Every week, The FADER's Lawrence Burney picks out the best rap songs and moments in the world right now. Here they are, in no particular order.
"Savage" Remix feat. Beyoncé — Megan Thee Stallion
It's crazy to think that just earlier this year (which has felt like five years in one already) Megan Thee Stallion was in jeopardy of not being able to release music due to issues with her Houston-based label 1501 Certified Entertainment. It's even more crazy to think that Suga, the project she released soon after the public became aware of her label troubles, was put out in a rush because she wasn't sure of when she'd be able to drop music again. Karma has an interesting way of sorting shit out. In an act of service to her supporters, Megan released a project that was mostly trashed online, but out of that commotion has come her biggest hit yet with "Savage." It's arguably her catchiest number to date as well — you've heard on TikTok dance videos or being remixed to soundtrack the ridiculousness of Netflix docu-series Tiger King. Earlier this week, the song reached iconic levels when it was blessed by Houston's most treasured export and the world's biggest popstar, Beyoncé.
The "Savage" remix is great for a number of reasons. For one, Beyoncé continues to show that she's formidable in whatever music form she feels like taking on. Here, she has two verses filled with endorsements of OnlyFans, the Tory Lanez-popularized Brooklyn slang "demon time," gunshot sound effects for emphasis, and dreamy harmonies that transition perfectly into Megan's own bars. But what's most special about this song is how bulletproof it makes Megan Thee Stallion's already one-of-a-kind hip-hop come-up story. For someone who's only been in the wider public's consciousness for about two years, the number of people Megan has been able to touch and have a lasting impact on is nothing short of remarkable. And the fact that she and Bey share a hometown makes it all the more sweet.
"Demon" feat. Fivio Foreign and Sosa Geek — Drake
I'm never that hungry for new Drake music, but an artist who has the gravitational pull that he does makes it hard to ignore whenever he does drop. The Toronto native and owner of a $400,000 mattress announced late last night that he'd be dropping a collection of loosies, relatively recent leaks, and previously-unreleased low stakes tracks titled Dark Lane Demo Tapes. For the most part, it's what you'd expect from any Drake project, regardless of what caveat he throws out about how it should be absorbed. There's R&B here, there's music best suited for club nights that feature Future, and, as he tends to do, there's instances of him trying his hand at whatever sound seems the most likely for a global moment. In this case, it's Drake giving a go at the intersection of U.K. and NYC drill with "Demon," which features NY rappers Fivio Foreign and Sosa Geek. The song itself is a solid one. If it were to come on at a function, I wouldn't hesitate to dance to it — but at the same time, I don't think I'll be intentionally listening to it much after this weekend. The song was actually teased by Sosa Geek online a few months back, but more than anything, what this song really does is magnify how big of a loss Brooklyn drill superstar-in-the-making Pop Smoke was when he was killed in Southern California back in February. I don't know if I'd rather this collab to have been between Pop and Drake, or if I just rather hear new Pop over new Drake any day. R.I.P. to the Woo still.
"Barry Sanders Spin Outro" feat. Soduh — A$AP Ant
The Marino Infantry network is one that has been feeding the Baltimore/DMV region with more consistency than any of its peers for some time now, but it feels like the A$AP Ant-led collective has ratcheted up its productivity over the past year to new levels. Whether it's individual projects, merch, branded weed activations, or group mixtapes, there's never a shortage of content. And on A$AP Ant's newest tap, accurately-titled I Am Underground that streak of playfully experimental musings persists. There are some great moments throughout this short, seven-track tape ("Bussin Scripts" and the Goonew-featuring "Allah Wears Prada" are standouts) but the best is when Ant links up with fellow Baltimore rapper and frequent collaborator Soduh for "Barry Sanders Spin Outro." The track starts with Three 6 Mafia-influenced distorted vocal loops before the two trade bars about how slick they are. As usual, it's not really what's been said here that grabs your attention more than it is these two becoming progressively better at crafting deliveries that are unique to them.
"FDP(CHOPNOTSLOP REMIX)") — Shordie Shordie x The Chopstars
Shordie Shordie's >Music mixtape has been getting better with every listen. The raspy harmonies that can first take a bit time to get used to have gradually become comforting. His tales of yearning for love and understanding feel like they've been cherry-picked out of the early 2000s R&B canon and placed onto barrages of 808s. An extremely unexpected edit to the project surfaced recently when Houston collective The Chopstars put their magic touch on the Baltimore rapper's love songs. Somehow Shordie's voice is even more contagious than it has been of late when the slowed-down tempo adds even more dramatic effect to those hopelessly romantic efforts.
"Relentless" — NO Savage
There are pros and cons to the signature sound that's come out of the DMV area over the past three years. On one end, the region is at an advantage because its flow and typical production style have become recognizable by outsiders — something that, outside of go-go music, had never happened before. On the other hand, the formula has become so oversaturated that the majority of kids who are bubbling locally don't have many distinguishable qualities in terms of content or delivery. That's what makes rising Southeast D.C. rapper NO Savage a standout. He's able to cater to his local base by toying around with that proven formula, but he has a voice that's so commanding that it cuts through any type of flow or beat that he gives a try. Of late, his rise has felt very similar to the one that Largo, Maryland's Q Da Fool had out of the area a few years ago — a healthy combination of violent bangers and more personal melodic songs that go deep into the challenges that have come with life on D.C.'s inner city streets. Today, he released a new project titled Life of a Savage, and while the majority falls in line with his melodic side, "Relentless" is a track that is made for forcefully cranking at top volume and knocking your head with equal intensity.
"Betrayed" — Mozzy
The rollout for Mozzy's new Beyond Bulletproof album has felt like a throwback in the way that it's been teased out for just about a month now, which makes perfect sense for an artist who feels like he would have actually fared better in times when music was still consumed physically. On the Sacramento rapper's latest offering, he continues his streak of hyper-personal and vivid street storytelling that'll for sure need to be consumed with much more care than I've been able to give it since it dropped last night. But an early favorite so far has been "Betrayed," which finds Mozzy talking to a former friend who snaked him out and how the experience has led him to being a lot more reclusive.
"Margiela" — YungManny
Teenage Maryland rapper YungManny is another DMV artist who's been able to separate himself from his regional peers by aiming for more pop-leaning singles that don't make clear exactly where he's from. It also helps that the videos for his songs give a peek into how charismatic he is, with many feeling like they were snatched out of scenes from Nickelodeon-produced films. His latest song and video "Margiela" continue that run. At the video's beginning, Manny is riding a hover board through a suburban area while looking at his phone and is stuck by a driver whose face is also planted into their screen. Reluctant to get insurance involved, the driver hands Manny a check with an undisclosed amount but it's apparently enough for him to have a pool party at a mansion and buy the Margiela sneakers he always wanted.