The Rap Round-up is back! Each month, columnists Alphonse Pierre and Lorena Cupcake compile a list of the most noteworthy rap releases. Up this month: Rico Nasty, Queen Key, Kanye West and more.
We somehow survived a month straight of G.O.O.D. Music releases. Congratulations, everyone — especially Drake, whose Scorpion is set to close June out tomorrow.
Although this month’s rap conversation was dominated by a glut of major releases, including The Carters’s Everything Is Love, a surprise album from Tidal’s royal family, the superstar shine is easy to skirt with a hardy look at the selections below. From Rico Nasty proving she’s ready to take her sound to the next level on her Atlantic debut to L.A.’s Allan Kingdom putting his own stamp on the global sounds that have been influencing North American artists for the past few years, there was a lot of a great music to take in this month – especially if you’re looking below the surface.
Peanut Butter Prince
Allan Kingdom’s new EP is one of the best examples of a North American artist looking globally for inspiration. Last year we saw the rising power of Latin trap (and the lucrative “Latin remix”) on the singles charts, not to mention Drake’s dalliances with dancehall and grime on More Life. A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s recently released International Artist capitalized on features from artists like Davido and J Alvarez to warp his usual sound through the filter of Afro-pop, reggaeton and other genres.
Kingdom has applied the rhyming skills from his mixtape-dropping days to the grooves and percussive rhythms of the music his South African and Tanzanian family raised him on. The result is immediate and innovative, a reminder that Western music is not finished evolving. LC
Take one glance at the album cover of Freddie Gibbs’ Freddie, which is a recreation of Teddy Pendergrass’ Teddy cover, and you might think that you’re in for a half-hour of love ballads over soul samples. But that is not the case. It’s the same Gangsta Gibbs we’ve come to expect over the past decade. The project is versatile, but hits more like a placeholder instead of an actual full-length studio album.
Tracks like ‘Triple Threat’ features Gibbs showing off his evolving knack for melody and his rapping is unceasingly raw throughout. Where Freddie lacks is in the production, which is underwhelming and basic. Even Kenny Beats, who is currently one of rap’s hottest producers, is not at the top of his game. Despite these aesthetic issues with Freddie, there’s a reason why we have high standards for Gibbs — he’s always essential listening. AP
Kanye has always worked best when he’s unfiltered – sometimes his greatest moments of genius happen during a transition when you’re already six minutes into a track. You won’t get that on ye, just a tangle of ideas that are never fully fleshed out. Whenever it seems like Kanye is about to settle into a groove — like when he’s interpolating Charlie Wilson on ‘No Mistakes’ — he’s immediately on to the next idea, making ye an album that is as rushed as it is hollow. AP
While his fans were still digesting last month’s Black Soap, New York’s prolific and talented MIKE dropped a 12-track album appropriately titled renaissance man. Throughout the lo-fi project, executive produced by Darryl Johnson, MIKE emphasizes a message of love: love for his team, love for his family, love for his community. Its exuberance is only elevated by the crafty loops, which do sometimes overwhelm the audio forcing you to listen to MIKE with a more keen ear. It’s to your benefit, though, because he doesn’t waste a single breath. AP
If the record executives at Atlantic Records are watching social media closely enough to offer record deals to Bhad Bhabie and Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey, it’s no surprise that they picked up Rico Nasty, the rapper behind candy-coated viral hits like ‘Hey Arnold’ and ‘iCarly’ whose every hairstyle change and aesthetic experimentation is breathlessly observed by her almost 1.5M followers.
Burgeoning rap producer Kenny Beats (better known to EDM fans as LOUDPVCK), fresh off last month’s collaboration with Key!, has credits on a third of the songs, including lead single ‘Countin Up’. But what makes the project truly standout is how Rico rapidly cycles between personalities, moods and flows — she’s capable of summoning an aggressive nu-metal onslaught just as much as she can land a sing-song earworm. LC
Everything Is Love is the sneaky conclusion to the candid infidelity-and-reconciliation story arc begun on Beyoncé’s Lemonade and developed on Jay-Z’s 4:44.
On lead single ‘Apeshit’, Beyoncé delivers an impressive Offset flow assisted by a Migos reference track; Jay Z paraphrases Chief Keef over a rework of the ‘Faneto’ beat that vibrates like a plucked rubber band. The video, filmed in the Louvre, has already inspired countless shot-by-shot breakdowns of every artistic allusion contained in the six minute runtime.
More than simply the denouement of a trilogy, the dense use of layered references to both music and art throughout the project promise the careful listener a jumping-off point rather than an ending. LC
Twenty-two years old with a deeply-dimpled kewpie face and eyelashes that flutter like babydoll, Queen Key has been working since she spit her first bars in grade school to clue the world in on her royal status.
She’s built her fan base organically, putting in work from suburban Chicagoland club appearances to all-ages events on school campuses. On EMP, collabortion with hometown performers Dreezy, Tink and King Louie, as well as Dallas’ Cuban Doll, feel as natural as friends stopping by for a house party. It’s turn-up music, songs for confident, powerful women that treat their humor, sexuality and joy as something sacred and important. LC
There’s something that makes Wifigawd’s Heat Check perfect for the summer. Maybe it’s Wifigawd’s exhausted flow which sounds like how you would speak if you’ve spent over a hour in the intense sun, or maybe it’s the booming Tony Seltzer production that makes you sweat just from the tempo.
Seltzer and Wifigawd’s creative partnership is something special here: thudding bass and a mind-scrambling melody seems crafted just for Wifigawd’s off-kilter pacing on ‘You Can’t Stop Me’. It’s another release that confirms a one-producer project with the right collaborative chemistry can often be better than an array of beats from who’s hot right now. AP
Alphonse Pierre is a freelance music writer based in New York. Find him on Twitter.
Lorena Cupcake writes about every facet of culture. Find their insightful coverage on music, food and more at lorenacupcake.com.