Welcome to FACT’s Rap Round-up.
So here it is, our last rap round-up of the Obama era. Come Friday, the US is going to be a very different place and that will no doubt have some bearing on the sounds we cover in this column. Until then, we’ve hoovered up what you might have missed over the last few weeks, from Chief Keef’s return and Shy Glizzy’s reboot (as Jefe) to the birth of a bona fide star in Lil Yachty-affiliate Kodie Shane.
Elsewhere, Atlanta’s Key! teams up with Reese LAFLARE for his best tape in ages, 24hrs gets together with MadeinTYO for another slice of post-Drake melancholy and Nephew Texas Boy signs up 808 Mafia for the impeccably titled The Pack Landed at 8:08.
Click on the album or mixtape title for a preview or stream.
Big Trouble in Little Jupiter
One of our rappers to watch in 2017, Kodie Shane kicks off the year with Big Trouble, Little Jupiter, the best release of her short career. Rather than the playground pop-rap of the Sailing Team or sadgirl paeans like her breakthrough ‘Sad’, the mixtape is loaded with moody, woozy love songs with beats full of trance arpeggios, guitar solos and gorgeous strings that she cuts through with panache. And while it’s not unusual for a rap and R&B effort to deal with matters of the heart, what is notable is that Kodie Shane’s songs are comfortably queer.
Shane opens Big Trouble, Little Jupiter by promising to “switch gears on you for a minute” and fortifying herself with two-stuffed-cups. And then she opens up: Shane tells her girlfriend that they’re better as friends on ‘Na Na Naa’ and gets particularly emo-ish on ‘NOLA’: “She broke my ribs, broke ‘em all / She don’t pick up when I call / I still wanna get involved, I’m about to risk it all.” By closer ‘So Throwed’, Shane has named one of her paramours, Ashley.
Is it a big deal that – judging by her lyrics – Shane is queer? In the era of Young M.A., Angel Haze, Le1f, Mykki Blanco et al, of course not. What is interesting is that Shane has not been pigeonholed as a “queer rapper”, and that’s certainly not our intention here. Real progress is when we don’t need arbitrary classifications and categorizations, when Kodie Shane – with a voice as unique and charismatic as any in rap and R&B – can stand on her own, not as a token “female rapper” or “queer rapper” on an internet listicle. Perhaps the best lesson she’s learned from Lil Yachty is that rappers are finally free to be themselves. CK
Key! & Reese LAFLARE
Been Had Boyz
If you’ve been watching closely, you no doubt will have seen Atlanta’s Key! grinding hard for the last few years, dropping a steady slew of mixtapes and appearing on an even steadier run of features. The memorable “I hurt my fucking wrist doing donuts in the six” verse on Father’s ‘Look at Wrist’? That was Key!.
The former Two-9 member has started 2017 with a bang with Been Had Boyz, a collaboration with fellow Two-9 alum Reese LAFLARE, and it’s one of the hardest collections he’s been involved with for some time. At this point Reese is still probably best known for last year’s beefing with Lil Uzi Vert, but he puts in strong work here to prove he’s more than a YouTube clip and a festival tustle.
The tape starts well with slithering title track ‘Been Had’ and doesn’t let up, dragging through a smart (and surprisingly hi-fi) selection of beats that show off Atlanta’s dark heart. It’s not a million miles from Migos recent output, so it’s not surprising to hear Offset himself buoying ‘Money Phone’ with his chart-topping flow. When you’ve finished playing ‘Bad and Boujee’ for the hundredth time, maybe give this tape a try. JT
Jefe (Shy Glizzy)
The World Is Yours
Let’s start with the obvious: by changing his moniker to Jefe, Shy Glizzy has traded a unique name for one that’s anonymous and forgettable; we’re hoping that this name change lasts as long as that period of time when Young Thug wanted to be called Jeffery. But regardless of his name, The World Is Yours keeps the just-turned-24-years-old DC rapper on our radar.
