Rap Round-up: Liana Bank$ pushes the boundaries of pop R&B
Welcome to FACT’s Rap Round-up.
It’s not been an easy week, but there’s no better time to pay attention to non-white voices in America. This week, young Queens singer Liana Bank$ follows a slew of loosies with her excellent solo debut, Insubordinate. Elsewhere, Atlanta’s Dae Dae lives up to the hype around ‘Wat U Mean’ with Defanition, Payroll Giovanni follows up Big Bossin Vol.1 with another essential tape, Sauce Twin Sancho Saucy hits out on his own, Nick Hook collaborates with Rahel, Junglepussy, Hudson Mohawke, Father and more, and Chicago’s Saba offers more Coloring Book-inspired goodness.
Click on the album or mixtape title for a preview or stream.
If you’ve been following Queens singer Liana Bank$ this year, it’s seemed like a long road from singles like ‘LVLUP’ and loosies like ‘Leave Me Alone’. After promising it for spring, her first solo project Insubordinate has finally landed. But the road here has been longer than it seems at a cursory glance. Bank$, who is 25, has been in the music industry since she was a teen, writing for some of pop’s biggest names – she has credits on the upcoming Lily Allen record, too. For her own project, she’s taken her skills for earworms and hooks and roughed up the edges.
The tape, particularly tracks like ‘Please the Fifth’ and ‘Tragic’, carves a path for what radio R&B performed by women should sound like. It recalls what people like Tory Lanez and Jeremih are doing and points out the dearth of women who are working in the pop realm of the genre who are doing things equally as glittery, light-hearted and sexy. We often talk about future-R&B as something that needs to dips its toes in electronic music’s forwarding-thinking pond, but perhaps the future is finding a place for young and fun pop. If so, Bank$ and her neon-green coif are progressing that march ahead. CL
Dae Dae & London On Da Track
Dae Dae, the rapper behind Atlanta hit ‘Wat U Mean’, teams with Young Thug hitmaker London On Da Track for Defanition. As with April’s 4 Reasons mixtape, Defanition is firmly on the Future-Thugger continuum, but – unlike many of their followers – Dae Dae doesn’t just share their sound – he shares a soul in pain.
That should be clear from the beginning, with London’s digital strings underscoring ‘Black Lives Matter’. Unlike certain rappers who would denounce the movement, Dae Dae brings it down to earth, rapping, “Is it safe with me, to walk in these streets with my kids with me?” before stating the names of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling and Sandra Bland. It’s a good reminder that you can still be “conscious” in the club.
From there, Defanition finds Dae Dae to be a well-suited dance party for London’s synth-heavy compositions. The propulsive ‘Bullshit’ teams him with rapper-of-the-moment 21 Savage, who “knocks your favorite rapper over like Humpty” on a song reminiscent of ‘Where Ya At’. Elsewhere, Dae Dae unspools a ‘Started From The Bottom’ tale on ‘Dead Ass Wrong’ and ups his intensity on ‘Hit The Block’, his live-wire voice crackling with energy. He might not be the next Future or Young Thug, but Dae Dae definitely delivers a dose of ‘Street Shit’, music for “cruising in that Bentley listening to that ‘March Madness’.” CK
Doughboyz Cashout’s Payroll Giovanni is having a big year. His collaborative album with Cardo Got Wings, Big Bossin Vol. 1, was a summer soundtrack that fused the best parts of Detroit, New Orleans and California rap into an unstoppable modern G-funk juggernaut. Giovanni is back with Sosa Dreamz, and while Cardo is less prominent on the tracklist, the record continues his journey through a kind of ‘90s nostalgia that runs counter to most Golden Era obsessives.
As expected from an album named in tribute to the antagonist of Scarface, Sosa Dreamz is heavy with Giovanni’s tales of drug dealing and street life, but with lived-in detail and a sense of verisimilitude that elevates it beyond the cliches of drug rap. And while he’s proud of his successes – making the “neighborhood Forbes list” and finally copping the Rolex worn by his idols – there’s some melancholy in his celebration. No song better encapsulates the record’s message than ‘Keep Pushing’. He raps about his grandma finding his drugs, and her message is a warning (don’t get the house raided) and a memory (“you remind me of your pops, early ‘90s, late ‘80s”), and no matter how much money he makes, he compares the drug game to “running on a treadmill” – grinding without much to show for it.
