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The Rap-Up: June Edition

The POW Rap-Up

This month, the latest from New Jersey’s own Mach-Hommy, plus great new rap from LA, the Bay Area, 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 Jersey

Mach-Hommy - “The Serpent and the Rainbow”

A few weeks ago, I went to an unusual listening event for the Wu-Tang Clan’s lost experiment, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin [ed. note: we must consider the alternative that the album is merely Cilvaringz fan fiction]. For research, I was listening to a lot of late-period Wu to try to figure out why Wu-Tang still can churn out well-made, accomplished music that hits all the beats that made them one of the most important, influential rap groups of all time. Yet the music itself has largely lost its spark for me. 

I think I found my answer in Mach Hommy’s #RICHAXXHATIAN, which I’ve been listening to on a loop. Mach has a generational ear for beats, not just on a song level, but in how he retains a sonic aesthetic no matter which producer he’s collaborating with. And here, his synthesis with Conductor Williams and SadhuGold works better than any Wu project in decades. Mach is as indebted to Wu as Roc Marciano. In fact, the entirety of millennial 2010s-and-on neo-boom bap bears the influence of Wu-Tang’s grainy and layered samples and dense mythological lyrics. It’s a post-modern revision of what was once the bellwether for rap’s post-modern era. 

There’s a minimalism in Mach’s work that matches Ka, Roc Marciano, and Westside Gunn. The beats are subdued and stripped down. Mach raps in a monotone that has the effect of trying to communicate with a low-talker in a crowd. You have to lean and pay extremely close attention. Even then, you may not catch it all on a first listen. Clint Eastwood knew when to drop lines of dialogue and Sergio Leon often opted for silence over a blaring Morricone. Mach-Hommy and Conductor Williams do it, too. 

“The Serpent and the Rainbow” is my favorite song from #RICHAXXHATIAN for a dumb and arbitrary reason: it has my favorite beat on the album. It’s appropriately cinematic and named after a very weird and problematic book by a Harvard anthropologist, which was adapted into a subsequent Wes Craven horror flick about voodoo and “real” live zombies in Haiti. The beat is a flip of “Amore Senza Nome” from the 1954 Humphrey Bogart classic Barefoot Contessa. It has a dusty fingers, bottom-of-the-stack-pull-played-under-a-transmission-from-a-Martian-satellite quality that evokes Madlib’s work on Madvillainy

Mach operates at a register that no one else can touch. Sometimes, I just listen passively to his flow dancing on-and-off beat; the production is as fluid as his timing. Mach frequently gets stuck on a rhyming sound like Cam’ron, and like the Harlem legend, he can riff in so many novel ways from so many different directions, while maintaining plot and coherence. The rhymes are never forced. It’s stunning both from a perspective of pen and cadences. 

At times, I think the song is about keeping an emotional distance from women so that you don’t become a zombie for uh, love. Or maybe it’s about the effect that he has on them. Or maybe I’m completely wrong.  Mach is exacting as both an MC and lyricist, and because he refuses to let his lyrics post on Genius or on iTunes, there’s a Kubrickian quality that demands deeper readings. It makes me think that there’s at least a chance this song is also about faking the moon landing or Pras from the Fugees assassinating key members of the Haitian government for the CIA. – Abe Beame

Hackney, London, UK

John Glacier, “Steady As I Am.”

With a namesake designed to be icy, Hackney’s John Glacier quickly developed a cold-blooded reputation. She’s a lone wolf with a flat, affected molasses flow, weaving observations of alienation and spirituality while living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. This is deeply personal music. It makes you feel like you got added to the close friends story of a wallflower’s inner thoughts, with production that channels Glass Swords-era Rustie. Besides a few rare live performances at fashion shows and the occasional head-bopping hook and verse on a Ragz Originale songs, the East London rapper and producer has largely been reclusive. Her main output consists of a few aloof lo-fi deleted projects and scattered loosies.

