New releases from NLE Choppa, GASHI and more
The internet has all but crashed thanks to the hotly-anticipated Meg and Cardi collaboration "WAP."
Another surprise collaboration from The Weeknd and the late Juice WRLD threatens to do the same, but closer inspection on this New Music Friday will reap a handful of magnetic new projects that deserve an equal amount of attention. Aminé returns with his most mature project in years, and GASHI shows us a new side to his artistry as he infuses '80s pop music with his hip-hop sensibilities. For those pining for new projects to sink their teeth into, here are some of today's overlooked gems that deserve a listen.
Aminé has been forced to grow up recently. The bright charisma of "Caroline" and "Spice Girl" that became the Oregon rapper's calling card back in 2017 is nowhere to be found on Aminé's "Sophomore-ish" album Limbo, and how could it be? The death of Kobe Bryant has polluted Aminé's view on life, among other tragedies this year. In a brief interlude, comedian Jak Knight recalls that a part of his childhood died when Kobe did, that he felt his innocence had been lost at that moment. "You was like a dad [to me]," Amine raps emboldened on "Woodlawn."
At 26 years old, Aminé can feel his life is at a turning point and uses Limbo's slick production to ruminate on his mortality. "Bury me before I'm a burden," he says with an eerie charisma, channeling Ol' Dirty Bastard's neurotic confidence at more than one moment throughout the project. "When your skin darker, sh*t get's harder."
He reminisces on his car rides to school with a nostalgic fondness ("Mama") and is newly disgruntled by the mall and consumerist society, and is now painfully aware of the "looks [he] gets in restaurants": "I'm fed up with a world that I know I can't change" ("Becky").
The boiled over frustration is palpable and makes for an invigorating listen, but Limbo doesn't resolve any of the conflicts it brings up; maybe that's because right now, it doesn't feel like a resolution even exists. How can you even begin to try and fix what's been broken for generations? "I'm tired, so this ain't worth the risk," he says, disheartened on "Becky." Aminé knows that to exist, even in limbo, is exhausting.
At just 17 years old, Memphis newcomer NLE Choppa has been engrossed in violence for as long as he can remember. On his debut album, Top Shotta, he ruminates on it, festering in the trauma that has plagued his mind in the hopes to rid himself of it. "I'm shadowed by my past, I just want the sun to shine on me," he says on "Double Bacc."
With all his graphic depictions of violence, he doesn't once glorify it, instead presenting everything with a matured callousness. "I don't fantasize, them bodies in my mind, and I can't stop," he says frankly on "Murda Talk." "Music is a way of therapy," Choppa recently told Adam22. "I use it to express how I feel."
But he's painfully aware that his lifestyle will only end in tragedy ("Narrow Road"), even as he often tries to discern right from wrong and move in the right direction. In the closer, "Depression," NLE's ferocious bars are replaced by soft crooning, with the young rapper acknowledging that this carnage has left him scared and alone. "I just wanna be left in my room with microphones," he says.
The stark moment of vulnerability could represent a turning point for the rapper. Maybe he can finally leave the gunplay behind; but at this point, the opposition is strong, so it doesn't really sound like it's up to him: "It's my life or yours?... I'm gon' let me decide."
It's impossible to define what GASHI is. The Libyan rapper and singer has always transcended what people thought he'd become—on 1984, his infusion of rap with '80s pop soundscapes make it even more impossible. 1984, with its lush instrumentals and sleek '80s synths, certifies GASHI as a budding pop star rather than just another rapper.
He enlists the help of Sting, Pink $weats, and Devault to solidify this transition, but it shouldn't come as a surprise. This is the same artist who, as a kid, made money by performing Michael Jackson moves on the street and who regularly refers to himself as the "Trap Phil Collins."
But 1984 isn't a mere '80s copycat project, and it isn't as overly verbose as GASHI's past offerings have been. It's laser-focused and wholly authentic to the complex identity of the artist behind it. "Mr. Ferrari" is perhaps the best example of this, with its slap-stick beat and hip-hop flourishes that make it suitable for the closing credits of a Back to The Future remake. GASHI is an uncanny talent who is finally finding his footing in a crowded genre, and it's a beautiful thing.
Trapped On Cleveland 3
While at one moment unable to escape from Young Thug's shadow, Lil Keed set out to make Trapped On Cleveland 3 his most personal, individualized record ever. The project was released alongside an accompanying short film, which Keed insists you watch before diving into the music. The film adds a transparent behind-the-scenes look at Lil Keed's life, in the hopes that we can finally stop seeing him as Thugga's sidekick.
While the album, of course, features his mentor, Lil Keed is unrecognizable from his past work. He bounces with a squeaky, youthful vigor on "Tighten Up," and on "Heartbreaker" he transitions flawlessly into Juice WRLD-infused pop music.
Lil Keed proves to be a man of many talents, and Trapped On Cleveland 3 assures us that we'll never confuse him with his mumble rap counterparts ever again.
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