Rap Round-up: Awful Records’ Lord Narf demands your attention on Witchcraft
Welcome to FACT’s Rap Round-up.
This week we take a closer peek at he latest delivery from Atlanta’s Awful Records collective – a devilish, Halloween-ready offering from the underrated Lord Narf. Elsewhere, Sacremento’s Mozzy teams up with his twin brother on the excellent Fraternal Twins 2, LA’s Boogie follows up last year’s crucial The Reach with the sequel to 2014’s Thirst 48, Treated Crew duo White Gzus return with the fourth volume of their Stackin N Mackin mixtape series and Rich Kidz member Skooly balances anguish and anger on King Cosa.
Click on the album or mixtape title for a preview or stream.
It can be tough to carve out a lane amid the rambunctious rappers, forward-thinking producers and ascendent R&B queens in the Awful crew, but it’s not a challenge from which Lord Narf backs down. On Witchcraft, the silver-tongued rapper dazzles with sing-song spellcasting and a devilish flow – while getting her Awful collaborators to sip from her cauldron, as it were.
Narf lights some black candles and sets the mood on the Elfmanesque, tempo-shifting ‘Succession of Witches’ before donning some ‘90s cosplay on ‘Ex’, a song on which she plays Missy to Father’s Timbaland and Alexandria’s Aaliyah. She teams with Dexter Dukarus for the moody trap menace of ‘On My Tab’, ‘Free My Jack’ and ‘Quit It’; the latter brings together ‘Rock Yo Hips’ interpolations, a hook reminiscent of ‘Yass Bitch’ with playful boasts (“I can fuck the mayor / the mayor know my flavor / the mayor is a hater / Oprah is my neighbor”).
Witchcraft also features Narf’s most dextrous flows yet. On ‘Take Me Home’ and ‘For Free’, she unleashes a double-time attack that proves that she’s not just one of the best rappers in Awful, or one of the best rappers that happens to be female – she demands your attention on her own merits and on her own terms. CK
Mozzy & E Mozzy
Fraternal Twins 2
Mozzy’s robust tales of Sacramento street life have been a regular appearance in this column over the last year. He’s incredibly prolific – Mozzy’s last full-length, Political Ties, dropped in September – but somehow manages to keep up momentum without sacrificing quality. Fraternal Twins 2, the sequel to May’s brief collaboration with E Mozzy (Mozzy’s real life twin brother, who’s probably best known for removing a bullet from his stomach on Instagram), maintains this trend. The sound isn’t a long way from Mozzy’s excellent summer LP Mandatory Check – a melancholy, listless approximation of DJ Mustard and friends’ post-jerkin’ ratchet sound – and as usual is elevated several levels by its protagonists’ nuanced rhymes.
On ‘Perky’s Callin’ (Free Style)’ Mozzy spits over haunting minor-key piano twinkles. “What type of baller lets his people live in public housing,” he opines, juxtaposing the requisite boasts with stark home truths. ‘Get It’, on the other hand, has all the component parts of a turn up anthem – squealing Kill Bill synths, stuttering beats, chiming keys – but is inverted with mournful horn blasts and knife edge lyrics (“I believe in God, but I don’t believe he can save me”). Elsewhere, the twins turn what sounds like a carnal hook from LA crooner TeeFlii into a sleazy, ominous half-remembered encounter.
The best moment comes with ‘Lotta Lotta Dope Smoke’, where Mozzy takes responsibility for his own hook, tongue twisting a tune out of his complicated lyrics. Like most of his best tracks, it’s sad but euphoric – not hopeful exactly, but Mozzy allows cracks of light through the heavy haze. JT
Stackin N Mackin Vol. 4
Perpetually underrated Treated Crew duo White Gzus return with the fourth volume of their Stackin N Mackin mixtape series, trafficking Southern rap to the Midwest via I-55 (hopefully that’s the only trafficking they’re doing these days: since we last checked in on White Gzus, Gzus Piece was exonerated after being charged with a pretty major drug case).
The tape kicks off with a ‘State of the Black Union’, and things in Chiraq are as bad as reported: the pair unleash truisms (“good niggas die first, the evil niggas last long”) and tell truths (“it ain’t always good head and fat booties”) about block life over some slo-mo soul. Things aren’t dour for long: they look for some “first night action” on a remake of TRU’s ‘Hoody Hooo’ and stay “sucka free” on the shimmering ‘Power’.
