Image via Cletus Strap/Instagram

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Donald Morrison chooses Key Lime over Pumpkin, and it’s not even close.

There’s been a lot of talk about how hip-hop is finally having fun again. People who don’t normally give a shit about anything rap-related have begun paying attention. Long lost acquaintances have resurfaced to DM me asking for my opinion on the new Drake AI diss track or if I think Kendrick Lamar will respond. I don’t have these answers. I feel a little ashamed to say I’ve been mostly tuned out on the various beefs keeping people’s attention lately. I just can’t bring myself to care about something DJ Akademiks is tweeting about all the time without feeling a little swindled.

For my money, the person who’s having the most fun in rap these days is a guy named Cletus Strap who recently rapped over a rework of the “Ignition(Remix)” by R. Kelly. The only merch available on his Spotify is a white and black trucker hat that says “Kiss My Black Ass” on it. His name alone is funny enough to warrant me texting “Blick Man” to all my friends last week, but beyond that is a deep well of rewindable punch-lines, clever flows and hilarious images.

Cletus Strap raps like he’s the smartest guy in the room who’s simply choosing to just be the funniest. “This my real life, I can’t tell you I won’t take it personal, are you tired from dick riding? It must have been a hard day’s work for you,” he says almost the moment the song starts, like DaBaby used to do back when he was still having fun in 2019. The production, handled by frequent collaborator Mad Max 4800, is perfectly nostalgic, taking the “Ignition(Remix)” beat and making it a little faster and more upbeat. Cletus, for his part, slows down in comparison with R. Kelly’s original sing-song approach, choosing to punch-in instead, quipping “you should have a blowout sale, because you can’t keep it a hundred,” and “they love to hate on fly shit, it’s cathartic.”

From what I can gather, Cletus Strap is from somewhere in Los Angeles. He’s released five mixtapes since 2020 and an EP with Mad Max 4800 titled Hidden Agenda in December last year. It’s some of his strongest music to date, with the head-bobbing “Blow Dryer” being an early standout. His work ethic these past three years is beginning to pay off as well. Earl Sweatshirt recently gave Cletus a shoutout when asked who his five favorite rappers are at the moment. He also mentioned Duwap Kaine.

I often felt artists like Tennessee’s Bbymutha and NYC’s-own Junglepussy deserved as much attention as rappers like Cardi B or Meg The Stallion. They admittedly exist in a somewhat different lane, but their music has always felt more vulnerable and experimental in a way that brought me back to their catalogs more often than the others. Bbymutha’s sophomore album, Sleep Paralysis, is her most exploratory music yet, an 11-song onslaught with production from Foisey, Bon Music Vision, and Kilder. The album, which was inspired by a post-lockdown tour in the UK on which she was introduced to the sounds of 90’s Garage and UK dance music, is named after a medical condition Bbymutha is very familiar with. She successfully creates the dread of being unable to move, while also bringing forth the riotios energy felt upon waking up.

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It’s hard to imagine anybody but Drakeo The Ruler on the “Closer To My Dreams” beat. Listening to his freestyle over the original production is still a chill-inducing experience. When I hear it now I’m overcome with a bitter-sweet heartache knowing he died just months after achieving the dreams he spoke into existence. ZyZy’s smooth-autotune on “Closer” comes close to matching the hunger of Drakeo’s early recordings. He reminds me of early Roddy Rich, or an LA hood version of Bryson Tiller. I really dig the Stockton-style lasers added to the beat. All its singular parts morph together to create something I truly feel I haven’t heard before.

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I’m a sucker for a simple piano beat and some classic West Coast Gangster rap bass lines. “Bounce Out” sounds like it could have been released any time in the past 10 years. It’s part DJ Mustard/ YG and part nervous rap, with just a dash of Tyga’s trademark deadpan, energetic shittalking. DrexTheJoint may have just stumbled upon his first hit.

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OTM are still keeping the truth alive with “BC Cooks,” which features some of the duo’s best raps yet. BluePesos is slowly developing his own style separate from the Drakeo-cosplay that inspired his early music. And I’m not throwing shade, Drakeo was just OTM’s first real inspiration, and The Stinc Team had more than enough motion to be a worthy crew to emulate. What’s impressive is OTM’s resilience to continue the mission while also evolving as rappers with their own unique style. These kids have built an impressive fan base in a short time and it’s always cool seeing them getting better.

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