Mano Sundaresan applied for an internship on The Eminem Show.
Six Sev – Sevshaw
Six Sev first ran into Nipsey Hussle at Hungry Harold’s, a fast food staple in Crenshaw. Sev showed him a clothing design, Nipsey invited him to his office that night, and within a year, Sev was designing pieces for his Marathon Clothing store. It was a business relationship that brought Six Sev local recognition as an artist. More importantly, though, it was a mentorship that instilled in Sev the values that now define him and his work.
Sev is cut from the same cloth as Nipsey. Rapper, entrepreneur, educator, community-builder. He’s led Crenshaw cleanups and organized a block party in Leimert Park for Black Independence Day. He partnered with Adidas to bring new shoes to honor roll students at Crenshaw High School. He was already making a difference before the music.
In this light, Sev’s debut album Sevshaw is more a continuation of his broader community work than the birth of something new. That isn’t to understate its importance. Five years in the making, it was a painstaking passion project for Six Sev, who sought perfection, no matter how long it’d take. The production is immediately indicative of that lengthy process. Courtesy of a slew of artists like DJ Smiley, Crui$e Control, and Nathan Austin, it sounds bigger than trends from the past few years. It often leans muted and jazzy, similar in energy to the music of Terrace Martin. And while songs like “Dance With Me” and “Sachi House” practically shimmer, there’s a darkness underlying it all, a shadow cast by the passing of Nipsey that makes Six Sev’s calls to action throughout Sevshaw realer, more urgent.
The album is carried by themes of black enterprise, independence, and activism, bookended by calls to “keep it in the neighborhood.” Six Sev fills out the project with personal vignettes — working minimum wage jobs, uplifting local artists in Leimert Park, forgoing college for financial reasons, among others — aiming to set an example for black youths in his district. His voice is reedy and unadorned, as if to ensure that the messaging be clear, and this can sometimes hide just how good he is as rapping. He’ll sometimes string together complex phrases without you even noticing (listen to how he rhymes on “God Don’t Like Ugly”).
For its ambition alone, Sevshaw is an impressive debut, a Crenshaw native’s attempt to map out a future for his home in the wake of its greatest tragedy in recent memory. There’s a haunting interlude where Six Sev, backed by serrated drums and voices in harmony, repeats the line “I need something to believe in.” On its own, it may seem like a platitude, but in the context of everything that has led up to Sevshaw, it might be the album’s thesis.
Maxo Kream – “8 Figures”
Maxo Kream’s major label debut Brandon Banks warrants a full-length review on this site, so I’ll keep this brief. Listen to this project. It’s personal without falling into tropes, slickly produced, occasionally humorous, and consistently a joy. Maxo devotes large chunks of the album to his father Emekwanem, whose history of crime, infidelity, and domestic abuse complicates their relationship. Even on songs that feel like high-energy breaks from the storytelling, Emekwanem pops up. Like on “8 Figures,” a banger sandwiched between big-budget Travis Scott and Megan Thee Stallion collabs: “When the feds caught my dad, only had one million / Should’ve had nine more, put up in the ceilin’.” You think it’s about saving money, but then the beat changes, and Maxo is suddenly name-dropping brands and blowing all his cash because “what the fuck you expect?” Maxo creates a world on Brandon Banks that is shockingly transparent, letting his guard down on tracks made for the loudest speakers.
Conway the Machine & Eminem – “Bang”
Well, we finally got it. (Finally? Is that the right word? Were people actually eagerly awaiting this?). Eminem on a Griselda track. And it is terrible. Unfathomably unlistenable. There is a time and place for everything, and no one should be allowed to switch flows four times on a Daringer beat. Actually, rule zero: no one should be allowed to pollute a Daringer beat with MIDI strings that build into a 10-second trap section. Two years later, the Shady-Griselda partnership still makes sense on paper, kind of, but it hasn’t had the impact the fans and artists expected. All I’m hoping is that this doesn’t happen again. I didn’t mention a single line from the verse and I think that is for the best.\
ShittyBoyz BabyTron – “Punch God 2”
Further proof that the simulation is on overdrive: a scrawny kid with Drake Bell hair who’s part of a Detroit collective called ShittyBoyz is bar-for-bar one of the best scam rappers out right now. He goes by BabyTron (ok, that’s actually kind of cool) and he put out one of the best rap songs last week. Yes, the overproduced videos full of quick zooms and endless cuts make his music a hundred times better, but the rapping itself is crazy enough to stand on its own. He has hilarious bars and a torrid flow that carries his songs till the end (literally — sometimes the beat is barely there). “Punch God 2” is his latest, a funk adrenaline shot with gem after gem from the young swiper. BabyTron is at his most self-aware on this one, addressing the people questioning his appearance. He doesn’t care; it actually comes in handy when he’s swiping.
Plus, they’re still posting goat emojis on his videos. It is hard to imagine a universe in which BabyTron is not turned into a massive meme, and that is being confirmed as I write this; he made it into a “white boys evolving” tweet that recently went viral. It’s sometimes a mental workout to keep up with Detroit rap (last I checked, Kasher Quon dissed his own producer on a beat made by that producer) but that’s just an indication that the scene is overflowing with talent right now.
Ralfy the Plug – “Kickdoor Specialist (feat. Roccy Da Rocstarr & Good Finesse)”
Nothing beats the innovators. Drakeo the Ruler and Ralfy the Plug started a wave with nervous rap, and it is blatantly obvious how much better they are at it than the imitators. “Kickdoor Specialist” is full of Ralfy’s ever-expanding lingo: “Kickdoor specialist, frontdoor perfectionist / You see the light show, thank the Tom Edison.” As Jeff laid out in his Fader piece, Ralfy the Plug was never charged with murder but is strangely ensnared in the Drakeo the Ruler/Stinc Team murder trial. A verdict could come today or this week, so consider this post a prayer for their freedom. What these rappers are going through is a microcosm of decades of bigotry and racial resentment in the American criminal justice system. Free Ralfy, free The Ruler, and free the Stinc Team.