First of the Month is a monthly column that rounds up the best releases in rap music, from major label albums to Datpiff classics. This month's edition covers Gucci Man, D.R.A.M., NxWorries, Saba, and more.
Before you knew about Majid Jordan sleeping in tents to feed their Canadian overlord, Meek Mill was a wildly popular street rapper in his native Philadelphia. Footage of him on bootlegged DVDs shows glimpses of the magnetism that would land him a major-label record deal and a pair of Gold albums. The latter, Dreams Worth More Than Money, topped the charts just days before Meek fired the first shot in his feud with Drake, the aftershocks of which plague his career today. DC4, the latest in a series of mixtape series that lapse into “album” territory part way through, is well-trod ground for Meek, gothic and grand. Aside from a staggeringly lame Tory Lanez cameo on “Litty,” DC4 is uniformly solid; songs like “Shine” (“My mama crib big as a church--I’m being modest”) are concentrated doses of the desperate, frenzied energy Meek traffics in on his best days. “Offended,” which taps Young Thug and 21 Savage, is a year-end-list contender.
One of the reasons Atlanta was able to push ceaselessly forward in the 2000s while New York faltered and Angelenos pretended The Game was good is that the capital of Georgia is not bound by tradition. There’s reverence, sure, but no checklist. Crunk, snap, triplets. But the latest Left coast contenders are learning how to navigate L.A.’s rich history in a way that synthesizes ghosts and khakis into something new, vital. G Perico makes pimp rap for the post-Obama years. His hair is curled, his leg scarred from a shooting he survived--a shooting that didn’t stop him from playing a show that very night. His breakthrough mixtape, Shit Don’t Stop, doesn’t just blend the old with the new; it injects dread into stock tales of collecting crumpled $20s, joy into stories about the Broadway Gangsta Crips. [Read my full review of Shit Don’t Stop at Pitchfork.]
Yes Lawd!, the long-awaited debut from Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge’s NxWorries project, is jarring at first for how conventional it is. Knxwledge is an impressive producer who slips--both here and more broadly--in and out of Dilla approximation; .Paak is the tough-to-place curiosity turned Dre protege turned rising star turned NBA on TNT spokesman dropping his second blockbuster of the year. And yet, where glitchy singles “Suede” and “Lyk Dis” seemed to promise a confounding, off-kilter collection of silk, Yes Lawd! was raised in the church. By spreading 48 minutes over 19 songs, the duo jumps from hymn to filthy hymn quicker than any (save an ill-advised interlude) can overstay its welcome.
After standing near the spotlight with his more famous friends--you can catch him on Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book--Saba has finally made a definitive solo record. Bucket List Project confirms the promise hinted at on early efforts like “401k”; there may be too many voices in the mix, but there are superb high points (“The Billy Williams Story,” the Noname-assisted “Church / Liquor Store”) and more than enough exhibit to argue Saba’s place on the biggest stage.