But 2024 is shaping up to be John Glacier’s year. She released the promising Like a Ribbon EP in February. A headline show for July 31st has been announced. And now, she dropped “Steady As I Am,” the lead single for her second project of the year, Duppy Gun. Produced by Young’s magic wand, Kwes the 1st, “Steady As I Am” is askew and mediating. The looped guitar plucks and chopped vocals are sparse enough to give Glacier space. Peacefully, she chants: “Couldn’t phase me, I’m sticking to the plan, not the game / Think I’m crazy because you’re all the same.” Its two-minute length adds to the repeat value—each listen feels like watching a snake dance. – Ethan Herlock 

Los Angeles

Day 3 x B4 x Lxl BD & JetBkeezy – “662 Freestyle Pt. 2”

Though peace and unity was projected during Kendrick’s colossal Juneteenth show, LA street politics remain as hot as ever. Day 3, B4, Lxl BD, & JetBkeezy are all Neighborhood Crips who seem to be affiliated with the Stinc Team in some manner. Given that this stuff is impossible to dissect unless you’re from these areas, it’s hard to know exactly what level of connection each guy has with the crew founded by Ralfy the Plug and the late Drakeo The Ruler and Ketchy the Great. Just know that despite the harmonious and legendary moment at the Kia Forum, bad blood still abounds elsewhere.

It underscores The Stinc Team’s “Us Against the World” mentality, which tragically is part of what got Drakeo blackballed in LA circles and eventually killed. But it’s also part of what made him one of the greatest rappers of the last decade. This is a survival tactic. When your back is against the wall, you puff out your chest and make yourself bigger than you are. It dates back to Genghis Khan’s armies, riding up to enemy villages with each soldier carrying two heads on sticks to make the army look three times as big from a distance. 

That’s the way the Stinc Team has been rapping lately. On part two of their “662” freestyle, these young guys are rapping with power. They pass the baton through the circle, while creeping carefully over a grim reaper beat. They’re rhyming about everything you’d expect from some young wild kids with nothing to lose: Hitting blocks back to back until they find their target, taking trips with the bodies into the hills. Jetbkeezy closes out the song by exclaiming he doesn’t even want a record deal. Why? Because he’s still so deep in the field. 

A few hours ago, I was scrolling Twitter, and under a Greedo tweet, someone commented “Long Live The Ruler.” Greedo replied, “oh trust me bro aint dead.” Drakeo lives on in everyone who continues to employ his style of nervous rap: from the rising stars on his hometown team to the biggest rappers on the biggest stages on earth, even if they refuse to say his name on stage or publicly credit him. We know the truth. – Harley Geffner 

The Bay Area 

Bla$ta – “Bank Yo Sh*t 

The spirit of contemporary Bay Area rap is best summed up by the act of an artist blasting their own music while fleeing the police in a high speed chase. That’s exactly what Richmond-raised Bla$ta did last year, according to police, who say the rapper’s music was still playing as he fled the scene of a wrecked car. Bla$ta was eventually arrested on a $800,000 warrant stemming from not one but two police chases through the West Contra Costa neighborhood. Unfortunately, the police did not make note of which song he was listening to as he made his escape. 

Bla$ta has a deceptively smooth flow, with clear enunciation and a penchant for alliteration and wordplay. “I done’ went broke on bail, I’m back ballin’,” he says near the beginning of “Bank Yo Sh*t.” With saxophone-led production handled by Kay Kay, his latest single has the vibe of a smoke-filled speakeasy. He sets himself apart from his NorCal peers by rapping over a wide array of beats and deploying a more traditional approach to writing verses. 

Any cursory listen of Bla$ta’s discography reveals a deep well of Bay Area references and features that more than qualifies his NorCal bonafides. His music retains a fun hyphy bounce while also keeping intact the world-weariness often reflected in Bay Area rap today—a sign of the deeply troubled times the area has faced these past few years, with drug overdose deaths and thefts surging. – Donald Morrison 

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