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.


On "Anyways," Young Nudy Wants to Be Famous on His Terms

After a slightly-tumultuous 2019, Young Nudy, who has spoken at length about how much he loves solitude, uses Anyways to mostly set the record straight and reaffirm his values.

Young Nudy - No Go (Official Video)

Young Nudy refuses to strip himself of his authenticity.

"Sh*t deeper than rap," he broods on "Deeper Than Rap" the bouncy sixth track off Nudy's new mixtape, Anyways. "I done seen a lot of n***** fall off tryna play with that trap." For Nudy, rap stardom is a real danger. After performing at a Super Bowl event in Atlanta last February, Nudy and his cousin 21 Savage were arrested and charged with aggravated assault, the latter being taken into I.C.E. custody for allegedly being "unlawfully present in the U.S." Nudy's currently free but admitted to Pitchfork that the whole ordeal scared him and put his name in headlines for all the wrong reasons. "I thought the promoter had set me up...they didn't tell me sh*t," he said.

While jail time and police encounters have been known to boost a rapper's reputation, Nudy thinks that speaking on legal woes is a corny way to garner acclaim. For him, maintaining "good energy" is imperative. In this sense, Anyways is rife with the same dark humor and sarcasm as 2019's beloved Sli'merre, but Nudy has honed in on his enunciation and often speaks across the project with a new-found sense of conviction. "I done got a lil' older, what y'all don't understand," he says on "Understanding." "I'm not that same n****, but I'm still that same n****."

It's true; Nudy's colorful anecdotes are still scattered throughout, ("N***** out here got my name in they mouth, let my name taste like sh*t."), but after a pretty crazy 2019, Nudy, who has spoken at length about how much he loves solitude, uses Anyways to mostly set the record straight and reaffirm his values. Everything feels more purposeful as a result, but while the instrumentals remain quirky, they don't take center stage as they did on Sli'merre, and that's too bad.

Granted, Nudy wants you to hear what he's saying, and there are still great moments of effervescence on tracks like "Blue Cheese Salad" and "No Comprende," but a lot of the album's heavier moments feel unrefined and, at times, recycled and contradictory. He says on "No Go" that he doesn't want to start any feuds with other rappers, but then a track later he addresses Gunna by name as he briefly questions his authenticity.

But moments of repetition are forgiven when Nudy speaks frankly. He is painfully aware of his toxic relationship with street life and dirty money. On "A Nudy Story," he speaks on his first robbery with nostalgia and recounts feeling intoxicated by the prospect of riches. ("I was amazed by that sh*t, like, "Do they make more of this sh*t?"). He was lured in quickly and was additionally hardened by his dad's sudden departure from his life. They have since reconciled, but the timing of it all made loyalty of the utmost importance to Nudy.

Anyways isn't the shot at mainstream recognition that S'limerre felt like it was. In fact, the former feels like more of a retraction. S'limerre was stacked with hard-hitting features from 21 Savage, Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby and others, but Anyways is a strictly solo venture, and despite their unbreakable kinship, even P'ierre Bourne is notably absent from the project. But the mixtape's unrefined nature feels purposeful when put into a broader lens. The streets are familiar to Nudy, while Hip-Hop stardom, as shown by the recent murder of Pop Smoke last week in Hollywood Hills, is what's truly frightening and unpredictable. Nudy is gonna stay out of it for now and stay moving at his own pace. "I just be on some chill sh*t," he told Pitchfork. "I'm just worried about me. I'm trying to keep up with the future. The world is changing."



"Revenge of the Dreamers III" Is a  Hip-Hop Experiment Done Right

This Dreamville Records mega-compilation showcases both amazing talent and the spirit of hip-hop.

343 elite hip-hop artists were invited to appear at Tree Sound Studios in Atlanta, Georgia for 10 days of nonstop music-making. 142 songs were recorded in that time, 257.65 GB of music.

