Rappers on the Rise

These will probably not be new names for people who follow this genre. This column is meant as more an introduction to some emergent names for occasional rap listeners or people curious about what sort of territory young rappers are exploring.


Other good tracks: Tony Montana, featured on Racks

My thinking about auto-tune is that it’s an instrument that many musicians are struggling to learn and adapt to; I am thoroughly uninterested in getting into a debate about the value of the tool. Future, I think, handles auto-tune with a similar mentality. Listen to the way he patterns his annunciation on the chorus of “Magic.” His voice surges in crests, hits the uniform tone each time, then trails off into a rasp at the end of the line. The auto-tune buoys the chorus by giving it a form; it’s a credit to Future for figuring out how to lean on the device in a way that seems innovative, rather than corrective.
Also he’s a creative writer. Look at the first verse of “Tony Montana”. It starts with pretty level phrasing, featuring strong internal and tail rhyme. “Banana boat/ cantaloupe,” you can’t argue with that. He doesn’t stay there forever though, first losing the internal rhyme (with “streets/ east”) and then the rhyme scheme all together. As the meter of the lines itself starts to loosen, he grasps for a sound that can carry across lines. He stumbles into it, “Slug, deal with Columbians, I know Sosa,” the articulation of each clause clearing the table for the next line, a the type of brash confidence that you listen to rappers like Future for: “All I got is my balls and my word, fuck the Roaches.”

Young Moe

Other good tracks: Tired Of Being Broke, Death Is A Guarantee

Young Moe reminds me in part of a popular rapper from like the late nineties as it transitioned into the millennium. Quick wordplay, reminiscent of the rapping on “B.O.B.” even (tell if that comparison seems wack to you), carries the day. Honestly, I’m not always in the mood for modern impressions of that style all the time, but it’s hard to find fault in Young Moe’s execution on “I Dew.” I like the small pause right after “I can show you how a n___ like to shoot up shit,” the conceit being he’s collecting himself for the coming lyrical onslaught. It’s a time-tested tactic, and it works on me most every time.
If you enjoyed the back and forth that Jay-Z and Kanye got into on “Why I Love You” from Watch the Throne or Das Racist did on “Michael Jackson,” you should really listen to “Tired Of Being Broke.” Seems like a collaborative method that has room for exploration.

Meek Mill

Other good track: Ima Boss

What does Meek Mill sound like on “House Party”? The played up monotone, especially in the long a’s in “Paarty” and stringed slur “all that in my living room,” sounds like a cool kind of disinterest. The slurs make him also sound drunk, and reckless. Occasionally he seems to reach back into the last wind in his lungs to shout over the beat – somehow tuning in intensity while keeping a sense of cool detachment. This is a song I’ve wanted to hear at every party occasion in the past couple months, but unlike other songs that have occupied that spot in my brain in the past, “N___s in Paris” and “Wasted” come to mind, Meek Mill decides to maintain a seriousness on “House Party” that is at once clearly misplaced (you can’t be that serious while firing off double entendres like “screaming out I’m coming”) and alluring. It’s the same strategy that someone like The Weeknd runs with every day: describe the illicit, live exclusively, and you’ve got a sound that is hard to resist. I’ll be god damned if a party with tables covered by Saran Wrap doesn’t sound off the chain.

Azealia Banks

Other good tracks: L8R, NEEDSUMLUV

I wonder where they found the brick wall in the background of the 212 music video. The wall’s an icon. There’s a paint spatter here and here, a circular indentation or two, and a gouge that crosses four or five horizontal bricks at about head level. In the scenes Azealia Banks is rapping at a coy-looking spectacled dude, the gouge, in blurred but discernible focus, appears to shoot from a point just above Azealia Bank’s mouth, through the left ear of the glasses guy, the head of whom is slanted in the slightest way towards AB, as if indicating a sort of unseen magnetism , and then exit back out the right ear, the gouge does, with equal force . When I listen to 212 I either feel like that glasses dude or Azealia Bank’s dancing partner with the crazy eyes – usually a combination of the two.