So, the XXL Freshman Voting thingy we’re all supposed to care about is not something to actually care about. Vote for Riff Raff because he actually sort of deserves it. Vote for Riff Raff because this contrived rap Internet event is a joke and voting for Jody Highroller puts you on some “Writing in a pig for president” pseudo-subversive wave. Vote for Riff Raff.
Abdu Ali “360”
Listen, man, if you’re covering any of this rap junk, or even just obsessively, seriously scouring the blogs for fun, and there still isn’t a single rapper from this “gay rap” scene-not-scene that has clicked with you, you’re kind of suspect. The Lil Wayne-ian rewards of Mykki Blanco or the avant-grime energy of Le1f’s latest, “Coins,” should allow you to ignore the art-fuck radar going off in your insecure little head. Here’s one more MC to consider: Abdu Ali, a Ballroom-inflected Baltimore rapper grunting, guffawing, and crying out in pain and ecstasy, all the while telling you he’s “so fuckin’ special” over a gabber stomp of a beat from zooted club producer Schwarz. Off Invictos, his November debut. From Abdu Ali’s Tumblr: “I am rooted from and existing in Baltimore City, a slate that has been painted an apathetic black, and charmless visage. Hmmm. FUCK DAT.”
Cassie, feat. Trina & Lola Munroe “All Gold, All Girls”
The cult of Cassie is strong #&8212; a little too strong, actually — but kicking against the image of her as nothing more than a mid-2000s cipher is necessary. She’s an often strong, sometimes vulnerable vocal presence, at her best when she’s above it all, disgusted by the parade of goony dudes presumably hollering at her all the time, but hoping there’s somebody somewhere worth considering. Return to Roman Reloaded (Deluxe Edition) track “The Boys,” in which Nicki Minaj and Cassie launch an anti-Drake emo-bro missive that reminds all the man-babies out there that too many #feelings is as unappealing as none at all. On this “All Gold Everything” freestyle, so good that you barely realize it’s just another “All Gold Everything” freestyle, Cassie’s bored-and-badass attitude grounds the song — a tough thing to do when the strongly unfuckwithable presence of Trina and the serviceable shit-talk of Lola Munroe are also kicking around. Cassie, working Trinidad Jame$’ stop-stop-stop-start anti-rap delivery: “You should be embarrassed, talking about me, just shopping in Paris, minding my business.” And Trina’s “Popped a molly, I’m dancin’, woo!,” backed by Cassie’s laughs, is like a wilding-out scene from the hip-hop version of Bridesmaids that will never get made.
ST 2 Lettaz “Trillmatic”
“Trillmatic” because the combination of Nas’ rugged, raw self-seriousness and the scrappy hard-assness of UGK invoked by this made-up word fits ST 2 Lettaz, formerly of G-Side, quite well. The first single from February’s G: Growth and Development, originally the next G-Side record, “Trillmatic” is the second Nas tribute from ST and the Block Beattaz after Huntsville International’s “Who’s Hood.” Here though, the Block Beattaz more comfortably toy with loaded tradition, stretching and stuttering a boom-bap sample like Axel Willner of the Field remixing Pete Rock. Meanwhile, ST delivers some Nas-inspired lines: “I got a vision that these compositions will get me more than a pot to piss in, so I spit my verses kind of vicious.” The “kind of” in there is important. Modesty! When the hyper-precise record-scratch squeaks on through towards the end, you know they really went for it.
YG, feat. Tory Lanez “On the Set”
All of this “ratchet music,” booty-clap minimalist snap will never get old, it seems, though there’s something special and refreshing about this stuff when the unapologetically strip club-friendly freaknik raps wander into for-the-ladies territory, nodding to R&B melodies or indulging warm Roy Ayers synths (the second half of Iamsu’s KILT! is the gold standard for this sub-ratchet sound, by the way). Reigning ratchet king YG is one of rap’s biggest assholes right now (here, he compares his girl to Hurricane Sandy the way she fucked the city up…yep), so it’s nice to hear him drop that junk for a moment and declare, “She never had an orgasm, well, I’m trying to take you there!”
Young Scooter “Appeal”
Producer Zaytoven’s beat is on some piano-player-at-Nordstrom pleasantness, the melodrama sold by the Family Channel TV-movie strings while Free Bandz’s soon-to-be-superstar Young Scooter goes Future-Gucci-Future-Gucci, steady spilling out his frustration over friends who are on lockdown. It all adds up to a whole lot of hopelessness. Even when Scooter asserts, “Only snitches get deals,” it’s with absolutely no street-dude swagger. It’s just another way of saying everybody’s screwed, and it sits right next to lines like, “Shackled in chains about some petty change,” or this terse indictment of the system: “Just to add them niggas to the state, don’t give a fuck whose life they take away.” I mean, this is like the sad-sack trap remix of the song at the end of the Incredible Hulk TV show. Just overwhelmingly sad, deeply empathetic, and musically manipulative stuff.