The Rap-Up: Week of April 29, 2024

It’s Steven Louis on Rap-Up this week, with newness from LNDN DRGS, Real Sikh, Saba, Chester Watson and EBK Jaaybo.
By    April 29, 2024

Image via Real Sikh/Instagram

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Steven Louis is on the Westside, so bust this right on La Brea, bust this left on Cahuenga.

Jay Worthy, DãM FunK & DRAM – “Westside”

“Bounce, rock, roller skate.” Few chains of command elicit such swagger and gaiety. It’s how Sleepy Brown got us to glide across the neon club floor while Andre was trapped ruminating through spacetime. It’s how Kurupt compelled us to cuff the khakis and bop with the Rollin’ 60s. Now it’s how Jay Worthy transports us from the Compton corner store to the Pacific shoreline, in candy red paint and gold spokes, scooping Dām Funk for the trunk-rattling bass creep and DRAM for a paisley hook. Worthy says he has two new projects in the pipeline — adding to recent full-length drops like Affiliated 2 with Sean House, Nothing Bigger Than the Program with Roc Marciano, and The Am3rican Dream with Kamaiyah and Harry Fraud. On “Westside,” he coolly taps the brakes to hit the left turn on Cahuenga Blvd. It is unhurried and purposeful in equal measure, like O’Shea keeping his own stats in pickup ball or Playa Hamm sipping orange juice in traffic. This trio gets us out west in just 137 seconds and avoids the 10 freeway.

EBK Jaaybo – “Boogieman”

In which Stockton’s outlaw superstar takes us to a Hieronymus Bosch-looking underworld in two fewer seconds than the previous trip. Is it too late to hit Worthy for a ride back home? Still sharpening iron while endungeoned in the carceral void, EBK Jaaybo sounds as commanding and unfuckwittable as ever. Since his rapid ascent and subsequent time behind bars, Jaaybo’s unreleased snippets have dominated digital spaces ranging from the CaliBanging subreddit to the Hot Girls Doing Crazy Dances part of TikTok.

The props designer certainly went crazy on this one, as director Byrd is eager to remind his audience, and the shadowy, strobing lights recall Harmony Korine with a Wok pint and a black Nike tech. “Chase him, say my name and I pop up like the boogieman / fucking the game over, dropping bangers with no hooks again.”

With the choir wailing and the beat imploding into itself, Jaaybo’s anti-pop approach continues to astound despite his increasing vitality. Is merely typing Jaaybo’s name here grounds for boogiemanning? Forgive me, I know not what I do.

Real Sikh – “Out The Mud”

Real Sikh, a swole, 29-year-old Punjabi emcee from New Jersey, has a remarkable ability to rhyme entire sentences without straining his delivery or using labored filler. His latest studio release, “Out the Mud,” is miniaturist rap purism — gold chain, black head wrap, brolic flow, no gimmicks or extras. The pen drips with blood, the shovel is bent and dirtied. “Forget the fortune and fame / I used to rap like the rent’s due, now I rap like the mortgage is paid,” Sikh spits. Bars fit into emerging pockets perfectly, with alternating density and syncopated speeds like a Tetris level. This is what it sounds like when you bring a knife to a gun fight and still cover the spread.

Saba & No ID – “head.rap” (feat. Madison McFerrin, Ogi & Jordan Ward)

I first met Saba in 2013 at Young Chicago Authors, a westside open mic-turned-talent incubator. He was a precocious, emerging voice who had notably just guested on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, and at the time was beginning to produce an untitled Noname debut mixtape. Sober, reserved and eminently modest, it may have been hard to see Sab becoming the single most formidable Chicagoan of his crowded generation — yet that is precisely what has happened in the subsequent decade. His latest joint effort with legendary beatmaker No ID, cured from their shared Private Collection, is spacey yet deeply felt, nappy but masterfully controlled. Sab remembers feeling understood after seeing the Pharcyde’s “Runnin’” video, and being nebulously scared as a kid while riding the CTA bus.

Saba siphons the specific strangeness of having to cut his dreads for a Black-ran public school, and he channels in textures that are both lovingly warm and carefully resigned. I found myself especially moved by the young dancers, who may reflect the richness of Black Chicago as a whole and the growing confidence of the city’s best storyteller in particular. “head.rap” comes in partnership with The John Walt Foundation, a community organization in the spirit of Saba’s late, great Pivot Gang co-captain.

Chester Watson – “opal arrowheads”

”Well-respected, I’m a world connector / might cause a tornado the way I swirl convection.” I’ve seen enough to call it — Chester Watson is the winner of whatever intergalactic competition he’s playing in.

Emptying the Chamber

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