Image via Loe Shimmy/Instagram
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Donald Morrison believes in going to people’s birthdays.
A friend once asked me: do you ever feel like life is just mid? Like it’s just an endless procession of waking up, working, eating, pissing, shitting and falling asleep? Like there’s nothing worth dreading but nothing to be excited for either? It’s like a lukewarm bath, you’re not comfortable where you are, but you don’t dare move an inch for fear of becoming colder and more withdrawn. You just sit there in absolute stillness waiting for the world to make a decision for you. Sometimes it does. Other times you stew in your own filth.
G Herbo addresses existential malaise in various forms on his new album, Strictly 4 My Fans 2, as the Chicago, Illinois-raised rapper faces down a federal indictment from 2020 accusing him of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Herbo and a few close associates are said to have spent millions of dollars on stolen credit cards over a four-year period. He maintains his innocence and is still fighting the case. This means that Herbo could very well lose his freedom in the near or distant future, and living with this uncertainty for the past two and half years is taking a toll on his psyche.
On “We Don’t Care,” Herbo has become numb to the extravagances that have surrounded him since he first gained attention as a rapper in 2012. Even writing music doesn’t doesn’t excite him these days. “F*ck this shit, I don’t even care, that’s why I don’t even write it, I don’t give a f*ck about my lifestyle, I ain’t even excited,” he says. It seems like Herbo is just going through the motions in life, likely a casualty from facing a federal indictment and living with the knowledge that he’s no longer in control of whether or not he’ll be a free man by this time next year. He’s smart enough, however, to know the therapeutic value of admitting this out loud and putting it in his music. Herbo’s finding out that sometimes there’s beauty in realizing nothing matters.
There’s a great debate over whether or not RXKNephew can deliver a classic album. Some say he’s not an album artist, resigned to dropping loosies on YouTube, and sloppily thrown together tapes everywhere else, for the rest of eternity. Others say that classic RXK albums already exist in the insurmountable collection of music he’s released, only it just hasn’t been correctly compiled yet. I tend to prefer RXK’s current mode of irreverent releases, and don’t necessarily think the classic 15-song album format could properly contain his seemingly endless flows and rants.
But when I hear songs like “Cooling,” with DJ Smoke, it does make me yearn for a complete project between the two. It has the record scratches, bomb drops and stop-start beginning of a classic mixtape cut, with DJ Smoke hosting and providing the beat, which features a great saxophone riff. RXK is subdued, seemingly without his alter-ego Slitherman. A full album of songs like this could be a way for RXK to keep up his informal aesthetic while also putting together something slightly more cohesive.
Lil Jairmy and BIG30 sound like long lost brothers the way they play off each other’s verses on “Get High.” The song samples Freda Payne’s “I Get High (On Your Memory),” but most rap fans will probably recognize it from Styles P’s classic ode to smoking weed, “I Get High,” released in 2002. Twenty years later and Lil Jairmy and BIG30’s rendition is definitely still about getting high, although this time around it’s decidedly less about smoking weed and more about sipping lean. The beat feels new with an added snare and hi-hats to match the quick pace of the rapper’s vocals. The video features bookoo bottles of Wockhardt and some crushed up Percocets for good measure.
I really like what Loe Shimmy does with his voice on “Maybach Curtains.” You can hear his harmonizations in the background throughout the entire song. At times it sounds like part of the beat was made by Loe just singing into the microphone for long, yet subtle, stretches. Loe reminds me of Shordie Shordie the way he can bend and morph his voice to all different types of songs. There’s a magnificent tranquility present in “Maybach Curtains” by design. “Gotta think peaceful when I rap, try not to talk about murder,” Loe says while sitting at a white piano. Music is the refuge with which Loe escapes the violence of his upbringing and it’s important for him to keep the two worlds separate as much as possible.
G Perico and RJMrLA are out of patience on “Paid Dues,” a song that makes me feel like I’m cruising through South Central on a breezy summer night. “I ain’t f*cking with the news, yellow tape how I’m dealing with the blues,” RJ says on the chorus. He sounds reinvigorated next to G Perico, who’s finally having his long-due moment after nearly a decade of grinding away in the rap game. With songs like “Paid Dues,” both artists seem poised to summon back to the forefront a revitalized and new form of West Coast gangster rap that’s been on the brink of extinction since Dr. Dre dropped 2001.