The Rap-Up: Week of February 10, 2020

The Rap-Up returns with new joints from Drakeo, Pop Smoke, and more.
By    February 10, 2020

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They told Mano Sundaresan to rap over drill beats.

Drakeo the Ruler, 03 Greedo & Danny Brown – “Out The Slums (Remix)”

Shoutout Jeff for making this one happen. As detailed in a Pitchfork feature from last year, Danny Brown first heard of Drakeo the Ruler through this blog’s fearless father. Like most who aren’t from L.A., he initially couldn’t rock with it, but after a few listens, he was enthralled: “I’d never heard someone make breaking into houses sound like elaborate Ocean’s Eleven scenes.”

And I think that’s what makes this “Out The Slums” remix so damn good. You could take three random rap greats, put them on a track and have it sound like a tired mess. But Brown has the utmost respect and admiration for these guys, so of course he tried to outrap them.

The core of the original song hasn’t changed. Drakeo still has to “blame Bin Laden for the Porsche;” Greedo’s still obsessed with Neptunes four-counts and Mario Kart. AceTheFace serves up the most ghoulish beat of his career. The original is an L.A. classic. And yet Brown somehow elevates it, possessed by some higher power and evil charm. He turns the song into an underworld funhouse — head dangling out the drop-top like Mickey Mouse’s, playing chauffeur on the highway to hell. You almost forget he’s from Detroit the way he slides over AceTheFace’s groove like he’s been rapping on L.A. beats his entire life. It’s rare to see so much appreciation for today’s innovators from a vet like Brown, who is just electrifying on this remix.

That admiration goes both ways. Drakeo, when asked about Danny Brown via email for Fader, could only shrug and admit what most music writers have failed to admit for over a decade: “It’s Danny Brown — how do you describe a Danny Brown verse in regular words?”

Strap in for what’s next. This is the lead single off Drakeo’s upcoming Free Drakeo tape, due out March 2, the same day Drakeo will appear in court again to face charges that were refiled by the Los Angeles district attorney late last summer.

Tuka – “Bet Not Touch Me”

It’s fascinating how the Detroit rap sound has crept into local scenes as far south as Little Rock, Arkansas. It seems indicative that the style is on the verge of flooding the industry a la trap at the top of the 2010s. Maybe not as profusely as trap did, but these little bubbles across the country represent a broad shift in form. 

Gudda Gang is taking that sound and making it their own in Arkansas, and while the group is still developing its style, no member is more dialed-in than Tuka. He constantly steals the show on posse cuts like “Gang Memberz” and “Out The Mud” with this incisive calmness well beyond his years (he doesn’t look older than a teenager). 

This solo cut is a pleasant surprise. Tuka holds your attention with pindrop composure and quiet threats.

Pop Smoke & Lil Tjay – “Mannequin”

I don’t think there’s much more to say about Pop Smoke. He has a totally singular, pulverizing voice and is unstoppable at making the gothic brand of drill that is Pop Smoke Music. If Meet The Woo 2 — which plays like one long, excellent song if you’re not paying attention — is any indication, he’s going to squeeze every dollar out of this deeply satisfying, yet unchangeable sound. And as he makes more money, he gets to do cool little things like sample Ariana Grande’s voice for album cuts.

ShooterGang Kony – “A Sinner’s Story”

“A sinner’s story, so where the fuck I begin?” 

In the barrage of pain music that has become a real commodity as teenagers paralyzed by late capitalism turn towards it, it is sometimes the most unadorned, old-soul rapping that sticks out. ShooterGang Kony grew up in and out of jail, listening to Snoop, Pac, and Tribe, so naturally his music is blunt, bouncy, and autobiographical. He makes sunny, West Coast singles (like last year’s stellar “Charlie”) but his most compelling songs are dark and introspective, carried by sharp, intentional writing. “A Sinner’s Story” falls in the latter camp.

He often gets compared to Mozzy. Both are from Sacramento, both have dealt with tremendous hardship and rap about it plainly and viscerally. But unlike Mozzy, who finds ways of spinning his vices into ways of improving, Kony burrows into his wrongdoing, painting a bleak future of “thuggin’ until the end.” “It’s hard to kill at first when your conscience be in the way,” he raps at one point in this song. That kind of stone-cold, alarming detail is commonplace for Kony and what makes him such a compelling artist.

Michael Christmas – “Who Am I?”

Closing this week out with a reminder that Michael Christmas is going to be the best rapper-actor one day.

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