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Around The World With Passion of the Weiss: December Edition

The POW Rap-Up

This month, rappers in New York can’t get enough of the beat behind Soulja Boy’s breakout hit. Discover this East Coast phenomenon and the biggest bubbling songs and artists from the West Coast, the South, and London.

By passionweiss


East Coast

This month, for the New York edition of the regional report, you get ten songs for the price of one. This is because of the sudden, unprecedented (but also somewhat precedented) ubiquity of a 15-year-old beat made by a teenager from Atlanta that has once again sparked its own microgenre.

Zoom out and consider a state of the union for New York drill. The beat is Soulja Boy’s breakout hit “Crank That (Soulja Boy),” the viral dance anthem that became the “Macarena” of the Snap Movement, spent seven incredible weeks as the number one song in America on the Billboard charts in the late aughts, and launched Soulja Boy from a kid posting beats on his MySpace page to one of the formative rappers and producers of the Blog Era.

The beat has never really left the ether, but it's been reincarnated here in New York as a drill riddim, where collectively it represents the sound of the fall. Trying to lay out anything resembling a succinct chronology for how this came to be would be difficult, if not impossible, through the various YouTube links of questionable veracity in terms of official parentage and timestamp. Many of these tracks are not attributed to a group, but an assemblance of individual rappers who have come together for a moment that often doesn’t bother to go by a name that strays very far from its source material (See: Zdottheghost, Drew 41 - “Crank Dat,” Drelu, Camonethree, Finnese13 - “Crank That,” Jah Ebk, Kay Buggout, Curry G - “Crank Dat,” which I am only marginally confident in presenting here as “Actual Songs,” rather than possible instrumental and acapella hand-stitched fan videos).

The beat has most notably been imprinted on by the controversial Brooklyn collective 41, composed of Tata, Kyle Richh, and Jenn Carter, who were joined by Deebillz for “Stomp Stomp”—which has garnered 2 million views since getting an official video and an actual song name on YouTube a month ago. But it has also been touched across boroughs by the rappers Sha Gz (with Nesty Floxks) (“SMD”), Jay5ive (“Suicide Hill”), Sha Ek (“Crank That Jiggy”), and SugarHill Keem (“Crank That Move”).

A beat being revived in sample drill is hardly noteworthy, but the second life of “Crank That” is an outlier because the beat hasn’t really been chopped and reformatted in the style most often credited to Cash Cobain (i.e. sped up with a new bed of percussion laid under it). It’s back, largely in its original form—in some instances with an industrious producer adding the occasional accent of a thundering kick drum, but otherwise pretty much as is. The source material, with its sporadic clattering steelpan and ample negative space, was a perfect canvas for Soulja Boy’s teenage sing-song snap exuberance. But as it turns out, it’s also great for motor-mouthed drill rappers to fill with double time threats of assault.

The popularity of the beat speaks to a function of drill that is reminiscent of dancehall, where occasionally one dub captures the imagination of the medium, and several notable artists all come forward with their own interpretation and approach to the same soundscape. It’s not exactly new to rap here. During the mixtape era in New York, it was common for a particular beat to serve as a kind of control in the city’s scientific method, a battleground like “All About the Benjamins,” for our best rappers to each take a swing at on the radio with Flex—or on tapes with Clue or Kay Slay. But it wasn’t this, with two handfuls of artists making entire brazen and unapologetic songs on the same track.

The beat also explains one of the more unfortunate elements of drill, as it has been a forum for its artists to trade insults and threats that have had real life repercussions. 41’s song is a response record to Bloodie’s “41 Stomp,” which was made after a brawl at a Miami airport. In turn, the rapper DD Osama, the brother of slain rapper Notti Osama, who was immortalized with 41’s stomach turning anthem and grotesque viral dance “Notti Bop,” has responded with his own direct diss record, “STOMP WHAT.” Bronx rapper Yus Gz’s “Seizure Boy”—an elegant and tasteful Sha Gz diss—has contributed to the discourse too.

The beat has served as fodder all season, not just for rappers, but the cottage industry that has sprung up around drill, with the various personalities across platforms like TikTok and YouTube serving as both critics and interpreters, parsing the lyrics for direct and subliminal references, explaining the arcane contexts and ranking the songs to their taste. It helps us understand why drill is still the dominant and pervasive sound of the city, and why it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. - Abe Beame


G’s Us (R.A.P. Ferreira and AJ Suede) - “JUST CHOMP”

Seattle is still regularly memorialized as the birthplace of grunge. Its cold, wet, and dark environment is often considered only fully capturable by this simple distillation of punk and heavy metal. A riff-heavy and down-tuned blend of alternative rock to accompany long bleak periods with intermittent moments of beauty, lush vegetation, and the surrounding Olympic National Forest. It’s a testament to the staying power of the genre that some of its main tenets live-on decades after its “moment” has passed, through the improvisational and extremely-heady rhymes of Seattle’s underground rap scene.

AJ Suede comes to Seattle via Harlem, having split time between the two areas as a young man. The Suede God grew up with parents who went to school with Roc-A-Fella co-founder Dame Dash and was immersed in the local NYC rap scene from an early age. He even appeared in a Redman music video before 10, and is apparently the young child who modeled for the logo of legendary supergroup Def Squad. He’s released more than a dozen albums since 2018 with a commitment to a lo-fi, lyric-heavy approach to hip-hop that melds NY boom-bap with indie rap darlings like Open Mike Eagle and Navy Blue.

