Every month columnists Lorena Cupcake and Torry Threadcraft compile a list of the most noteworthy rap releases for The Rap Round-up. Up this month, Asian Doll, Shy Glizzy, Kevin Gates and the divisive artist behind ‘Mo Bamba’, Sheck Wes, plus much more.
Following the multi-platinum success of songs like ‘Bad and Boujee’ and ‘Broccoli’, Quavo and Lil Yachty had cachet to burn. As those flames flutter and die, however, their respective recent outputs — Quavo’s first solo endeavor Quavo Huncho and Nuthin’ 2 Prove — failed to spark much conversation. Given the unstoppable pursuit of newness, and facing years of over-saturation, how long can one rapper remain at their peak?
Perhaps this month’s most inspiring moments came when the division between the old guard and the latest crop of MCs blurred enough to almost disappear. Rap game godfather Gucci Mane devoted Bricksmas to the release of 1017’s hottest young artist, the expectation-defying Asian Doll. Teen crew LOWFI released a debut that hearkened back to touchstones like Bone Thugs and Wu-Tang. And Future, guaranteed to have even his most mid release hyped and debated, teamed up with a rapper 15 years his junior for a surprise drop no one was expecting.
So Icy Princess
Asian Doll comes into battle with her grill bared and claws ready for combat. The princess of the 1017 family, recently spotted literally tucked under the wing of Gucci Mane along with queen Keyshia Ka’oir Davis on red carpets, delivers on the promise of the regal cosign with 16 tracks that breeze past with a cool chill.
Asian Doll limits the juvenile sing-song flow currently popular to one song — the lipgloss-smacking earworm ‘Talk’ — setting her apart from a landscape of similar artists all trying to flex the same assets and aesthetics. “Ain’t no bitch like me, I promise,” she swears. It’s a promise she can back up. LC
Technically, this tape came out in late September, but we can make exceptions for eccentricity. Like most rappers with this distinction, Blueface is an acquired taste. He raps in run-on paragraphs and veers out of the conventional pocket almost every other line — a conscious decision on his part, though sometimes it sounds like he’s too excited to get the words out to mind the drum pattern. His rap career started on a whim and his freewheeling approach to song craft reflects it. TT
Future & Juice WRLD Present…
WRLD on Drugs
As the rare bird who still bumps Lil Uzi Vert and Gucci Mane’s 1017 Vs the World, I can appreciate an oddball matchup. On the surface, that’s all this project appears to offer. Chicago’s Juice WRLD, a wide-eyed emo-rap crooner, brings a melodic vulnerability to the familiar Future sound, updating it for millions of young fans whose touchstones run shallow.
A deeper appreciation only happens when you consider the two rappers’ similarities, rather than their differences: both artists make emotional revelations about struggling with addictions and wear their heartbreak on their sleeve, two themes at play over the course of the album. LC
Luca Brasi 3
It’s conflicting to cite the state of Louisiana’s carceral legacy in a music column — especially when it could be seen as absolving an artist as reprehensible as Gates has been — but it’s worth pondering the degree to which such harrowing and autobiographical art can be separated from the climate that made it, one that led the world’s most prison-happy nation in incarceration stats for nearly two decades.
For better or worse, Gates’ music and interviews alike offer no respite from such traumatic topics, and like his other projects, Luca Brasi 3 is packed with the transparent content that sets him apart. On the intro, ‘Discussion’, he explains his decision to plead guilty to a felony gun possession charge, not out of genuine guilt but simply in order to forgo years of legal proceedings. On the frantic ‘Find You Again’, he details the valleys of his marriage — from miscarriage and incarceration to disapproving in-laws. Considering tracks like these carry the weight of most Gates projects, it’s a wonder Atlantic even sends him on the conventional press run. TT
Lil Baby & Gunna
After years of bouncing off each other’s mixtapes, Lil Baby and Gunna appeared together on Slime Language standout ‘Chanel (Go Get It)’, foreshadowing the release of a collaborative album that surpasses expectations.
Years of orbiting Young Thug and shadowing his style don’t guarantee a career or charisma — just ask Duke. While some of Gunna’s solo work has faded in the memories of all but the most ardent supporters, he’s always dazzled on features. Lil Baby provides not only his distinct, melodic voice that can be spotted all over the Hot 100, but elevates every Gunna verse to feature level. The interplay allows enough contrast to bring each personality out in relief. LC
Sacramento’s Mozzy has been on a three-year tear, cresting with a placement at the end of Marvel’s Black Panther and a shoutout from Kendrick Lamar during his Grammy acceptance speech. On his first full-length effort since, he re-states his case to stand amongst regional greats. Beyond his revamps of ‘Thugz Mansion’ and ‘I Got 5 On It’, Mozzy’s lineage shines upon further inspection of stanzas like the first verse of ‘Who Want Problems’; a routine showcase of fever dream imagery and consonance worthy of dissection in junior high English classes.
Even the tracks that could be called chart-chasing feel natural — when the vibe gets too solemn, Ty Dolla $ign, Yhung T.O. and Schoolboy Q show up and add levity. When it gets too glitzy, Blac Youngsta, Yo Gotti and E. Mozzy are there to keep things grounded. TT
The permeation of ‘Mo Bamba’ into the cultural consciousness might have come as a surprise to some; from the beginning, however, there were clues to Sheck Wes’ destiny. He modeled — bare chested and open mouthed — for fashion house Gucci, posted throwaway tracks to SoundCloud clamors, then deleted them all when he signed with both Ye and Travis Scott.
On his debut album, the Harlem rapper does more with the negative space between ad-libs than less promising novices can do with a breathless, borrowed flow. It’s a Sheck Wes world, and we’re all just living Sheck Wes in it. LC
On his fifth project, 2012’s Fxck Rap, Shy Glizzy called himself a “big dog with a little voice,” boasting that if guys like Eazy E and Lil’ Boosie could make a living with it, why not him? In the seven-or-so projects since then, Glizzy wields his pitchy timbre to exude both urgency and harmony at a quietly consistent clip.
Fully Loaded is relatively stacked, feature-wise but feels less dense than the average collab-laden rap tape. The guest spots don’t seem out of place, and the range of sonic themes help lighten the load due to Glizzy’s malleable flow and inflection. ‘Where We Come From’ is one such example of the unlikely chemistry: a gleaming oddball out of Zaytoven’s catalog that Glizzy leans right into. TT
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.