Brandon Callender is a street prophet when his Solo cup is full.
A few years ago, bucket hats were fashionable and every teenager on Tumblr reblogging oversaturated gifs of OBEY and The Hundreds logos thought Beast Coast was going to bring “real hip-hop” back. Simultaneously, A$AP Rocky and Yams were preparing to introduce the rest of the A$AP Mob to the world and had a plan to dominate rap via screen-printed t-shirts, runway walk-offs, and mixtapes with Jim Jones features.
On Lord$ Never Worry, A$AP Mob’s 2012 collaborative project, the mob and Beast Coast’s Flatbush Zombies finally crossed paths on “Bath Salt.” The momentum that groups possessed entering the studio should’ve made it a surefire hit. Meechy and Juice argued about who could had the best drugs. Rocky phoned in a verse revealing that he was a reptilian who only had sex with lesbians while shouting out Harlem and Flatbush. What could go wrong?
For reasons still unknown, A$AP Ant decided that his introduction to the world on “Bath Salt” should reveal his thoughts on the candy-flavored semen of Willy Wonka, the bleach-soaked razor blades he used to tear people apart and the OJ Simpson-inspired Bronco he’d use to dump bodies in Tennessee. Ant’s verse single handedly turned what could have been one of internet rap’s most exciting moments into a joke anyone could turn to for easy retweets.
But that was seven years ago. Over the past few years, Ant, aka YG Addie, has had a creative reawakening and might be the only person left in the Mob making interesting music. The 26-year-old Baltimore rapper picked up right where Rocky left off in 2012, choosing to rap about his obsessions with fashion brands you can’t afford and his favorite exotic sodas. He ditches the Memphis-inspired beats of SpaceGhostPurrp which Rocky rode to fame in favor of the hypnotizing, weed smoke-filled beats of songs like “Peso.”
While joining the New York rap group disconnected Ant from the rap scenes developing in both Baltimore and the DMV, his reinvention wouldn’t be possible without the support of rappers and producers from back home. He built up his own skate team/clothing brand, Marino Infantry, and turned it into a rap collective, which is the home of Maryland-based rappers Soduh, Lulu P and producer Lord Fubu. Additionally, Ant’s worked with some of the region’s rising stars like Goonew and producers SpizzleDoe and Sparkheem.
Since 2018, he’s released 6 projects, including a trilogy of mixtapes this year, showing his growth since “Bath Salt.” While he hasn’t become a recognizable name to pop artists looking for collabs like Rocky and Ferg, he’s developed his own fanbase of people who’ve given him a second chance. Addie’s projects find themselves lacking the ‘prove yourself’ feeling that Rocky’s early projects had, but he has no reason to prove himself. He’s well aware the style and aesthetic he lifted from Rocky (which Rocky himself stole entirely from SGP) works. He picks it apart and focuses on what works best for him.
Ant focuses on telling you about how annoying it is to parallel park a Bentley truck and the frustrations that come with not having enough hangers for all of his Acne denim. His music is fully self-indulgent, you can tell he’s having fun recording these tracks. He has a bottomless appetite for excessively expensive things, but rarely makes such an exhausted microgenre of rap seem boring. He doesn’t simply wear designer clothing; his entire life is designer. He eats cereal out of Versace bowls, but only if he has the matching cutlery to go with it. When he brags, his heavy Baltimore accent is always noticeable: he takes trips to “Bermewda” and will never be seen wearing ‘Jawdinz’ It wouldn’t surprise me if he had one of Rick Owens’ marble benches lying around in storage.
For rappers like Ant, it’s easy to simply go through the motions and never actually try to make a song better than your last, but on songs like “Diamond Dust” it’s apparent that he’s fully dialed in and never satisfied with his last effort. (Full Disclosure: I think he beat Pablo Juan on this track).
At times, he’s still the same goofy rapper he was introduced to us as. Over LordFubu’s bouncy production on “Shanghai,” Ant raps “Niggas be pussy / Niggas be turkey / These niggas be sandwich.” I’m still trying to figure out what exactly it means to be a sandwich. But even when he says lines like that, he delivers it with an unmatched confidence. That self-assurance is the key to Ant’s improvement over the years. Even when it’s obvious that he’s trying his ass off, he’s not going to make a big deal out of it. If you show any sign of caring, then the illusion of coolness disappears immediately.
The mob’s career paths splintered off into different directions in the latter half of the decade. You have Rocky and Ferg chasing pop rap hits and radio dominance on one hand. And in another, you have Nast pursuing a modeling career. Ant becoming the same kind of underground rapper trying to bring an entire rap crew to fame shows he’s ambitious and willing to step up and bring others to the next level with him. A lot of what Ant is doing feels like it’s borrowed directly from the man he studied under. When he failed to capitalize on that moment back in 2012, he retreated and figured out exactly what made Rocky such a cultural phenomenon.
Ant’s found a way to repackage the highs of Rocky’s career in a way that somehow sounds fresh in 2019. It’s time to get over your Flatbush Zombies phase and cut him some slack. Who hasn’t had a bad verse?