Recently I've been on a Playboi Carti bender. By this, I mean hours and hours spent clicking thru Carti leaks on YouTube as I "do homework" and whatnot. I went through a phase of this last year, particularly inclined towards some of his older Ca$h Carti-era stuff that was never officially released ("Lost," "Cash Shit," etc.) and the definitive Whole Lotta Red leaks, like Arm n Leg, Kid Cudi, Molly, A Lot On My Mind, Pop Bottles, Neon, back when they were all leaking on leakth.is and r/rapleaks. But I kind of ran through it all; became tired, queasy.
I'm back, though. And what's interesting now is the disorientation I feel - not disorientation per se, but the ubiquity of Carti strikes me. He's everywhere and nowhere. There are albums and albums worth of unreleased tracks. Here's a short list of my favorite leaks:
Arm n Leg
A Lot On My Mind
No Smoke Freestyle
Whole Lotta Red
Not only regular tracks, but also slowed + reverb'd versions of these tracks. In the end, you have what feels like hundreds of fantastic unreleased cuts.
And some of these tracks I don't think were even made by Carti - enter the disorientation and democratization. Pi'erre Bourne is probably the one to credit here. People are making Bourne-inspired beats and looping Carti a capellas over them and creating entire new tracks which oftentimes, frankly, are indistinguishable from official Carti tracks and sound not only just as good, but sometimes even better. They write things like "my instrumental, not official Carti" in the description as a disclaimer. Sometimes it's not even their instrumental, but a Pi'erre Bourne-type beat they ripped and then brilliantly meshed with a Carti a capella.
And it's not that people are rapping themselves and trying to imitate Carti's drooling flow, dribbling ad-libs and scrumptious baby voice. No, they're just ripping Carti's voice off other unreleased tracks and snippets. Thus, Carti has himself de-materialized, dissolved into the ether of internet data; there literally now exists an alphabet's worth, dictionary-length pool of unreleased Carti vocals to manipulate. Like he's one of those text-to-speech robots. Anyone with a copy of FL Studio and semi-talented at beat-making can make a Carti track. Playboi Carti, but make it Build-A-Bear workshop.
In 2020, anyone can be Playboi Carti. Try your hand.
Here's what fascinates me about Baby Keem and is why I've been listening to him (quite disproportionately to the size of his discography) so much recently. I was thinking about it the other night as I went to bed and I grabbed my phone and to jot a few notes down. I wrote one word first: infectious.
His beats are spontaneous yet precise, superabundant with energy; adjacent to Playboi Carti, whom my dad accused him of aping literally the moment I played "ORANGE SODA" for him, but with less a focus on psychedelia, soundscape, and above all, mumbling. Baby Keem is altogether more focused and punchy, yet delivers the same ethereal, alienlike quality which I find so compelling in Carti. The same delectable synth leads, video-gamey instrumentals, but composed with seemingly harder intent, 'graver' consequences.
I've seen Keem compared to Kendrick Lamar in some aspects (not least because of his ad-libs: the defiant commands and vibrating, echoing hol-ups) and I'd have to agree. He has a sharp, fierce vocal delivery with idiosyncratic word enunciations, and, like Kendrick, the tendency to burst into instrumental breaks with an impassioned one-liner ("Baby Keem just humbled a model!" on "STATS," for example). Interestingly, some of his beats also, despite their one-notedness, coalesce into jazzy refrains or short diversions. And of course some entire instrumentals abscond bass for more R&B-style romantic fuzziness, like "HONEST."
I had no idea up until this point that I would enjoy a "SoundCloud rapper" (if you can call him that - not sure if he's even on SoundCloud, probably better to call him sumtin else) who completely ditches mumbling, the style so iconic, even ubiquitous, in today's landscape. His laconic, sometimes vicious flow, like on "BUSS HER UP," sounds fucking mental over the shiny, splattery, metallic bassline, which reeks of post-pop XXXTentacion ("Moonlight") yet without the commercial concessions. Keem rides the beat like crazy, and the instrumental is spectacular in the way that it splits between hard sections of riveting bass and spacier, slower sections, which only build up anticipation for another all-out section.
At this point, he's released two albums. The Sound of Bad Habit in 2018 and DIE FOR MY BITCH in 2019. Given the close release dates, it's no surprise the two are quite similar in sound - however I find the second one far more concise and engaging. His tracks sound a lot 'fuller' in this second album.
My favorite track of his is "MOSHPIT" from his second album. The song captures every aspect of him I'm in love with. He sprints into the track like DaBaby - a scream and then the beat drops. The first half is fantastic, with a distorted, otherworldly texture, Keem rolling with electric lines and psychedelic ad-libs. And then you have one of the best beat transitions I've heard in modern rap, which sounds like strings pulled from a classic Hollywood music, perfectly pitched and synced with the beat, making it altogether the more exciting and atmospheric because of the anachronisticity: bourgeois orchestra mixed with bombastic South Florida-style trap bass? This beat switch, itself, is like the release of a thousand clenched fists, a dam which has contained water for millions of years bursting and the current rushing out. Mosh pit is the perfect characterization - absolutely off-the-wall energy. Made all the better by Keem's playful lyrics, "I am 50 cent," repeated over and over again, perfectly recitable, perfectly infectious. It's almost like the sounds themselves are in a moshpit, jumping and jousting, bass notes bashing into each other and splattering on the walls.
