The Rap-Up: Week of October 14, 2019

The Rap-Up returns with new tracks from YoungBoy NeverBrokeAgain, City Girls, and more.
By    October 13, 2019

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Brandon Callender is working on his double wristlock.

Envy Caine  – “11 AM in Williamsburg”

“11 AM in Williamsburg” is definitely in the running for most unintentionally funny rap single title of the year, but Envy Caine, aka Coka, has slowly become one of my favorite rappers coming out of the Brooklyn Drill movement. When I heard “Woo K Pt. 2,” a diss track directed at Pop Smoke over the Woo” beat, I felt the same type of menacing, commanding aura that all of the BK drill rappers have. While BK drill rappers thrive in this new musical environment where a loosie is all you need, when they go on to create full-length projects or attempt new things stylistically they tend to fail. Coka showed promising hints of doing something beyond the high energy disses he’s known for, but hadn’t really delivered on that promise until “11 AM in Williamsburg.”

He feels more inspired than ever on here. Each line is said with a conviction makes you lean in and listen harder. Lines like “exposing my personal life, showing love to my niggas was my biggest mistakes,” show a humility that’s forced him to learn important life lessons. Envy Caine’s ready to take his songwriting and storytelling to a level past many of his peers in Brooklyn. 

Rod Wave featuring Kevin Gates – “Cuban Links”

Rod Wave opens “Cuban Links” by inviting you to “ talk about hard times” with him. Throughout his first verse, the emotion in his voice demands your attention. After hearing his opening verse, it’s clear why Kevin Gates would hop on the same track as the 19-year-old rapper from St. Petersburg, Florida. Similar to Gates, Rod Wave’s greatest strength lies in his diction and delivery. “I been running up that paper momma / And before I let them take anymore Imma die in these cuban links,” he yells on the hook. The passion and dramatism in both of their voices add so much weight to a song that would feel pointless if any other artist made it. Rod Wave brings a level of urgency to this track that stops you in place and has you ask yourself if you’re satisfied with what you’ve accomplished.

City Girls – “JT First Day Out”

After Gucci Mane dropped his “First Day Out” freestyle, so many rappers finally returning home after prison sentences have attempted to recapture that same magic. The latest challenger is City Girls’ JT, celebrating her “First Day Out” over a beat that could’ve played in Smush Parker’s Lakers highlight tape. While the beat sounds a little dated, JT can’t be stopped. She bulldozes through the song, rarely giving the beat an opportunity to breathe. JT sounds as if she’s towering over you with her voice echoing throughout the track. She’s dismissing everyone saying “City Girls Over” and making them aware that there’s no end in sight for their reign as the Queens of Bad Bitch rap. JT’s timing is perfect. With homecoming season on the horizon, I know every college DJ has been looking for a song like this to add to their set.

Shordie Shordie featuring Shoreline Mafia – “Both Sides”

Shordie Shordie and Shoreline Mafia is the collab you see people begging for in Instagram Live snippets but somehow ends up actually happening. The Baltimore crooner and Los Angeles rap group unite on “Both Sides,” and harmonize about how much they hate cognac and collecting backends off club appearances. Shordie Shordie pulls off one of the most impressive money spreads I’ve ever seen while singing the song’s mesmerizing hook. It’s a little disappointing that a single this bouncy dropped while the summer’s already long gone, but it’ll still be here next year. 

YoungBoy NeverBrokeAgain – “Time I’m On”

NBA YoungBoy is one of the hardest rappers for people in the media to talk about. Aside from coverage of his legal issues — probation violations, assault and domestic violence — it’s almost as if the media doesn’t even pay attention to him. YoungBoy’s spent 138 weeks on YouTube’s U.S. music chart (Comparison: Drake has spent 155 weeks on the chart), yet there’s very little time spent dissecting his music and appeal. While it is true that YoungBoy’s largest audience is a generation of listeners detached from the criticism of Pitchfork and Anthony Fantano, his sheer popularity and influence on this generation of rappers is something that’s impossible to ignore. His sheer existence causes editors and curators to scratch their heads at the concept of giving a problematic person positive coverage.

 If YoungBoy were the same exact artist without the legal baggage he carries, it’s likely that he would be one of the most covered rap stars of today. No one has ever denied the songwriting talents and ability to invoke emotions of pain, fear and angst that YoungBoy has. “I come straight up out the street, ain’t no pretending, no acting / I don’t blame no one for my struggle, I still fuck with my daddy,” he cries out out on “Time I’m On.” But at the same time, there is very little writing on YoungBoy’s music.

In an age where you could wake up to news of a new artist being ‘cancelled’ everyday, publications do make attempts to discuss the controversies surrounding popular artists within critiques of their music. YoungBoy’s the type of artist that forces the hands of publications to make decisions on who they choose to cover and why they’re doing it. If music publications are doing what they say they’re meant to do and documenting how culture unfolds and who’s disrupting things, there’s no reason to not cover YoungBoy. Whether anyone recognizes it or not, YoungBoy is one of the artists silently changing the way music is being covered. 

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