This is what the Revenge of the Dreamers III sessions looked like: one-part chaos, two-parts competition, and a whole lot of creative fun—at least according to the project's coinciding documentary. During this 10-day marathon, there were 12 separate studio setups for artists and producers to wander in and out. Each recording space functioned as its own unique and constantly shifting world. With so many talented individuals roaming the halls and feeding off whatever energies pulled them in, everybody felt an unspoken pressure to step their game up, vying not only for artistic space in a packed recording session, but also inrying to write something dope enough to make the album's final cut. This pressure appeared to stoke, rather than stifle, creativity.

"It's a frenzy," Dreamville artist Omen said in the documentary, addressing the sessions' vibe of healthy competition. "First of all, you gotta find your room, your spot, where you're gonna set up—whether that's writing, making a beat—because it's so many people coming through, and them spots get snatched up…And it's studios all around here, but, I mean, within probably 30 minutes, they might be all taken."

Once the creative frenzy finally came to an end, 18 songs were chosen out of the 142 recorded to appear on the final cut of Revenge of the Dreamers III. The end result featured 34 artists and 27 producers. Of those 18 songs, not a single one flopped or felt like filler, but this should come as no surprise. When you start with such a massive mountain of music inspired by such a uniquely dynamic and collaborative process, success is almost inevitable.

In addition to Dreamville co-founder and veteran emcee, J. Cole, ROTD III also showcases the breadth of the label's eclectic and talented roster: J.I.D., Bas, Omen, Cozz, Lute, Ari Lennox, EARTHGANG, and in-house producer, Elite. Since the album is a Dreamville Records compilation, these artists are the glue that holds everything together, offering a sort of stylistic motif in a crowded list of features that would otherwise risk sounding chaotic and without direction.

ROTD III also features Reason (of Kendrick Lamar's Top Dawg Entertainment fame), Young Nudy, T.I., Ski Mask the Slump God, Smokepurpp, Smino, Ty Dolla $ign, Saba, and Vince Staples (to name a few). So, this album is star-studded as a summer blockbuster, but what really stands out about this impressive guest list are the creative opportunities born from putting all these artists in one building for days on end—we get collaborations and truly fun moments that, had this album been recorded more traditionally, may have never been possible.

One such standout moment comes in the form of J.I.D. teaming up with T.I. for one of only two duets on the record (the other comes in the form of J. Cole with Young Nudy). Their track, "Ladies, Ladies, Ladies" is a buoyant spin on the Jay-Z classic, "Girls, Girls, Girls," in which J.I.D. runs through a list of the diverse range of women he's been with and the unique issues each one presented him. Then T.I. takes the second verse, prefacing it by playfully nodding to how much longer he's been around: "Young n----, you don't know nothing 'bout no bitches. Listen…" The track is a collaboration that we never knew we needed, and the two emcees bridge this generational divide smoothly.

Another powerful collaboration comes in the form of Reason and Cozz at the end of "LamboTruck," as they plot to rob their respective label-heads. Reason throws the idea out, rhyming, "Cozz, look, I done been broke too long / n----, bills too long, can't hide that, n---- / Cole just pulled up in a Lamborghini truck / On the homies and God, we should rob that n----." After Cozz takes issue with the plan, citing his allegiance to Cole, Reason offers another solution to the problem: "Look, let's make a deal / While I go and rob Cole, you go rob Top / Cool," Cozz agrees. This back and forth is the rare collaborative fire that ROTD III opens itself up to in its unprecedented approach to making a mixtape.

At the heart of this album is something that is at the heart of hip-hop itself: an element of fun and mutually beneficial competition for the greater good. The recording sessions at Sound Tree functioned as a microcosm of what it's like to try and make it in rap—throwing hundreds of talented people together into a shared space, all of them vying for their chance to shine. In the end, everyone grows creatively by their desire to surpass the bar set by their peers and predecessors. The whole of the culture is pushed forward every time one artist takes a step toward greatness. And in mirroring this, ROTD III translates into one of the most organic, enjoyable, and authentic hip-hop albums of the decade.