Is Pusha-T’s ‘DAYTONA’ An Instant Classic?

And The Rest Of May’s Rap Music Reviewed In Our Monthly Column

On May 30th 2018 » By Michael Penn II

Pusha

Guardian of the Rap is our new monthly rap column where our staff writer covers all the rap that’s fit to print. This month’s edition covers Rae Sremmurd, A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Pusha-T and more.

Live from the Google Docs, it’s the kid Michael Penn II: rap name CRASHprez, nickname Darkskin Shawty (self-christened) and I could get into all the extra monikers, but that depends on where we at and what code we gotta switch to for survival and allat. Speaking of the latter, Guardian of the Rap will operate under the traditional code of the era I came up in: I’m talkin’ Blogspot, early Wordpress, New Music Cartel-type tings where the bloggers weren’t in corporate hands and the independents had a fighting chance. I had a Walkman, I remember dial-up and I never had a vinyl player in the crib… these spaces were my crates, my algorithm, my everything. Now, I have the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the canon of the best hip-hop of our time.

When the good folks at VMP hired me on as a staff writer, Big Body Storf threw me the keys to the monthly rap column. I’ll use this space for a variety of takes on the rap releases we’ve deemed Important, as well as some unearthed weirdo jumpoffs I’ve dug for. The balance will vary by how fire or dry a release month is for The Culture; in time, I hope to use this space to put newer MCs on if they make my rotation and y’all don’t know their names yet. The music writer/halfway-academic aesthetic will somehow JUMP out, but I’ll mostly be in typeface talkin’ like it’s just you and me. I’ll be tangential when tasteful and brief when necessary, in honor of the rap nerds who care like I do. Please direct all further smoke to @CRASHprez in lieu of a comment section we just… don’t need on here.

And before I begin, peace to the god Paul Thompson who held this column down before I came into my position. I stan for his prolific work in this rap writing thing and we’re damn near the same age: Go read him wherever and whenever you can, and hit our VMP back catalog for all his First of the Month transmissions.

R.I.P. Christopher Lee “Avionadramida” Scott, the man behind this column’s namesake.

Aight, We Back.

Pusha-T: DAYTONA

As the anchor of the G.O.O.D. Music summer release schedule, these beats are easily the best thing Kanye’s done all year. (We’re barely halfway through, and this Friday may pave the road to hell for his own album.) As a man who holds reservations for the guardians of the form — the type of spitters that only do a few things, but exhibit a mastery of their respective territories — I wanna hear King Push rap about dope. And I mean multifaceted dope raps: where you sold it, who you ran with, what color paint the walls were, what brand I couldn’t pronounce until you told me, the whole nine. And Malcolm West (I’ma chill) and Pusha-Ton gave us seven songs of that, no question. I love how “Infrared” sounds like a Ka beat, and Push made Aubrey take the bait. I think the second verse on “Santeria” is the album’s most brilliant and bone-chilling moment. I love “The Games We Play” and how it sounds like “D.O.A.” but more ready to wrinkle my collared shirt for my lunch money. And while we’re on the subject, I wish “Lunch Money” was on this damn album because everybody slept on how fire it was.

But, like a young Meryl Streep, I have such doubts. I doubt this album is a classic like The Timeline told us it was within 10 hours of a midnight release. I doubt the best tracks on here have a Pusha verse matching an “Untouchable” or a “Nosetalgia.” I doubt the Ross verse, but nowhere near as much as I damn sure doubt the Ye verse like we doubt him, period, right now. You ask me, this is the third-best Pusha solo album if we eradicated the terrible pop appeals and counted Fear of God II, which we probably shouldn’t. And surely that argument’s predicated upon trimming the fat that comes standard with Pusha solo joints, which may render DAYTONA superior off principle. But when four of your joints outweigh the other three, and you let The New Kanye drape a Whitney Houston drug addict bathroom tabloid over your art without telling him no, the classic argument looks rather shaky. Sure, the art “fit” the mood to a tee, but the tact level’s below sea level with the bricks tied to its kicks. I’ll crank this album when I feel snobbish and overheated, my inner backpacker leaking from my toothpickish frame, but I welcome all the smoke on this “instant classic” shit. It’s good, but this ain’t it.

