New Releases

Slept On: The Latest In Rap (May 21, 2021)

After coming off a number of A-list releases last week, this new music Friday is relatively tame.

Young Nudy

After coming off a number of A-list releases last week, this new music Friday is relatively tame.

Lil Nas X and BTS sprinkled out some new singles, and fans of Olivia Rodrigo are eating well today as she just put out her new debut album. Twenty One Pilots put out an album too, if you're into that sort of whiny thing. For rap fans, though, there is plenty of new music. Benny The Butcher, Young M.A., Hoodrich Pablo Juan, and 42 Dugg all returned with new projects, and Pooh Shiesty and Yung Baby Tate put out deluxe editions of their hit albums Shiesty Season and After The Rain. There are also many more releases that went under the radar. Here are this week's other slept-on records.

"Fine Art" by Caskey

While he has a steady stream of albums and collaborations to his name, Cash Money's Caskey remains the label's most undervalued emcee. Over the years, the rapper has experimented with COVID-themed wordplay, autotuned sing-song warblings, and emotional pop tunes in the key of Drake with admittedly mixed results. In turn, Caskey's following has remained relatively stagnant as he's toyed with his sound, but it was clear through it all that a vicious talent for the microphone always lurked just beneath the surface.

On Fine Art, the rapper comes armed with some of his fieriest bars in recent memory, and on tracks like "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas" and "Witchita," he attacks his doubters from every angle over producer Tony Choc's granulated soul samples. But Fine Art isn't all noxious flexes. Caskey is painfully aware of how stagnated his career has been at times, and uses the project's softer moments to admit these frustrations: "Feel like my life is some type of parody," he raps on "Blue Moon." "God really playin' jokes on me / He brings the wins so close / and then they turn out like my old homies / When it's tough, they get ghost."

Fine Art's humble anecdotes and spitfire bars hope to change our perception of Caskey, and they just might.

"Dr. Ev4l" by Young Nudy

Young Nudy's exploratory production and hypnotic bars have always helped him stand out from Atlanta's crowded trap scene. On Dr EV4L, the album art finds Nudy playing the role of the menacing ringmaster, and in turn, his unsettling musical persona takes on a more literally villainous hue.

"Surgical with this shit, no type of training," Nudy grumbles like a mad doctor on "Mini Me." "I get wicked with this shit, man." On "Yellow Tape," Nudy doesn't even try to hide his murderous intentions. Instead, he sings an opulent melody about it. "Murder, murder, kill on my mind, I just wanna murder," he coos. The project is as unnerving as it is soothing in its anesthetic sound, and finds Nudy leaning even further into his grimmest nature.

"Borrowed Time" by Dark Lo & Harry Fraud

Sinister Philadelphia rapper Dark Lo tapped Harry Fraud to manage the production of his latest work Borrowed Time, and it was a good decision. "Premonition's" lurking piano keys sound as creepy as Halloween and the hypnotic guitar plucks of "Missing Summer" lay the perfect groundwork for Lo and Boldy James's unsettling bars on the violence and late-night dealings that surrounded them. "Survival of the fittest, for my name God is my witness," he raps. "I glide like physics, shorty chew me like gizzards, I brought the toolie it's a blizzard."

Fans of Lo's have been salivating for the release of Borrowed Time, with many expecting this project to send him to stardom. It will be interesting to see how the rapper's career plays out from here, especially as he currently is embroiled in two federal cases.

"Neighborhood Poetry" by FCG Heem

After a long wait, Florida's melodic FCG Heem finally let go of his debut project Neighborhood Poetry. Here, Heem proves the versatility of his voice across the project. On tracks like "Shinin" and "Believe In Me," the emcee's voice is often full of passionate yearning as he wails into the mic, but then on tracks like the Pooh Shiesty assisted "Beef," his flow is ruthless, his voice guttural and ominous as he initiates orders like a colonial. "Told lil' bruh he better not come back until all them n***as dead," he raps. Neighborhood Poetry is a compelling debut from the young and charismatic emcee.


French Montana Is Still Bad at Rapping

"MONTANA" was meant to be his magnum opus, but the project is a slog, with Montana's celebrity friends overshadowing him at every turn.

Photo by: Karsten Winegeart / Unsplash

French Montana has forever bemused the public with his inconsistency.

On one hand, he's a scrupulous tastemaker and has an uncanny ear for hooks and instrumentals. His projects are historically bloated with guest appearances, but Montana has an arresting ability to bend artists to his will in a way DJ Khaled never could. "Unforgettable" established Swae Lee as an unexpected dancehall star, success he ultimately morphed into a successful solo career. "Lockjaw" proved that the now semi-canceled Kodak Black could be more than just a mumble rapper if given the chance to shine.

But on the other hand, French Montana has always been one of hip-hop's most tepid lyricists. His lyrics are usually either drowned out by layers of auto-tune gurgles, and the words you can hear are often cryptic metaphors devoid of any consistent thematic meaning to tie them all together. "Put the needle in your ass, keep they table green," he raps on "Montana," the intro to his eponymous third album. "Multi-millionaire, strapped like O-Dog, can't teach new tricks to old dogs."

MONTANA is a budding commercial success, but its best moments are when French serves as the project's conductor rather than emcee. "Writing on the Wall" is absolutely infectious, "Wanna Be" finds the post-hiatus PARTYNEXTDOOR in full command of his reggaeton sensibilities in a way not seen since 2018. Gunna's woozy vibrato floats effortlessly along the Harry Fraud-produced "Suicide Doors." But MONTANA's biggest strength is also its biggest flaw. The project actively caters to the talent it's hosting, and while it makes for a handful of satisfying radio-ready singles, the double-album is a slog that regularly stifles its host.

French Montana - Writing on the Wall ft. Post Malone, Cardi B,

"Twisted," produced by Juicy J, is a classic Crunk reinvention, and while Juicy sounds right at home, guest features from Logic and A$AP stumble as the emcee's try to navigate uncharted waters. "Out of Your Mind" reunites French and Swae Lee for what is essentially a carbon copy of "Unforgettable."

French uses MONTANA's grand scale to demonstrate versatility, but his identity gets lost in the excess. It's a problem the rapper faces often, and while his ability to unite an expansive roaster under one roof has earned him a substantial number of hit records, it still remains to be seen how much creative substance can actually be accredited to him. He's clearly doing something right; Harry Fraud, Max B, and the late Chinx are just a few of French's label mates that exemplify the emcee's brilliant ability to foster untapped talent, and he's highly respected within hip-hop's upper echelon.

French Montana - Wiggle It ft. City

Irritatingly, it's not as if the emcee doesn't have a plethora of interesting life experience to write about. He's a Muslim immigrant who recently returned to his home country of Morocco for the first time in 20 years. He's had a series of strange album mishaps, and most recently was hospitalized with severe stomach pain, nausea, and increased heart rate. The rapper and LACSD additionally refused to disclose any information as to what caused the illness, but Montana has since been placed on month-long bed rest.

"The most interesting material in his life gets misused or unmentioned," wrote Pitchfork of Jungle Rules, and unfortunately the same appears to be true with MONTANA. Vulnerability could be the emcee's greatest ally, but he instead often settles for braggadocios contention: "Stunt like Muslim, I don't eat. I cop the Lam'," he raps on "Saucy." "When I get hot head and cold feet, I got heat 'em up." The missed opportunities for reflection deflate his music into recyclable party tracks, but while he has plenty of awards and accolades that may disagree, the rapper has yet to release anything with staying power.