‘Presi’ isn’t just a G-funk jam about watches; he uses it to map out not just sartorial influences but stylistic ones, as well, namely Jay Z, Cash Money and E-40. And as with Big Bossin, G-funk should be on the list, whether the slo-mo talkboxer ‘Came Up Off Work’ (produced by Cardo), the ‘All About You’-ish jam ‘Nothing Going On’ or ‘Worldwide Hustla’, which enlist Clay Baby in the Nate Dogg role. But Sosa Dreamz doesn’t stop there: earworms like ‘Been Getting Money’ and ‘It Ain’t A Game’ bounce all the way back to the jiggy era. CK
Sancho Saucy is one half of Houston’s always-reliable Sauce Twinz, and his latest tape, Sanchie P might be his most convincing to date. At this stage it’s Twinz other half, Sauce Walka, who’s had the more prominent solo career (Spring’s Holy Sauce was particularly good), but Sancho pulls it off here, roping in two guest spots from Boosie in the process.
Anyone who’s been following Sauce Twinz won’t be surprised at how this one sounds. The second track – ‘Aite Lil Bro’ – even appeared on Sauce Twinz excellent 2015 tape Don’t Let The Sauce Fool U. But with tracks as heavy-duty as the combative ‘Kill My Potna’ and Boosie starrer ‘Pussy’ it’s hard to moan at the lack of variation. ‘Fake & They Hate’ even recalls Autechre’s early Gang Starr-sampling classic ‘Lowride’. JT
Nick Hook’s Relationships is the perfect compendium of the magic that happens within the walls of his Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio. (He recently gave FACT a tour of his gear-lover’s haven, too.) His work has always been diverse, from his work as a member of the underrated, Tiombe Lockhart-led Cubic Zirconia and producing Young Thug’s ‘Old English’ to his Serato Series EP Collages V 1 and film featuring collaborations with Funkadelic, Todd Edwards and Egyptian Lover. The guest appearances on Relationships are similarly eclectic. Here’s even just a short list: Novelist, Hudson Mohawke, 21 Savage, FACT favorite Rahel, Junglepussy, Father and Keithcharles Spacebar and Chino Moreno from Deftones.
If that isn’t enough, the album is bookended by original collaborations with DJ Rashad, who spent time with Hook in his BK digs before his death in 2014. The album is a nerd’s dream and the manifestation of how electronic music has become the perfect playground for polyglots. CL
Chicago rapper-producer Saba released Comfort Zone in 2014, following in the footsteps of collaborator Chance the Rapper with a mixtape indebted to Acid Rap. Since then, he’s taken up residence in Chance’s Social Experiment universe, featuring not just on Coloring Book highlight ‘Angels’ but on projects by Jamila Woods, Noname and Mick Jenkins.
Saba – like Noname and Jenkins – is a verbose rapper who lets syllables fly; on songs like ‘GPS’, his rapid-fire flow resembles Kendrick Lamar’s. And as on Comfort Zone, he sticks to the rivers and lakes that he’s used to: ‘Church / Liquor Store’ (on which Noname returns the favor) contemplates Chicago gentrification from the back of the bus, while ‘Westside Bound 3’ is a spaced-out tribute to his neighborhood.
On Bucket List Project, Saba has tightened and focused his sound and style, delivering an album that embraces throwback jazz, neo-soul and boom-bap accents. Even when his lyricism is dense, his productions are lush and soothing, like on the sun-dappled ‘Photosynthesis’ and ‘American Hypnosis’, which interpolates Soul II Soul’s ‘Back to Life’. Like Coloring Book, Bucket List Project certainly isn’t for everyone. But for fans of Chance’s extended family hungry for a new look at an older style, put this one on your list.