Playboi Carti: Die Lit

I’ve posed this question to the homies several times in previous months: What does Carti do once he drops the album? To expand, Jordan Carter’s gangsta-fashionista id elevated itself through an endless mystique that kept him adrift and intriguing, even if it wasn’t abundantly clear. To simplify, he had a million songs floating through cyberspace and he fucked around and caught a few hits while raising his clout level. Then he dropped “the album” — last year’s self-titled LP that finessed its way into our hearts and year-end lists — and his first megahit “Magnolia” ended up playlisted as an inspiration for JAY-Z’s process behind 4:44. And I know that playlist exists because I was once a TIDAL user, cuz my shit was free and the homie supported The Black Man via his choice in streaming provider.

So to answer my own question: Die Lit doubles down on everything that made Carti a superstar, and it’s the album that’ll ensure his survival for the imminent future. It arrived outta nowhere, no huge single with a radio push or a viral moment, and it’s an hour of some of the most fun, reckless rap music in recent memory. This is the summer soundtrack by a mile and it doesn’t even feel like Carti tried too hard to make it happen. Be sure to come for producer Pi’erre because he’s in his bag all album long, the consistency is sickening. He took the glitzy cohesion of their previous effort and turned the hazy weirdo up to a maximum; I mean, “Love Hurts” is essentially all bass and snare with a hat and a sound effect. “R.I.P.” sounds like a bumper car Grand Prix with your badass lil cousins who only wanna hit your car and give a damn about the standings. (This same track has the bar “She got me mad as shit / So I slapped the bitch!” only to say “Bought a crib for my mama off that mumblin’ shit / Made a mil off that, off that mumblin’ shit” in the next verse.)

So what’s Carti saying, exactly? Nothing new, but he pitches his voice to sound like Eric Cartman sometimes and I’m still unsure how he gets away with it. Not to mention, he’s still revealing scumbag antics in plain sight? It’s a blower when you think of which VLONE thug he still kicks it with… Case in point, don’t listen to this expecting the revolution, ’cuz you’re missing the damn point. That’s no excuse, tho… that bar’s outta pocket. Thankfully, Uzi sounds beautiful on this album, too. I was hard on Nicki’s “Poke It Out” verse at first, but I can’t expect “Monster” every time and she bounced through the pocket with a bubbly presence that’s pleasant to be there. And when Chief Keef floats, and Young Thug floats in 2018? Take my word for it, the shit’s a thrill ride.

A$AP Rocky: TESTING

I’m damn near an A$AP purist, if that exists, because I remember when Rocky was the chosen one. I was a college freshman in a summer program when “Purple Swag” and “Get High” were the only videos on the internet. I still wish Rocky and SpaceGhostPurrp would bury the bullshit and get back to greatness. I’ve survived two separate “Brand New Guy” moshpits with both Q and Rocky present, surrendering myself to sweat and public raucousness in the name of one of the hardest rap songs of all time. And still, no retail A$AP Rocky album moves me the way his debut mixtape LiveLoveA$AP did: it was refreshing, just weird enough, the bubbling of a hybrid superstar in touch with the underground sounds of his time.

TESTING isn’t the album to surpass it; perhaps that moment may never come. But for the disjointed randomness you get throughout these experimental sessions, we’re bound to find gems in the mess. I’m shocked all it took was a KiD CuDi verse on the “A$AP Forever REMIX” to make me come around to that record, Moby sample pulsating underneath hums that know they belong there. In fact, the first third puts Rocky in position to overcome his critical penchant for empty ideas, but the hopes are soon dashed by their own awkwardness. (I’ma need someone to keep Rakim Mayers off the acoustic guitar, because those joints just… never turn out well.)

The features tend to do more of the lifting; thank FKA twigs for her glow on “Fukk Sleep,” thank Dev Hynes for his tenderness on “Hun43rd,” and for the love of fuckin’ Black Christ, stop letting Frank Ocean have the best verses on y’all albums tho! Granted, Rocky blacked a lil in his own right on “Purity,” but it’s a damn shame how Frankie is a more inspiring rapper than anyone else these days. If I stumble into the function and hear TESTING on, I’ll nod to it but I won’t discuss neither taste nor high art with whomever has the aux.

