The Rap-Up: Week of May 13, 2024

Harley Geffner delivers the latest edition of The Rap-Up, featuring Chief Keef's long-awaited Almighty So 2, new Nino Paid, AK Bandamont and more.
By    May 13, 2024

Image via Nino Paid/Instagram

The Rap-Up is the only weekly round-up providing you with the best rap songs you need to hear. Support real, independent music journalism by subscribing to Passion of the Weiss on Patreon.

Harley Geffner wants to know what they even do in the Met Gala.

Chief KeefAlmighty So 2

Chief Keef is doing okay now. In a clip from his recent interview with Zane Lowe, Keef reflected on past interviews where he couldn’t muster up coherent thoughts or sentences, and the contrast to what we were seeing in front of us as he described it was nothing short of inspirational. That someone who grew up on the Southside of Chicago and survived tactical warfare in the area he learned his ABCs is still not only alive, but reaching pinnacles of modern-day success, as we define it, is a miracle. Considering the weight that he carries with him and the trauma he’s had to lock away and internalize just to continue moving in his day to day life, it is almost surreal to see him where he’s at today.

It’s wonderful and a real moment to celebrate his personal growth. And with the release of the long-awaited Almighty So 2, his coronation at the altar of rap gods at only 29 years old feels basically complete. Even if you’re a backpack rap type person who never thought Keef was anything more than a gimmick or voyeuristic look into gang violence, you have to at least acknowledge his influence on the generations that followed his rise. And now, he’s put together what’s supposed to be his magnum opus. The album is not just the music, it’s the story of his life culminating in a clean, crispy album where he can show off his both technical proficiency and out-of-the-box creativity as a producer as well as his finally clear-eyed rapping with bars like “I’m a wolf so I walk around and growl at the moon.”

Except the problem is that Keef is at his best when he’s doing none of that. The hazier, the more drug-fueled, awfully-mixed, random, winding, weirdo palettes that he achieved in some of his best, earliest work is not here on Almighty So 2. That’s not at all to say that it’s a bad project. There are some amazing songs, a bunch of really fun beat patterns and lyrical couplets, sick features, off-kilter lyrics and vocal patches, but as a whole, it falls short. The chaotic nature of Sosa’s production still plays an integral role, but it’s controlled chaos. Chaos is at its most destructive when left to its own devices to exponentially multiply in random directions.

The melodic warbling and half-thought through fragments of his thoughts are replaced by concise and clear pictures he draws for us. They’re creative and fun pictures, but he’s painting a vivid photo-realistic portrait of them. In reality, his splattering the canvas while high as fuck and letting his instincts take the wheel to gesture towards those ideas resulted in a much more nuanced and appreciably better product.

There’s a paradoxical nature to it, but an artist’s best work has typically come when they’re at their most fucked up. Sober RXK Nephew has never been as good. Weirdo Young Thug with the pitch black studio and a lean cup as his muse was always better than anything So Much Fun and after. Gucci Mane with the lean gut. Do you know how fucked up you have to be to cut off your own ear? The list is endless.

Keef could have gone the industry route back in 2013, but instead chose to do piles of drugs with all of his similarly traumatized friends and make some of the most magical and innovative rap music this side of the century. For my money, the original Almighty So and Sorry 4 The Weight are his two best projects.

We shouldn’t expect Keef to return to his roots. There’s tremendous power in growth, and Keef was never going to create another Almighty So. He shouldn’t either. He’s 4 months sober from lean, by his own count, and that’s amazing. We’re rooting for him as a person, not him as a product. And the product is still very good. AS2 is filled with large moments, some classic ad-libs, and it would rank highly on a scorecard. The Sexyy Red song is great! Sosa is receiving the critical adoration he deserves. But it doesn’t feel very in-touch with what made him such a special artist in the first place.

Central Cee – “CC Freestyle”

Central Cee’s rags to riches bars just hit different. Maybe it’s just the UK accent, but when he rhymes ‘low-income housing’ with ‘18 thousand’ (his current rent), you feel the come up in your soul. There’s something very endearing about him in this video — the G Unit tee, the sympathetic writing, the camera work – it all works together to create something that feels like more than the sum of its parts.

Nino Paid – “When You’re Older”

Nino Paid gets right to the point. There’s nothing separating the listener from his internal monologue. There’s no facade, persona, or anything standing in the way of understanding where he’s coming from with his raps. Raw and unfiltered don’t even do it justice. The minimal vocal effects, the black and white video, and the plainly laid out raps make it an impossibly difficult listen given the subject matter. But somehow I can’t stop.

From the opening tip, you’re locked in. “They used to say when you’re older you probably gon’ get it / I still don’t get this shit,” he raps, throwing his hands up in frustration. The beat is pulsing full of electric currents, but he raps on a straight line through them. He continues on about the detrimental habits he developed when he was young, the mannerisms he uses to cope with the pain of losing his father, and more self-critical analysis that would make a therapist proud. It’s an unbearably tough set of cards he was dealt, so when he raps about the call he made to his mother when he got signed, you can’t help but crack a smile.

AK Bandamont – “Dead Mice”

Every AK Bandamont song is a shot of espresso injected directly to your brain. It’s so fast-paced he can barely keep up with himself. The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based rapper has been running on adrenaline for years now, and the style still hasn’t run out of steam. He turns these traditional Michigan rap beats, with dark palettes and rattling bells and chains into track meets, but he’s learned how to pick his spots a little bit better over time.

On “Dead Mice,” his stories are shrunk to little couplets, as he typically does. You can’t process a story until he’s already halfway through the next. This is regular for you if you listen to Rio or Cash Kidd or any of the other Michigan guys who rap with these torrid paces. But Bandamont’s holding back and you can feel it. He pauses on the hook to build a little tension and it just feels like he’s more in control than he’s been in the past. Out of control Bandamont is great too, but this feels like a step in the right direction, as he continues to hone his style.

Chuckyy – “Red Light Freestyle”

Chicago’s younger generation of drill rappers keeps twisting the sound to new places. Signed to OTF, and with support from Durk, the baby-faced Chuckyy is ready to break out. Over a relaxed beat that feels like it’s moving in slo-mo even after the drums kick in, Chuckyy raps like a fish wiggling its way through the water. It somehow looks both low and high effort at the same time. He’s so slick that his consonant-rich lines sound like they’re full of vowels. He’s young, but he’s got an old school soul – his IG is full of clips ripped from his Triller and his lowkey demeanor is that of an omniscient veteran in the game.

Emptying the Chamber

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