The Rap-Up: Week of March 9, 2020

The Rap-Up returns with new tracks from Lil Uzi Vert, Sir E.U, and more.
By    March 9, 2020

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Mano Sundaresan would have slight moral qualms over sticking you for your #1 Mom pendant.

Lil Uzi Vert – “You Better Move”

Eternal Atake is here, but no news post, no emoji-flooded tweet, no excited work conversation could singularly capture that universe update. Not since DAMN. has a rap release felt like the entire world careening left when it was supposed to go right. A crippling label situation that would’ve ruined any other rapper’s career is already a distant memory. And what isn’t? Uzi’s mythic opus has swallowed America’s present, recent past and foreseeable future whole. It’s projected to sell 325K first week. It’s blaring out of bars and clubs, iPhones and car systems, left-earbuds dangling out of ear canals in classrooms. My brother skipped class and hit the nurse’s office Friday to listen. Its main competition isn’t any album, it’s coronavirus.

Chances are, if you’re reading this column, you’ve heard EA. And as it goes with any great release, but especially one that looks and sounds like a Datpiff exclusive, your favorite is probably different from mine. But when I think about the all-encompassing power this album has, Uzi conquering our planet from another one, my mind immediately turns to “You Better Move,” a thin patchwork of glitchy effects and drums congealed into a song by Uzi’s interstellar voice and preternatural writing ability. He demonstrates the ultimate mastery of vocal effects, using Auto-Tune to turn his cadence into that of a firework careening, then bursting every line. He pulls references from the last decade in dance moves, two decades in technology, and three in TV. He commands us to move over two dozen times, but he didn’t need to even once.

Sir E.U – “Rare Issue”

Well past midnight on a dim stage at the District’s DC9 last weekend was a band named October ‘71 unleashing the tightest, haziest post-punk I’ve heard all year. Seismic drumming, jazzy chord progressions, riffs that melded minds and suspended bodies. The punkest part of it all? The vocalist, multimedia artist Sir E.U, triggering the harshest, most disruptive sounds on his sampler through it all. A squeaky  “YES!” here, a shrill chirp there, blasted without fail every four seconds like a brazen counterpoint or a practical joke.

Such is the fleeting, surprising, often brilliant mind of E.U, a constantly growing, constantly evolving artist who over the last decade has gained the respect of everyone from scene rappers, producers, and fans to touring artists and The Washington Post. He’s a world-class MC — just listen to him casually rip a half dozen flows, kneading words to make them rhyme, on this loosie “Rare Issue” — but he’s also a multi-instrumentalist, a writer of manifestos, a supplier of memes, a philosopher. In this track alone, his mind wanders from Billie Eilish (he’s older than her “like the Iraq War”) to The Ultimate Warrior’s fans (he hates them) to whether or not Oprah has sex slaves (maybe). 

FLEX – “Christian Dior”

Every so often I’ll come across an artist working within the frame of their scene or region whose voice is so full, so commanding that I’m dumbfounded they haven’t generated real national buzz. That’s how I felt when I pressed play on Separation, the new project from Chicago rapper FLEX. True-school rapping is in, and FLEX evokes an early-aughts Roc-A-Fella aesthetic — on the opener “Christian Dior” in his use of Jay-Z audio memorabilia, and throughout the record with his cool, impassive delivery. He raps like a grizzled veteran, rattling off brags and confessionals with conviction: “The day I bow before God, gotta answer to him / so I can’t be out here just leading the kids astray.” Every line here sounds equally luxurious and despondent, as though it were composed in a rocking chair, cigar in mouth. Compared to FLEX’s older work, which leans into commercial production choices, Separation is in step with the underground soul trap of Tree, who reps the same area code. And like Tree, FLEX scatters nuggets of wisdom and bits of himself across the songs here, transporting the ancient voices in each sample into his world.

Lil Baby & 42 Dugg – “Grace”

Like Lil Baby’s best songs, everything in this track off My Turn clicks so satisfyingly into place, like the gears of the world turning in your favor for three and a half minutes. 42 Dugg’s intro, the passoff from Dugg to Baby, Baby’s verse, Dugg’s return, the beat…it’s all approaching “I’m Straight”/”Freestyle” level greatness.

BlueBucksClan – “Thor”

I’m joining the party on these guys, who mix the effortlessness and melodies of L.A. gangsta rap with the sheer irreverence of Michigan rappers like Rio Da Yung OG and Kasher Quon. The resulting concoction is impressively disrespectful music that, per my correspondants at POW headquarters, has been tearing up the city. “Thor” is as good (and evil) an entry point as any.

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