The Rap-Up: Week of July 13, 2020

The Rap-Up returns with Sahbabii's new album, with tracks from Model Home, Flo Milli, and more.
By    July 12, 2020

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Mano Sundaresan is bicoastal with the swag surfin’.

Sahbabii – Barnacles

Three years ago, Sahbabii was supposed to be the biggest child of Young Thug. Now, he’s an indie rapper who just put out the horniest album of the year. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We have to take it back to August 2017. Playboi Carti/Young Nudy/Pierre Bourne is a lineup people would now pay festival money for. But that summer, the latter two were supporting acts for Carti on his nationwide tour. The show I caught was at a sold-out Paradise Rock Club in Boston, and nothing that night made sense. Nudy and Pierre were booed, and Carti was deified despite showing up an hour late just to perform the ad libs on his tracks. 

But the moment of saving grace was when Carti brought out Sahbabii as a surprise guest. In just 15 minutes, he pulled all the bodies there into a vortex, performing his three biggest songs (“Pull Up With Ah Stick,” “Purple Ape,” and “Marsupial Superstars”) and making us briefly forget that it was a Carti show. He looked and sounded like a star.

A lot of people back then thought he was going to be one. He had a viral hit, a $2 million dollar deal with Warner, and a spin on Young Thug’s urgency that, on his debut project S.A.N.D.A.S., had already evolved from imitation into something aquatic, animal-inspired, and wholly original.

What So Much Fun showed us was that Young Thug had to shrink down his avant-gardism into something flatter, more playlistable for wider appeal. His “bigger” children like Lil Baby, Gunna, and Lil Keed took an analogous approach, distilling strands of Thug into palatable music. This would never work for Sahbabii. It would have probably sounded like updates to “Pull Up With Ah Stick,” more pop Thug mimicry, as opposed to real evolution. It would’ve been boring. And at some point after signing with Warner, Sahbabii realized that. He told Fader he doesn’t like “Pull Up With Ah Stick.” He decided to dive headfirst into his purest, most honest sensibilities.

After the S.A.N.D.A.S. press cycle, Sahbabii quietly cut ties with Warner. Details are unclear, but to some extent, they’d been preventing him from dropping more music. He’d release his sophomore tape Squidtastic independently through his dad’s company Casting Bait Music Group. It’s genuinely weird, joyous, and occasionally gorgeous. Songs about Nujabes and ninjas, sunny days and deep-sea curiosities, with ambient, bubbly textures practically seeping throughout. It kept him on the fringes of the mainstream, buoyed by a small, powerful army of fans he calls his Squids.

His latest, Barnacles, is maybe his best and strangest yet. You don’t just blend in with the streaming giants with a song like “Giraffes & Elephants,” where Sahbabii expresses desire for the, uh, giraffes and elephants of the world (his words, not mine) and personifies his balls as Lonzo and LaMelo. It’s only in low-stakes indie land that you get an interpolation of the Scooby-Doo theme song and a fascination with trapezoids and “nut in her mouth now her tongue pregnant.” The whole thing has a goofy, DIY charm that the industry shouldn’t constantly frame as “unpolished” and a place to progress from. That’s where the magic happens.

Model Home – “REV”

Part of what makes rap music great is that it isn’t indebted to pop song structures. It can live and breathe in vast, dynamic musical spaces. Pat Cain and Dolo Percussion’s beat here shifts and sways, a loose web of industrial textures that almost feels like it’s being arranged and performed live. NAPPYNAPPA raps over it with the freedom and urgency of a free jazz player. He turns a mantra into music, a phrase that starts, stops, shrinks, widens.

“Revolutionreputationresolutionrestitution.” Together, NAPPA and Cain are Model Home, a D.C.-based duo at the intersect of rap and electronic music, pushing both into new, improvisational territory. If you like what you hear, they have nearly 20 albums to dig into.

Flo Milli – “Weak”


In case you need a reminder, Flo Milli is much, much more than her TikTok hit. She commands this beat so effortlessly. Her project out later this month is going to turn heads.

Los, WB Nutty, Rio Da Yung OG, RMC Mike, BabyFace Ray, GT, AllStar JR – “No Love For Em (Remix)”

I think the most compact, shareable proof of Michigan rap’s greatness right now is the three to four minute posse cuts that squeeze like, eight rappers in. The “No Love For Em” remix captures a whole range of singular local rap voices, none of which sound alike, without becoming lethargic. Come for the bar fest, stay for Rio and RMC Mike wrestling.

Since99 – “11:20”

The rap sub-genre of “it’s funny because a white person is doing it” is always terrible. But it’s even more annoying when people actually think the dude can rap. If you like this guy’s rapping, go listen to any popping DMV rapper. I guarantee it’ll sound better.

Mac J & Bris – “Adios”

Bris’s entrance here is just chilling. He had such a knack for grabbing your attention and rarely letting go. Rest in peace.

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