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Rap Songs of the Week: Migos Step Into the ’90s-Sports-Nerd Arena With ‘Emmitt Smith’

Plus Gucci Mane mashed into Boards of Canada, Young Thug, Webbie, and MoRuf!

Caddy Bay, Gucci Mane vs. Boards of Canada
Well, we’ve gotten to the point in this Internet Rap thing where an album-length project that gently places Gucci Mane raps over Boards of Canada songs isn’t even all that much of a WTF moment anymore. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. That said, Gucci Mane vs. Boards of Canada — released back in August, but discovered by come-lately dinks like me thanks to FACT posting it earlier this week — is actually really inspired. On some level, the move here is “cloud rap,” but it also highlights the blissy qualities of plenty of Atlanta production — most overtly, the Tim Hecker-like drone-swing of Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O.” Actually, I’ll just defer to Soundcloud commenter ‘astigmatic’ on this one: “super fun, on some multidimensional pimp shit.” Of course, because no one can just let something be, Caddy Bay promises a Wu Tang vs. Boards of Canada “soon.” Could not be less excited about that pairing.

Migos, “Emmitt Smith”
Migos pretty much have two types of songs: the stoned, organ-grinding weird ones (“Chinatown,” “Bando,” “Young Rich Niggas,” “R.I.P.”) and the meditative, club-friendly, pop-culture-derived, anthemic-hot-nonsense ones (“Versace,” “Hannah Montana,” “Dennis Rodman,” “FEMA”). The massive success of “Versace” makes it so we’ll presumably see less and less of the former, but hey, “Emmitt Smith” is pretty fun, even if it’s just gunning for Action Bronson’s No. 1 spot as the rap entity to wrap entire songs around the ESPN-derived mythos of an athlete who was famous 20 years ago: “Running with the sack, Emmitt Smith / ?Deuce deuce pocket rocket, Emmitt Smith / ?I just touched down on a pussy nigga, Emmitt Smith.” The best football-inspired rap song since Soulja Boy’s “Touchdown.” Though, given the coke-rap rah-rah delivery, perhaps a Michael Irvin tribute would be preferable?

MoRuf!, “Neighborhood”
The jazzy Jersey rapper works himself up and waxes nostalgic over a weed-y beat on this whirling, wandering ode to friends and the area he grew up in, doing detailed back-in-the-days raps (and smuggling in an Urkel joke you may not even catch) while capturing the weird, Proustian feeling of being a kid and remembering being a kid, getting lost in that time-bending loop of past and present: “I lost a tooth, made a wish / Sodium is high / I’m sipping on this Brisk.” We got a lot of rap songs about that kind of thing, for sure, but we can also never have enough, especially when they are this witty and wordy, and justify their retro vibes by, well, not just sounding like the past, but being about the past — and wrestling with the past, too.

Webbie, “Make It Back”
Trill Entertainment suffered a series of setbacks when label co-founder Pimp C passed away in 2007 and Lil Boosie was arrested the following year for marijuana possession (and then, in 2010, charged with first-degree murder). And man, the Baton Rouge label was having something of a moment there, thanks to catchy but uncompromising singles like Boosie’s “Wipe Me Down” and Webbie’s “Independent,” which broke through in part because of post-snap and ringtone-rap mania. See, cynical major-label types lumped Boosie and crew in with that stuff because they couldn’t differentiate their mealy-mouthed spitting from that style of rinky-dink rapping (not that there’s anything wrong with ringtone rap). And now, on “Make It Back” (off Savage Life 4), Trill’s most dedicated rapper addresses his lowered mainstream profile (and his tendency to blow money fast): “You see, I made it here / Watch when I make it back / Watch when that paper stack.” Unexpectedly hedged real talk from a veteran tough-talker.

Young Thug, “Danny Glover”
This features a creeping, Kuedo-like production from Southside of 808 Mafia that could’ve snuck onto the Boards of Canada thing. Also, it’s called “Danny Glover,” so this too finds another Atlanta post-trap sing-song oddity gunning for Action Bronson’s Buzzfeed rap spot. So here’s Thug, the best rapper alive who isn’t really even a rapper, using his singular yelp — it’s all about those cracks and squeaks in his voice — to communicate the stirrings of in-over-his-head fame. Something or other about “living too wild” and spending too much money, how he has to fuck two bitches at the same time, etc., all delivered without any sense of joy — like a Drake song translated into some alien language where the lyrics are hard to decipher, but the desperation is palpable and hits you in the gut.