The Rap-Up: Week of January 23, 2023

Harley Geffner's Rap-Up returns with a legendary Kanye diss courtesy of RXK Nephew, new A$AP Rocky, Kalan.FrFr and more.
By    January 23, 2023

Image via No Bells/ Gustavo Marinho

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Harley Geffner stays plotting on the downfall of social media.

RXK Nephew – “Yeezy Boots”

There’s a pantheon of great disses in this world where one person holds another in front of a scorching flame for all in the public sphere to marvel. It dates back as far as ancient Greece, where Diogenes The Cynic once told Plato that he “resembled the dog that licks and at the same time bites” in the town square (which I’m sure the crowd considered a heater at the time.) Since the death of Christ (who might I note RXK Nephew also disses), the most culturally dominant form of the diss has been through poetry, and in the modern era, rap music. In this great pantheon of disses, we have some obvious rap songs like those from Nas, Ice Cube, and Gucci, but now we have a less conventional submission to this exclusive list: RXK Nephew’s “Yeezy Boots.”

The first thing to note about this song is that he’s not actually mad at Kanye for the shit everyone else is. He doesn’t really care about the antisemitic or Hitler stuff other than that maybe some Jewish people will pay him to whack Kanye. The real crime is something much closer to Kanye’s heart: his Yeezy boots. Neph takes aim at Kanye’s entire life through the three-plus minutes in the song, which has been preserved by POW’s archivist in chief since Neph took it down from his page. Neph’s list of gripes with Kanye is DEEP. He sacrificed his mom to Adidas, he rapped about heartbreaks while he was eating Amber Rose’s ass, had a dumbass haircut and a broken jaw, made slave shoes for Nike, is not even liked by the people on his own label (plus “the whole GOOD music made bad music”), is mad he was never white, was never hood or hood certified, and certainly can’t get a feature or even a YouTube subscribe from Neph.

He volunteers his services as a step-dad to Kim K and excitedly thinks about Kanye’s kids taking his last name. And in possibly what Kanye would take as the hardest hit were he to hear the song, Neph accuses him of having a boring life that is not worthy of our attention. It’s one thing to be mad at Kanye for all of his idiotic politics and bigoted opinions, but Neph is concerned with something much simpler that cuts to the core of what makes a great diss: he’s lame as hell. He’s a nerd whose music has never been good or even worth a listen, all his fashion stuff looks stupid if people would just open their eyes, and everything he has ever touched has become worse because of it. According to Neph, even Jay Z thinks he looks stupid in those big ass boots. If this were the public square in Athens circa 400 B.C., Neph would be crowned our Philosopher King, and carried off on a throne while being fed grapes and fanned by palm fronds. I would say that Kanye would be left crying in the town square after his family disowns him, but that already seems to have happened in real life.

Kalan.FrFr – “Going Through Things”

Kalan.FrFr lives by a simple guiding principle: Take care of your people. “Going Through Things” situates his life and those around him somewhat at odds, but he continues to call back to the fact that no matter what’s going on, your people are all you have at the end of the day. The song feels more like a spiritual session with himself than a traditional rap song. There’s a choir singing behind him for most of the song, and it morphs about halfway through into a barren church organ playing subtly behind his sermon. It feels like a pastor who stretches a beautiful song out to preach over a long outro with some real wisdom that stays with the congregation for days after.

His prayer starts out with him discussing how he’s been hiding his depression. He nods to his own death a few times, and comes to the conclusion that he’s got to make sure his people are straight first. He sings about the pressure of having to provide and sometimes not being able to help, the juxtaposition of police and Black men facing different sets of laws which adds to the weight he’s carrying, the funerals that feel more and more routine, and ultimately stepping back from people around him. His mother, his father, his sister, and his friends noticed he hasn’t been around as much. He doesn’t really call them. But this is his attempt to help them understand that just because he took that step back to focus on himself, it doesn’t mean he loves them any less.

He transitions from singing of his lofty and nebulous goals down to the minutiae of his weather-dependent outfits, ping ponging like a real mental conversation, wherein you’re thinking about something and all up in your head then realize “oh shit, there’s something happening down here.” It’s honest, transparent, and helped me understand Kalan better as a person and feel the weight he’s carrying, as well as his values and how he prioritizes them. Interspersed with shots of Kalan singing on a lonely rooftop, Carson area flower beds and concrete, and children clumsily playing games, the song and video takes us right into his heart in the way that only some of the best artists can.

Saviii 3rd – “the bottom”

You can already feel the stepping to this song before Saviii hops in. It’s got those deep synthy bass bumps that bring to mind imagery of blue flags hanging out of pockets and bouncing with the steps. But this is far from a gang-banging anthem. “The bottom,” is all about perseverance, but not in a corny “started at the bottom now we here,” type of way. The bottom is not just his point of reference for his come up, but it’s a real state of being he’s been in. Whether it was from being heartbroken over his girl whom he admits he was a better version of himself with, to losing his mother, and being traumatized all sorts of other ways growing up, Saviii really lived the bottom. And his mother would be proud to see how far he’s come.

A$AP Rocky – “Angels Pt. 2”

There’s an essay waiting to happen about the moment in culture where A$AP Rocky and his mob made white people realize that Black people have always run the fashion game too, but instead, here is a reworked version of “Angels,” with unused footage for Long.Live.A$AP’s 10 year anniversary. It feels quite nostalgic, and could probably have been released 10 years from now and still feel fresh.

Skilla Baby – “Icky Vicky Vibes”

Not only does Skilla Baby ride this beat so smoothly in the way he switches his pacing and flips from one pocket to the next, but he can change his vibe on a dime. The first half of the video shows him all eyes glazed in his robe around the house with silly Nickelodeon animations. He’s rapping about a mix of silly and serious subject matter – going from the girls who want to meet his family to his close encounters with death and conversations with God in his Fear of God fits. Then he flips the channel on the TV and says “it’s me vs. me” before he pops out in a leather Palm Angels jacket adorned with flames and a pair of Chrome Heart ski goggles as a headband. The new look helps him revv his engine, picking up a vocal notch as he flexes his hitmen but admits he prefers to do the job himself.

Emptying the Chamber

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