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Around the World with POW: April Edition

The POW Rap-Up

This month, a major collaboration between Ice Spice and Cash Cobain, plus great new rap from LA, Oakland, and the UK.

By passionweiss


Passion of the Weiss is the last rap blog. Founded in '05, it has survived blogroll purges, broken 404 links, and cyber-attacks (allegedly) from October's Very Own to persevere as one of the only daily publishing independent music sites. With a primary focus on hip-hop, its coverage also includes dance music, psychedelia, sports, and other miscellaneous skepticism. Its regional Rap Up features a collection of some of its most knowledgeable contributors identifying one bubbling song from their respective regions, aiming to capture the diffuse spirit of a multi-faced and global genre. Read POW here.

New York

Cash Cobain (Feat. Bay Swag & Ice Spice) - “Fisherrr (Remix)”

Here are two New York artists who, to the casual rap fan, might seem to have little in common. Ice Spice is Spike Lee’s glam queen, Taylor Swift’s bestie, and arguably the biggest rapper to come out of the city since the halcyon days of the mob that produced Rihanna’s baby daddy. Then there’s Cash Cobain, a god of second wave New York drill, which is an underground cult I’ve already written about in this space many times. The style has largely been confined to fringe TikTok communities, late nights on Hot 97, and amateurishly-produced YouTube music videos. It’s hardly in the same cultural space as the luxury box at the Super Bowl. And yet, the Venn diagram overlap is larger than it may appear to tri-state outsiders.

There was a time not so long ago when Spice was in a league with New York rappers like Maiya the Don, Kenzo B, and Lola Brooke, “Divas of Drill” who weren’t exactly riding the same wave of aggro sample drill that Cash was helping to engineer. The producer was more likely to feature rappers like Shawny BinLaden and B-Lovee than Maiya or Lola, and with its hi-hats and modulating low end, “Munch” was closer to textbook drill than anything Cash was cooking up. 

While Ice Spice was performing on SNL, Cash was working with national artists like Drake and PinkPantheress and pushing the sound of New York drill to new places. The genre was in danger of playing itself out until the producer unleashed what he called “sexy drill,” an R&B-focused, softer take on a style that, at the time, was turning out increasingly abrasive war anthems. With this more accessible sonic profile, it was only a matter of time before a guy with Cash’s talent and creativity would make a track that would move him from an in-the-know producer’s producer to a mainstream star. That happened this spring with two similar-sounding hits: “Dunk Contest” and "Fisherrr.”

Coasting on a subtle flip of Eugene Wild’s “Gotta Get You Home Tonight,” “Dunk Contest” is the hit that longtime sexy drill adherents had been waiting for. It’s a sleek bedroom jam that works both while driving with the windows down on the Westside Highway and while standing on a couch at Bar Schimmi clutching a bottle of Clase Azul. “Fisherrr” is a sweetly sung empty ditty carried by Cash’s digitized harmonies and memorable city kid-specific come-ons. It has its own viral dance and has been as ubiquitous in the five boroughs as “Munch” once was. Its remix was begging for a headline-making guest spot, a coronation telling the world what everyone in New York has known for months, and last week it got one, with Ice Spice coming home to the drill style that made her a global icon.

Slizzy collective hitter Bay Swag rounds out a remix whose video is set in a neighborhood Chinese restaurant, which is the perfect locale for three city kids. Cash and Bay open the proceedings, trading bars like a thirsty Jada and Styles, before Spice comes in like Ill Na Na-era Fox. It would’ve been fun to hear Spice bring some caffeinated urgency to the proceedings, offsetting the original duo’s fuzzy couplets, but she more or less follows the original cadence and melody. It hardly matters, because the point is the symbiotic co-sign, the union of a more established artist and an overnight star who is actually five years in the making. -Abe Beame


Fredobagz & Aflacko - “No Pop Shots”

Fredobagz reminds me of a charismatic high school bully: a teenager equally feared and respected who has nothing to lose. He’s willing to crash out for small sums, but he’s also smooth enough to be a ladies man and part-time high school sports star—when he bothers to show up for games. It’s an attitude that comes through in his approach to music. Adding a sprinkle of Autotune makes his tales of Oakland street life sound less gritty and more cinematic. However, the grit is still there, as evidenced by his near-obsession with firearms and his penchant for claustrophobic music videos filmed in cramped project kitchens.