Throughout Stackin N Mackin, White Gzus and their producers – Chicago player Mr. E, Treated Crew members OG Webbie and Mano, and Detroit upstart Shawn Azzarelli – lay down the type of sample-heavy tunes for which the duo is known. ‘Yea Hoe’ samples exactly what you’d think, and ‘Regina Jam’ relies on Regina Belle’s quiet storm classic ‘Baby Come To Me’. These soulful rollers are the best way for White Gzus to tell their stories, which continue to be full of real life detail and heavy doses of pathos, in a classicist style that should find fans in the Midwest, the South and beyond. CK
Thirst 48 Pt. II
We’ve not been quiet about the glut of West Coast fire that’s sat at the center of rap for the last year or so and LA’s Boogie has to be responsible for at least some of the shine. With his debut, 2014’s Thirst 48, he brought a startlingly unique personality to the table, rapping lucidly about not only his LA roots but his grievances with an increasingly corny rap landscape. “I hate how every LA rapper try to make a song like YG
/ Like be creative,” he stated on ‘Bitter Raps’ and it was hard to argue.
Two years later, Boogie has dropped Thirst 48 Pt. II and while the landscape may have changed, Boogie has lost none of his urgency. “Damn, see I’m a different dude,” he raps on opener ‘Still Thirsty’, setting the stage for the kind of subdued self-reflection that characterizes the tape. There’s no ‘Oh My’ here, rather Boogie follows a different path, questioning the sincerity of a scene he’s now entrenched in and highlighting the disconnect with his old life.
The tape is expertly produced throughout – this isn’t some lazy mix of half-cut loosies – and Boogie’s got a startlingly good ear. He’s able to navigate the kind of jubilant low-key slow-burners Chance has made his calling card, pensive numbers that remind of early Kendrick and more robust West Coast bangers like ‘Slide On U’ and ‘Fuck ‘Em All’ without missing a beat. He’s self-consciously lyrical but never labors over his rhymes – he’s not preaching, but he’s confident in his opinions, a strong presence in a scene that’s beleaguered by weak characters puffing their chests up for the camera.
When he goes toe-to-toe with Sacremento FACT fave Mozzy on ‘Fuck ‘Em All’ it simply solidifies things – Boogie’s a contemporary rap treasure. Thirst 48 Pt. II doesn’t scream from the rooftops – it creeps up on you slowly, and when it comes to a close on the gorgeous ‘Best Friend (Jamesha Pt. 2)’ you’ve just gotta hit play once more. JT
Rich Kidz member Skooly has quietly kept himself in rotation this year, whether with Rich Kidz’ RapN & SangN mixtape, his collaborative tape with Nard&B or his scene-stealing appearance on Travis Porter’s ‘Pray For The Boy’. Despite its amateurish cover art (yeesh), King Cosa continues the influential Atlanta rapper-singer’s streak.
Whether singing or rapping, Skooly is best when he’s somewhere between anguish and anger, which has been the case all year. The somber ‘Better Days’ sets the mixtape’s tone, Skooly’s “I gotta get it together” chants offering a promise of redemption. Throughout, he does the little things that make him such an important artist, whether its exploring white space on ‘Watchu Mad At’, finding poignancy in simple lyrics (“I remember when I was not the man / I remember I had to rob a man / Life wasn’t easy / I ain’t think God had this plan for me, either” on ‘Neva Stop’) or just doing straight-forward “for the ladies” rap-R&B hybrids like ‘Magic’.
While the tape is judicious with its features, Skooly is best on his own here. It’s nice to hear Rich Homie Quan, live from label purgatory, but Skooly doesn’t mesh with rapper-of-the-moment 21 Savage or Travis Porter’s Strap. He’s more harmonious with his producers, who know he can tackle whatever they lay down. When he’s on the same page as his producer, like on ‘Turn My Bacc’ (with ‘March Madness’ producer Tarentino), Skooly gets right to the heart of it: “got money, went broke, got rich again, now you want to be my fucking friend again?” Sure, King Cosa is too long and far from classic, but when he’s on, no one does it better than Skooly. CK