Rae Sremmurd: SremmLife 3

This is less of a review blurb, more of a self-affirmation: I’ve told everyone I’ve known that Slim Jxmmi was the underappreciated one since “No Flex Zone.” When you’re the rapper next to the one who can sing, shit just goes wrong. People ignore you, you come secondary and you end up on 30 percent of most of the records like the Brothers Sremm did in their first outing together. Where SremmLife 2 aimed to correct this imbalance — Jxmmi gets more time to shine, even gets to lead the way sometimes — the triple-disc SR3MM is a Come to Jesus Moment for these boys because when the people want Swae Lee alone, they get him in all the imperfections we’ve opted to ignore.

First off, SR3MM may damn near be the best Rae Sremmurd disc the duo has: Mike WiLL still can’t miss, the brothers still know their way around him and the rockstar shtick hasn’t tired itself out yet. “Buckets” is my shit, with the way Future knows his way around tuning his voice to be dangerously close to off-key while droning into the abyss. For a duo like this to go 3-for-3 is an unprecedented victory for all of us, industry-planted anagram be damned. But if we’re speaking realistically, the solo discs tell the tale: The brothers aren’t built to survive on their own, and Jxmmi can do damn well by himself.

Swaecation ain’t all the way it: the patois a lil too thick at times, the melodies can feel underdone without a foil to match them, and the hitmaking ability can’t automate the way folks think it does. But Jxmtro has Jxmmi stepping his shit up in a big way, pulling his own weight and expanding his range to thwart the lingering shadow of a perceived “lesser half” of the group. As vindicated as I may feel, leave them boys alone and let them be the best they can be together. Though, the next installment may need some drastic sonic and thematic change to keep them in our good graces.

Tha God Fahim + Mach-Hommy: Saturday Night Lights Vol. 1 + 2

These two EPs are under 18 combined minutes, but if you’re unfamiliar with the sheer technical prowess of any Dump Gawd affiliate, consider these works a worthy introduction to a study in iron sharpening iron. Four joints a piece, nary a hook in sight, it’s the type of computer-chip-nerd rap I subsist from when our mainstream darlings bore the shit outta me. But this ain’t nerdcore shit — I had a moment, I’ll elaborate one day — this is art savant street shit, leaked from the mainframe of two grimy motherfuckers who rap like nothing else is important in this world. It makes my inner backpacker JUMP out; the evil soul twice my senior lurking in my subconscious, damning all my contemporaries to Hell cuz motherfuckers really don’t be rappin’ no more.

Well, of course they do, but Mach-Hommy poses the question on “Breeze” from Vol. 1: “How come none of y’all rap, but y’all rap?” Question of the last decade, stated matter-of-factly by my favorite rapper from the past year, quickly sliding into my Top 5 by the end of this year. And the beat is just drums clanging against one another, syllables thrashing against the drummer with no melody or 808s to save it. While it’s easy to cast Tha God Fahim as the lesser MC, these EPs reinforce why you should never sleep on the man; he not only holds his own, he offers the steadier hand rooted in the classics to balance Mach’s unrelenting edge. The synergy is palpable, the raps are bountiful, the beats range from soulful epics to minimalist bops crafted strictly for lyrical exercise. Don’t crank no shit like this and tell me rap died off, ain’t no case for such fuckery.

Singles You Need to Peep

Rico Nasty: “Rage” (prod. Kenny Beats)

André 3000: “Me&My (To Bury Your Parents) + Look Ma No Hands”

Drake: “Duppy Freestyle”

Pusha-T: “The Story of Adidon”

Tracy: “Like a Farmer / Like a Farmer (Remix)” [feat. Lil Uzi Vert] {prod. Gren8}

Lil Baby: “Yes Indeed” (feat. Drake) [prod. Wheezy]

Jay Rock: “Win” (prod. Vinylz & Boi-1da)

That Girl Lay Lay Freestyle (she’s 11 and she did not come to play witchall asses)

YBN Cordae: “Old Niggas”

Lil Peep: “4 Gold Chains” (feat. Clams Casino) [prod. Clams Casino]

deem spencer: “i was talking to God” (prod. Couch Wave)

Michael Penn II

Michael Penn II

Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a Vinyl Me, Please staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.

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