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GOTR: Black History Month Edition is presented by Vinyl Me, Please and sponsored by The Ongoing Surveillance State on Black Creativity
Observations from the Shittiest Black History Month in Recent Memory for Highly Visible Black People
For one, we started with ICE and nem throwin’ 21 Savage and Young Nudy in the box on Super Bowl Weekend in the A. While the feds targeted Nudy for assault and gang-related charges, they slapped a deportation threat on Savage in an apparent retaliation for his second “a lot” verse condemning the ongoing Flint crisis and the State’s efforts to separate families at the border. Both men are free now, and all the Savage charges turned out to be bullshit like we been knew they were.
Somewhere along the line, his British origins were uncovered. Y’all know how the timeline get: Where’d this nigga’s accent go? Where are his shooters if niggas can’t readily acquire guns in the U.K.? So you mean to tell me 21 was the best U.K. rapper this whole time? I could trudge through the myriad of spins and takes on this trauma, but I’m too think-pieced out to function. I damn near laughed for the first 20 minutes until I remembered how hollow the screen can make me, defaulting into the cheapest common denominator to laugh at the pain of greater forces I cannot control.
I think Black folks do that when we’re scared… when everything feels very insurmountable already, when we’re well aware of the stakes, when our artists become hypervisible conduits for every fleeting feeling, sensitivity be damned. Throw the whole human away… Be the Savage. How’d we watch his kids run around a mansion a few days before they woke up to realize their daddy may never return to it?
Remember when the FBI tapped into YG’s whole campaign after the original version of “FDT” had bars about El Chapo sniping Trump, and him and Nipsey fucking a Trump rally up in L.A., and Black and brown people linkin’ up, and praying somebody pops Trump? Then when Still Brazy came out, those bars weren’t there anymore?
This that Orwellian drip, kids. Don’t stand too close, you might fuck around and drown… on this tape.
While we’re on the subject… YNW Melly. Goddamn it. The feds locked him and his group mate YNW Bortlen on new evidence suggesting the duo executed YNW Sakchaser and YNW Juvy themselves, contrary to the driveby narrative they told the authorities and the general public. Now “Murder on My Mind” continues to shoot up the Billboard, “Mixed Personalities” trailing it, and if Melly beats the case… he’ll be one of the biggest MCs in music by the time he’s 21.
Right before this new information comes down the pipeline, “Murder on My Mind” gets the meme treatment. The most notable bar:
“I didn’t even mean to shoot him… he just caught me by surprise…”
It’s common knowledge that labels pay creatives to meme their artists up and disseminate the content in a foolproof (is it tho?) effort to get those artists hot. This felt like that, but graver. What the timeline do? Ask whether Melly or Melvin did it. Shot the dashcam footage of runnin’ the song with the homies in the whip, until the homies get uncomfortable enough to ask whether or not their fateful doom was impending. Made Call of Duty jokes and police shooting jokes and in the blink… the whole YNW drowns in the code.
Another punchline. Perhaps a cautionary tale. Two men died, but did they? Isn’t it up to us?
This isn’t an Offset-specific issue, but this album traps itself into the same corner eventually: when an artist wants to pivot toward making a deeply personal album that rounds out their oeuvre while expanding the depth around the narrative of how they’re perceived… why is that shit overlong? Offset had plenty of chances to solidify his positioning as the most forward Migo: “Red Room” was a fantastic first single that’ll likely fly far too under the radar. Metro’s back in his bag on here, and Southside never left his. The first third of the album breathes new life into that Migos universe as Offset finally drops the guard, recounting his public tragedies and private shortcomings in a capacity we’d yet to hear him delve into.
And then… we get the records that sound like what Offset records should sound like in the Migos universe. We get the obligatory features we always get, turning Gunna and Travis Scott effectively into audible parsley. (Guwop ate that shit tho. And Cole raps better on features, and it still pisses me off!) And when the deepness reaches a little too high, you get that weird-ass Cee-Lo appearance. This album ain’t bad, and can be great in areas, but we didn’t need 57 minutes of this shit when 35 would’ve been enough to properly commence the transformation. It’s not about Offset lacking the capabilities — he’s capable as fuck! — but niggas need that good editing and brevity to save themselves, dog. That’s why damn near every Migos project gotta go for 17 songs in the first place. (CULTURE II HAPPENED!) Y’all ain’t gotta go that way, just lean all the way in and know when to kick the chair into the bathwater to pull outta the Mainstream Rap Matrix in time.
