Antwon, “Cold Tears”
Bust out the dirt bikes, y’all, because we’ve got booming-voiced softie Antwon playing the role of DMX, and rather wavy producer Matrixxman pulling out cheapo Swizz-Beatz-in the-Ruff-Ryders-era synths, and together, knocking out a dreary lo-fi tunnel banger like it’s 1998 all over again. Seriously, slap some barky DMX vocals over this one and you’d think it was some loosie that never made it onto Ryde Or Die Vol. 2. “Cold Tears” is from Antwon’s Heavy Hearted In Doldrums, his most album-like free download yet, which is being released by UNIF clothing (the expensive duds include Antwon slip-on sandals and a hockey jersey!), and so, there’s really no excuse for “Cold Tears” not to be accompanied by a video of ‘Twon and his Internet weirdo buddies (here, that includes Cities Aviv, Sad Andy, Wiki or Ratking, Heems, Lakutis, and Andre Martel of Shadowrunners) speeding around, popping wheelies in these black and white oh-Tumblr UNIF threads. A rap nerd can dream, right?
Juiceboxxx, “Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall”
West Coast by way of Milwaukee DIY punk-rapper with the crowd-pleasing stylings of hesher-friendly dude-rock does something that’s oh-so-’90s with rhymes that recall the Beastie Boys on “So What’cha Want” (down to the distorted vocals), and a grinding guitar riff that could be Kyuss covering Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hot Rod.” It’s a gnarly banger that evokes that weird time when, say, an industrial hip-hop project like Techno Animal could be signed to Matador Records. Primarily though, it’s just an angst-filled anthem and a nice hardcore-tinged explanation of the Sisyphean desire to make weirdo art and go DIY, and how it feels to never fit in (“They say you can’t rap, they say you can’t rock”). You know, punk rock shit through and through.
Lil Wayne feat. Drake, “Believe Me”
In which Lil Wayne and Drake rap over a track from Fatima Al Qadiri’s Asiatisch. Not really, but Boi-1da and Vinylz’s beat certainly sounds like that: All West Coast-coding wobble and thump filtered through some dummy’s aural misreading of “the East” that could’ve come from Al Qadiri’s Orientalism purge of a new album. And whoa, here’s Drake, humble for once, talking about Wayne like he’s some conspicuously consuming Pecos Bill (“He left Riker’s in a Phantom”). All the rap lip service seemingly convinced Wayne to wake up and give a crap about his delivery and so, like “Senile,” this one’s a throwback to Tha Carter: “Where the real queens at? Shout out Capone and Noreaga / ?We can shoot it out and see who live to tell the story later / ?Diamonds in my Rollie face, cannot be exfoliated.” Drake does his “Trophies” trap-goof voice at the end and then Wayne does lazy swaggy stuff after that, but it’s still 75 percent excellent.
Nicki Minaj feat. Soulja Boy, “Yasss Bish”
Sometimes, I worry about Soulja Boy. I mean how much “Crank Dat” money can the guy have left and at what point will it all run out? Also, don’t forget that weird period where he was rapping about DMT. Stay safe out there, Souljer, stay safe. Point is, it’s great to see him engaged with the mainstream again, making fairly singular monotony-hop with Nicki Minaj of all people. And there’s Nicki, finding her own way into the Migos rat-a-tat-tat-WAHHHHH flow (instead of just aping it) and trolling thinkpiece generators with a loaded Donald Sterling reference: “I don’t fuck with you niggas, I own the Clippers.” Comparing herself to truly terrible white people isn’t new (recall on Lil Wayne’s “Mercy Freestyle” when she rapped “I’m a Republican voting for Mitt Romney / You lazy bitches are fucking up the economy”), and while some take issue with this for sure, it’s really a rather hip-hop way to make the important political point that the true world-fucking villains aren’t, say, Scarface, but millionaire creeps with a lot of power like Sterling.
Travi$ Scott feat. the 1975 & Big Sean, “Don’t Play”
A sample of “M.O.N.E.Y.” by the loved-by-the-looney-U.K.-press, emo-turnt-indie phony baloneys the 1975 bookends this track (all regal harpsichord and keep-it-simple-stupid trap boom). “Don’t Play” features Travi$ Scott sounding like Future hollering like he stubbed his toe, and Big Sean being Big Sean, which means just being incredibly entertained by himself in a “Whoa, bro” way (he’s becoming Mac Miller, now that Mac Miller is our MF Doom, oy vey), which still tops the half-assed Death Cult swag that we’re all supposed to celebrate Kanye West for ushering in or whatever, you know? Like Scott’s best track, “Quintana,” it’s all about the simmers-down-to-damn-near-silence-and-then-rebuilds-itself trick. Here, it returns with Scott ripping the 1975 up and starting again, displaying some laptop-glitch skillz.