After opening the EP with a collaboration with Baton Rouge upstart NBA YoungBoy, Jefe delivers the type of melancholy that has been his bread and butter on ‘Errywhere’, mixing references to Pac and Powerpuff Girl with equal aplomb. He’s in a similar mood on ‘Give It Up’, delivering an elevator pitch biography that is one of his best verses yet: “14 years old, I went to juvie for an O / 16 years old, I stuck my dick in my PO / 18 years old, I was whipping up the dope / By 20 years old I was getting 20 for a show.”
The verse is a clever recounting of his come-up, but under the posturing, dope-dealing and gun-toting, Jefe spends The World Is Yours begging for love, affection and understanding. On moving duet ‘Over The Hills’, he plays Clyde to Kash Doll’s Bonnie, asking “Now baby be real with me, will you step in the field with me?” And most directly, he wonders aloud on ‘Love Me’, “How the fuck could you hate me / When I came up from nothing?” Those honest moments are what keep us listening, whether he calls himself Jefe or Glizzy. CK
24hrs x MadeinTYO
24hrs in Tokyo
24hrs had a pretty incredible 2016 considering he’s both near-impossible to Google and notoriously publicity shy. The Atlanta-based producer, DJ, rapper and singer spent the year coming up with a counterpoint to Drake’s self-absorbed melancholia – a swagger-rich, late-night, neon-hued take on contemporary rap and R&B. Still confused? Think Jeremih x Drake x The Weeknd.
24hrs in Tokyo is a collaboration between 24hrs and MadeinTYO and sizzles with the kind of fizzy energy that’s propelled Atlanta to the very top of the charts. It’s woozy and narcotic tracks like ‘You’ that make this short EP so successful. Taking a memorable hook and draping it in K Shwisha’s lavish beat, the duo trade words in a haze of 8-bit bleeps, 808 kicks and detuned synths. More, please. JT
Two Zero One Seven
Chief Keef celebrated New Year’s Day by dropping Two Zero One Seven, as if to say “this is my year” after staying mostly silent during 2016. Spoiler alert: those expecting a return to Finally Rich era form, or more of the wonderfully weird stuff he was releasing just a few years ago, will likely be disappointed by Keef’s latest mixtape. Like previous efforts, Two Zero One Seven is too long, too uneven in quality (both sonically and in terms of songwriting) and too unfocused to stay on your stereo for too long. And it’s a shame, because amid these sketches are the occasional flashes of brillance that have kept us coming back to Keef’s records like Charlie Brown to Lucy’s football.
On ‘Fix That’, Keef’s AutoTuned coos eventually turn into pitchshifted cries over a hypnotic beat (one of the 11 he produced for the 17-track effort). He grumbles over horns and bird squawks on ‘Check’, and effortlessly finds the pocket on ‘Empty’ and ‘Knock It Off’, two bass-heavy rumblers that recall the heights of drill rap. For those that still doubt his skills as a rapper, he mixes up his flow, letting out those characteristic long-vowels (‘Trying Not To Swear’), emulating one-time mentor Gucci Mane (‘Reefah’, ‘Telling It All’) and unleashing a halting flow on ‘Falling on the Floor’: “Slam dunk, layup, pull up, three point, what up / Boy, you’re such a woulda, coulda, shoulda.” (That last lyric deftly turns the words of his critics against them.)
But for all those moments (and others, including ‘Hit The Lotto’ with ex-running mate Young Chop and his sister Ka$h), Two Zero One Seven is a disappointing mess. Keef is still just 21-years-old, so he’s too young to write off completely, but he clearly needs someone to help him shape and sculpt his vision, or else we might never ever see a full expression of his genius (related: the handful of tracks produced by similarly peaked-early talent Lex Luger). Or maybe not; maybe being maddening is the point. As he asks on ‘Empty’: “Sosa, what’s your goals? I don’t really know.” CK