Image via Geechi Gotti/Instagram
Steven Louis bought the clean version.
It’s been supremely beautiful to celebrate hip hop as a quinquagenarian, but back when the art was young enough to cram into a cab and swig from plastic liquor bottles, summers invariably meant a lot more. When Jay Z contemplated retirement for the very first time, around when Bobby Shmurda jumped off the porch in a youth-size Knicks fitted, any and every rapper worth knowing would vie for Song of the Summer.
It’s hard to say when we’ve collectively enjoyed the last one of those (“Bodak Yellow,” perhaps?), but those still searching for that feeling should consider vacationing in the unincorporated municipality of Soak City. Fish-eye lens like Busta Rhymes, color-coordinated dance troops like Missy Elliott, and giant sharks in the sky like Anthony C. Ferrante: this is what summer blockbusters are made of. The 17-year-old Babii flows through sprinkling hoses, water balloon fights and poolside baddies like a Ladera Heights Ferris Bueller. The visual is laced with Los Angeles and Inglewood regulars, from DJ Carisma gleefully throwing up the W to D Smoke as a summer school teacher puncturing the daydream. “You gotta f*ck it up, I ain’t the one that make the rules,” 310babii confesses. Don’t do no running now.
Geechi Gotti, who forcefully represents as a Nutty Blocc Compton Crip and three-time battle rap Champion of the Year (in that order), goes “troopin’ in the ‘raq” with Tay Savage. The blistering home-and-home hood tour reinforces the grisly truth that gangbanging in Chicago and Los Angeles is just different from the rest of America. The two cities have inextricably rich, complicated histories of gang violence and codes, both stemming from the state-sanctioned murder of local Black revolutionaries.
Be it cerulean bandanas or drill slang, the country’s fascination with the culture largely comes from these two hyper-localities. Geechi pays respect by throwing mild sauce on his chicken while scooping Tay from the airport (real heroism recognizable to anyone who has survived the harrowing LAXit experience). The unraveling violin strings makes it sound like Clint Mansell was on the 1s and 2s, and the 808s menace with an automated lifelessness. There’s nothing left to our imaginations here, and wholly different from the last suggested video, “Folks & Locs” is not for visitors. Best to enjoy from a considerable distance and as hype for Geechi Gotti’s forthcoming title card matchup with Eazy the Block Captain.
From Compton to Grape Street, the Los Angeles rap multiverse brims with originality, humor and genuine thrill. None of today’s music would be recognizable as what it is without the life and trials of Darrell Caldwell, known to South Central and the rest of the world as Drakeo the Ruler. Stolen from us at the end of 2021, Drakeo’s unique sense of street flavor and his elastic flow — a cool murmur loaded with dense rhyme schemes and language rivaling Wuology — can be heard all across the city now. It’s a legacy being actively upheld by his “Evil Twin” and longtime collaborator 03 Greedo, and the Watts superstar continues his homecoming run with this elegiac five-minute bopper.
Greedo opens up by bringing back his bars from “Out the Slums,” their iconographic 2017 joint, over a minimalist tundra carved out by Cashmoney AP, YoungKio and DrummerGang Daniel. He then lifts from “Ion Rap Beef,” reminding us of just how prolific these two were, before chanting hymnals for both Drakeo and fallen Stinc Team general Ketchy the Great.
Greedo saves the back half for spoken word reflection, recalling when the two were simultaneously incarcerated and fighting life sentences between 2018 and 2020. “We was treating the jail house like the booth,” he says. “First n— I got rich with.” We can feel the croaks in his voice when he confesses to Drakeo that he’ll be looking down on his twin occasionally still doing business with their old opps, a compromise inherited long before birth. God’s got The Cold Devil mudwalking in his hood now. But Los Angeles, renamed DrakeoWorld at the end of the song, is Greedo’s.
Duality of Man or whatever, but PoW feels responsible to match the sobering power of the above with the intoxicating frequencies of Flint, MI’s Bfb Da Packman. Humping the sacred air around his purple Lambo, Packman likens his dick to a gummy worm, orders lamb chops at Magic City and throws a hail mary toward Karen Civil. The fiends are smiling, the truck smells like coochie, and the verses are still searing and laugh-out-loud funny in equal measure. All he wants are good donuts and for folks to stop calling him a Detroit rapper. Can it be so simple?
Look, Kanye really over-thought operations by taking Estelle to all those luxury retailers in New York and L.A. “Dressed smart like a London bloke” probably meant something to someone at some point, but now it’s eminently clear that Estelle posted up on the block in Harlem was all we needed. Splicing the groovy chord progression of “American Boy,” the latest from Flying Lotus is both accessible and transportive. Harlemite veteran Smoke DZA floats on successive quick verses — “Ice like the Stanley Cup, my whole family up” is a summertime agenda we can all get down with. Estelle hooks over acid jazz basslines is playing with found money.
After successfully flipping 2000s trap into futuristic sex appeal, the Tampa-born Doechii hops back in her black-and-pink Delorean to source from the 90s and 80s. The diamond-encrusted all-caps title card recalls the Cash Money days, with the accompanying VHS camcorder footage of a yacht party looking like the prime Bad Boy era. The buoyant production sounds like something from the chambers of 2 Live Crew, and the pacing is decidedly house-ish. But don’t get it twisted, Doechii is uniquely Doechii. “Shawty want the liquor, just a little liquor,” she teases with a high note after a double-timed eight-bar bridge. “Booty Drop” is a compact hyperloop that easily lodges into our heads, covering a lot of mood and energy in under three minutes. Like the best summer accompaniments, it’s simple and easy and won’t feel like it means anything of greater significance until the shorter, colder nights come.