Image via Maxo Kream/Instagram
Donald Morrison chooses Key Lime over Pumpkin, and it’s not even close.
Maxo Kream – “BANG THE BUS”
Evilgiane is hardly the first producer to sample Frou Frou. The British electronic duo, led by Imogen Heap, have had their melancholic opulent pop re-imagined in songs from artists as varied as A$AP Rocky and Clams Casino, Wiz Khalifa, $uicideboy$, and Lil B. There’s even an NY drill rework from Jim Jones and Dusty Locane.
Heap has said in interviews that Frou Frou was her attempt to craft pop hits while sneaking in lyrical and musical complexity. Today rappers use the dance-ready brilliance of an evilgiane beat in a similar fashion, hoping to mold their sound to fit the quick-paced rhythms that are his calling card.
Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem tapped evilgiane for the “The Hillbillies” last year, which sampled Bon Iver and gave the New York-based producer his biggest song to date. The reason evilgiane is in such high demand is because he’ll make an achingly beautiful beat from a 2002 Frou Frou song and then give it to Maxo Kream – who will turn it into an homage to Bang Bus, a porn series that feels pointless to explain. If you don’t know what it is, good. If you do, then I needn’t continue.
Maxo’s been one of my favorite rappers for the better part of a decade. He doesn’t have a single bad album and that’s largely due to his ability to pick the right beats and regional styles to rap over. “Bang The Bus” is exceptional in every way. The Houston rapper’s double-time flow is addicting, efficient, and deadpan, syncing perfectly with the fast-paced nature of evilgiane’s production
Last week, evilgiane released his new mixtape, #HEAVENSGATE VOL. 1, with songs from 03 Greedo, Rx Papi, 454, Bear1Boss and FLEE, among others. It’s another great example of the Yonkers-born producers’ range as a beatmaker and curator who can bring together lesser known artists who seem bound to blow up by years-end.
03 Greedo, Buddy, Kalan.FRFR, Wallie, Guapdad, Spank Nitti, John Mackk & YMS Jaay – “Carrots Cypher”
Lately, the LA rap scene doesn’t seem like much fun. Infighting among rap crews and decades-old gang politics have long blocked what could have been fruitful collaboration among the city’s budding rap talent. Certain rap acts can’t even be on the same bill as each other without violence spilling over.
That’s why it’s such a pleasant surprise seeing seven of the city’s best rappers come together for an in-person cypher. The whole affair was filmed by the great series DVD Couture in collaboration with Anwar Carrots, an LA-based fashion designer who’s done collabs with everyone from Larry June to Champion.
The beat to a posse cut is important because you have to want to listen to it for the length of like eight people rapping over it. The beat to “Carrots Cypher” is handled by 1mtha1 and Eastwood, who pass the test easily. I want to say it’s either 03 Greedo or Spank Nitti who has the best verse. And to make it easy for you, I did my best to make a list of the order in which each rapper is featured.
03 Greedo (in an Erewhon hoodie)
Wallie The Sensai
Aflacko – “Tell Me”
I still consider Aflacko to be the Bay Area’s best kept secret. This is partially by design, as the East Oakland rapper tends to disappear for long stretches at a time, giving his fan base an ever-growing, cult-like quality. He also has a tendency to make songs under two minutes long that become earworms for a week but seem to be forgotten not much longer. He’s like if Larry June had never been introduced to smoothies and only uploaded to Soundcloud. “Tell Me” is one of his best tracks in recent memory, proving that Northern California can make the type of lowkey, unmastered and aesthetically grainy music coming out of the New York underground right now. If he’s not on your radar, you’d be stupid to not start paying attention now.
Yhapojj – “hope ulike me”
There’s a lullaby effect to the best Yhapojj songs. Almost nothing sounds better while cruising through the streets of New York at night. The beat for “hope ulike me” is centered around a high-pitched piano riff simple enough for a baby to play it. Yhapojj’s is able to stand out from the litany of other Soundcloud-adjacent upstarts with his deep, distinct voice and an uncanny, hard to follow way of talk-rapping that isn’t easy to forget. The Alabama-born rapper’s buzz is so great that the New York Police Department was forced to shut down his show at the Mercury Lounge in late December after thousands of people showed up to the 250-cap venue.
Bfb Da Packman x KrispyLife Kidd x Babyfxce E – “KENTUCKY LOVE”
The resilience and DIY spirit of Bfb Da Packman is one of the most inspiring things on the timeline. If you follow his social media, you’ll know the Flint-born rapper is a natural entertainer, turning even mundane acts into comedic gold. But all of his antics are secondary to his real talent as a rapper and vocalist. He manages to be topical and funny without being too aware of himself. Lines like “RIP Shawty Lo, getting money with my white friends, but don’t call me Ghost,” exemplify Bfb’s ability to transcend his social media image and actually be a good rapper. He also follows one of the most important rules in hip-hop: don’t let another artist out-rap you on your own song. Although both KrispyLife Kidd and Babyfxce E came correct, this is still Bfb’s song.
Emptying the Chamber