Image via MarijuanaXO/Instagram
Snail Mail is now Harley Geffner‘s mortal enemy.
Rx Papi goes to sleep every night and wakes up every morning thinking about death. With as many close encounters, on both sides of the barrel, there’s no wondering why. Living the type of life described in his discography is bound to mess a head up. The central premise of this song, in fact, is how his mind has been tormented by everything he’s done and seen. At one point, he even pauses to reflect on the possibility of therapy, rapping, “they say I should go talk to somebody, they’ll turn me in once I start talkin’ ‘bout the bodies.”
The beat starts with a simple piano loop, a warped vocal effect, and an undertaker bell. Then it twists itself inside out, revealing innards filled with buzzing static as Papi rides in and out of the loops. The distorted vocals sound demented, and Papi slips into snickering spoken interludes throughout that feel like he’s interacting with the voice in his head – arguing with it about whether he actually did specific crimes.
“I promise you I ain’t never did it, it never happened, Ripley’s Believe it or Not,” he says while the dark voice taunts him. He taunts right back, laddering into the next verse, telling more stories about gun fights he’s been in and the subsequent acts to cover them up. It laughs at him in the background as he rips off one of the central theses of the song: “Got a voice in my head tellin’ me to chill, another voice in my head keep tellin’ me drill.”
“Mind of a Maniac” is just one of many incredible songs Papi has released referencing the state of his mental health. His ability to mix the jaw-dropping anecdotes about his life with the self-reflective attitude necessary to piece together the why and how of it all is transcendent. It’s not just the subject matter and awareness, but even down to the individual bar level, he’s a genius. Here are a few of the lines that made it into my notes app from the song, and didn’t fit easily into the writing:
“12 outside, don’t let ‘em inside, everybody in this bitch gon’ get 25”
“Walk ‘round with the reaper, don’t f*ck with them people, my block look like the real Resident Evil”
“Got a short fuse, don’t know where my screws at / I sip enough drank to bring DJ Screw back”
“I feel like takin’ some state property, the judge tired to make me state property / Ain’t no n**** in the state bother me, ain’t no n**** in the street robbin’ me”
“There’s enough white in here to build a mountain / I’m good with the money don’t need an accountant”
“Go ‘head pullin’ up to my show thinkin’ it’s sweet, there’s shooters with me more across the street”
“Can’t get mad at a n**** cuz a n**** chosen / cross you over with that stick like DeRozan / If I said it I meant it, my word golden / seen police comin’ made lil cuz hold it”
The way that club beats have transfused into most every other style of beat, but most specifically the drill stuff coming out of New York, has been one of the most fun developments in rap this year. Here, it doesn’t even reveal itself until around 45 seconds in when TaTa pauses his rapping to let it breathe for a minute as the bass unfolds into a muted club rap pattern, before TaTa goes back in to tell about all the insecurities that stemmed from one girl doing him dirty.
Over the hanging mic in a dilapidated looking park, he raps about stalking her socials, deleting memories, praying they never speak again, and touching on the new girls he hasn’t been able to connect with after the break up. You might think this means it’s a tender song, but it’s all delivered with a snarl that makes you think he’s gearing up for a war.
When you see people having fun on a screen, it’s contagious. This is partially why the rap scene in Flint took off, and also why Milwaukee rap feels so electric right now. Every crew cut is funnier and more jubilant than the last, and this one from three months ago – that just caught my eye this week – is indicative of exactly that.
Over a beat that sounds like a sped up ice cream truck jingle, a group of about 15 take over a shoe store to flash gobs of cash, their gold teeth, signature Milwaukee dance moves, and trade bars with the autotune turned past max. Mula Mar kicks it off in his all orange fit crooning about feeling nice and rich while dancing on the literal floor. There’s the staple ‘whole crew yells a bar’ thing that happens twice, and tons of one liners about cheap ass dudes and all the things they bring with them on United flights. Mostly it’s the dancing, smiling, and festive energy that makes listening to it feel like you’re transported to the video shoot laughing the night away with the guys yourself.
Kennington’s Blanco cut his teeth as one of the early pioneers of the U.K. drill sound as a member of the Harlem Spartans, a group that became massively popular alongside the growth of the style itself. But since coming home from a prison bid in 2018, Blanco has stepped away from drill to focus on a solo career, mixing elements of psychedelic, plugg, and grime rap to form his own niche.
With “Londis,” he creates a hazy paradise locked in an everyday liquor store. The beat wanders through universes of Mary Poppins and other old school Disney gems you’d hear playing on a grandmother’s record player while cookies are baking in the oven. Blanco’s slick voice blends so deeply into the beat that it’s hard to even register what he’s saying while feeling the vibe of the liquor store he highlights. Everyday patrons pass in and out while the video spins through time. The colors pop – the orange Reese’s, the purple sodas in the fridge, the yellows on the counter, electric blue gatorade – and morph an everyday experience into a magical place where everything’s glowing.
There’s a cool little technique that MarijuanaXO uses on “Broadday” to keep his raps flowing in a way that feels like they’re continually building towards something. It’s like during a Warriors game when you just know a barrage of three pointers is about to hit. Well MarijuanaXO makes his entire verse feel like that, and I can’t point to exactly what he’s doing other than upswinging his tone at the end of each bar, but the effect keeps you fully engaged through his verse. It’s one of those optical illusions where it looks like the stairs should continue to go up, but you keep ending in the same place.