Fredobagz stands out from his peers thanks to a locked-in flow that never gets misdirected from its destructive mission. Propelled by the type of hard-hitting tombstone track you’re more likely to hear from Michigan producers like Enrgy Beats and Wayne616 than from an Oakland beatmaker (producer JaahBeats is actually based in Florida), “No Pop Shots” is less than a minute and forty seconds, and features the cagey Aflacko, whose unenthusiastic rhymes almost sound as if they’re being heard underwater. When he moans, “I still be on my block, it’s still fuck my opps,” I almost wouldn’t believe him—if he wasn’t pointing a multi-colored pistol at the screen. 

The self-proclaimed “Global Stepper,” Fredobagz has released five mixtapes since 2021. Each project builds off the one before it, with overlapping themes of poverty, revenge, and loyalty. GLOBAL ST3PPA dropped in December and came with features from bubbling LA rappers like Big Sad 1900; that tape, together with December’s KING SKULLY, showcases a hungry and dedicated artist who's spent the past four years getting better at his craft. These days, Fredobagz is rapping like he can barely stay above water, possessed by a simmering anger that never quite boils over. That hunger ends up coming off as cool and calculated. All his hard work might end up paying off. -Donald Morrison

Los Angeles 


There’s nothing more LA than using “whoopty whoop” as a stand-in for whatever you’re trying to say, and on the sparse “SEE YOU,” that’s exactly how South Central’s CHXNK describes his girl’s annoying texts. The song feels very LA, but not in a been-there-done-that sort of way, like much of LA rap can appear from the outside, be it with neo-neo-neo G Funk or the minimalist bounce that dominates street-level rap in the city. CHXNK has his own swagger, but his rapping still fits into the larger framework of the city's street rap tradition. He's aligned with popular LA rappers like X4, but his laid-back attitude sets him apart from the pack.

CHXNK is the guy who’s too cool to entertain your bullshit. It’s in his voice, it’s in his movements, and it’s in his flows. He’s a bit slurry in his speech, but he’s not drowning in the mix. CHXNK wants you to hear what he’s saying, though every word he raps feels like it is personally getting slipped into your hands with a smooth dap up. The rapper busts in at the start and then slides into a smooth hook, telling his aforementioned girl that he’ll see her when he sees her. It's one of the coolest choruses out of LA this year, simple and endlessly repeatable. -Harley Geffner 

UK (Blackpool x London x Essex)

oakland x Wilfred x Joe James - “posh & becks”

The British wunderkinds oakland and Wilfred have been pushing the UK chill rap format to new heights. In the past, they have produced butter-smooth edits of classic grime freestyles and created beats for a wave of silver-tongued MCs, including Zino Vinci, Paul Stephan, and Novelist. Meanwhile, Essex rhyming native Joe James has carved out his own space within the “mellow grime” subgenre, which is inspired by grime's less-cruddy “wifey riddims,” future bass, and a rich sampling of garage, soul, and car-cruising R&B slow jams. So it was a nice surprise to hear these three key players join forces on the new track “posh & becks,” taken from their six-song EP love riddims.

All the songs on the EP are hits, no misses, but “posh & becks” might be the crown jewel. On the track, oakland and Wilfred combine grime, dust-coated soul cuts, and lo-fi rap atmospherics, cooking up a slow jam beat that serves as a bed for Joe James to envision a quixotic first date that blossoms into one of the healthiest-sounding marriages ever depicted. It’s intimate enough to drop on a playlist for a special one or play through headphones during a session at the gym. From the production to the songwriting, love riddims is blessed with a rare type of care that money can’t buy. -Ethan Herlock 

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