Most recently, Darth Sueder and longtime collaborator R.A.P. Ferreira officially teamed up for G’s Us, a supergroup melding AJ’s penchant for dark production and boom-bap flows with Ferreira’s post-Blowed rhyme sequences. On the group’s first single, “JUST CHOMP,” Ferreira says “I'm on the party phone, ordering picric acid and sodium barbitone, many dogs travel in packs, but do you bark alone?” AJ follows up with “told the river to flow gently for the yacht, brought the princess, sailed to Egypt and set up shop around the block.”

I didn’t realize just how rare it’s become for a rap song to be longer than four minutes until I sat down and listened to “JUST CHOMP.” It feels like two songs in one, with a slight beat change and tonal shift coming half way through. R.A.P. Ferreira brings out a hunger in AJ that sees the young MC rising to the occasion. This is a promising introduction to an indie rap supergroup that connects the Pacific Northwest to the nomadic ways of the Nashville-via-Wisconsin-and-Maine raised Ferreira. - Donald Morrison

Los Angeles

310babii - “Soak City (Do It)”

If you have the Chinese spy app on your phone, you’ve likely already heard this song. The catchy and easily danceable “left-right, let me see you do it,” is self-explanatory, and simple like any decent dance trend should be. You can make it your own, but if you know about it, there’s a little extra step you can add that has taken over endzone and post-goal scoring celebrations, mimicking a squabble stance.

In other words, it’s also distinctly LA. seventeen-year-old 310babii has the city’s area code codified into his rap name. He hails from the notoriously once dangerous, now-gentrifying Inglewood, but no matter how dangerous, gentrified, or milquetoast the area, the sonics of LA rap have always had a bounce to them. Even the most gangster rappers who would scare Fox News moms into a frenzy still catch little grooves and hit their two-steps.

310babii is a digital native in the truest sense of the expression (not how the 60-year-olds at work treat the 30-year-olds who can reboot the Wi-Fi). He started messing around with the music-making app BandLab on his iPhone when he was 12. He wasn’t involved with any sort of hood politics and didn’t have all that many friends outside of school, which is where his energy was focused. But what he did have was a keen eye for what got his classmates moving, both at the party spots and online. And we all know it’s the kids who run culture, so he flipped that knowledge into a winning formula with “Soak City.”

At the time of writing, “Soak City”’s video has 4.1 million views and the distro version has 5.1m on YouTube, 310babii is signed to Empire, players from Real Madrid to the Texans to Pop Warner are using the little squabble dance to celebrate plays, and over 450K people have danced to his song on TikTok. It’s simple raps, but good, clean fun that follows in the lineage of popular LA dance rap like Ambjaay’s “Uno,” ASM Da Bopster’s “Like The Way You Move,” and before that, the jerkin’ movement. Historically grounded, but directly speaking to the kids of today. It’s got every element of a genuine LA hit. - Harley Geffner


2Sdxrt3all - “Stress”

For the last few years, I’ve closely held the belief that Atlanta rap may have started to get creatively boring. The vibrant songwriting eccentricity  that made Future and Young Thug stars has been all but sanded off as they leaned into audience expectations and embraced formal pop structures. The rappers who have come after them sometimes feel as if they’re a fragment broken off the greater visage of their inspirations—a single idea iterated upon an endless amount of times. That’s not to say the music is purely derivative and unenjoyable—I’ll forever ride for SahBabii and T3—but sometimes it does feel that it’s gotten predictable.

Enter 2Sdxrt3all (that’s “Too Solid Dirtball” for all the people ready to make gamer tag jokes), a teenage rapper from South Atlanta whose raspy half-whispered, half-shouted punch-ins have shaken up the underground.  There’s a cold straightforwardness to his style that feels like an evolution of Clayton County's Slimesito, but I also hear Young Nudy’s grisly sense of humor and preference for spaced out, alien-sounding beat—as well as the wrestling-with-your-internal-thoughts writing style of YoungBoy.

On Twitter and TikTok, I’ve been unable to escape the ridiculous videos of dxrt3all recording his adlibs with the intensity of a voice actor. Even internet comedian-slash-anthropologist Druski couldn’t help but parody the latest generation of Atlanta rappers—L5, Anti Da Menace, and dxrt3all—in a recent skit.

Like most of dxrt3all’s songs, the whyceg-produced “Stress” from September’s Fuck School feels like zooming in on the rapper’s psyche. The constant shifts in volume between his murmured raps and yelped adlibs function are like jumpscares that ask, ‘Were you really listening?’ 2sdxrt3all’s mutated strain of psychedelic Atlanta street rap is like a horror film with little downtime between action; by the time you processed one bar, he’s already cut to a new scene. - Brandon Callender


Chy Cartier - “BOSSED UP”

The Tottenham-raised Chy Cartier was once your ballied-up drill rapper from the new school of laser-sharp female rappers who grew up on Lil Kim, dancehall, and, of course, UK drill. She slowly built a reputation within the music industry as the primed up-and-comer with a talent for murdering the hell out of any drill beat (see her vicious freestyles “Show Me Love” and “Back 2 Basics.”)

With her latest release, “BOSSED UP,”  the mask is off in a literal and metaphorical sense. Lyrically, she’s introspective, looking at her past—the small minded people from her native North London in the rear view. While she drives towards simultaneously building a legacy and running up the bag.

Everything in the song just works: the piano-driven production tailored by GW and RJ, which sounds like the sort of beat a certain bi-racial Canadian former child actor would’ve loved to spill out his heart on wax. Even the slightly askew flow that she uses midway through the second verse carefully catches the pocket of the beat—especially when the 808s come back into the mix.

“BOSSED UP” is a testament to her struggle from canned beef and basmati rice to 20 oz. steak and lobster—from an up-and-coming to a self-proclaimed mainstay of UK rap. A natural progression for a unique talent. - Ethan Herlock

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