Mano Sundaresan had to blow dust off the kalimba.
Kadeem – “World Sport”
World Sport is fascinating in that it rarely gives its subject matter the easy, obvious soundscape. Kadeem has made a name for himself in Boston through his dense lyricism, but he’s equally impressive as a beat selector, letting the production tease out subtleties in his writing. The opening lines on the album — “Man of my word, hand on the Bible / The burning bush spoke and told me fan all this fire” — are triumphant, but VHS’s beat is comparatively brooding, unresolved. It makes you think about everything that’s wrapped up in that notion of prophecy. Destiny, inevitability, expectations, freedom. Kadeem repeatedly strikes this dichotomy throughout the album, allowing him to smoothly switch gears between telling you that he’s a dope rapper in as many ways as possible and dwelling on darker concerns — mortality, the present dystopia, and fallen ancestors, among other things.
Billed as his debut album, World Sport is an effective distillation of everything that has made Kadeem so respected for the better part of this decade. Arriving after years of sporadically-released tapes and loosies, it sounds like a veteran of his craft at his most confident, focused, and transparent.
Save for a few guest features, Kadeem is rapping almost constantly throughout, weaving somber musings into incisive shit-talking. In one moment on “Pitchforks,” Kadeem is staring down a memory of drinking Hennessy in the fifth grade; in the next, he’s “pissing excellence.” His voice consistently hovers low in the mix and is sometimes drowned out by the music, giving the songs an urgency that is rare for rap this straight-faced. Some of the songs sink into the pavement (“Finish Line,” “Glow”); others are born from bass and storm clouds (“Stay Low,” “FreeFall”); others are feathery under brass samples (“KM WS 87.9,” “Three Cs”).
Bris – “Panhandling”
The national buzz that a street rapper gets usually trickles down to his/her scene, so it’s a surprise to me that Sacramento hasn’t had much after Mozzy’s ascent. Especially since there are capable hitmakers coming out of the city now, like South Sac’s Bris. He’s a charismatic shit-talker with a single braid that flops around as he twists and bobs in his locally-shot videos.
“Panhandling” is the latest single off Bris’s upcoming project I Am Fruitridge. Taking a page from Drakeo the Ruler’s handbook, Bris takes on basic rap tropes using his own constructed vernacular. A Glock without attachments is “buttnaked” and needs “jeans” and a “belt buckle.” He’ll run up on you with his cheetah paws. He’s “in the Ling Ling yard like some bamboo” (ok, this one fully sounds like something Drakeo would say but there’s nothing anyone can do about Drakeo changing West Coast slang as we know it.)
What’s different about Bris is that this isn’t nervous rap. It’s celebratory and proudly independent (“If you ever sign, true story — you a damn lie”) and scans as a well-packaged, pop-ready version of Drakeo’s muted, intricate style. The video opens with Bris slinking around in the Sacramento twilight, Hennessy in hand, and ends with a full-on block party, babies on shoulders and fireworks painting the night sky.
Elucid – Every Egg I Cracked Today Was Double Yolked
At this point, it’s hard to put Elucid in a rap column. His new project Every Egg I Cracked Today Was Double Yolked contains only a few minutes of rapping: on the intro track “Honestly, Alright;” in the last minute and change of “Colony;” and, if it counts, a repeated chant in “A Gruv:” “Sometimes you can’t do nothing.” Otherwise, this is a noisy, challenging set of instrumentals (he calls it a “collection of meditations”) from the Brooklyn artist designed to be heard in one sitting. In just under twenty minutes, Elucid throws everything at the wall — electronic, spoken word, ambient, post-punk, jazz — and a lot of it sticks. “A Great Many Wishes” builds from a skeletal breakbeat and distant laughter to careening saxophones and shrieking. “Spiderz” is hauntingly sterile and could soundtrack a masked surgeon at work. It’s an unsettling, numbing, mostly interesting, occasionally beautiful collage of experimental hip-hop. Further proof that Elucid is one of the most innovative working rapper-producers, or as he describes himself, “the one-man resistance.”
Lil Loaded – “6locc 6a6y”
This is unreasonably hard and has all the makings of a Texas, if not national, rap hit. Chest-pummelling bass? Check. Murderous piano? Check. Random cut in the video to everyone actually chanting along to the lyrics? Check. “Shotta Flow” is somehow still everywhere and impregnable, but if any other song could reliably replace its energy once its run is over, it’s this one. Lil Loaded takes on the colossal beat with a nimble delivery and lines tailor-made for mass brainwashing. “Catch me on the block, block baby, block baby, what, catch me on the block, block baby” is one of those perfectly boomeranging, percussive hooks that’s designed to be chanted in locker rooms and clubs and by off-base 12-year-olds in Call of Duty lobbies.
GmacCash – “Black Forces”
Underlying all the scamming, shit-talking, and shirtless dancing that has come to define this blossoming era of Detroit rap is a strong sense of humor, so it’s a little weird to see stuff that’s actually projecting as “comedy rap” come out of the scene. GmacCash has recently been getting some traction for a couple joke songs: one about Popeye’s vs. Chick-fil-A that’s corny, another about Black AF1s that’s pretty funny and demands a Teejayx6 remix. It’s a little annoying that he’s chasing after memes these days. I miss when he just made songs about random shit that bugs him, like mosquitoes and potholes.