This the first installment of the new Friday Five, a weekly rundown of five things that made rap music really interesting this week.
Bentley's Verse on ST 2 Lettaz's "Wasted Youth": Ex-G-Sider ST 2 Lettaz's solo album G: Growth & Development certainly delivers on the promise of both growth and development. It finds the Huntsville rapper branching out a bit, mining an interest in early '90s boom-bap — though it is thankfully cut with the Block Beattaz' dirty South molly stomp — penning a honest-to-God relationship rap, and continuing to wrestle with the reality that an Internet rap career can crumble any minute. He sounds comfortable and hey, good for him. However, G lacks the post-rock sprawl of G-Side (and ST's excellent 2012 EP, R.E.B.E.L.); that song-to-song lots-of-feelings build-up that defined the group. The only time it really gets to that point is towards the end when "Wasted Youth" bumps into the Philip Jeck-like instrumental "Lighthouse." It's mostly due to guest rapper Bentley who steadily blacks out for two minutes, channelling Gunplay, Jay Rock on "Money Trees," and the "W-2 boy" frustration that made G-Side so vital. It is epic.
Chief Keef Released from Custody: Yeah, that happened yesterday. This is good for rap music, seeing as how Keef's Finally Rich was a fascinating leap forward for the rapper —he moved away from (however energetic and tightly wound, still derivative) trap, and towards an aggressive, playful, singular sound. That's the thing about being a teen. Your brain's working so fast that your vision's changing every few weeks, it seems. Keef's release is also good because the 17 year-old really shouldn't have gone to Cook County Juvenile Justice Center over some New Media meme-grabbing fuckery. It is also good for Keef (and his daughter who gets to see her dad again). The simple fact that a young black male who didn't need to be taken by the state for two months is no longer incarcerated is its own victory. For a moment at least, stop turning this kid into a symbol.
Gucci Mane's Performance in Spring Breakers: Get ready for lots of words about Spring Breakers. It opens in New York and Los Angeles today and everywhere else next week. There are already too many articles about teen starlets shaking their cuteness off even though that's not even really what's going on. Too many snarkmeisters want to see it as a satire of modern youth culture. They will laugh at James Franco's touching performance as Alien. This movie is doomed to be misunderstood. The dude next to me at the screening I attended left about 40 minutes in. It's great. I cried a few times. It's about escape and longing. A naturalistic highlight in this amped-up over-the-top-in-a-good-way movie though, is Gucci Mane, who grounds the movie with his dead-eyed charm and stuffed-nose delivery. James Franco on Gucci's performance, via Grantland: "It seemed like he almost learned [his lines] like music. Like, the more we did them, he kind of got into a rhythm or something. You could see his confidence rising every take we did. And it was great."
Not Being at SXSW!: U.K. rap blog Southern Hospitality's Super Rapper show was surely something to see, featuring everybody from evil pimp cloud rapper 100s to the seriously underrated Pink Dollaz (and Iamsu! and Gangsta Boo and Roach Gigz and Rai P...). And apparently, a rapturous performance by Earl Sweatshirt was not to be missed. However, the act of not being there, and as a result, the music side of the Internet slowing down (at least from the view in my apartment) was nice for catching up and going in on new music I maybe missed. Some things you may have missed: Producer Bangladesh's bat-shit crazy Ponzi Scheme, Rome Fortune's ATL ratchet re-reading Beautiful Pimp, the Jeremih of post-jerk minimalism TeeFlii and his tape AnnieRUO'TAY 2 (The TakeOver), and Mr. Porter, the latest from booty-rap boy band Travis Porter.
The Resurrection of Kevin Gates' "Satellites": The circuitous nature of becoming a big deal these days often entails a whole lot of back-peddling and round-about hype-building from the labels who sat on their butts while you steadily killed it for years. With Kevin Gates, it was his plateau jump mixtape The Luca Brasi Story that pulled everybody's ears towards his melodic, emotive street rap. Soon after its release, the rapper loosely associated with Young Money-Cash Money signed to Atlantic. His first single sent to iTunes was "Satellites" from Make Em' Believe, back when he was still sort of kind of on YMCMB. Got all that? The song is one of Gates' best, with the Baton Rouge MC doing his lost young lady he's trying to save songs even though he's a mess too raps; Hold Steady-style dude-bro poetry, right here. And the video for "Satellites," just released, is as patient and pensive as the song: All Tyler Perry-style sincerity and HD hand-held melodrama.