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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 Future, the Internet and more.
I’m in the Denver office and the bison burger from Brothers still smacks. I’m on this MoviePass shit ’til they cut the lights off in the building. I wish the Drake/Migos show didn’t get rescheduled. :/ I can’t cap witcha, this month’s far lighter than last month and I’m rather satisfied with that. I had to go 10 deep last month because it felt like everyone was movin’ their shit around to catch some of this G.O.O.D. Music rollout wave; either that, or June’s just the busiest it’s been. Of course the fans win with all these options and whatnot, but it makes me ponder the usual about how we’re listening to all this: do we, actually? Am I just an overeager aggregate of all things #Important in a sea where passive listening reigns supreme outside of the artists we’ve already invested our fanhood into? Do the megastars of our time even give a fuck about quality control anymore since they understand attention as the hottest commodity? Has any casual fan cranked Scorpion front-to-back outside the first listen?
Either way it go, we got a couple lil selections for you this month cuz that’s how the game go. If we end up catching another June before the year’s over, they gon’ make me call my bros for assistance, word to Aubrey.
Approaching three-and-a-half years to the day of the original’s release, Fire Marshall Future and Zaytoven, the Man of God dropped a nine-track collection on our heads. As I recall fully tuning into Future’s wave around Honest — a big-budget pop crossover attempt predating his untouchable run from Halloween ’14 to Summer ’15 — the original Beast Mode didn’t stick with me as hard as Monster or 56 Nights. Perhaps I wasn’t attune to the way Zay’s keys sparkle and twinkle at will across the most menacing 808s, and I certainly most preferred Future when he barred the fuck out in ways no one gave him enough credit for. Future became one of my favorite artists for the otherworldly versatility he wields on every playful and tragic whim, making the most despicable memories and attitudes palatable to the bare ear.
It took me a year removed from the run, past the Purple Reign and back into silence, to understand the mastery at work. And on BEASTMODE 2, Future and Zay not only rekindle their energy, but elevate the tragic and comic in ways that make it all feel refreshing. This, too, took me several weeks to digest for what it was; now, I can fathom how spoiled I’ve become to Future’s baseline quality. Reckless at worst, undeniable at peak, Future always leaves an impression of something in the fervor of his release-and-retreat methodology. Now, BEASTMODE 2 ran the peak up and came dangerously close to eclipsing its predecessor. We get the Future baseline where he can’t seem to stop twisting his melodies in unpredictable directions, to cease ripping his traumas at the seams, to leave his demons behind once and for all. And the luxury’s still outlandish, and he’s still rich as fuck, and Zay still can’t miss when he makes the simplest trap templates into the most epic shit we’ve ever heard.
I can’t fathom the Future from a few years ago spending 31 consecutive days with a woman, nor could I fathom him recalling how “she told the world she tried to smash me” in the most pitiful voice I’ve ever heard. I can definitely imagine him cuddling his wrist, and moving to forgive his father for the painful memories of neglect that informed the man he’s become. And if you ask for the continuity in these moments on a Future record, you must be new around here. Now get the fuck from ’round here.
If you expected The Internet to have back-to-back slaps for albums, prepare to have those expectations exceeded, served with an umbrella in the glass. This Hive Mind shit is an hour of consistent crank! I don’t know if y’all remember that “Cocaine” joint: like, back when the Internet was lingering in the Odd Future undercurrent while Tyler and Earl caught their glo ups? Seven years later and Hive Mind is their second work that’ll surely be in Classic consideration in the years to come. I doubt I’m synesthetic, but this album feels as orange as Ego Death did; its arrival in the final summer countdown is no coincidence, and the dealings in romance and perseverance arrive right on time. Syd’s as sweet and direct as can be, narrating the everyday of the heart with ease as she’s engulfed in the fusion of live and digital that keeps The Internet so hip-hop and so soulful together, negotiating everything and compromising nothing. Sidenote: I didn’t know Big Rube was finna come through like that, he’s not credited on the streams. Shit was fire! Hive Mind is kickback-ready, picnic-primed, even at ya mama house when she says our generation of music ain’t on shit no more. Go outside while you still can.
I keep space in my heart for G Herbo off the strength of how pivotal his voice is to the drill movement, his ferocious growl cutting through the grown of his youth, tracing Chicago in a way he can’t erase. He’s never had to do the most to crossover, and his more accessible joints always maintain the straightforward grit with the right dashes of humor. He’s not the most melodic, but he can rap his ass off, so linking with Southside for Swervo felt like a natural progression and a real shot to net bigger records into his profile. When Swervo works, it’s Southside bringing the modern Atlanta bounce to update Herbo’s relentless run-ons into the now. Hearing him and Keef on “Catch Up” is the best matchup; they bring the best out of each other, adding another focused Keef feature to recent memory. There’s nothing much going on outside of Herbo’s wheelhouse, to the point where his more melodic pushes sound borderline forced; the bulk of Swervo’s middle suffers from this, either being too redundant or too reluctant to break new ground. Even the features from Juice WRLD and Young Thug don’t exactly hit the mark, not for lack of trying. To get Swervo at its maximum effect, stick to the very beginning and the very back end for the moments when Herbo’s reflections take center stage, bringing new revelations and survival stories to the surface.
As someone only remotely familiar with his two recent EPs, Buddy’s got a lot more working in his first proper album than the fanfare around it would insinuate. Harlon & Alondra finds the former Star Trak signee (another thing I didn’t know!) straddling the line between common man and borderline superstar, nimble MC and neo-soul crooner with Compton forever in his core. But the tragedies are set to sunshine, perseverance and prayers for a better tomorrow pulsing through the concrete beneath Buddy’s feet. And he’s in full command of his journey, gliding from trap to soul to renovated G-funk more naturally than most of his contemporaries. While he finds a sonic home wherever he pleases, he shines brightest through his songwriting: “Trouble on Central” pierces the heart as Buddy rattles off everyday observations of his hood with a longing for something more and a fondness for the Compton that made him. Not to mention “The Blue” coming right after, where Snoop sounds happy to be there and it doesn’t feel like a force whatsoever! The raps come off engaging, but sometimes filler, and appearances from A$AP Ferg and Khalid feel more stock pieces in Buddy’s worlds than necessary allies in expanding them. I’m intrigued by the albums Buddy will make three, four years down the line, but Harlon & Alondra is a worthy addition to the plethora of West Coast narratives and a bright listen that can put a smile on the chaos when you least expect it to.
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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