Welcome to FACT’s Rap Round-up.
We’re living in Donald Trump’s America now, and rap fans have already been mobilized. As YG’s anthemic ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ echoes through the streets and (sometimes inadvertently) across internet radio, all we can do is resist.
This week, we’ve got plenty of sound for you to escape into or empower your protest – from Young Dolph’s career-best new full-length Gelato and Mozzy’s Fake Famous to Latasha Alcindor’s empowering B(LA)K. and Lil Donald’s club-ready Still Here.
Click on the album or mixtape title for a preview or stream.
After putting in work for years, Young Dolph broke through – whatever that means these days – in 2016, charting with his debut album and stealing the show on O.T. Genasis’ ubiquitous ‘Cut It’. And while he crowned himself royalty on King of Memphis, it’s on Gelato that he takes aim most directly at his hometown competition (more on that in a bit).
Like King of Memphis, Gelato is an all-killer-no-filler attack of Three 6 Mafia-inspired menace: tracks like ‘Baller Alert’, ‘On The River’ and ‘Run It Up’ will get your blood boiling and your trunk rattling. Dolph is best when making vivid, larger than life boasts – “20K dirty money in the collection plate,” “My bitch bad and juicy / I wear Roberto Cavalli every Tuesday,” etc – and there’s plenty of that here as he chronicles doing and selling drugs and getting laid at Four Seasons and Double Trees across the nation, sometimes at the same damn time: “pretty white bitches sniffing cocaine / my trap house line like the Soul Train.”
The tape’s finest moment is the TM88-produced ‘Bagg’. Dolph flashes his simple-but-not-simplistic approach – “In Pappadeaux eating alligator / My favorite app is a calculator” – while Lil Yachty sounds at home on material that is considerably darker than he’s used to. “Fuck the rap game, I do not need no writers,” Yachty spits. “I know the shooters and hang with the fighters / One kilo dab, I pipe up more than Rowdy Piper / Viper viper, my bro keep a sniper.” It’s an unlikely pair, united by attacks from old school rap fetishists on this double-barreled assault.
But the track that will get the streets (and the internet) talking is ‘Play Wit Yo Bitch’. Dolph and Yo Gotti spent 2015 beefing over who is the true king of Memphis, and the Zaytoven-produced closer is a direct diss of the ‘Down in the DM’ rapper. Dolph outdoes Gotti (or “Ho Gotti”, as he calls him) with his own flow, noting that Gotti came up by dissing Three 6 Mafia and claiming to have slept with his baby momma (“you found my number in her phone and it hurt your pride”). Like most diss tracks, ‘Play Wit Yo Bitch’ veers into ugly homophobia, which sounds antiquated in rap these days. But as long as this beef stays confined to records and forces these guys to release hot track like ‘Play Wit Yo Bitch’, we’ll be listening. CK
No, it’s not the long-awaited One Up Top Ahk – this is another Mozzy album to emerge from the Sacramento rapper’s seemingly bottomless archives. Sadly, it’s Mozzy’s most pedestrian in a while – his bars are still packed with keenly-observed grit, but they sound strained compared with last year’s run.
It’s not all bad news though, by any means – an average Mozzy record is still better than almost anything else. And there are highlights: ‘Get Em’ with AD and Celly Ru is an unmistakable banger, blessed with the kind of West Coast backdrop that’s helped carry the recent resurgence. Similarly, the YG-featuring ‘Hold On Me’ reminds why we were so excited about Mozzy throughout 2016, as he see-saws between painful realism and drunken hedonism.
If you want to grab a more essential (and almost completely overlooked) Mozzy gem, his collaboration with Trae Tha Truth, Tapped In, appeared just before Christmas and is among his best collaborations. If you don’t feel anything listening to ‘Going On With Out You’ or ‘Can’t Believe You’ then there’s no hope. JT
Since you Playin
Fresh off a tour with Tory Lanez – and exactly one year after we last covered him – Cash Money crooner Jacquees returns with Since You Playin’. Like Mood before it, Since You Playin’ is a solid collection of loverboy R&B – a welcome addition in a scene dominated by trap’n’B rap-singers.
As expected, Jacquees sticks to the sexplicit lyrical tropes for which the genre is known: ‘Lay Ya Down’ and ‘Sex So Good’ are exactly what they say on the tin. His main talent is opening his voice like his predecessors, and seems to have more faith in his falsetto than his rapping (which is a good thing). He doesn’t get overshadowed by guests, whether it’s husky-voiced vet Tank, breathy Tory Lanez, or Quavo and Ty Dolla (although Dolla – on the sequel to Jacquees’ breakthrough single ‘B.E.D.’ – reminds the newcomer that he will steal his girl on his own song).
The tape is produced almost entirely by Nash B, who plays Mike Will to Jacquees’ Jeremih circa Late Nights. Since You Playin’ serves as a showcase of his acquatic, woozy R&B bangers, and it balances tracks built for the radio, the club and the bedroom. And with songs like ‘10-4’ and ‘My Bizness’, it should please fans of R. Kelly and Chris Brown who like their R&B seductive, syrupy and – most of all – guilt-free. CK
Atlanta-based Freebandz associate Lil Donald impressed last year with sparse banger ‘Still Lit’ and follows it with the similarly-titled Still Here, a bumper mixtape that doesn’t do anything particularly original, but doesn’t have to. Still Here is just a collection of bullshit-free street music, spare and functional but guided by Donald’s infectious charisma.
‘Still Lit’ is still the tape’s highlight, but there’s plenty more where that came from. ‘Wanna Bet’, another one boasting a beat from the strippers’ favorite Mr. 2-17, is almost as ominous and enticing as its predecessor. ‘Look Like’, on the other hand, excels with the memorable chant “I know what a broke nigga look like” muttered over Protocal’s post-808 Mafia synth bleeps and basses.
Sometimes you don’t need different, you just need decent; Still Here is all meat and no vegetables and I’m completely ok with that. JT
Brooklyn polymath Latasha Alcindor has been working in the New York music and art worlds for a few years now, and B(LA)K. – her first full-length project since 2014 – is what you’d get if the love child of Lil Kim and Lauryn Hill made an experimental, spoken-word rap album. (Plus, it’s a respite from the testosterone-fueled projects that usually fill this round-up.)
B(LA)K. is the latest addition to the wide range of albums focused on black self-love that have proliferated in the last year or so, including Solange’s A Seat at the Table, Jamila Woods’ HEAVN and Noname’s Telefone. At times, B(LA)K. resembles those projects, with its spoken-word interludes, news report samples and poetic streams of consciousness. Whether with rap lyrics or bits of poetry, Alcindor tells stories about Brooklyn life, touching on gentrification, racism, police brutality and beyond, and she’s not a monologist: the album feels like an open dialogue between her and the other voices she samples.
Largely produced by Philly’s Ircasim, there’s plenty of the dusty, throwback beats that you’d expect, but there’s also room for the noisy, bass-heavy ‘Side Efx of Gentrification’, spaced-out moments like ‘Loopy’ and finger-picked ballads like ‘I was 15’. Despite being four years in the making, Alcindor says that B(LA)K. is “incomplete” and will probably stay that way. But whether it’s incomplete – or perhaps too “conscious” for some – it’s an intriguing look at another young artist who is part of an essential conversation. CK
Read next: 10 rappers to watch in 2017