Image via ZAYALLCAPS/Instagram
Yousef Srour is forever indebted to those who let him cook.
ZAYALLCAPS – “$PREE”
ZAYALLCAPS keeps reimagining autotune for the next league of internet artists raised by vocoders and pitch-correct. In his adolescence, ZAY moved throughout Northern California but mainly came of age in suburban Sacramento without the bustle of city life. Removed from the accessibility of culture, the Internet became a hub of obsession.
He takes the vulnerability of a ONEPOINTFIVE-era Aminé, the unpredictability of SURF GANG’s drum patterns, and the Pi’erre Bourne’s casually slurred auto tune to develop “autotune karaoke.” When ZAY rotates between singing and rapping, the slow-drawn cadence of his lyrics and his falsetto attempts make you want to join in. He makes purposely imperfect and weird pop. Carefree music with the goal of swiping his credit cards without regret and “to chill and chief kief.”
Injury Reserve – “Bye Storm / By Storm – Double Trio”
Injury Reserve released their final project as Injury Reserve nearly two years ago. (If you want to learn about the cathartic chaos of By The Time I Get To Phoenix, highly recommend reading Dash Lewis’s POW interview with the group).
Out of respect for the trio that Parker Corey and Ritchie With a T created with the late-Stepa J. Groggs, Parker and Richie have since decided to work as a duo under the new title: By Storm – named in honor of their last song as Injury Reserve, which remains just as potent as it was the day it was released.
Here, they pay homage to Groggs in the form of a video collage filled with never-before-seen pictures and friends’ footage of the rapper setting up stage, performing, and goofing off with his best friends on tour.
The first By Storm release, “Double Trio,” is haunted by the unseen image of Groggs. As Ritchie lies veiled on a wooden cot, he’s paralyzed with pain. Parker’s instrumental is cacophonous, honing in on the grief with unsettling keys, pushing Ritchie harder and harder to navigate the loss. It builds up to their escape from self-inflicted exile, referencing the pain of growing that calls to Groggs’ final verse on “Knees:” “Knees, hands, neck and feet ache, but the pain brought me up. It got my ass wide awake.” In its catharsis, it provides By Storm a certain closure of being able to move on in a world without their fallen comrade.
Robb Bank$ – “Wait (3 Missed Calls)”
Robb Bank$ couldn’t care less about what you’re up to. He packed his bags, went to Thailand and dropped off the grid. Every song on I Dnt txt back, I Dnt Call features a different voicemail, each trying to decipher where Shaggy’s son ran off to. “Wait” starts with the work that Bank$ is avoiding: deadlines and PR strategies and interviews and booking shows and emails and relocating. Robb Bank$ mutters to himself as the voicemail plays back, the sub-bass sinks into the pitched-up R&B loop, and with all the industry jargon being thrown around, he sees right through the façade of presumed responsibility.
The physical isolation of recording in Thailand pushed Robb Bank$ to dig deeper into himself; no distractions, no one to impress at the studio, no one to second guess the project. Bank$ allowed himself unadulterated frustration, beginning his verse two beats before Sango’s scattered kicks, taking the first opportunity he can to admit: “It’s f*cked up, got 20 hoes I don’t know in my section.” From others’ feelings of neglect to his own haphazard attempts to set boundaries with others (i.e., “Trying to tell this white b*tch I don’t do Vyvanse”), Bank$ yearns for the human experience filled with honesty and communication — even though he can’t deliver that himself.
Akeem Ali as Keemy Casanova – “Sit Down On It”
Akeem Ali riffs on hip-hop in the same way that Black Dynamite does to Blaxploitation cinema. And Keemy Casanova might be the sole rapper able to match the irreverent, sexual bravado of Black Dynamite (founder of the Whorephanage himself).
He fully commits to the character. By the time that Keemy Casanova announces his recent certification as “good dick giver,” even if you don’t believe his credentials, you’ll notice that every single line in “Sit Down On It” is injected with libido (if the song title didn’t suggest that already). Keemy Casanova revives the funk of Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It,” reimagining the slick suavity of Isaac Hayes’ and Curtis Mayfield for his own deviance. He reinterprets Adrian Younge’s composition on Black Dynamite’s score too – using heavy downbeats, brass chromatic explosions and funky guitar rhythms. He asks that you don’t ask questions and indulge.
Armand Hammer – “Woke Up and Asked Siri How I’m Gonna Die”
Hurricanes happen in the middle of August. Watered-down drinks cost $20 (plus tip), and the mere thought of Siri should send you spiraling with paranoia and a fear of artificial intelligence. It’s only right that Armand Hammer would collaborate with their fellow esteemed apocalypse chronicler, JPEGMAFIA.
Peggy produces his first track for the duo since Rome’s penultimate song, “Barbarians,” a distorted haze of groans and grogginess as Rome becomes consumed by the smoke and ash. “Woke Up and Asked Siri How I’m Gonna Die” calls back to JPEGMAFIA’s colder, more intimate style of production, using the hum of icy synthesizers and soundscapes that gave All My Heroes Are Cornballs its more delicate touch. ELUCID once again bellows an indiscernible, guttural hum, giving way to his own verse that cuts Siri off before the program can pass along a peek into a morbid future.
ELUCID repeats, “I ain’t see the bottom yet,” capturing both fear and resolve, aware of his own mortality and premonition of his life shattering at some point in the unknown future. But it’s equally likely that ELUCID is hiding the full truth, later echoing: “I be lying like I’m just a man.”
Billy woods’ bandages “fresh wounds” and grazes his “old scars,” thinking back to the moments in his life where he felt that he was truly alive. Woods reports: “You haven’t lived ‘til you’re pulled over in your baby mother’s car with a grip.” Then he stamps the end of the stanza with a ghost adlib from JPEGMAFIA, weaving in an electronic voice introducing itself as none other than the harbinger of death, “Siri.”
Emptying the Chamber