Image via Kyle Richh/Instagram
This Rap-Up is brought to you by Harley Geffner.
There’s nothing like a menacing couplet to open a song, and D.C.’s Benji Blue Bills has unlocked my favorite so far this year. The song, I guess, is a response to Carti dissing him in some beef I had no interest in following, but really it’s just a straight flame job. The beat takes the form of an earthquake, vibrating the whole pitch before Benji opens, flowing like a running back picking and choosing his spots to dash through:
“I come off the top, yeah, 5L gang head-tap, yeah, put him in a box
If you say my name, then on that same day, n****, death gon’ knock”
He threatens all sorts of retaliation including with the use of what he calls his “thermobaric missile,” and laughs about subscribing to Carti’s baby momma’s OnlyFans. He Vroom Vrooms, Scoom Scooms (whatever this means), and Skrt Skrts on his supposed enemies, all while deftly navigating the tectonic plates shifting beneath his feet. The song, the beat, the flows – it all melds together in a way that feels all-encompassing, like a massive wave hanging over a helpless city.
The only rule is that you sometimes gotta break the rules. This isn’t rap and shouldn’t really be in the Rap Up, but there’s just something so peaceful about the combination of this song and video. London is hustling and bustling, warm film splotches dot the view, and there’s joy filling the air in the form of 2 young dancers getting after it to some soft instrumental dance music that just ripples through your consciousness.
Vegyn, a British producer and graphic designer, is best known for his production work on Frank Ocean’s Blonde. You can feel how gentle his touch is on a track, with barely perceptible parabolic shapes forming and dissipating in equal volume. The song sounds like a smile. It feels like sitting in a patch of grass under a willow tree with a gentle breeze that reminds you you’re alive. And the dancers, hitting combinations of Memphis jookin, Philly tangin,’ and all sorts of rap-adjacent dances, sometimes independently, and sometimes locking into certain steps together, bring that life-like quality to, well, life.
“Fuck,” but in an existential type of way. Kyle Richh, one of Brooklyn’s rising crop of young drill stars, lets the expression sigh in a resigned puff when looking at his situation from a panoptic view throughout this intimate track. He considers his lived reality of Black people continuing a cycle of killing each other and lets it rip: “fuck, I think the white man won.” He expresses that Black men keep trying to take his life while white men keep trying to take his rights. Again, fuck. It’s one word, but it belies such a powerful resignation. It’s a really deep form of acceptance when it’s said in a certain way. Lives unfairly taken, big business economically reaping the lower and middle classes, climate apocalypse looming, corrupt robo-cop mayors of our biggest cities chasing the wrong demons – I mean FUCK. What else is there left to say?
20 years old and hailing from West Chicago, VonOff1700 makes evil villain music. Sampling one of the greatest Gucci songs of all time, Von gets super cold while rapping about the violence he’s willing to partake in. He says he’d flame a 2 year old out into the sky if they were around his opps. He continues to infantilize his enemies, rapping that yeah, they may hang with the rappers and dress all cool, but they could still get hit with his belt. His subtle accent and stuttery flow make everything sound even harder too, bringing his villainous reaper persona right to your doorstep, with Hades’ henchmen knocking impatiently.
A YouTube commenter called Skrilla’s sub-genre “New Crackhead Drill,” and I see it. The beats fit squarely in the new philly drill scene, with the subdued bass, ghostly backline and powerful claps, but his voice has the squawk of a crackhead. Everything is comedy – his expressions are playful, he cracks a crooked smile with his bottle of cough syrup, and he sounds like a parrot squealing each line back at its demented owner. His flows are something hypnotic though, with rollercoaster tonal shifts and anaphora everywhere. He raps things like, “God damn, hop out with the god damn,” or “Pop a 4, I poured a pint, my meet gon’ turn my geek up / Styrofoam my double cup / I be gee gee geekied up.” The repetition, the unexpected twists and turns in his voice, it just rocks you back and forth into his demonic spell. It’s addicting, just like much of the scary drill coming out of Philly.