The concept of so-called "fully formed" creatives – ones whose style and sound are ostensibly enshrined – is false and anti-creativity. When does an essential artist ever stop mutating, experimenting, growing? Without taking anything away from the musicians who stun us from the first song, there's also something to be said for those who sound like the promise of a compelling journey to discover their strengths and use them to their full potential.
As a rapper, Zack Fox is in the former camp. He is already established online as a singular voice in comedy thanks to his Twitter account and a role in Flying Lotus's debut midnight horror move Kuso – Fox's humor sensibility is kaleidoscopic anarchy shaded like a deep fried meme using a scatological still from a WorldStar video. His influence spans to the real world, as well: when Migos' "Bad & Boujee" was just another loosie, Fox created a meme using the song as fodder. It went viral and took the song with it to No. 1, changing the course of the group's career, and possibly rap, forever.
In October, Fox shared his first song, "Square Up." The sparse, distorted instrumental is produced by Kenny Beats, a steady collaborator of Rico Nasty (who would repurpose the beat for her recent single "Guap (LaLaLa)" Nasty's influence is apparent in Fox's growled delivery; it's not difficult to imagine him listening to "Smack A Bitch" and thinking "She makes me think I can do this." Fox's verses are both a send-up of big talkers and an ode to the promise of cartoonish, spontaneous physical fury. Sometimes it defies the realm of possibility and physics: "I ain't fought nobody in, like, mmm let me think, a week?" Fox seethes, before promising to "do a backflip and karate chop that nigga in the throat." I heard this song playing at a burger shop a couple of months ago, and it was the first time I've wondered if I should run a fade on my hot chicken sandwich.
Last week saw the release of "Family Function," a new song from Awful Records' Father, a frequent cohort of Fox's and another clear influence in his grinned villainy. It's Fox's best turn and a sign he's taking the rap thing seriously. He tunes his aggression to his individual strengths and becomes a ratchet Ren Hoek, breaking the laws of social convention in often hilarious ways. "Henny and Patron, bitch you know that is a bad look / I'm bout to hit the club and do some shit to get my ass whooped," he raps on "Family Function," before employing repetition for a line involving Soul Train and a gun that I actually laughed out loud at. He glides on the beat with more accuracy than on "Square Up," obliging Father's attempt at making a party-setting groove. He's not just being a good collaborator, but showing range as well.
One can easily point at other rappers, still in the early days of their careers themselves, who have shifted hip-hop's landscape to embolden artists like Zack Fox. That doesn't mean he should be ignored until that seems like a viable prospect. It's still too early to say whether he can produce a body of work that can stand next to that his predecessors Rico Nasty and Father, but what he's released so far is full of the distinct, chaotic charm of possibility. Isn't that a nice change from a future so definitive?
Thumbnail for Father's "We Had A Deal" music video