The Rap-Up: Week of May 4th, 2020

The Rap-Up returns with new joints from Baby Plug, Yung Manny, and more.
By    May 3, 2020

The most notable new rap music every week. Please support Passion of the Weiss by subscribing to our Patreon.

Mano Sundaresan can put you in a blog post or put you on a poster.

Baby Plug – Topic

On Friday, the reigning king of Atlanta, Lil Baby, released the deluxe edition of My Turn, beefing it up to a 26-song epic with more features, more producers, and more videos. He joins a handful of other superstars like Lil Uzi Vert, Trippie Redd, and Young Thug who in the past year have done the exact same thing: drop massive projects, then drop them again with the DLC pack. It’s not a bad move if you’re as entrenched in the rap pantheon as they are. Sure, My Turn (Deluxe) almost certainly doesn’t earn its runtime (the original barely did) but some of the new songs are good and people are once again talking about Lil Baby.

The other Baby (coincidentally, also from Atlanta) who dropped Friday could’ve gone a similar route: put out a lumbering project with its fair share of hits and misses. But instead, the up-and-comer dropped Topic, a 20-minute, no-features tape produced entirely by the TikTok-famous, trap-R&B crooner Black Mayo. Off presentation alone, it immediately stands out in the eternally crowded New Atlanta landscape. What it loses in potential hits it gains in replayability and momentum. And the actual songs don’t disappoint either.

The initial appeal is the hypnotic precision, how Plug’s winding flows seem to naturally lock into the instrumentals like they’re quantized. Judging off his rap style alone, Baby Plug is a formalist, dwelling in the same gravelly vocal register of the bigger Baby. However, his ear for beats is far more developed and unique. “Gang Rules” is all slippery synth arpeggios; “Paved The Way” is somehow both tropical and somber. Plug’s narrative instinct isn’t fully there yet, but the closing tracks “Painless” and “Tick No Tock” hint at his potential there.

The whole thing has a seamless quality that draws a tight circle around Baby Plug’s voice and identity much better than a longer project would. It traffics in the same type of carefully chiseled, low-key excellence as Baby Smoove’s Purple Heart from last year. I’m going to stop here before I mention four different Babies in one blurb.

YTK – “Prada”

Weighed against the spectrum of pop rap, “Prada” is slight and stunning. YTK packs ballady verses, a footwork bridge, and a trap-R&B chorus into two minutes, blending them with gorgeous keys and a quiet, confident voice. It sounds like a team effort, like something a Donald Glover or Saba might make with the best musicians he can find. It sounds like the product of a fully-formed artist.

It might surprise you, then, to find out that it’s entirely the work of a 20-year-old from Baltimore who just put out his second-ever EP. From Grace, for Grace is 16 minutes of breezy, self-produced grooves spiraling into a half dozen different strands of rap with a more-than-capable vocalist at the helm. Alongside Ghostie, Butch Dawson, 4kmicheal, and many more, YTK is putting Baltimore indie rap on the map. And with not even a debut album to his name, he isn’t close to showing us what he’s capable of.

YungManny – “Margiela”

Around the time “I’m YungManny” came out in early 2019, YungManny posted a video of himself sitting at a piano belting the song while clomping out the recognizable R&B chords. Since then, I’ve been convinced that the DMV prodigy’s true calling is much broader than fitting 2000s cartoon references into various iterations of the Goonew flow. Manny can, should, and probably will do that forever — it’s in his DNA — but syrupy, R&B-inflected tunes like “Margiela” are where he shines brightest. There’s not much to “Margiela,” Manny tells you that much in the intro: “Just hear this song…and by song…I mean a song with only one line that repeats itself.” And then comes said line, sparkling like rays off a swimming pool: “I hit the block in Margielas!” He later finds a nice pocket with the Melly “Murder On My Mind” flow, but that chorus is what sticks. I appreciate that R&B finally has someone promising in its kid-friendly lane.

JOHNNASCUS – “nNeUwU [untitled_0004]]”

Listening to this odyssey of a track is like watching your soul waft through purgatory. For JOHNNASCUS, it’s walking on the earth, trying to find peace despite knowing it won’t last. The track is constructed like a fluid moving across a surface. A tightly-coiled drum pattern pulses and pulls the other elements — muttered vocals, sliced-up ambience, slanted bass lines — into a vortex. Prickly blips flit in and out of the mix at jarring volumes, sometimes clipping into oblivion. The parts are always in motion, but their congruence yields an elegiac calm. It’s the perfect entrypoint to JOHNNASCUS’s SoundCloud page, which is generally louder, more abrasive and involves a lot more screaming. It might not always sound like your notion of rap, but it bears all the signifiers to be considered as such. Besides, good music is good music. The Spider Gang affiliate is constantly concocting genuinely interesting, moving songs and for that reason alone deserves your attention.

Bris – “Me Important”

Bris has the wordplay down (“Feel like an iPhone in that cell, tryna jailbreak) but his real calling card is his delivery: a near-whisper that the engineer probably couldn’t hear if he were in the same room. It makes bars that in any other case would flop sound like your favorite rapper wrote them: “Metal hanging a doorknob.” Ever since Bris dropped the Sacramento rap classic “Panhandling” last summer he’s been on my radar, and “Me Important” taps a similar slow-burn vein to tremendous effect.

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