The Rap Report: OTM and EBK Young Joc keep nervous music alive, Allstar JR’s finesse, and more

Plus new songs from Leaf Ward, Rx Papi, and GrindHard E.

August 24, 2022
The Rap Report: OTM and EBK Young Joc keep nervous music alive, Allstar JR’s finesse, and more

Every week, The FADER’s Brandon Callender shares his highlights from across the rap world, from megastar artists to the deep underground.

OTM – “For The Record” (feat. EBK Young Joc)

Duffy and BluePesos are OTM, a Stinc Team-affiliated duo from South Central L.A. carrying a torch for Drakeo the Ruler and "nervous music." Duffy’s flow is as conversational as they come, but it’s deceptively slippery. He’ll stuff a bar to its brim with syllables and make it look clean. BluePesos, on the other hand, is closer to Drakeo with a grumbly voice and unhurried flow that makes him sound irritated. On "For The Record," they’re joined by Stockton’s EBK Young Joc,who matches their energy with a brutal, dead-eyed verse. When you put all three of them together, its a race to see who can come up with the most obscure slang or most swagged-out bar. BluePesos wins in the end: “Reach for this ice, let’s get trippy / It’s a microdosage.” Future linguists will have to dedicate years of study to decode the West Coast’s constantly evolving dialect.

Allstar JR – “The Other Side”

Take a quick survey of present-day Michigan rap, and you’ll run into a few different archetypes: rappers who recall tales of late-night drug runs with cinematic detail, card-cracking youths, punch-in lovers who’ll get on the beat and say anything, no matter how offensive, and smooth-talking players like Detroit’s Allstar JR, who try to put you on game. On “The Other Side,” he drops knowledge over a luxurious TrippyLeak beat that feels like riding with the top down. “Lot of niggas stealing sauce, really styled by me / Lil boy I sold more jeans than StyleByMeech,” he says, disgustedly. There’s a subtleness to Allstar JR’s wordplay that makes it more about the finesse than wow-ing you with a crazy flip. Regardless, he’ll leave you making a stank face.

Leaf Ward – “Thrills/First 48”

Leaf Ward sounds like he was raised on an exclusive listening diet of Smack DVD battles. The Philadelphia rapper’s cutthroat, bars-first style makes him feel like he’s from a different era, but there’s a slickness to his delivery that keeps his flows sounding modern. On “Thrills,” his rapping is calculated and lowkey. Despite the image of effortlessness Leaf Ward’s rapping inspires, it’s hard not to imagine him revising bars with a pen and pad and making sure his emphasis lands in the right place as he’s recording. “First 48,” the second song in the video, is an extended version of his take on a challenge going on in Philly that reminds me of handheld camera-recorded freestyles. He’s rapping like he’s got something to prove here, puffing up his voice with tenacity and bravado. Leaf Ward’s keeping an old East Coast feeling alive.

Rx Papi – “Time Will Tell”

Whenever you start to feel that Rx Papi’s settled into a groove, just know that he’s about to switch-up soon. He’s committed to trying new voices and toying with flows and moods. He can shift from soul-piercing shout-raps with Gud to calloused and guarded recollections of dope dealing over Top$ide’s funky beats to wavy Max B-esque tracks where the Rochester rapper’s stream-of-consciousness flows out into a billion directions. He sounds like he’s drifting away from the mic while he raps on “Time Will Tell.” With each passing bar, Papi’s voice gets a bit softer until the volume slingshots back to normal levels. “If I leave the trap, Imma leave like Meech / You can put me anywhere, bet I land on my feet,” he raps under his breath.

GrindHard E – “Aggression”

“Like David and Goliath I dare a big nigga to play with me,” GrindHard E raps at the top of “Aggression.” The Flint rapper’s ready to let off some steam, and no one is off limits when it comes to his hell-raising rants. He’s shorting people who cop zips and irritated that he’s running out of drank. His cold-hearted punchlines fly by so fast it’s hard to sit and assess them on the first go-around, but there’s a section in the middle he asks a series of questions that’ll leave you in cold sweats: “He came short and got finessed on the bag, do you think I played him?” There’s no such thing as a “chill” GrindHard E song.

The Rap Report: OTM and EBK Young Joc keep nervous music alive, Allstar JR’s finesse, and more