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Rap Songs of the Week: Chance the Rapper and SZA Sing the Blues

Including songs from Drake, Ratking, EMA, and Gangsta Boo & La Chat

Drake, “Days In the East”
Presumably designed to counter the controversy-starting, subliminal-filled “Draft Days,” this typical Drake track is, well, probably about Rihanna. Though the way that Drizzy goes on and on about “her,” it could just as well be about any other lady he simultaneously idealizes and condescends, you know? What makes this fascinating is how “Draft Day” and “Days” are conceptually connected tracks. Both are “day”-themed, the former samples Lauryn Hill while the latter samples Rihanna, they dropped in the evening and night respectively, capitalizing on when we’re most prone to having have those especially frustrating feelings about a tumultuous relationship. In another era, this would be some kind of artfully conceptualized stop-gap 12-inch.

EMA, “Cthulu”
Back in 2011, EMA arrived with “California,” a frustrated, slow burning, spoken-word track that sounded something like Courtney Love and Tupac collaborating. Erika M. Anderson herself called it “a noised-out rap ballad by a Midwestern white girl” and referenced the Game’s haunting “My Life” as an influence on the Past Life Martyred Saints stand-out. Live, Anderson often gripped the mic like a fervid MC. For The Future’s Void’s best track “Cthulu,” EMA again looks to hip-hop, taking on Kanye West’s baroque apocalyptic production (ex. “Mercy”) and raises the stakes by making it about the Internet’s stranglehold over our entire being. (Instead of, you know, how thirsty your chick is and all of that stuff.) This isn’t a rap song but it totally is a rap song.

You can stream EMA’s The Future’s Void over at NPR and read SPIN’s review here.

Gangsta Boo & La Chat ft. Mia X, “Bitchy”
Three 6 Mafia’s fast-rapping, shit-talking female MCs who were always there to put Juicy J and crew back in their places back in the ’90s, bring along No Limit lady Mia X for “Bitchy.” The song is a throwback feminist anthem that serves as a reminder of something Southern rap never really got its credit for back in the day when Coastal rap ruled the world. That is, how it let women holler back at dumb dude ignorance! Here the group clowns dick sizes with lines lifted from Rudy Ray Moore-style dirty comedy while scooping up their man’s money (“I got my own money, but I’d rather spend his”). This, all over DJ Paul’s pulsing, seething production. Listen to this one to get Future’s and Kanye West’s well-meaning but rather Victorian trophy chick shout-out, “I Won,” out of your mind..

SZA ft. Chance the Rapper, “Childs Play”
Listen to how Chance the Rapper fakes you out here. He stumbles onto this worried, wobbling slow jam from T.D.E. chanteuse SZA with what sounds like pre-verse studio chatter (“I got L’s on the record, weed on the vinyl”) and then delivers his most rewarding verse since Acid Rap; he shouts out Ubër, impersonates Edward G. Robinson, and puts blues into his beautifully sung duet with SZA. Meanwhile, SZA brings both rap’s strange specificity and high-low bridging into her R&B, mentioning Nintendo, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Othello.

Ratking, “Snowbeach”
Ratking, who scrape out the innards of art-damaged boom-bap and leave a melting mess of noise in your ears, is like Company Flow of the mind’s eye: When CoFlo was something you maybe just read about or heard about from your friend’s stoner older brother. (Because, hey, those early 12-inches were tough to find and you had to know someone who knew someone and all that pre-digital music collecting crap.) On the seven-minute “Snowbeach,” MCs Wiki and Hak honk and scowl like Mobb Deep over some half-defeated jazz that sounds strangely like a handful of blaxpoitation scores playing over top of one another.