Image via That Mexican OT/Instagram

The Rap-Up is the only weekly round-up providing you with the best rap songs you need to hear. Support real, independent music journalism by subscribing to Passion of the Weiss on Patreon.

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Gunna’s been seeing the world as colorless for quite some time now. Following the dull greys of Fulton County Jail, where he was stashed away as the prosecution put together the RICO case against him and his friends, he faced an onslaught of accusations and criticism for his Alford plea which allowed him to walk as a free man. Some of his closest friends, collaborators, and people he called brothers shunned him as the word “snitch” flew around, despite there being no actual collaboration with prosecutors. Seeing the people closest to you disassociate, after what he’d just been through, must make the world feel a little duller.

In his first song since the initial arrest more than 10 months ago, Gunna paints his colorless vision of the world for us. Through a monochrome tint, Gunna drives his sports car down Mulholland while detailing every thought and feeling about his current situation. He bats down the snitch accusations, stating that he never gave any statements or took the stand against anyone, but that he fell for the D.A.’s sneaky traps. He talks about the dark tunnel he’s been trapped in and what it feels like watching friends fall back. The symbolism with the crow is slightly overwrought and it’s a little sloppy when he addresses some specific people in his life, but overall, this feels smooth and cathartic for Gunna. It’s a man who’s been gagged and watched as the world spun around him in a situation he had little to no control over finally speaking his piece. The bassline is cool, but the palette of the song is serious. It’s not necessarily the most fun listen, but it’s an essential one for Gunna to get off his chest so he can keep moving forward with his new reality.

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Kodak Black thinks about death like it’s a fantasy. Throughout his new album, he paints it so vividly in many different ways, but none are normal. He refers to someone pointing and shooting a gun at him as blowing a kiss, he describes close encounters with it fondly, and he has an entire love song dedicated to his gun where he personifies it like a Shakespearean sonnet.

This is never more apparent than on “Murder Mystery.” If you didn’t speak any English, you’d probably assume this was a love-ridden pop ballad, because he sings such a sweet melody on the hook and the beat is dripping in soft pinks. But he’s talking about how callous he’s become to the concept of death. Mamas are crying and it rolls right off him. He once had a heart, but it had been broken so many times that he can’t even feel pain anymore. Now, he’s a hired hitman, singing sweet lullabies about the bodies they’ll never find.

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Johnny Dang has been a mainstay in rap music for the past 20 years, but he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Paul Wall. He was working at flea market jewelry repair stalls in and around the Houston area after immigrating from Vietnam in the late 90’s. Then Paul Wall passed by and impressed by his custom grills, he decided to go into business with him in 2002. Fast forward two decades, and Dang is making custom pieces for the Beyonces and Lebron’s of the world while appearing in more rap videos than one can count.

All of that goes to say that this may be the best Johnny Dang tribute ever rapped. That Mexican O.T. flows like a mix of a spry Da Baby with the Houston drawl like Sauce Walka and his rolled consonants sound so clean. He recruits his homie Drodi and Paul Wall himself to inflict damage on this sparse, but smooth-rolling beat, and each complements the other’s flows like they were made for each other in a lab. Paul Wall is the uncle who pulls up to the court and balls out to remind everyone he’s still got it, rapping about how heavy and how much motion his diamonds project from his low rider.

All the best rappers are still on Triller. The snippets on TikTok have all been fully TikTok-ified, market tested for mass appeal and selected based on the best shot at virality. People will just put whatever on Triller, and those spirit of the moment clips have a more genuine appeal to them. In this snippet, we’re watching in real time as two friends listen back to a track they made together, jigging and acting out their bars. It’s 30 seconds, but smacks you right across the face from the first two, when Concrete Karrah, one of QC’s newest signees, raps over the slick Detroit beat, “If I like you then you lucky, you my lil clover.” And then Anycia’s voice feels like a knockout blow the moment it touches the song. She sounds like a 70-year old lifetime smoker, rapping about running laps around her counterparts and her penchant for choosing money over flowers. Run that back!

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Everyone loves feeling nostalgic. It’s why music anniversary posts are always the most engaged with content on social and it’s partially why NY sample drill exploded the way it has. Troubles seem to fade away with time and looking back on music or moments can give us rose-tinted frames. Even the name Ugly God feels nostalgic for internet rap nerds. Ugly God recruits Lil Yachty to toss it back to summer ‘16 when these two were on top of the world, making the weird, fun, and happy music to float around in our heads to. The song has the same vibe as when that wave initially crested – it’s light and airy without feeling too in the clouds, and both rappers cruise through the bubbly melody with a sharp energy. It’s refreshing, nostalgic, and just a good song with splashy bars.

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