cartel seems as level-headed as one can be for having grown up in Pine Hills, Florida, just outside Orlando, which he described in three words as “fun, tragic, hell.” A place where he says he was late to the game because he stepped “off the porch” at 13 when there were kids bearing arms in stolen cars at 11. “We young, but we think we old heads,” he said in an interview with DJ Smallz. A situation like that will force you to grow up quickly, and Rico shares that wisened beyond his years perspective of an early Kodak. In the Smallz interview, he talks about things like his father and grandmother’s death with an unsettling calm. Like he’s already dealt with his turmoil and found his peace, and with things settled in his mind, there’s nothing to do but smile and enjoy (see: cover art).
It comes across all throughout his new album Clever Lil Steppa, where even on songs like the abundantly catchy Red Bottomz, which carries a bloody, emotional heft, Rico sounds like he’s singing from a recliner, blunt hanging on his lips, and watching the Orlando sky migrate through brilliant oranges. His settled pain hums at the core of his voice, but the glee he finds in seeking revenge, not just against those who wronged him, but against a system that stacked the odds, feels stronger. One particularly telling section of one of my favorite songs on the tape, Crazy, goes:
“The life I live be deadly, But I know that I’m chosen
You ain’t count me in, I felt you left me in an ocean
God got a vision, so I put the play in motion
Never had no feelings, I would never show emotion
Put the pain in the backwood and puff it in the air,
How you gon tell me bout the situation, you was never there”
And if you need a visual to help you picture how he would look sliding all over the sunny, upbeat, classically Florida production of Clever Lil Steppa, he also just dropped a new video that’s pretty indicative of how much he’s enjoying how things are going for him.
Teejayx6 – “Swipe Story 3”
Teejayx6’s Detroit scamming stories are complex enough that even described in heavy detail, I can barely follow them. On one song, he describes buying a burner phone to download the Zelle app and using it to transfer $1,000 from a stolen credit card (he calls it a “fire piece”) to one of his other phones on a VPN, before trashing the first phone. He warns us not to burn out the method on the song, and he has since updated us in the song description that the method has in fact been burned.
“Swipe Story 3” is Teejay at full force, ripping off the Turo app for rental cars, whiting out checks, activating credit lines on Apple Pay, using an app I hadn’t heard of to bypass the verification on an Android he just acquired, and then using his scam money to buy some iPads at Best Buy. But it’s not scamming just for the thrill of it. He’s trying to get his sister gifts and is relieved he’s reached a level of scamming mastery that his card now gets approved, because as he says “I remember times my shit wouldn’t hit for food.”
Post Malone ft. Young Thug – “Goodbyes”
Do yourself a favor and skip straight to 1:30 in this song. Here is the Thug I know and love, reaching back for sprawling vocal landscapes to lay a cascading misty layer over endlessly parabolic hills. Posty is bearable for a nice ending to the song when he’s harmonizing. But yeah, cut to 1:30. I’m happy to hear Thug hitting hard on the commercial releases and not just phoning them in. He’s finally gotten some of the recognition he deserves over the past 2 or so years when everyone realized that he was all their favorite rappers’ and writers’ favorite rapper. I just feel bad for all the people who try to get familiar with his catalog through his top songs on Spotify, who will never come to an understanding that his best work was scattered through the leaks, which would almost definitely feel impenetrable to a new fan.
Black Kray x YSB OG x Yung Lean x Bladee – “Famous”
This is the first time I know of all of these dudes on camera together. Goth Money and Drain Gang have always been linked in their astral sphere and they’re all heroes to the HAM on Everything crowd. I just went to a Black Kray HAM x Underground Underdogs show this week and he has certainly been deitized by the scenesters. The youtube comments are full of people talking about how this one is going to be studied by philosophers and seen in history books in the year 3058 and how it’s too rare for Youtube. It might be too rare for our human eyes.
Hook – Bully
Riverside, LA rapper Hook was also at the HAM x UU show and she’s bridging the gap between the street-level LA bump and more traditional Soundcloud-verse filters. Produced and mixed by Nedarb, who played a little hyphy set at the show, Bully’s production is earthquake-level bounce, sending sinister vibrations up through your spine. RIOT could score a great jerk video, and she’s got both LA riser AzChike and Soundcloud staple Bootychaaain for verses on different songs. It’s a cool new take on the LA sound and I’m looking forward to hearing more experimentation in that intermediate space. Ned is such a versatile producer.
Bankroll Buna x Gloxko Shotz – “Driver & Shooter”
A good Brooklyn drill song will make you want to punch a wall or rip a stuffed animal’s head off. Bankroll Buna viciously flexes that “we the reason why paramedics get a check.” My god, that’s cold.