Mano Sundaresan is rocking Chanel off the runway, you on the waiting list.
YungManny & Lil Gray – “Crash (Remix)”
Here’s a rare instance of the remix doing what the original was trying to do better than the original. Don’t get me wrong: “Crash” by Lil Gray, which came out in October, was good the moment I heard it. The Mannyvelli /Johnny Caravaggio beat sounds like a college marching band at its peak powers, blaring over the din of the crowd as the home team scores a touchdown. It’s massive, kicking into overdrive immediately and never letting up. It’s the type of beat that you want a rapper to strike early on to match its energy. But Lil Gray takes his time coming in, brooding with a slower flow initially and only hitting his stride at around 30 seconds. The song is still fine, but on the remix, YungManny just starts it off so much better. He locks into his punch-in flow immediately, bouncing over the walls of brass like a living energy drink. His flawless setup makes Lil Gray’s half so much stronger.
Saint Lyor – “Gossip”
One of the most talked-about Massachusetts hip-hop acts this year has been Van Buren Records, a collective based out of Brockton. They’ve received co-signs from the biggest names in MA rap and beyond, and for good reason. Some of the individual members have shown tremendous promise. Lord Felix, who dons a large mirrored visor when performing, put out several projects this year that showcase a knack for house-influenced rap. And Jiles projects as a no-frills spitter. His debut album Fuck Jiles has the ethos of a Jay Rock record.
Others in Van Buren aren’t as far along in their careers. Saint Lyor has only two songs to his name, but he’s clearly onto something. The second one, “Gossip,” might be one of the best songs that anyone in the crew has recorded. It has the feel of a Baby Keem song, but it’s more believable than anything Keem has done. The whole crew pulled up to the video shoot at Brockton High School and clearly had fun with it. Check for Van Buren all 2020.
Princess Nokia – “Balenciaga”
It’s becoming harder and harder to root for Princess Nokia, especially after she does things like describe Hunter Schafer as “gorgeous and fertile” and promote one of the worst skincare routines I’ve ever seen. The saving grace for artists that are becoming questionable people is the music, but for Nokia, it hasn’t been smooth sailing there either. Since her debut 1992, which planted its roots in the boom bap revivalism of the time, she’s hopped all over the place stylistically: neo-soul, house, dream pop, trap. Her last mixtape A Girl Cried Red was a messy attempt at emo. The best moments were merely interesting, hindered by poor vocal performance.
She now seems to be pivoting back to rap, and while the first single “Sugar Honey Iced Tea” hinted at something exciting, this new single “Balenciaga” sounds like low-budget NYU music. The revelation in this song — that thrifting is, in fact, good — is one that I imagine an ultra-wealthy double-legacy student from Westchester County would have listening to it while walking to Macroeconomics. I’m all for the breakdown of designer culture but come on, you don’t need to do it by saying things like “Anime lit and I’m blessed with the drip.” The guy who made the last hit song about thrifting is now preparing his debut magic album. Princess Nokia should’ve taken that as a warning sign.
FBG Dutchie – “Murder She Wrote” / “Put Inna Blender (Freestyle)”
I couldn’t pick between these two new tracks from Chicago rapper FBG Dutchie, so have them both. One’s a devastating, Auto-Tuned interpolation of “Murder She Wrote” by Chaka Demus & Pliers that I’d never expect from Dutchie. The other is a blistering couple minutes of rapping over dissonant Atari tones that’s much more in character.