Mano Sundaresan don’t even jog.
BKTHERULA – Love Santana
BKTHERULA made a splash on SoundCloud late last year with what still might be her best song, “Tweakin’ Together.” On paper, it’s Duwap Kaine karaoke — vocal melodies that feel formless and improvised, a spacy beat that never really drops, even imitation “Go!” ad libs. But it’s good karaoke. And while Kaine mixes his voice down into a reverby swamp, BK’s is more like a still lake — crystalline and high-res, which gives “Tweakin’” a tranquil pop sheen.
The Atlanta rapper’s debut tape Love Santana, out last week, hints at a more diverse palette and tremendous promise. Starting with the opener “A Girl IS a GUN,” BKTHERULA is rapping, punching in over a bassy crawl with quiet threats. There are several more DMV-style shit-talk songs — “Official,” “HE SAY SHE SAY,” “Revolver” — and they’re effective, if a little familiar.
Her bread-and-butter is still singing on beats that drift past asteroids; “ON ME,” “Right NOW,” and “UH HUH” are all perfectly weightless. “Forever” is a captivating outlier, a heavenly smattering of choir vocals and BK’s earworm flows.
But “Tweakin’ Together” is still the one. The video is a riot, BK and her friends (including Riverside, CA rapper HOOK) chanting the chorus like it cast a spell on them. (See also: HOOK and BK’s “YAAS,” a chaotic introduction to the duo.) BK is still finding her voice, but the energy she captures on “Tweakin’” and throughout Love Santana is unteachable.
Griselda – “DR BIRD’S”
Somehow, Griselda enters 2020 touching stardom of a certain variety. Not radio domination, definitely not virality, but the variety that entails a massive local hustle, the slow playlist grind, growing Twitter/real-life discourse and, now, a Hype Williams video in the year of Roddy Ricch. Griselda’s target demographic remembers 9/11, and probably vividly — a surprisingly outlying statistic for a rising rap group in the current moment. The closest comparison may be Run the Jewels’ run, but RTJ was never this heralded by the rap ruling class, the Jays and the Drakes. It’s truly something unique.
ShittyBoyz BabyTron – “New Year, Same You”
A few days ago, BabyTron shared on IG a screenshot of a text conversation with his mom. She told him to ease off the scam rap, then shared a link to my NPR year-end rap list that features him. (I’m glad my writing over there is reaching the parents of the artists I cover.) BabyTron seems to have taken the message to heart. He put out a love song and it’s unbelievably fire. The quotables are there; they’re just meant for black-screen IG Stories.
645AR – “One Way”
I’ve been seeing 645AR’s name pop up everywhere recently and, honestly, I don’t get this shit. The thing is, I’m not mad at it. It’s intentionally provocative, weird for the sake of being weird, and that’s usually where the best stuff springs from. So Harley, if you’re reading this, you need to drop that 645AR profile/explainer before Genius interviews a linguist about him or something.
H20 Hadd – “Back Then”
Old-ish single from a new North Philly rapper. Super Roddy Ricch-core but can’t complain about the results.
Lucky Da P – “Cheese on da Flo”
I admire the commitment to theme.