This nigga a Westside Chicago gonzo rapper. I hesitate a bit, but he’s like if Hunter S. Thompson was a Glory Boy, draped in DBM with mild sauce stains, hittin’ stains. Chances are, I don’t feel… good when I slap him in my private quarters. He’s so good at what he does, it sounds like he’s finna die once he turn the mic off. When this nigga talks about his mom sending him links about kidney failure, or how he carries a picture of his grandma to stop from sippin’ lean… like, how aren’t you broken by that shit? I feel a bit too overindulged by how overexposed he is; he knows that shit, too. Lucki embraces the avatar lifestyle, reveling in what he represents: addiction, depression, survival, heartbreak, and general scumbag shit.
I think the sonic direction picks up far more in the second half, but ChaseTheMoney holds his own on the first half. The Earl beat in backend is odd, but in a very on-brand way. To be so plainspoken, there are few rivaling how well Lucki connects off the sheer emotional intensity. He’s clever as he’s wicked, so present in his scumbag skin. It’s like he’s always forewarning us, too! This nigga really be on shit, I just anxiously await the day he finds some peace to protect without the Perc 30s in sight. Coming off the strength of a fantastic work like Watch My Back, this follow-up was off top a tall order. It’s too early to tell, but it’s a worthy addition to the oeuvre nonetheless.
I’m not anti-Pump by any means, despite his Floridian Colombian lightskinness allowing him to continually finesse every nigga usage in the rulebook. (He told Jermaine Cole he’s not Black, remember? I ain’t forget!) I’m young enough to peep what he’s doing, and I’m old enough for him to not give a fuck about me anyway. I’m not the demographic. But this shit… my mind went numb four minutes in, let alone surviving 40 of them. Forty Lil Pump minutes feel like a double album with the bonus features that unlock when you put the CD in the computer. (No cap, I’d cop a purple Harverd hoodie, fuckboy adjacency be damned.)
Hmm. What’s there to say here, I mean… his producers came through? Lowkey, Pump quietly elevated his style right around the time y’all tried to fake like “I Love It” didn’t slap because MAGA Ye had us blown all summer. Pump’s a lil more versatile, he’s reckless to the point where he’ll stumble onto something eventually, and the lil nigga don’t get tired. Catch-22: when you can’t aim all that energy, you start to sound like you’re runnin’ outta shit to say. And that didn’t take long. This album is Rolling Loud Ready, I’d stand there and risk tinnitus among the youth if the opportunity presented itself. I’ll never let this shit run in full again, tho.
By the way: stop sprinkling aight Wayne verses on shit like parsley as well.
Some of y’all niggas really make Gunna the hill y’all die on and I’ve yet to grasp why. I was in the A with Yoh for the backend of A3C — right when Drip Harder dropped and we survived the Wayne stampede — so the appeal’s not lost on me, to some degree. Gunna taught Lil Baby to rap and Baby’s the far better rapper, but when I state the obvious, it’s on sight for my mentions and my group chats. Cool. Defend the Drip Lord with all your might, I ain’t mad atcha.
I didn’t feel one way or the other about this album neither. I did make a game out of guessing which songs have a Turbo tag or a Wheezy tag. The beats are all pretty nice, even when there’s a subdued glow about them that compliments how Gunna floats sleepily over them. I’m not against the mumblecore drip rap as long as the nigga can balance that shit with sounding alive sometimes. That’s my gripe with Gunna as an artist: He’s too one-note to the point where it gets boring too quickly. He’s never outta pocket, he’s sneaky with the one-liners, and when Baby or Thugger shows up? The battery’s in his back! But alas, issa yawnfest for me.
Perhaps I’m not slime enough, though I have Survived the Rodeo and been to ASTROWORLD.
No, I don’t own any Fear of God; I barely know if I fear God at all!
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.
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