Let That Mac Rip: May/June 2017
A new age major debut, the holy trinity of producers adds to their resumes, and a buzzing name makes his presence known. I look at the rap projects I have listened to lately and more….
Lil Yachty — Teenage Emotions (Quality Control/Capitol/Motown)
When Soundcloud hit “1 Night” brought Lil Yachty to the forefront of 2016’s Steven Universe-esque rap scene, it was a bubbly pop tune sung in the cadence of a lullaby. Not just one that would put you to sleep, but one that endowed warmth into your heart and ensuring not a dark cloud will dampen the next day. With his bright-red braids and a child-like demeanor, it didn’t take long for him to be extremely popular with teenagers and crowds well below my age range, but harmless enough to tolerate. However, as his success continued to rise so did his detractors that look at him as a parody ‘ruining hip-hop’. It’s a wash, rinse, repeat cycle of conservatives that refuse to either adapt or let things be as it’s clearly not for them.
Born Miles McCollum, Yachty tends to look at himself as more than a rapper boxed in by tradition and historical canon. Whether it is not being a fan of Notorious B.I.G. or 2Pac, freestyling over K-Pop instrumentals, or being immensely positive in the vein of Lil B, there’s always something about him that draws the ire of hip-hop’s relics. Not since the Based God himself has someone got Joe Budden really, really angry for no reason. Here’s a kid that enjoys making music for the youth and having fun being silly as a he can be. After all, he had two Top 5 Billboard features due to his overall presence alone.
Which made me and many others believe that his studio debut Teenage Emotions was going to go over like Rover, but a few red flags came through. For starters, his early picks for singles did not pop off as big as expected. The Migos-backed “Peek-A-Boo” feels middling at best, though a potential slow-burner in the summer if it would have followed a stronger song. It is clear that Lil Boat’s rapping in general is not that good, in actuality it’s pretty awful. He rectifies much of that with a solid middle portion full of melodies and ballads.
The auto-tuned warble of Yachty can be ear candy in the right places, like the one-two punch of “Better” and “Forever Young”. The former is a lovers rock highlight that has Lil Boat being at his most romantic (Let’s grow old rocking chairs, playing checkers) with Diplo providing the sounds of the latter which is always an easy option for the radio. It probably would have been more effective if Yachty had more songs like these or just condense the album below 21 tracks. The length of an album with someone that is quite limited can be exhausting, but the highs are strong enough to keep it afloat.
It’s unfortunate that Teenage Emotions didn’t get off the ground in terms of sales, though the rapidly evolving landscape will keep him around (debuting with 46,000 in total sales). The album have interesting moments and childish quotables, but not enough steam to turn any detractor in his favor. Maybe he can look into magnifying his rap personality without having to actively rap.
Gucci Mane — DropTopWop (Atlantic)
It has been roughly over a year since Atlanta’s patriarch of the current generation has been freed from imprisonment. Since then Gucci Mane has hit the ground running with project after project, even a few under the radar. His writing and delivery is sharper than ever, coinciding with his new lease on life and a positive mindset. He continues his run with his latest offering produced entirely by 2016’s MVP Metro Boomin, DropTopWop.
The tape runs more like an EP but it is Gucci and Metro at their best, with La Flare’s icy cold flows bouncing off the sinister backdrop of the latter’s production. There’s a small list of guest to roll out the red carpet for here — including an excellent Offset verse on “Met Gala” — but it is mainly Gucci’s affair. ‘They been trying to keep up wit the kid and ain’t been out a year’ he proudly boasts on another highlight “Hurt Feelings”, letting any contemporaries know that he’s just warming up in time for the summer.
RJ — MrLA (400 Summers)
The Los Angeles rap scene have been enjoying a mainstream resurgence with Kendrick Lamar and YG waving the city’s flag of introspective narratives and vivid party vibes respectively. With so much variety and immense quality from records such as DJ Quik & Problem’s Rosecrans and G Perico’s All Blue, it can be easy that a sleeper contender for album of the year in MrLA can slip through the cracks. Recently signed to YG & DJ Mustard’s 400 Summers label, RJ’s studio debut is hoping to push him into the forefront as one of the West biggest voices.
Produced mostly by Mustard, it’s a seamless snapshot of West Coast rap at its peak: The constant paranoia stepping out the house, flipping and dipping girls and trusting them right after, and partying throughout the night with a Hennessy/Champagne hybrid. RJ swiftly moves from rapping to pimped-out melodies when the situation calls for it, keeping listeners on their toes and rarely losing the pace in the process. The heavy middle portion of “2 Grown” to “Hennebeetoo” is the real charm that makes the album extremely rewarding and RJ potential to be a big name in the future.
Yo Gotti — Gotti Made-It EP
When we hear of the pantheon of the Southern Rap Elite, it is not often we get the name of Yo Gotti on those lists. For the better part of the last decade, the Memphis rapper have been consistently putting out good to great content (seriously peep that 2 Federal tape with Moneybagg Yo if you haven’t already). Coming off 2016’s The Art of Hustle and CM9, Yo Gotti links up with Mike Will Made-It for a collaborative EP full of songs hoping to strike a hit.
While it’s not wholly Gotti’s best effort, he shines with energetic braggadocio on “Dogg” and mourns the friends he lost on the way in “Letter 2 The Trap”. The real star throughout is Mike Will, coming off the heels of producing major records in “Formation”, “Black Beatles” and “Humble”. He offers some of his best beats on the nine-track project, only having me wonder what would beats would sound like if Future actually delivered on Ape Shit.
Jimi Tents — I Can’t Go Home (Vate/EMPIRE)
Jimi Tents is a Brooklyn native, but his aesthetic doesn’t come across the average boom-bap narrative that plagues the city and its five boroughs. Yet when you listen to his words from an intense and gutter-shaped lens, he evokes a spirit that makes his city proud. He’s more TDE and SaveMoney in his approach, delivering heartfelt and introspective verses on his road to success and the ties he had to cut along the way. If 2015’s 5 O’Clock Shadow EP was an impressive introduction, then his debut album I Can’t Go Home is the coming-of-age victory lap.
Tents weave through seamlessly escaping the constant couch crashing to eventually taking cross-country flights (“NY To LA”), reevaluating friendships (“Should’ve Called, Part 2”), and splurging on the early success while looking over his shoulder (“Set Me Free”). He also shows a penchant of hitting for the charts, topped with a number of swooning tracks for radio play. The Ro James-assisted “2 Shots” can be an easy pre-game banger that will exude confidence out of the sturdiest wallflowers, sending listeners to a buoyant high. Then, under that same tempo he send us crashing back to reality with loss and pain (“Below The Surface”).
Mozzy & Gunplay — Dreadlocks & Headshots
Underrated or under-appreciated, these two wordsmiths show unique chemistry pouring their souls out in gritty street fashion. (“Gangland”, “Never Had Shit”, “No Lighter”)
The young Hampton rapper is finding his footing, but sure able to keep your attention with a quick series of tunes to rock the clubs. (“The Money”, “In My Bag”)
While folks continue to act ignorant towards UK Rap, East Londoner Jay Prince hopes to turn heads with an accessible and vibrant mixtape. (“Mandem”, “Vice”, “My Side”)
Beast Coast duo go right back to their roots with a strong outing of intricate wordplay and smooth production. (“In My Zone”)
J Hus — Common Sense
A well-produced album filled with Jazz-fusion raps and exhilarating Afrobeat tracks that keeps you dancing throughout the night. (“Common Sense”, “Did You See”, “Fisherman”)