Image via Realbleeda/Instagram
Harley Geffner says that the lasagna marketing team went crazy with Garfield.
Lonnie Bands keeps going deeper and deeper down the hole. His 2022 album Scorpion Eyes was one of the more difficult listens of the past few years because of how charged it was with an existential torment. His newest, Bam Bam, expands even further on his suffering, as his sound continues to peel back new layers of grief. Each pained sigh, the exhales between bars, the heavy negative space, and the ways they echo and blurt and interact with each other feel like little threads of black smoke that interlock and weave together the 4-dimensional purgatorial plane where he spends his days.
In “Devil’s Advocate,” he’s lying on the floor while the room spins around him talking about the ways he fronts publicly, while on the inside, he feels like life hates him back. On “Pink 50,” he repeats a hymnal call about how he’d give everything to have his friend back, while he dips and ducks and bobs and weaves with his ad libs splattering all over that plane of black smoke. The album is a portrait of despair, and it’s not just situational. It’s the type of deep-seeded despair that drove some of our world’s greatest thinkers over the edge. And watching it play out in real time, as he’s bringing the sound closer and closer to carrying his world is as terrifying as it is enthralling and inimitable.
Lil Tjay’s newest album 2:22 approaches everything with an air of gratitude. About a year ago, he survived seven shots. Ever since, he’s turned around and put out some of the most mature and insightful music of his career. It’s triumphant, pained, and sincere – all wrapped up in a catchy, melodic way. On one song, he considers the idea that it happened to him because he didn’t appreciate the things around him enough. On a few others, he reflects deeply on relationships past with an analytical lens, while still allowing himself to feel the emotions.
There’s a few standout tracks, but “Project Walls” has been the one on repeat. Tjay sings a vivid hook about what he’s been through to get to where he is – “Roaches, project walls, dead broke, I’ve seen it all,” he sings before going into trying to cobble together $5 bucks for weed, not being able to afford a coat, manifesting the things he wanted in his notes app, and striving for better. Many rappers talk about the days like this, but Tjay does it with a type of aggressive gratitude that can only come from an experience like the one he’d been through. Just look at this short video of him singing a portion of it where he talks about making his mama proud. His smile is just contagious, and when I recently filmed some social content with him for my day job, it was the exact same. His positive energy lights up a room, even when he’s shy.
Over the sweet piano and vocal sample, YoungBoy’s verse is the perfect complement for Tjay too. His approach is similarly informed by life’s struggle, and he touches on having no more tears left to cry and not fearing anymore when he hears gunshots ringing out. It’s Tjay at his most vulnerable, grateful, and mature, while Youngboy brings this veteran feeling that he’s been exactly in the mental spot Tjay’s at right now, and it’s a powerful 1-2 punch.
Recorded in 2016, this song has been around the internet since 2020 or so, but with the way Thug leaks work, it’s been constantly removed and re-uploaded under new synonyms. “Hurricane” aka “If U Want It,” just hit my radar this week as a new upload. The Thug universe is the gift that keeps giving, and this hits such a nostalgic sweet spot, from when Thug was in his third wave creative peak.
“Hurricane” is unique in the sense that Thug doesn’t have a real verse or sing the hook, he’s just there for the intro and some ad libs to showcase his two new artists. He starts with the announcement of his two newest signees, Gunna and Nechie, before letting some bells and whistles of the beat unfold as he melodically warbles about kitties, tasmanians, and hurricanes.
Gunna holds down the first verse while Thug’s ad-libs echo in one of those amazing patterns, slicing, meandering, and encircling the ends of Gunna’s bars with onomatopoeic sounds, cascading waits, ays, yeahs, and simple repetitions. Gunna is no slouch himself either, and plays around with some sticky consonants, going back and forth about how muddy or dirty the mud is. Nechie’s verse is fun and fine and all, but it’s really Thug up-leveling the whole thing over what sounds like a signature Wheezy beat. Free the maestro!
While YoungBoy has ascended to become one of the most streamed artists of the past decade, a slew of imitators have followed, just like they do when anyone sees immense popularity with something that sounds relatively new. Most feel wholly unoriginal though, and YoungBoy karaoke has never really hit the right buttons for me – I’d rather just listen to the progenitor. P Yungin takes the aggressive trauma-laden stomp of YoungBoy’s shoot ’em up style songs and softens the edges. Even though there is a real backstory that should theoretically lend the music authenticity, it doesn’t feel like it. He’s blitzing with sticks and nobody can fuck with him. Sure. It really just sounds like an A.I. tried to make a YoungBoy song and it lost its nuance after repeating the command 4 times to become an exponential approximation.
But some guys who clearly are influenced by YB actually do it right – they take elements of his and the city of Baton Rouge’s style and make them their own. Realbleeda is also from Baton Rouge, and he leans into the bluesier side of the sound, twisting and stretching it out to add his own flair. It hits the right notes between aggressive and sentimental, with legitimately interesting lyrical tics like calling bullets, “trauma.” Instead of telling someone to stop lying to him, he’s instructing them to stop telling fairy tales to a creature. Most importantly though, you can just feel the soulfulness in his voice and in the video where he stares directly into the camera and you can see it in his eyes. This is real life music coming from the heart of someone who’s been through some real heavy stuff that’s turned him into the “creature” to which he refers.
I’m not sure if Ot7 Quanny actually has landmines, but he sounds cool as hell saying it. The Glockboy, formerly Glockboyz Teejaee, and Ot7 have some real chemistry dating back to one of my favorite songs from last year, and they show it off here with Glockboy even pausing the audio to hit the Quanny claps over the sinister beat early in his verse. Quanny has some serious flexes in this one, rapping with his villainous low-pass filter that his son was born into money like Lil Romeo, and Glockboy counters him by poking fun at the people who don’t have girls calling them papi in different states.