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Guardian Of The Rap: Pivoting To Playlist

Just hit play.

On November 21, 2019

Welp, y’all niggas got me. That blog shit don’t work no more. Streets is done.

After watching this column brick for a couple months, I’ve decided to audible gasp Pivot to Playlist. I’m aware that some of the best new shit ain’t even on mainstream streaming, but alas, as Terrence Thornton once said… “these are the games we play.” The Big Idea: have this playlist become so much of a thing, that people turn to it for a wide swath of new hip-hop shit from several corners of the multiverse. Wishful thinking, I’m sure, but I’m tired of watching social media managers mine their timelines for rappers they’ve recently decided to start fake-caring about.

How many “who y’all feelin’ right now?” tweets does it take to get to the center of some journalistic integrity?

Then again, how much do I have? I put the homies on my shit if they fire, and I’ll tell you they’re the homies when I do it. There’s no algorithm picking this shit, it’s just me and my spare time. These joints were chosen, sequenced - which is important! Don’t shuffle my shit! - and Amileah Sutliff-tested to match the impending seasonal affectiveness we finna power through. It’s some real late-Autumn waves goin’ on right now, pre-Polar Vortex sounds. PLAY IT IN ORDER SO YOU CAN SEE WHAT I DID THERE! I really do this curation shit!

Feel free to continue to send things through to for a shot at making this joint. To the handful of folks who check for this, I rock witchall, and thank y’all for continuing to trust my scatterbrained-ass taste. Oh, and listen to Good Convo, we tryna send that shit up, too!


Kenny Mason - “hit!”

Not much to say other than this shit’s a hit, and Kenny Mason’s mere paces from outta here. Scam rap with a Southern touch, plus the bars to back it. It makes the swipe sound triumphant, but not in a cartoonish way, even with the scam meme cut throughout. Like, bro really ain’t used to havin’ it! (I’ve also seen this song live in a barren arena, and Kenny turnt shit up like it was all his. DIFFERENT.)

Black Sand - “Show Love”

It’s like them Black Sand boys waited ’til Autumn set in to lay this gem on the people. I run this daily, and I still don’t know where the hell the 4 ends and begins. And I don’t care, neither. Hypnotic and serene, trance rap from the rooftop. Siifu and Solo layin’ game down like them brothers from around your corner, your block. Best heard at sunset.

Kill ‘Em All - “Lady Justice”

I mean, it’s Mach, you’re not used to him steamrollin’ through shit by now? The only difference is… you can’t Google his lyrics no more! Muggs comes through with the heavy soul per usual, forcing Mach to swing harder against the chops like a slugfest of justice.

Earl Sweatshirt - “EL TORO COMBO MEAL (feat. MAVI)”

It’s like hearing MAVI catch the torch once Thebe slides it to him. This nigga rapped for DEAR LIFE on this shit! You don’t see this often, cherish it. And don’t sleep on the Earl verse, neither.

MAVI - “Chiasma”

Let the Sun Talk is an unbelievable album, and this record’s a standout for the way MAVI can shrink the world into a low grumble over a few notes. He’s rapping like he’s about to give up, like tears are swelling to fall on his backlight. I had to double up on the MAVI just to show niggas he got range.

April + VISTA - “Every Void”

Is April + VISTA a rap group? Nope. Do I give a fuck about allot? Clearly not. Y’all gon’ pay A+V what y’all owe ‘em, they did the Halloween drop with a record that’s reserved and harrowing, drawing us towards the abyss and leaving us to fend for ourselves. Watch the video and you’ll catch the nightmare vibes, they’re strong.

Zhalarina - “Wolf in the City (feat. Amina Iro)”

Far as I can see, Zhalarina is the last Lone Ranger of the third verse in a rap song. She goes for the throat every time, and won’t waste yours. This joint runs the extended metaphor to the goal line while reestablishing how ravenous her abilities are, not to mention the knockout Amina Iro hook. It’s fangs out for all these niggas.

Cameron Bolden - “Gucci Flowers (feat. Graves)”

I saw Cameron Bolden do this song at Schuba’s once, and he struck me immediately: awkward charm, nimble writing, and he, too, fights Gambino comparisons. One day, y’all gon’ realize not every young nigga with glasses is tryna be Donald Glover, but y’all not ready for that conversation. Anyway, this is a chill lil bop, and I’m excited for his future.

Zed Kenzo - “Not Froze Yet”

I’m sick of y’all lackin’ on Zed Kenzo as WELL, like… They’ve given us HOW MANY BOPS? Not to mention one of the EPs of the year? And the endless LOOKS? “Not Quite Froze” is an honest flex, a come-up anthem that don’t hit like they got a Warhol or a quiet 720 deal yet. I don’t even know if they rock watches, but this is not Richard Mille music, I assure you. More like… Fitbit-compatible, or Tamagotchi, even!

Hook - “Stand It”

Outside of hearing Nedarb’s work with Hook, I caught “Stand It” the way I’m sure most other folks have: the right Twitter snippet on the right timeline at the right time. It’s some of the most irresistible shit I’ve heard all year, the whole song’s an earworm. Immaculate drip, fantastic karaoke visual, and a voice that dances around melody and tone, a menacing hush. She’s not to be fucked with off this one.

Chynna - “asmr”

As a longtime Chynna Stan, I’m always deprived of a full-length from her, yet always satisfied whenever she resurfaces. She’s got one of the coolest voices in rap, her beat selection’s unbelievably consistent, and she can forever outrap these niggas. That’s a winning trifecta. That, and it’s brick out now, so all her shit sounds better.

Musa Reems - “Nothing New”

I’m a recent Musa Reems convert: he’s sent music through to GOTR before, and his new EP really has him hitting a new stride in his work. This joint’s some thorough Chicago shit, moody as hell and well-equipped for the oncoming winter default mean-mug while waiting for the train. Short, ferocious, effective.

BbyMutha - “Heavy Metal - A COLORS SHOW”

BbyMutha’s been fie, so her COLORS episode feels like a milestone for anyone who caught when “RULES” went a lil Twitter-viral. This joint also features some of her best rapping to date, full of hole pics and ancestral wonder. Rockstar lifestyle, Mutha gon’ make it. I just remembered how I saw her like 20 feet away by the food trucks at SXSW. I told her she was the GOAT with a chicken pineapple in my hand. She smiled back.

LOWERLIPDRIP - “Live Stream”

I got hipped to LOWERLIPDRIP from the homies, then I magically started seeing them at every Chicago rap show imaginable. It’s like the algorithm unlocked these two. Speaking of which, this record sinks its teeth into the surveillance state while leaving ample room for thrown bows. Then we’re dropped into the wormhole of a breakdown. They keep this shit up, the duo’s inventiveness is poised to birth something very poignant, very soon.

Groupthink - “FACE”

The bro formerly known as Son! has graced the streets with another undeniable ditty that thrashes around pop conventions while keeping the pieces that work. (In the visual, he thrashes around in the snow.) He powers through these emotions with such a resonance that drops his guard in a way that feels damn near uncomfortable. It’s some mid-20s shit, but it isn’t… like, it’s a record of changes, of facing the inevitable.

Student 1 + letmode - “Early Tyler Caves”

Y’all know Lu is a brother to me, so let’s get that out the way. I feel like Stu 1 + letmode is the combo that’s gonna take Lu to places he hasn’t been, and this first installment speaks for itself. It’s got the whimsical element consistent in Student 1 music, plus the frustration, but on a palette that elevates the drama without abandoning the playfulness that makes it all tick. Issa true treat to hear two people this excited to work, I’m all in.

Profile Picture of Michael Penn II
Michael Penn II

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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