Image via Ice Spice/ Soundcloud
Donald Morrison wants to see more brave soldiers on the subway — like the guy blasting Fort Minor on his portable stereo.
Listening to Rio feels like getting advice from the smartest guy in central booking – the one whose fate is usually the most fucked – but somehow he stays the calmest and most resolved. Released before he began serving a three-and-a-half year sentence for his role in an interstate drug ring, “Last Day Out,”is filled with useful jailhouse wisdom and a surprisingly optimistic outlook. “I might not even call a bitch until like week six,” he says, knowing it’s easier to not call at all than to experience the pain of getting an answering machine.
“Still Shit Talking” is the latest in a trilogy of songs highlighting the simplicity of what Rio has been doing these past four years: talking shit into a microphone. He’s described his rapping style in interviews as a contest among friends over who can come up with the most absurd line. But Rio is being humble; what he’s doing feels like a lot more than talking shit, even though it could ultimately be boiled down to nothing more than lean metaphors and comic book-esque anecdotes of violence and partying. It’s that, yes, but it’s also a hyper-specific narration of life on the brink of society and told with intelligence, lingo and repetition. “Me and Tay just stomped someone out, he’s got a pumpkin head’, how you sell dope off DDA and don’t know Pumpkin Head?,” he says. Rio isn’t going to hold your hand and explain his universe to you and the best storytellers don’t have too.
The Baby Stone Gorillas brought a Polaris Slingshot SL into The Jungles, turning the parking lot of a Baldwin Village park into a makeshift strip club – littering the ground with bills as the three-wheeled vehicle made its rounds. The rap collective used to be more of a thing in the 90s. You see crews these days but rarely straight up groups like the Baby Stone Gorillas, who form like Voltron to create something that’s more Westside Connection than Shoreline Mafia. The group has broadened the scope of their street-heavy sound with a thread of good old fashioned L.A. hedonism. “WOP” see’s 5much channeling his inner Keak Da Sneak, or even Juvenile, for a call to arms. Then P4K claims “I pour a six up of that Tris until my stomach goes corrupt.”
Sometimes I think of Ice Spice as lo-fi New York drill. She’s taken the language and ear for beats of the sub-genre and mixed it with subdued and mumbled intonation. “In Ha Mood,” serves as an airy tribute to feeling yourself.
Every new single from Ice Spice seems to induce strong online reaction, whether it’s the swift condemnation of the quirky “Bikini Bottom,” or the unfaltering cultural adoption of the phrase “Munch.” “In Ha Mood” is likely too low-stakes to draw real ire or adulation, but to me it’s perhaps the best example of Ice Spice making music on her terms and leaning into the kind of hushed Drill she’s becoming known for.
Wynne began the New Year by releasing a follow up to her six-minute, cult classic “CVTVLYST,” which saw her and crew on a rooftop in Portland rapping way better than anyone wanted to admit. Six years later “CATALYST II” shows Wynne with her same crew on a similar rooftop, except this time there’s helicopters and a mid-song interview with sportscaster Brooke Olzendam. In the years since the original dropped, Wynne has exceeded all (outside) expectations. The white girl from Portland, Oregon who can seemingly rap better than anyone else in the city has proven to be much more than a viral moment with a string of solid singles, a very good album and somewhat consistent freestyle drops on Instagram and Twitter. She’s even been embraced by The Portland Trail Blazers.
“CATALYST II” is further proof that Wynne is in her own lane. She showcases a dizzying array of flows and punchlines without ever bordering into the “OK, we get it, you can rap” territory. She does this by actually having something to say and by being a good writer in her own right, genuinely funny, surprising and compelling at the same time. “I get DM’s from all of your boyfriends, they slide in like shoes with no lace on, to take me on a trip, fuck me on the beach, then we hit the Poole like Draymond,” she says. The video is shot on top of Oregon Helicopters Downtown Portland Heliport, with producer Smyth and crew members Raf and Itay Lerner in the background. I’m hoping Wynne’s CATALYST series is a new sexennial tradition.