Antwon, “In Ecstasy”
Porno pounding, vibrantly drunk trumpet, and a Rick Rubin-like boom-splat power this track from producer DJ Sexplay, featuring coy raps from Antwon (“I cannot lie, the booty made me eyes cry”) and a hook that finds the San Jose rapper getting his Luther Vandross on, coughing out a melody that might as well be cribbed from some lost quiet storm classic. Gone in just 90 seconds, it feels more like a promising but abandoned scrap than a fully formed song; nevertheless, it’s a surprisingly non-dread-filled ode to fucking from an MC almost obsessively preoccupied with both death and doin’ it.
Beyoncé ft. Jay Z and Kanye West, “Drunk In Love (Remix)”
So there are good-bad rap verses, and just plain bad rap verses. Jay Z’s appearance on the original “Drunk in Love” definitely falls in the latter category, because… well, where to begin? The bizarre Tina Turner abuse punchlines? “Your breast-eses are my breakfast”? That dorky sub-Lil Wayne stop-start talk style? But now, we get Kanye, very much operating in good-bad mode, even delivering the groaners with a shameless, sheepish smile in his voice that you can’t help but find a little charming: “I ain’t no pastor, don’t do missionary / I know good pussy when I see it, I’m a visionary / I know them haters talking always had us very wary / Yep, on the 35th of Nevuary.” This one’s up there with other rummy romantic Kanye moments like “Because of You,” “Knock You Down,” and “White Dress.”
Brenmar ft. Doley Bernays, EMP Dasme, and Junglepussy, “Like a Ho”
The most frantic track on producer Brenmar’s High End Times Vol. 1 moves in a staggering number of directions: Blade Runner-y alt-R&B, futuristic ratchet rap, breezy Bmore club, stuttering Chicago drill. But mostly, “Like a Ho” is a male-female talking-past-one-another concept rap that finds New York’s Doley Bernays and Chicago’s EMP Dasme arguing with a can’t-tell-me-nothing Junglepussy over a beat that’s like Jay and Kanye’s “Ni**as i Paris” running backwards. The talent here has generally been a little easy to dismiss, but Doley Bernays is a gifted NYC MC with a fervid double-time flow, and Junglepussy is a knowing, empowered caricature of a rapper named, well, Junglepussy, so you’d be forgiven for ignoring her up until this point. It will be harder to do so now.
Rome Fortune, “Patience”
Rome Fortune is a Curren$y-like rapper whose mindful modesty and impressive ability to stick his words so closely to a beat threatens to render him a non-entity on the mic. He’s “deceptively simple” for realz, and it made last year’s Beautiful Pimp a slow-grower that stayed fascinating for the entirety of 2013. On Beautiful Pimp II, Rome has crafted a New ATL suite held together by vibraphone interludes and Warp Records-invoking glitch and hum; mixtape highlight “Patience” is a mature long-view rap about slow-growing success and sturdy relationships that kicks off with the sound of a motorcycle from an 8-bit video game revving up, and answers it with a blur of angular jazz and ghostly, inverted, chipmunk-soul vocal samples.
Shy Glizzy, “Awwsome” b/w Cashy, “Stupendous”
Along with “Stupendous” from Miami Goodwill swagger rookie Cashy, this track from D.C. trap-squeaker Shy Glizzy proves the enduring influence of Gucci Mane, whose mixtape run was filled with songs that latched onto an adjective and then riffed around it for the next three minute: “Awesome,” “Ridiculous,” “Wonderful,” etc. As is often the case in rap, that influence stems from a kind of epic misreading, and neither Cashy or Shy Glizzy grasp Gucci’s snappy, word-happy rhyming, though they firmly understand his cackling-at-the-void insanity and creepy cult-leader charisma: “Baby girl I’m a stunner, just like Stone Cold Steve Austin,” Glizzy raps on this single from his new mixtape Young Jefe, because why not? Mostly though, it’s Glizzy’s so-much-spit-in-his-mouth flow and producer EA Glizzy’s spooky 3 a.m. beat that make it something special.