Rap in the Time of Corona April 2020


Look, I’ll be honest – I’ve been meaning to put this column together for a while, but it was only the spectre of lockdown-induced boredom that finally forced me into action.

Plus the fact I have nothing better to do than sit around listening to music (so, no change there then…)

Every couple of weeks, I’ll be rounding up the best new global rap releases for R$N, taking in everything from chart smashes to underground transmissions.

No doubt there’ll be a strong focus on America and the UK, but I’ll try and keep it pretty loose in terms of genre, so expect to hear plenty of drill, grime, afrobeats, urbano, and dancehall.

Enough intro – let’s get stuck in.

D Flowers – Sweat In My Eyes

D Flowers is one of a number of new Houston rappers pulling the spotlight back onto one of America’s great hip-hop cities. His husky, soulful voice is an absolute force of nature. Here, the Maxo Kream affiliate deploys it over a beat that sounds like something The Heatmakerz might have cooked up had they spent more time down south.

Kamaiyah – 10 Toes High

You’ve heard this story a hundred times – a promising rap career derailed by years of major label purgatory. Thankfully, Kamaiyah wasn’t willing to have anyone else write her story, and her triumphant new album Got It Made feels like the proper follow-up to her 2016 breakout A Good Night in the Ghetto. There’s plenty of Bay Area slappers on here, but closing track ‘10 Toes High’ is the MVP – a summertime smash about backing yourself and shutting out negative energy.

Larry June – Til Next Time Love

Another rapper putting on for the Bay Area, Larry June is on a ridiculously prolific hot streak, having released nine solo projects in the last two years. Slowly unspooling lines like, “House in Atlanta, orange juice in my cabana/ Dolce & Gabbana sandals, baby named Samantha” over blunted instrumentals, LJ’s comforting drawl is the perfect balm for these strange times. Fans of Curren$y or Smoke DZA take note!

Last Japan & Killa P – Exhale (Sully Remix)

‘Exhale’ might be a few years old now, but its shimmering reflections still sound like the future. Part of a new remix pack on Last Japan’s Circadian Rhythms imprint, Sully’s 2-step version turns the original into a proper soundsystem weapon, carving out more space for Killa P to do his thing. You know what, it’s been years since a proper Killa P project – let’s will one into existence for 2020.

Polo G – Go Stupid (ft. Stunna 4 Vegas, NLE Choppa)

Three of the hottest rappers out competing to see who can go hardest over an absurdly good Mike WiLL / Tay Keith co-production, with Stunna in particular showing he’s more than just DaBaby’s hype man. Hey, even Jay-Z had to play second fiddle to Jaz-O back in the day! Polo G’s Die A Legend was arguably the best rap debut of 2019, but he’s promised to switch it up and raise the bar this year. On this evidence, he shouldn’t have any problems.

Kevin Gates – Wetty (Freestyle)

Everyone and their uncle’s dog is jumping on drill beats this year, but honestly, Kevin Gates just stole this track right out from under Fivio Foreign’s nose, even though he’s only operating at around 70% power. He still exudes his usual strange charisma, especially when he’s rapping about the specifics of his quarantine workout routine.

Skengdo & AM – From South

This new Skengdo & AM track is taken from Terms & Conditions, a feature-length documentary that uses the UK drill scene as a platform for thoughtful discussions on topics including knife crime, censorship, and gentrification. Here, the Brixton duo muse on police stereotyping over a reflective piano loop.

K-Trap – Off White (ft. Nafe Smallz)

Listening to this beat feels like flying over London at night in a helicopter. Nafe Smallz is quickly becoming the UK equivalent of “ft. Ty Dolla $ign”, but his smooth, versatile style makes it easy to understand why the whole scene wants him on speed dial.

Nixxxsta – Coming for the Game (ft. Kid Gully)

I wasn’t aware of Nixxxsta until a DJ Semtex co-sign, but that was enough to make me check him out. Look, you’ve gotta have some stones to call your debut mixtape The Best of Nixxxsta Vol.1, but he just about manages to pull it off, channeling a bunch of different UK rap styles into a varied and confident project. ‘Coming for the Game’ is an easy highlight.

Key Glock – Word on the Streets

Key Glock is riding high following his joint album with fellow Memphis rapper Young Dolph, and new project Yellow Tape keeps the momentum going. It actually came out a few months back but I had to include ‘Word on the Streets’ here – it’s one of those songs that doesn’t necessarily register at first, until you find yourself humming it incessantly later that week. A bonafide sleeper hit in the making.

Bad Bunny – Safaera (ft. Jowell & Randy, Ñengo Flow)

The highlight of Bad Bunny’s new album YHLQMDLG is a reggaetón history lesson condensed into five minutes of whiplash beat changes. Honestly, nothing I could write about ‘Safaera’ would hold a candle to Isabelia Herrera’s glorious piece for Pitchfork, so go read that ASAP.

Rod Wave – Fuck The World

Despite being just 20 years of age, Florida artist Rod Wave is a grizzled old bluesman at heart – one who happens to excel at emotive sing-rap that’s really about 80% singing and 20% rapping. His new album Pray 4 Love is a worthy follow-up to last year’s Ghetto Gospel, which gave us the breakout hits ‘Heart on Ice’ and ‘Cuban Links’. Rising producer TnTXD handles the best cuts here, and his triumphant horns on ‘Fuck The World’ perfectly juxtapose Rod’s tales of pain and regret.

Catch Cosmo on Twitter HERE