Image via El Snappo/Instagram
Steven Louis is “on the slopes,” by which he means playing SSX Tricky on Playstation 2.
While there decidedly Ain’t No Future in Yo’ Frontin’, The Rap-Up sees a scintillant one for Natalia Chacon, Native American and Mexican-American G-funk revival princess and self-described “fine-ass ruca down the street.” Through thickset 808s and the eminent, sunburnt synths of MC Breed’s 1991 classic, the Nevada ascendant installs a commanding flow yet remains featherlight, as if she’s summoning Regina George and Griselda Blanco to hit the weed with her. “Pretty Girl Bounce” does exactly what it says on the tin — the eyeliner is sharp enough to snap locks; the cognac is exchanged between stiletto candy nails; the Dickies are cuffed and, well, very flattering. The type to be snuck in from the back alley to VIP, never the ones waiting in line or entertaining musty weirdos, Chacon and her friends bop across neon strobes to reaffirm one of the West’s eternal truths: gangstas don’t dance, they boogie.
Malthusian theorist and Broward County rapper are functionally indistinguishable identities at this point. No sound has managed to wrangle the accelerating American ciphers of poverty, guns, drugs and paranoia into one frame like Florida blues-rap. But this also makes it harder to invest in these young artists, as a two-step with death and incarceration becomes an occupational hazard. El Snappo refuses to let you table that concern, right from the jump: “if I don’t get rich off rappin’, it’s back to serve’n / back to pulling all-nighters in traffic, get my phone chirpin’.” He’s hard to kill but adapts easily. The detergent hits the Pyrex as we pray to patron hallow Curtis Jackson. Reporting live from a shopping session at Houston’s Sneaker City, Snappo’s drawl slithers through gritted gold fronts, while ARedd’s bass gushes with desperado smoothness beneath the floorboards. The product is not fully finished just yet — the GFTD racing puffer still has the tag on it — but this is a scuffed gem dug out from the bottom of the map.
Since the pandemic started, DVNTBEATS and Subjxt 5 have been quietly sourcing S-tier stuck inside beats from a different timespace, weaving chopped soul and warped disco samples into greytones. The latter helmed one of last year’s most tragically underappreciated albums with Jersey grimer Papo2oo4; the former produced four full-length projects in 2023 and has already hurled himself back into the Sea of Content with western Massachusetts’ DJ Lucas. “Roll it Back” is a stony co-production that feels like pacing your basement alone during a hail storm. “Who’s that creature that be creepin’ out the cul-de–sac? / Every time the ball’s in their court, they roll it back,” Lucas snarls. Loose cigarette papers dampen with the temperature drop. Spectral visages of Holy Cross All-American Jack “The Shot” Foley watch over the outlet malls. Its cover art a pastiche of suburban chain banality, Lil Old Town evokes a sore and resigned nostalgia for boredom, back when dissatisfaction merely drizzled instead of flooded.
The everlong meme-debate of “dinner with Jay Z or $500,000 cash” fails to consider a few discerning factors. Before we slam the button, remember that we can’t order lobster egg croquettes off the dinner menu, and we damn sure can’t invite the State Property guys to join us. Really puts the whole offer in perspective. Upon further consideration, that was the easiest half a million we’ll ever make. Now, “bottomless mimosas with Roc La Familia or $500,000 cash?” That’s a thinker. Can you put a price on asking Omillio Sparks to pass the truffle frittata? If you can, is there any chance that price is lower than 500K? Detroit subterranean legend and battle rap first balloter Marv Won has made his decision, flying from The Mitten to The Grammys for “Roc Nation Brunch,” a lead single for his forthcoming Mello Music Group full-length. Marv shows up head-to-toe in Black-owned clothing, putting the fashion in fashionably late. Freeway reunites with Beans, daps up Bronny James and falls asleep. Rihanna is in the corner facing a blunt. The breakfast of champions.
While California’s technocratic ruling class guts the city for parts, hastening the exits of double-headers and double-doubles, local luminary Philthy Rich puts The Town on a sparkling marquee. The Seminary rapper released a deluxe edition of his King of Oakland album last week, spearheaded by a link-up with Detroit pick-and-roll duo HBK & Payroll Giovanni. Even Kevin Gates’ six jobs get slapped by the bootstraps on “7 HUSTLES” — Rich’s dates get money from stripping and shoplifting; Giovanni’s closing on a duplex and has a condo investment out in Bloomfield, MI; Heartbreaker forgets to check his DistroKid and sleeps atop the covers in a full-length mink. Capital flight has been depressingly inevitable for decades now, but folks like Philthy ensure that the “ism” will continue to emblazon an outline of the once-great and still-great city.
After the recent unceremonious and wholesale destruction of Sports Illustrated, Playboy, Okayplayer and Pitchfork, it’s fair to wonder if/when the annual and venerated Freshman Class tradition fossilizes. Maybe in a few years, you’ll be able to buy XXL-branded delta-8 vape pods. Maybe venture capital will reserve freshman spots for real-life Kendall Roys and a D’Amelio to-be-named-later. Until that reckoning, let’s enjoy Six Mile superstar Icewear Vezzo’s “Class of 2024.” Our protagonist wins senior superlatives for being The Drank God. The classroom coloring is immaculate. These are very much grown adults running through the hallways and throwing paper planes. Vezzo very sneakily boasts one of the best pens in rap right now, and the peaks of his Quality Control debut LP are dizzying. A leaked (and unconvincing) 2024 list didn’t include him, which he summarily dismisses by saying, “don’t give a f*ck what you lames think / I ain’t gotta say nothing, let my chain speak.” Get this man a Conde Nast fellowship.