Other highlights include "ORANGE SODA," the track which brought him into the spotlight (44 mil plays on Spotify as of now, compared to but 2 million for "HONEST" - most of which probably brought in because of the success of "ORANGE SODA"). This was the cut I showed my dad - the beat is simple, fantastically atomized, every particle sounds great. "BUSS HER UP" is probably my third favorite, feverish with rubbery, springy bass.
For non-SoundCloud/mumble/trap obsessives, Baby Keem no doubt sounds like one among many - a young rapper spitting 'simplistic' bars over one-note, bass-driven trap beats. But I think he's one of the best right now. His sound stands out in that he seems to capture, and manifest, the best components of other, bigger musicians of the moment - he has the urgency of Kendrick Lamar, street-brawl spirit of DaBaby, lean-guzzling lilt of Carti, atmospheric range of Denzel Curry (or Kendrick again); and the fact that he's gone relatively under-the-radar leaves me interested. Many people see him only for "ORANGE SODA" but I think he's got some crazy stuff in the works. Anyway, I'd love to see him in concert. Shit would be wild indeed !
I'm sorry Kanye, but you will always be a terrible person from now on (not like you weren't already)
In the latest of megalomaniac-related news, Kanye West is now officially self-aware™. In a series of inspired tweets, the man who not too long ago said "slavery was a choice" has now officially decided that he's shelving political opinions. Thanks, Kanye. It's like he took a giant shit in the middle of the room and has now decided that he will both never shit again or even clean up the aforementioned shit.
"Terrible Person" is a complete understatement. It's hard for me to think of better phrasing when I know that nothing really matters; Kanye's not going to read this post, and chances are that not many of his fans will either. But Kanye is scum, the lowest of the low. He deserves to have a giant shit left on his face, and to have it left to fester. What kind of person says they are going to drop an album, but instead trick everyone into watching SNL so they can hear his pro-Trump rant?
At least before, he had some conviction. Like, if it turns out there is a deep state and Soros has been pulling the wool over our eyes, Kanye will have been correct. But now, what does he have?
(Well, he still has millions and millions of dollars. And millions of fans. And a family. So, I guess he still wins. That's how the game works. Congrats Mr. West.)
The beauty of Future's "Oxy"
I listened to Future and Juice WRLD's new collaborative album, and I'll be honest, I didn't love it. I'm not really a Juice fan at all; the only song of his I have (or have had) on rotation is "Lucid Dreams."
Future, on the other hand, has put out a ton of songs that I've enjoyed over the past few years; tracks like "Thought It Was A Drought," "I Serve The Base," "Fuck Up Some Commas," and newer stuff like "Buckets," his feature on the SREMM boys' new collection. I even loved his wacky feature on Jay Rock and Kendrick's "King's Dead," which brings me to my point for this post.
"Oxy" is absolutely glorious. And no, not because of the Lil Wayne feature, even though it seems like everyone in the YouTube comment sections (and on Reddit) only like it (or deem it "acceptable") because of the Wayne verse. No, Future is amazing on this song. He has this uncanny ability to make his voice sound so fucked up, yet still maintain a powerful rhythm. It really does sound like he's dying of an oxy addiction, drowning in the pills, asphyxiated. The beat is enormous; for some reason it makes me think of a desert, the sun beating down and twilight slowly approaching. Future is out here dying of thirst. It's brilliant vocal play.
LISTEN TO IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfQ4t6NTh0g
01/04/2019 21 Savage's I Am Greater Than I Was [HIP-HOP]
11/19/2018 Trippie Redd's A Love Letter To You 3 [HIP-HOP]
11/15/2018 Metro Boomin's Not All Heroes Wear Capes [HIP-HOP]
11/07/2018 Yung Lean's Poison Ivy [HIP-HOP]
10/29/2018 Quavo's Quavo Huncho [HIP-HOP]
10/10/2018 Brockhampton's Iridescence [HIP-HOP]
9/21/2018 Comethazine's Bawskee [HIP-HOP]
9/09/2018 Yves Tumor's Safe in the Hands of Love [EXPERIMENTAL]
9/04/2018 1788-L's Sentience [ELECTRONIC]
8/14/2018 Iglooghost's Clear Tamei/Steel Mogu [ELECTRONIC]
8/10/2018 Travis Scott's Astroworld [HIP-HOP]
7/31/2018 RL Grime's Nova [ELECTRONIC]
7/26/2018 88rising's Head in the Clouds [HIP-HOP]
7/12/2018 Smokepurpp and Murda Beatz's Bless Yo Trap [HIP-HOP]
9/13/2018 Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman
Writing about music that I like, and music that I do not like. Always open to new suggestions!