Image via Lil Tony Official/Instagram

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Brandon Callender says it should be illegal for a bus detour to be so crazy that you have to walk half the trip.

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Even though the music video shows them all together, if you told me that YTB Fatt, DeeBaby, and Mg Lil Bubba recorded their verses for “King of Poppin It” without consulting each other, I’d be inclined to believe you. That’s not to say that the song isn’t hard, but it sounds like three verses stitched together on the same beat. Just listen to how disjointed it feels: West Memphis, Arkansas breakout YTB Fatt’s blustering raps hit harder than MMA blows; the bouncy cadences that Texas’ Mg Lil Bubba deploys are reminiscent of Peewee Longway’s mischievous flows; and the swaggering presence of Houston’s DeeBaby’s feels like the product of endless freestyle cyphers. “King of Poppin It” might as well be a study on the current state of Southern rap.

The groovy feel of Sk8star’s “i luv u ,i do” calls to mind some of Playboi Carti’s romantic and nostalgic music. (Think more “We So Proud of Him” and its sparkling beat, less “Love Hurts.”) On “i luv u ,i do,” the Atlanta rapper’s voice freely drifts in the space left by projectforeplay’s buttery horns and subdued drums. The boilerplate flexes and tough talk (“You lil n*ggas sweet, this shit could get sour”) takes away from the dreamy ambience, though Sk8star’s doesn’t stray away from passion long enough for it to matter. When he croons “I’m on a diet, eat nothin’ but you” and follows it up with an audible slurp, the hearts circling his head are practically visible. Calling this capital-r Romantic would be a stretch, but I’m not judging. You gotta say what’s on your heart sometimes.

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Look no further than Whyceg if you’re searching for some head-splitting beats. The Atlanta producer, engineer, and artist has been lacing 2Sdxrt3all, Lil Tony Official, wildkarduno, and even himself with production that taps into the dark psychedelics of Pi’erre Bourne and Coupe as well as Chief Keef’s maximalist odysseys. (There’s a splash of plugg in there because nearly every underground producer has a bit of MexikoDro in their DNA). The chilling beat for Lil Tony Official’s “Don’t Know How To Feel” pulls from the Pi’erre side of Whyceg’s brain. Synths swerve in and out of focus, ominous keys loop forever. And then there’s Tony’s glassy-eyed deadpan, which sounds cool-headed and hostile at the same time. Something’s cooking in Atlanta’s underground.

With each successive line on “42,” Oodaredevil sounds as if he’s leaning further and further away from the mic. “Different designer I put it on the belt / Weed that I’m smokin’ it’s prolly top shelf,” the Dallas, Texas rapper shrugs in the opening bars. It’s some of the most fun rapping I’ve heard all year, and it makes the relatively simple wordplay (perky sex/perfect sex) sound cool as hell, too. When it comes to rage rap, he and collaborators like Talinwya are closer aligned with Lunchbox’s New Jazz than Yeat’s sunken eeriness, opting for instrumentals with weird-sounding synths that wriggle in your headphones every four bars. With the low-end rumbling and sizzling before suddenly dropping out and reappearing like nothing happened, Kelewya, Synthetic, and Kesh’s beat fits perfectly into Oodaredevil’s world. It’s like a fever dream you can put on replay.

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Loe Shimmy’s dedicated to keeping rap funky. Of all the tracks that the Pompano Beach rapper has dropped this year, I’ve returned to “Safe Route” the most. The combination of chunky basslines, twinkling church chords, and breezy sing-song melodies leave just enough funk for it to be socially acceptable to start gliding around the dancefloor when it comes on. “Wok & Minute Maid,” his newest single, is no different. Simo Fre and TapeKid’s steel drums and smoky keys carve out a slick groove that Shimmy takes control of, using it to turn his rasp on and off while sliding all over the pocket. “I get the ball, I run it back every time they punt it to me/I get them bows, I’m cashin’ out, don’t need to front it to me,” he raps while getting his 2-step on in the music video. Someone’s gotta slide him some Sly Stone records to flip.

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