Pitchfork’s weekly rap column covers songs, mixtapes, albums, Instagram freestyles, memes, dances, weird tweets, fashion trends—and anything else that catches our attention in the world of hip-hop.
The crass commercialization of Brooklyn drill
Brooklyn drill started out as a scrappy local scene marked by pummeling beats and no-bullshit lyrics. Then Travis Scott whipped a Bugatti through the borough in a 2019 music video with the subgenre’s brightest star, Pop Smoke. Then Drake arrived on Christmas Eve with a single produced by Brooklyn drill’s favorite producer, Axl Beats, and followed that with another drill track assisted by BK heroes Fivio Foreign and Sosa Geek. So, of course, the music has become bigger, flashier, and higher-budget—qualities that run counter to what made the style so appealing in the first place.
These moments sprung back to mind this week while watching the preview for Fivio Foreign’s latest single, “Bop It.” On it, Fivio repurposes a mediocre meme, which likens his slow-paced flow to a Bop It commercial, into a song. The track sounds like the lazy and unfunny money grab it is, egged on by Kenny Beats production that once again sucks the life out of a regional sound. Memes should stay memes.
Many of the same feelings arose when the tracklist and cover art were first revealed for Pop Smoke’s posthumous debut album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. Scanning through the features, it immediately made me feel like something wasn’t right. The Canarsie rapper’s immortal debut mixtape was featureless, so does Pop really need to be assisted by DaBaby, Tyga, Diddy’s favorite son, and Quavo (three times)? But everything is about the lining of pockets, and nothing signals that like the arrival of Virgil Abloh, who designed (or, more accurately, copied and pasted) the original album cover. There was an immediate backlash to Virgil’s half-assed treatment, and within hours, Pop Smoke’s manager Steven Victor announced that the album cover would be changed. But I suppose this is what happens when a subgenre becomes a cultural sensation. The checkbooks sweep through the scene, and nothing is ever the same.
Chris Crack spoofs Virgil’s Pop Smoke cover
Let’s hope this “ART” (as Virgil would say) is the actual cover of Chris Crack’s next album.
Three memorable music moments from the first four episodes of I May Destroy You
I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel’s dramedy about consent and sexuality, is currently the best thing on television. It’s one of those all-too-rare shows that you can’t wait to text your entire contact list about, so you have an excuse to rave about the story, characters, and the music. Coel’s needle-drops feel completely natural—I can’t think of any other creator in recent memory who has used their soundtrack better. These three are particularly great.
In the first episode, Coel’s writer character Arabella sits down at her computer to finish a draft. Before she begins to type, she plays Sampa the Great’s “OMG” from a Bluetooth speaker—but she doesn’t pay the song much mind. It’s background music. The casual placement makes the point that not every song has to be sung along to or emphasize some pivotal moment. It’s little things like this that make Arabella feel real.
The pilot begins and ends with Tierra Whack’s “Only Child.” You feel Arabella’s loneliness, helplessness, and weirdness all at once.
Jagged Edge: “Goodbye”
During a stroll home after a night out, an iPhone speaker can seem as loud as Coachella’s sound system. Just ask Arabella, who drunkenly plays and sings along to Jagged Edge’s “Goodbye” before stumbling her way back to her apartment. Everyone knows that feeling.
18Veno: “Fuck Rap”
In another lifetime, producer Neeko Baby would probably be making theme songs for children’s television shows. Instead, his bright beats are being used as springboards for South Carolina’s 18Veno to angstily rap about his favorite pair of G-Star jeans and evading the police. Following in the footsteps of last month’s “1942,” the pair’s latest, “Fuck Rap,” proves yet again how well they complement each other. There have been rappers who sound like 18Veno before, but he feels essential as he rides over Neeko Baby’s sunny production; it’s music that everyone needs to hear.
BabyxSosa and Hook: “Pretty Bitch”
BabyxSosa and Hook probably don’t like you. They make this clear on “Pretty Bitch,” in which the two destructive rappers join forces to clown on anyone within their vicinity. Up first is Hook, who destroys the confidence of her latest fling over a chaotic Nedarb beat: “You like me bitch? As if I care/Fuck, nigga I do not share/So why you talk to that bitch?/Bitch I’ll beat you up,” she raps, in a voice that’s caught between a whisper and a scream. In contrast, BabyxSosa’s sweet vocals make it seem like she should be singing about love and rainbows, but instead she’s demanding that some girl’s boyfriend fund her lifestyle and threatening to “beat that nigga out his underwear.” You should feel lucky to be bullied by these two.
Duwap Kaine’s lifestyle
Duwap Kaine likes to describe his outfits. Throughout his new tape, Underdog 2, he wears a Gucci belt, True Religion jeans, Bape sneakers, Ksubi jeans, Margiela sneakers without shoelaces, and a Cartier bracelet. The 18-year-old also likes to smoke weed. He smokes at the gas station, in his living room, outside of a police station, and on the highway. Sometimes, he does both at the same time: “I put on Saint Laurent, then put a blunt to my lips.” There’s absolutely nothing else going on in Duwap’s life. He could very well be living in a post-apocalyptic world where he’s the last person on Earth but doesn’t realize it. No other rapper sounds so detached from reality.
From this day forward, NoCap is now Rylo Wave
Rico Cartel: “Erykah Badu (Remix)”
Two years ago, Kodak Black released his remix of Erykah Badu’s “On and On,” and it became a Florida phenomenon. Now rising Orlando rapper Rico Cartel has dropped his own version of the Baduizm single. It’s usually easy to tell when you’re listening to a Florida rapper—the lingo, the Southern drawl, and the way they carry themselves are so distinct—and Rico is no different. His raps are delivered in a menacing yet youthful tone, similar to those of a teenage Kodak. “Bullets get the flyin’, niggas get the dyin’/People get the cryin’, cause niggas they be tryin’,” raps Rico. Even when he reflects on bleak moments, the bars sound relaxed on the Badu sample. At this point, every rising Florida rapper should take a swing at the neo-soul classic.
BlueBucksClan: “Flyin’ Up”
BlueBucksClan don’t have the same problems that you and I do. DJ is wearing $1,000 sneakers in the rain and his phone is overflowing with women who want to be his girlfriend. Jeeezy bought the same shirt twice and can’t go to the mall without fans asking for photos. These lifestyle raps have made the duo the talk of L.A.’s scene, and their new mixtape No Rules 2 keeps up their momentum. On standouts like “Flyin’ Up,” whether they are racing Rolls Royces or politely asking a girl not to tag them on IG, the pair live like Cam’ron’s wheelie-popping character in Paid in Full. We’re just along for the ride.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork