Every month columnist Lorena Cupcake and Torry Threadcraft compile a list of the most noteworthy rap releases for The Rap Round-up. Up this month, Noname, Young Dolph, FACT favorite Father and much more.
The last traces of summer are finally gone, and while the fall is a great time for television, this quarter is usually a sleepy one if you’re on the hunt for major rap releases: there’s no rush to crown a Song of the Summer; the heavyweight projects have come and gone. This is the season for slow burners, and we’re here to unearth more gems.
Before we finally got Tha Carter V, Noname’s Room 25 took most of the month’s headlines not dedicated to White Rapper Beef, while cult favorites like Young Dolph and SahBabii returned with anticipated releases. Perhaps the most captivating-yet-morally reprehensible act in rap, Youngboy Never Broke Again, dropped two projects and continued to toe the line of cathartic vulnerability and oversharing.
Young Thug followed up Slime Language with the Elton John-featuring On the Rvn, $uicideBoy$ built on the ever-cresting buck-bounce nostalgic wave with a dystopian twist, while Starlito and Trapperman Dale mined Nashville’s gutters with some help from Bandplay. Father dropped his fourth album, this one in collaboration with Adult Swim, while Doe Boy and Q. Money did their part to distract Cleveland from LeBron’s Laker debut.
Until Uzi finally drops Eternal Atake, here are eight projects we’re listening to.
Father’s nonchalance probably made it hard for some listeners to get into his earlier work. He doesn’t seem pressed that by now, a large portion of the game has — unwittingly or not — adopted a similar lilt. Awful Swim finds Father, somehow, sounding even more relaxed, which most definitely works but also makes it easier for casual listeners to miss just how smarmy the verses actually are. He splits most of the album’s production with Meltycanon, the finished product sounds light at face value but gets a little more intricate with each listen. TT
Tours might take Joey Purp out of the West Side but you can’t take the West Side out of Joey Purp. On QUARTERTHING, Givenchy or Vetements namedrops are nowhere to be found; instead, the Savemoney rapper reps Chicago throwbacks like Kangol, Pelle Pelle and Jansport.
Executive production by members of The Social Experiment meet beats from local heavyweight producers; on ‘Elastic’, the spiritual successor to iiidrop’a fantastic ‘Say You Do’, Purp mutters over an acid jazz beat built of thrumming upright bass and samples of an elephant braying. ‘Aw Shit’ blurs seamlessly into footwork, assisted by production from Teklife’s DJ Taye. LC
On the road, Chicago native Noname travels with a live band and backup singers and many of the same musicians created these songs with her, lending an intimate feeling to the jazz compositions that bloom around her poetry.
She refers to her work as “lullaby rap music,” boasting soaring strings, shimmering keys and angelic choral harmonies. Noname raps the way we sing to ourselves, our voice a candle flickering in the gloom, the way we whisper our dreams to children who couldn’t possibly understand the enormity of our fear for them yet. LC
Life After Fame
Rappers tend to pridefully shun comparisons, so it’s a welcome change to see a kid like Savannah, Georgia native Quando Rondo embrace them as he has. Not only does he welcome the pairing with Rich Homie Quan, he’s co-opted his signature ad-libs, remixed an under-appreciated deep cut, and even hinted at a full-length collaboration.
Life After Fame is a concise listen, teenie-bopper trap rap with replay value that grows with each spin. Quando’s in a similar vocal register as Quan but has enough edge to counter Youngboy and Kevin Gates’ grizzled flows. After a strong showing off the bench on Youngboy Never Broke Again’s four-part EP, Quando invited more company to his lane for the debut, from newcomers like JayDaYoungan and YK Osiris to prophytes like Quan and Lil’ Boosie.
Boosie’s involvement shouldn’t raise any eyebrows at first glance, but there’s a bit of history there. The only Savannah native to move the needle in rap before Quando was Camouflage, who opened for Boosie at one point in the early aughts. In 2003, he was tragically gunned down outside his studio while walking with his two-year old son. Boosie would later pay his respects on fan favorite ‘Goin Thru Some Thangs’, and got Camouflage’s surviving daughter Flaujae in the studio with his daughter Ivionna in 2014. That year, she appeared on Lifetime’s The Rap Game, and last month she earned the Golden Buzzer on America’s Got Talent. It’s heartwarming to see torch-passing moments like this, but especially for rappers from places like Savannah and Baton Rouge, smaller metro areas with similar crime rates as Atlanta and New Orleans, just on smaller scales with less industry spotlight. TT
SahBabii’s carved out a weird foxhole in the Atlanta rap scene, at the very least separating himself with goofy lingo and world-building, hilariously obscene odes to fellatio and aqueous earworms. On our second excursion through his submarine soundscapes, Squidtastic, we find few changes in aesthetic but all the quirks that reeled us in to begin with remain.
His team is comprised almost entirely of family members — older brother T3 is the only featured artist — so it’s understandably hard for him to see reason to branch out. The rare occasions he does, however — the juke break in the second half of ‘Boyfriend’ comes to mind — are alone worth the price of admission. TT
Starlito & Trapperman Dale
Nashville’s Starlito has been a stalwart in the Southern rap circuit since 2005. A dizzyingly consistent writer in his own right, he’s more recently flexed his prowess as a mentor and de facto A&R, most notably, collaborating with now-household names like Kevin Gates and Young Dolph years before their surge into critical acclaim.
Career trajectory be damned, Lito’s knack for juggling internal rhyme schemes and his painfully vulnerable content set a high standard for street rap. In the role of co-star, he shines while leaving room for guests to flex their own charisma. His Step Brothers series with Don Trip is the most notable example, but with standouts like ‘My People’, ‘See Me Sweat’, and ‘JUICE’, TrapStar is another strong chapter in his long list of joint efforts. This time around, Lito’s sprawling verses are grounded by Dale’s, salty and to-the-point with no forced punchlines. TT
I Want to Die in New Orleans
If you’re not familiar with $uicide Boy$ — two cousins raised on a steady diet of Cash Money and Playa Fly, marked by face tats, drug addictions and death wishes — they combine Insane Clown Posse’s myth-making with the stylized misery aesthetics of Harmony Korine.
$crim/Suicide Christ/$lick produces, raps like an operatic basso on Xans and sports a shock of white dreads. Ruby da Cherry/Suicide Leopard utilizes his punk background to scream through melodies. Their beats, so true to their Three 6 influences that the group once produced a record for Juicy J, incorporate Katrina news briefs, Nextel chirps and machine gun fire as a backdrop for their vivid, morbid storytelling. LC
Young Dolph had a tumultuous 2017. His SUV was targeted in a February attack that left dozens of rounds lodged in plaster and vehicles; Dolph later taunted his opponent (rumored to be Yo Gotti) on track. September brought another volley of gunfire, this time with a few non-critical wounds landing as Dolph shopped at Hollywood and Highland.
On Role Model, Dolph has reason to be more reflective than ever as he reckons with the touchstones of a traumatic life. While some songs suffer from too much repetition, the story of his rise through the streets of South Memphis is too riveting not to listen. LC
Lorena Cupcake writes about every facet of culture. Find their insightful coverage on music, food and more at lorenacupcake.com.
Torry Threadcraft is a Brooklyn-based breakfast food enthusiast, moonlighting as a freelance writer from South Georgia.