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.
"Posted with Demons" — Future
Thinking back to simpler times is especially resonant when there's music that can drop you off at the exact moments you miss. Experiencing new Future feels incomplete when you can't go from listening to it for the first time in solitude to bumping it in the car on the way to hearing it blaring through venue speakers. The Atlanta superstar's newest album High Off Life doubles down on how much of a shame it is to not rejoice to it as a community. And an early standout like "Posted with Demons" is a perfect example of Future's impact. The DJ Spinz-produced track thumps so hard that it places you square on the block: 90-degree weather, dirt bike engines revving in the distance, and the vibrations of a car rattling from playing this track much louder than it should be. It also has all the proper ingredients of a Nayvadius banger; here he reminisces about the days when he was in the mix and treats himself to expensive shit as a gift to himself for persevering through the bullshit. And, as history has proven, the fact that there's flute play in this equation only makes him stronger.
"All or Nothing" — YG Teck
Right now, YG Teck is in the middle of what feels like the most impressive run that any street artist from Baltimore has ever had. What makes that an even more exciting scenario is that he's just beginning to scratch the surface of how far his music can reach. For the past three years, Teck has been slowly but surely chipping away and churning out full lengths, EPs, collaborative mixtapes, and freestyles. With each release he stands on principles that prioritize self-reliance, moving logically, and embracing missteps as lessons to tighten up in the future. His songs are bangers that will do numbers in clubs between Baltimore and surrounding areas, but there's also a healthy serving of game in just about every bar that you can apply to your life, even if it doesn't exactly mirror what Teck talks about in his music.
Today, the West Baltimore native released a deluxe version of his February album Eyes Won't Close 2 and none of the five songs that have been added feel like throwaways. An early favorite of the new add-ons is "All or Nothing." In sound, it's similar to my favorite on the OG version of the tape in "Back Jamming" — both songs are very busy and urgent in production, which invites Teck to rap relentlessly while occasionally stopping to add color with nasal harmonies. "All or Nothing," like most of his material, is about being patient, identifying the right time to act, and rising to the occasion when doing so. If you need a fire lit under you, this could do the job.
"wicked, sexy!" feat. Maison2500 — Odunsi The Engine
Some artists have the intangible ability to make you feel weightless. Nigeria's alté scene is producing some of the best music to turn to when you're in need of that feeling, and Odunsi The Engine's new EP EVERYTHING YOU HEAR IS TRUE is a good example. In just 14 minutes, the project's seven tracks feel like a euphoric nighttime drive. In a recent interview, he said that the project's title is an answer to whatever rumors people may start about him or whatever opinions they may have. He doesn't have any more fucks to give and would rather spend his time loving on himself and others who are open to receiving it. That's what makes the Maison2500-featuring "wicked, sexy!" so beautiful; the song feels like a long stare in the mirror as its hook repeats the title over and over, like a pep talk directed inward. You'd be hard pressed to run this tune and not feel good about yourself.
"495" feat. YungManny, Rico Nasty, Big Flock, Big JAM & Weensey — IDK
Later tonight, Showtime will premiere a Kevin Durant-produced documentary called Basketball County: In The Water which dives into the generations of hoop talent that Prince George's County, Maryland has produced over the years. It's a proud moment for the DMV area, which is typically recognized by people in the know, but not so much in the mainstream. And the film isn't just exciting for basketball fans — its rollout has also proven to be a key cultural moment for rap within the region. Last week, Maryland rapper IDK shared that he was recruited by Durant to serve as the film soundtrack's music supervisor, and that decision has already resulted in some local talent moving into the spotlight.
Earlier this week, IDK dropped "495," an ode to the highway that runs through the DMV, featuring artists from all over the region: Maryland is represented by Rico Nasty, Big Flock, YungManny, and IDK himself; Big Jam puts on for VA; and D.C. is represented by go-go royalty with Backyard Band singer Weensey. More than the music itself, this song is a testament to the region's musical range. It also doesn't hurt that it's produced by Juicy J, who obviously isn't from the DMV, but is an icon.
"Note to Self" — Sheff G
Next to the late Pop Smoke (whose posthumous debut album will be out in June 12), Sheff G has had the most commanding voice to come out of the Brooklyn drill scene over the past few years. He made an emphatic entrance with 2017's "No Suburban" and, since then, has arguably become the scene's most well-rounded artist, able to fit concise storytelling and melodies into drill that work like a charm. Sheff dropped a new album today with One and Only. The project features the sequel to his breakout record but it also adds depth to what he offers musically.
"Note to Self" feels like an important moment in his maturation as it spends the whole of its two minutes being the stage for Sheff to look at the choices being made around him and the impact those choices are having. On the Great John-produced track (he handled production for the entire album) Sheff talks about being weary of women who can set you up, the all-too-familiar cycle of deceit that comes with the streets, and the perpetual skepticism that he's developed as a result. At first listen, the song follows a long line of rap tracks that have come before it that urge listeners to weed out the bad seeds around them. But as violence and death seem to continuously be associated with drill artists and the neighborhoods they come from in Brooklyn (and other pockets of the world), "Note to Self" feels painfully urgent.
"Martin & Gina" — Polo G
Melody has become such an integral part of rap music over the past three or four years that it's pretty much expected that most artists will have it as a part of their repertoire. But every now and then, an artist comes along and makes it clear that, beyond using the skill as a tool to cater to consumers, they have a real gift for it. Polo G is one of those artists. The ethos of the Chicago artist's music is still very much in line with street rap, but there's so much beauty in his melodies. On Mozzy's stellar Beyond Bulletproof album, Polo's crooning added a sweetness that distracted from the fact he was singing about paying to have someone murdered. Polo G continues to share that gift on his newly-released album, The Goat. There are plenty of moments to comb through here, but an early assessment of the album is that Polo's especially impressive when he's experiencing romance. "Martin & Gina" (inspired by the marquee couple on Martin Lawrence's '90s sitcom) finds Polo backed by beautiful guitar, singing about having butterflies, loving his partner's smell, and being in love even when they're on the outs.