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The CIA told Donald Morrison to write modernist fiction.
Slime Dollaz is animated and unpredictable enough to make what he’s doing sound different than the hordes of other rappers attempting to do the same thing. It’s his subtle changes in flows and intonations that make his verses feel memorable. On “Sent A Hit,” Slime begins rapping with a hushed, and hurried excitement, as if he’s the shy kid who’s finally getting his turn to speak in class. It’s part Valee, part Shawny Binladen. The production, handled by Abu, centers around what sounds like a wind chime on loop, and is slightly brighter than what Slime normally raps over. Slime opens with a tribute to his fallen friends and then quickly leaves the past behind him and transitions to the right now: the guns in front of him, both veiled and unveiled threats of violence, the lean he’ll drink.
Slime is originally from Spartanburg, South Carolina, a city of less than 40,000 with a rich musical history. It’s the hometown of Pink Anderson, a legendary blues musician who inspired the name of the band Pink Floyd, with band member Syd Barrett admitting the group’s name came from combining the first names of Anderson and North Carolina bluesman Floyd Council. Slime has been toiling away at rap stardom for the better part of a decade and he’s always had this way of rapping that’s initially hard to understand until it clicks, then you can’t unhear the words. The chorus for “Evil,” directed by Cole Bennett in 2018, is a good example. It took me a month to understand the chorus “she see my face tats, say, ‘Slime so evil.’” His new music, uploaded sporadically on YouTube this past year, is slightly less structured and more experimental than years past. I’d love to see Slime link up with a producer like Gud or DJ Smokey for a whole tape. A producer who can match his natural irreverence. But Abu seems to be doing a good enough job on “Sent A Hit” to warrant his own attempt at a full project.
It’s very savvy of S5 to release his song “Japan” during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, although the song is not really about Japan at all. It derives its name from a line in the song’s chorus, “send a bitch to Japan, she comes back thinking that she foreign.” This is a very confusing lyric to me. Is he gifting women all-expenses-paid trips to Japan? Is he sending her on a business trip? Why doesn’t he want to go with? We may never know.
Some of the best music coming out of Los Angeles’ fractured rap scene is actually originating in the Inland Empire, an exurb that borders the west side of LA County and includes the cities of San Bernardino and Riverside. It’s sound is slightly different from the street rap coming from LA, with production choices that feel more indebted to the type of rap coming out of the Bay Area and Stockton. The beat for “Japan,” sounds more fit for an EBK Jaaybo record, yet S5 is more than up for the challenge of injecting a lethargic dose of the type of lazy, nervous rap coming out of Southern California since 2017.
J Hus naming his January 2020 album Conspiracy Theory turned out to be a prescient move. Since the album’s release, we’ve experienced a global pandemic of mysterious origins and witnessed the strangely systematic delegitimization of numerous social justice movements that appeared to have real momentum. Even the most gullible sheeple among us have begun to question the shady forces at hand here.
After releasing Conspiracy Theory, which was my favorite record of 2020, he disappeared for more than three years. He’s like the UK’s Kendrick Lamar: releasing high concept albums every three to five years and then going recluse mode during the inbetween. It’s truly one of the most admirable things an artist of this caliber can do. It’s so nice that we don’t hear from Kendrick ever. It makes it all the sweeter whenever he does release something, even if it is just a Apple notepad app screenshot about beach cruisers.
“It’s Crazy” is harder and more assertive than anything on Conspiracy Theory. What made that album so good was that it worked on so many levels. Like To Pimp a Butterfly, it dealt with themes of political enlightenment, while also including singles that fit nicely on the radio, like “Repeat” featuring the Obama-approved, Jamaican singer Koffee. None of the singles sound meant for radio, either, these are just real rap songs that are good enough to break through the tepid taste of even the most passing music enjoyers. “It’s Crazy” may be a sign that J Hus’ next project will be darker, louder and more brash than the one before it. Lines like “why you wanna see the evil me, when I live my life peacefully?,” hint at the pressure rappers feel to make songs for the streets even if their lives look differently today. I think J Hus’ new project will likely deal with difficulties of making art while siloed by fame and unattainable expectations.
“Cheese and Dope” is a perfect encapsulation of everything that made Juice WRLD a once in a generation artist: the improvisational genius, the eye contact with the camera, the junkie girlfriend scrolling her phone on the couch in the background. Juice WRLD loved being perceived and he loved the camera. He came alive in front of it and would undoubtedly surprise even himself by the end of the performance. This latest video is another testament to what was lost when Juice WRLD passed away in 2019.
The StincyDrummer’s are back and it’s bittersweet. Both Ketchy the Great and Drakeo the Ruler were alive when 03 Greedo went to prison more than half a decade ago. Now he’s out and his two closest collaborators are both gone, and he and Ralfy the Plug are left to pick up the pieces. The two’s first collaboration since Greedo’s release from a Texas penitentiary is an ode to the real life drama that’s enveloped their inner circle in recent years. It can be hard for fans to tell the difference between real life and fiction when following the exploits of their favorite rap acts. But what Greedo and The Stinc Team have gone through, from the incarcerations to the early deaths, is 100% real. Seeing these two collaborate after everything that’s transpired is a victory lap in its own right. Greedo’s melodic turns have always been a perfect foil for Ralfy’s laid-back flows, which often read like advice columns written by a SoCal pimp. It’s nice seeing them back together and Greedo has even said on Twitter that there’s a Drakeo collab album in the vault somewhere. Here’s to hoping.