Guardian of the Rap: March’s Rap Music Reviewed*

On April 1st 2019 » By Michael Penn II

rap column march header

*Note: Four fire albums dropped right at deadline time. Raincheck me on ’em.

1.

I know no one draws their lines in the same place in the sand, let alone on the same beach, but how the fuck we finna draw the line at Cardi B drugging and robbing her tricks when murderers climb the charts everyday, b?

Furthermore, how we finna compare…

Broke-ass Belcalis Almanzar tryna survive poverty and doin’ street shit to survive that poverty

to…

Formerly rich-ass Robert Kelly, the nigga with sex slaves at the crib and over two decades of sexual assault and abuse under his belt?

I know Cardi’s fielded the smoke in the public square many a time since she quickly ascended to hypervisibility. Some of that smoke’s been warranted: the trans panic shit, for example, which obviously resurfaced once this dumbass R. Kelly comparison decided to rear its ugly head. Cardi’s not above critique no matter what she’s survived, but that’s clearly not what’s happening here: how dare she, the self-proclaimed stripper hoe with the fake boobs, participate in the same scumbag activity that earns all these men their platinum and gold? I mean, niggas made a WHOLE HASHTAG — #SurvivingCardiB — like she got BODIES on her! We’re only finna grant real estate in our murderous imaginations for men, right? Or the handful of women we allow, but only under our control and revocable once the narrative becomes too inconvenient to manage?

We can never dialogue about men who survived sexual assault and abuse without attaching it to some bullshit analogy, and it SHOWS! We want the monsters until the humanity comes back to bite, and it SHOWS!

2.

I never anticipated Lil Nas X, the nigga with the meme account, to become a cultural moment. Perhaps my naievete jumped out, jarring my borderline-Industry sensibilities. I thought I abandoned my surprise the more I feigned disbelief at how any of this machinery works. But alas, Billboard won’t let the young nigga have the horses in the back (of their chart). “Old Town Road” started climbing from Red Dead overdub to mixshow territory, creeping its way into the Billboard Country chart.

Then them Billboard niggas was like… nah.

The general rap discourse (that I see) is pissed about it, but not as pissed as other folks seem to think we are. Like, we knew the Nas X jig from the jump — finesse the Black Yeehaw wave into the Meme Rap starter pack — and we knew Billboard would do what they do before they did what they did. Rap is The Biggest Genre on the Planet and everyone can arrive even when they don’t give a fuck about it. But don’t let no meme rap nigga on the country wave the minute their single’s big enough to warrant Billboard attention. Right, check, gotcha.

I remain all here for the sleight-of-hand and the Black Yeehaw reclamation no matter who charts where. The niggas are back and we are coming for our guitars AND our livestock. Meanwhile, I’m sad cuz I didn’t know Nas X signed and got that label push alongside the best controversy he couldn’t pay for. Don’t know why, but I thought he got it out the mud and kept all these royalties. I genuinely don’t think he ripped Lil Tracy, but I can’t help but think Tracy still deserves… better.

Quick Notes

  • Us goes crazy and if you think issa dud, you tweakin’.
  • Support Black Women for Their Music and Not Just Cuz You Wanna Fuck Them Challenge. (I seen how y’all do Megan Thee Stallion… I dunno if y’all slappin’ her shit or just repostin’ her clips…)
  • Lil Uzi Vert’s not a mumble rapper, and I dunno where y’all got that shit from. Anyway, #FreeUzi and that’s on PERIOD!
  • I don’t know when the narrative switched from “Chance the Rapper has been droppin’ mid lately” to “Chance the Rapper is trash,” but niggas be big cappin’. (He has no bad albums. Y’all forgot “Acid Rap” happened that fast?)
  • We can pay a white preteen a rack to get our shit movin’. Who got the reparations so I can tap in with the lil homie Seth? My new shit slappin’. (This is the semi-journalistic equivalent of droppin’ a link under the viral tweet.)

Quick Takes

Solange: When I Get Home

Not only is this a hell of a follow-up to ASATT, it’s drastically different in its execution while maintaining a similar intentionality in Solange’s ethos. She works to frame herself in a legacy, to shine light on ours, and to pierce the very fabric of what threatens to dim all our light. I’m still not sure what the message is, and that’s the highest compliment I can hand her. Issa mixtape vibe, with a lil Screw in the DNA, and all its moving parts are understood by those who do. No over-explaining the vibe, no reaching in the dancery. (Do not explain the concept of CP Time to your white homie.) This shit dropped on the brink of dayparty season and I’ma need it at the proverbial Cookout. It’s a fantastic thing to see Standing on the Corner be lifted for their efforts, and an even wilder occurrence to hear Carti speak Cartinese on the same wavelength as a Knowles sister. And the Guwop feature? The whole record basks in a surreality much like ours, tinted in caramel as the Cadillac door slams behind its body.

DaBaby: Baby on Baby

Yup: DaBaby finna be The Rapper this year if he keeps this breakneck pace up. His first proper Interscope release only furthers the point; no need to push the envelope when the pack in the mail, it’s GONE! Speaking of which, I can’t name another rapper that’s enchanted me to speak a wish to emulate Suge Knight. I hope to never feel that way again, capitalistic acumen aside. Baby on Baby is a whatcha see, whatcha get half-hour: comedic depravity, infectious delivery, and an unwavering eagerness that makes him rap before the beat drops. It won’t be hard to find a favorite or four, especially when he’ll be back with four more in what feels like a millisecond.

Little Simz: GREY Area

Read the AOTW here, don’t sleep on this record or her in general.

Maxo: LIL BIG MAN

From what felt like nowhere — and somehow via Def Jam? — Maxo emerged from the creases of a Bandcamp-born renaissance with one of the year’s most pleasurable and poignant listens so far. LIL BIG MAN may have fallen from orbit, but it’s a gentle stroll through the pensive mind of a young nigga tryna get it. Maxo’s slice-o’-life musings engulf the listener in warmth like telegrams from distant kinfolk, set to a beat landing somewhere between L.A. beat scene, Native Tongues, and the church of the late J Dilla. It’s like he’s rapping over hollow fossils of soul, the tremors of his Black man being occupying the new spaces. And bar-for-bar, Maxo spits like he’s one of us: reflective, unassuming, and nostalgic without caving into a replica of the sensibilities that grew him. It’s a real treat, and hopefully a delightful omen of a new wave washing ashore.

Eto & DJ Muggs: Hells Roof

Nah, yo, this shit right HERE? Y’all talmbout my obvious weakness for the revitalist East Coast street rap that’s bubbled up over the past three years? Well Eto and Muggs made some shit that sounds like its name and looks like its cover. Deadass tho, Hells Roof personifies itself: a compact record with a lifetime of terror tucked into the concrete. Muggs’ choices oscillate between an understated grime and a hellacious grand, drawing notes from the blues and soul of yesteryear to cushion the way Eto lands his frank observations like blows to the gut. His brevity’s arresting, enabling him to accomplish such engrossing imagery without the verbosity of many of his contemporaries. He paces nimbly through the block, his tone hard-edged like a razor’s tucked between the bars. Come right here for that noir shit, that potent rap.

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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