Joey Bada$$ and Rob Gulatte: Great Rappers With Terrible Names
... and their vicious videos for 'Survival Tactics' and 'Trill Hip-Hop'
In the clip for “Survival Tactics,” the best Nas-circa-1994 rap song of 2012 so far, Brooklyn’s Joey Bada$$ and rappin’-ass friend Capital Steez invoke Occupy Wall Street, the lost youth gangsta flick Gomorrah, and golden era, gritty hip-hop gone DSLR. Joey is 17, which makes his rapping talent and presence particularly impressive — it also shows up the goofing off of the twenty-somethings in Odd Future — and does help explain why his rap name is so terrible. It is totally something a 17 year old would think is cool. Still though, really dude, you had to go with the dollar signs, too? That is just ridiculou$$$! (At least, guest rapper Capital Steez knew better than to go by Capital $teez). But these kids can fucking rap, and that’s all that matters. That, and their ability to invoke, like Himanshu on Nehru Jackets, this palpable, paranoid sense that New York City in 2012 is being ripped apart by corrupt political and police forces. For better or worse, that does tend to make for good rap music, though.
It doesn’t get any simpler than calling your song “Trill Hip-Hop,” now does it? As simple as Big K.R.I.T. (apparently, the reason Rob Gulatte changed his name from Kritikal) recently calling one of his songs “Country Rap Tunes.” So, here’s a southern rap song about southern rap songs. If you’re a cynic, it’s precisely the sort of thing that — along with A$AP Rocky and Spaceghostpurrp proudly calling whatever they do “trillwave,” and Drake professing his love for DJ Screw — proves Houston swangin’ and bangin’ has been as fully absorbed by hip-hop nostalgists as New York boom-bap. Rob Gulatte is a T.I.-esque rapper actually from Houston — “Trill Hip-Hop” just received a video but the song dates back to 2010’s Late Nights, Early Mornings — and along with the ability to come off threatening while wearing a Doctor Octopus T-shirt, he’s got an earthy, regular guy seriousness about him. The image from this video of Gulatte gripping two styrofoam cups as he lectures a youngster (“Pick up a book up, and open up your mind”) is very hip-hop in its ability to espouse two opposing ideas at the same time. My man in Houston, Shea Serrano, told me about this guy, and it is much appreciated.