No matter your rap preference, you’re likely to find something to appeal to your sensibilities in this week’s batch of releases. They run the gamut from inspired underground rap to hard-hitting trap, all headlined with the uber-positive pop rap of SuperDuperKyle’s long-awaited major label debut, Light Of Mine.
If you prefer deep thoughts and complex metaphors, Nick Grant and Paul Barman bring a dose of conscious observation and introspection to this week’s slate, while Lil Baby looks to make the most of his recently-acquired Drake co-sign to take his Harder Than Ever Atlanta outlook nationwide. This week’s sampling of album releases epitomizes hip-hop’s breadth and diversity, but remember, just because you like one doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the others as well.
Kyle — Light Of Mine (independently popular. / Atlantic Records)
The purveyor of happy raps like “iSpy” and “Playinwitme” will finally release his long-awaited full-length this Friday, bringing a much-needed ray of sunshine to these heavy times in hip-hop. While Kanye West goes full Tea Party and Childish Gambino reminds us how much things suck for Black folks in America, Kyle’s music has always embraced a fun, cartoony vibe that belies some serious subjects and stories of personal loss. Kyle’s childhood home burned down in last year’s California fires, which could have given him plenty of dark material to ruminate on, but his philosophy is to put on a smile through everything because bad times only last so long. Light Of Mine might become your go-to remedy for the blues, a reminder that good things come to those who wait.
Nick Grant — Dreamin’ Out Loud (Epic / Culture Republic)
Walterboro, South Carolina rapper Nick Grant gave up sports in high school to pursue a career in music, but he still brings an athlete’s discipline and work ethic to his current craft. He raised his local profile as a prolific battle rapper, but gained popularity outside of his small town of 5,000 people with a series of attention-grabbing freestyles on shows like Sway In The Morning. His recently-released single “Black Woman” featuring singer/songwriter Stacy Barthe is a prime example of what to expect from his album — sharp rhymes, smooth beats, and whip-smart observations about society and culture delivered by a rapper from the school of J. Cole. It’s anti-trap with a sense of self-possession and cool that prevents it from being preachy or obnoxious, inviting the listener to instead dream along.
MC Paul Barman — Echo Chamber (Mello Music Group)
MC Paul Barman is a familiar name for fans of early-blog-era backpack rap, but a surprising addition to 2018’s release schedule, as his last album, Thought Balloon Mushroom Cloud, was released in 2009 — almost ten years ago. This Jewish-American, alt-hip-hop figure was primarily known for imagination, absurdity, and ignoring many of the conventions of straightforward rap in favor of a stream-of-conscious style sharing plenty in common with MF Doom and Prince Paul, both of whom will appear on Echo Chamber. Other intriguing additions include Open Mike Eagle and the legendary Masta Ace. Barman explains the concept behind his album as such:
“We live in a world with so many options and information that we can now literally choose to isolate ourselves with only those who think alike. We can literally find support for whatever opinion we want to believe. These groups become our (((Echo Chambers))) and they are part of what is pushing us backwards towards tribalism and false divisions. This album explores these self-imposed, very limiting chambers and attempts to push past them.”
Lil Baby — Harder Than Ever (UMG Recordings, Inc. / Capitol Records / Motown)
The Quality Control product stands out in stark contrast with his label compatriots Migos and Lil Yachty, taking a much more countrified approach to his Atlanta drawl-laden boasts and threats. While Migos continues to utilize their triplet flow to profitable effect, and Lil Yachty transitions from the perky Lil Boat to a ferocious battle rhymer in his own right, Lil Baby is staunchly, stubbornly controlled in his carefully measured but loose delivery. If there’s any comparison to be made, it’s a bold one. The trap-rap forebear he most consistently resembles is the originator himself, Gucci Mane, who would surely appreciate and relate to Baby’s precise flow and tales of drug hustling on Atlanta’s south side. With a recent shot of attention from the Drake Stimulus Package of “Yes Indeed,” Lil Baby might just be the next QC product to make it from the trap to nationwide success.
Various Artists — Rapture: The Soundtrack (Def Jam Recordings / Mass Appeal Records)
Spearheaded by the unexpected collaboration between polar opposites Logic and 2 Chainz, “State Of Emergency,” the soundtrack to the Netflix documentary series profiling some of the game’s hottest rappers (and producer Just Blaze) is anchored by its synergetic approach. The 7-song EP features intriguing combos like T.I. and Rapsody and Dave East with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and flips the script on your rap expectations.