Posts Tagged ‘Denzel Curry’

Kevin Gates “Weight”

If there’s one thing that magazines and online music websites like XXL, Complex, and Spin still seem to do a decent job of it’s creating online debate around the lists that they publish.  That said, there’s one list in particular that garners a ton of attention on an annual basis, partially because it is perceived to be a stepping stone to big things to come in the careers of rappers.  The reality of the annual XXL Freshman 10 is that it’s become one of the safest lists in rap music.  The artists they choose to hold this honor on an annual basis at this point, have usually already reach a modicum of hype, success, and have an engine behind them that ensures that they will – at the very least – continue to maintain the relevance that they had in the year prior, which combined with the increased spotlight they will receive for being on the XXL list, and the label support that they already have (if you think that any artist who makes the XXL Freshman list in 2013 isn’t signed to a label – even if it’s not “official” yet – you’re out of touch with the way things work in the rap industry in this decade).  While not without merit for it’s role as an annual recognition process, the reality is that most of the artists who make the Freshman of 2013 list, will have actually been the freshmen of 2010, 2011, or 2012.  Just taking a look at their list you see a number of great artists, who have been building a rep, and in some cases releasing music on an independent level – or even mainstream level – for a number of years:

The artists who make up the XXL Nominees in 2013:

Chief Keef

Would’ve been a great – visionary – nominee in 2012.  To nominate Keef for a Freshman list in 2013 is basically akin to nominating Jay-Z for a freshman list in ’97 or Biggie in ’95 (not that Keef is Jigga or B.I.G. by any estimation, but he sits atop the game in 2013 – undoubtedly one of rap’s biggest stars at this point).  Keef took the rap world by storm in 2012 and had a much hyped 4th quarter release on a major label by year end, he’s a sophomore if there’s ever been a sophomore.


Again, a great pick if it was 2006 or 2007.  Look I get XXL’s desire to include him in a list like this since Gunplay will finally drop his solo major label debut in 2013, but the reality is that the guy has had half a decade of appearances on major label releases and well promoted mixtapes to build his buzz. To use an NBA reference Gunplay is kind of like the NBA player who doesn’t get drafted, but makes cameo appearances on 1o day contracts with NBA teams on an annual basis – showcasing his skills – and eventually latches on to a viable roster.  However, anybody who had a major label group album in 2009 that was promoted by one of the three biggest rap artists of the last 10 years does not qualify as a Freshman.

A$ap Ferg

He shows potential, but to be honest I think his appeal is limited and the whole A$ap Mob thing fell pretty darn flat after that abortion of a mixtape they put out in 2012.  There’s definitely room for him to continue to approve and he has a solid skill set, but he doesn’t have the appeal that Rocky does, and it seems to me that A$ap Yam has these guys under his thumb a little too much.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE proponent of quality control, but if that’s what Yams provides then he did a piss poor job on the A$ap mixtape in 2012.  Maybe the Mob really will shift their attention toward other artists in the collective in 2013, but it remains to be seen whether that attention will achieve the desired results.


Although this has been a year filled with some mysterious characters, those that shy away from the limelight, those with alter-egos, and those who avoid social media, Lil’ Ugly Mane has to be one of the rap games most mysterious artists these days.  No twitter account, goes on prolonged facebook hiatuses, fluctuates the prices of his bandcamp albums, dropping cassette tape only physical releases and extremely limited edition t-shirts.  Add to that his various sonic influences, vocal modulators, split producer and rapper personas, lack of concerts, and limited reliable information online and there’s a legitimate veil around Lil Ugly Mane that adds to the mystique of his art.

I caught up with Lil Ugly Mane to talk about what he’s been up to and when we can expect the follow up to this year’s excellent Mista Thug Isolation. I also asked him to explain why he unplugged from the net in May, his production techniques and his writing process.  Along the way we discussed why he feels rap is as standardized as ever, the saturation of the sound he, SpaceGhostPurrp, and others brought to the forefront, and why his next album could sound very different from Mista Thug Isolation and Playaz Circle

JB: After dropping Mista Thug Isolation, and aside from a couple appearances on the SupaSonic project you produced for Supa Sortahuman this year, you really have laid pretty low this year other than picking up a few production credits.  What have you been working on? 

Lil Ugly Mane:

I’m constantly producing – it’s literally all I do most of the time – but i scrap a lot of shit or just forget that it exists. I do a lot of waiting around for the right beat to happen.  I don’t wanna just rap on bullshit that’s good, I need production to fluidly make sense in regards to mixtapes and what not, quality of quantity I guess, don’t wanna drop 20 mixtapes.  I respect people that can pull that shit off, but its not me, everything I make I want to resonate on certain tones precisely and I cant do that unless everything is how it already exists in my head.  Right now I’m like neck deep in beats and lyrics that I’m trying to make sense of.
JB: I hear you.  Jumping into that process for a second… as a rapper how do you approach song writing?  Are you writing lyrics all the time and fitting it to the appropriate beat when you find it?  Or do you write to your beats? Or I should say, do you write only to the beat that you’re going to record a song over?

Lil Ugly Mane:

Honestly, the whole process for writing is along the same lines as beat making for me. A lot of time shit just happens when it happens.  I don’t like to force myself to do anything, I think the end product suffers when you put deadlines and expectations on shit.  But I mean usually when I’m writing, I write to old Lord Finesse instrumentals and or like Premo instrumentals and shit – I wrote cup fulla beetlejuice over the Smif N Wessun “Bucktown” instrumental – I dont know why really, I just think it takes me back to like middle school when you are just making rhymes cuz its fun or you’re bored, there isnt any bullshit attached to it.


During my time covering the Raider Klan I’ve had a lot of people ask me “what’s so exceptional about them?,” or “why are you wasting time covering teenagers when there are great artists, more seasoned artists, putting out high quality projects in 2012?”  My initial response to those people is, well, I cover them too.  I have written reviews and lauded praise on the likes of Ka, Billy Woods, Illogic, El-P, Killer Mike, Jackie Chain, SL Jones and many others this year who have years in the game and release a refined high quality product.    Actually, the only Raider Klan related album that I’ve put up for “Best of a Quarter” honors was SpaceGhost’s Mysterious Phonk, hardly a lo-fi bedroom studio endeavor.

However, with Raider Klan my interest goes a little deeper than just the quality of their product.  Raider Klan represents a group of young people across the country who feel they fit outside of the general rap aesthetics of the mainstream, some of their music – though admittedly not all – attests to this.  I admit there is a lot to sift through with Raider Klan, there are a dozens of members, a t least a couple dozen of whom make music, dozens of mixtapes, thousands of tracks on youtube, lots of klvn, 2.7.5., & BRK handles to sift through on twitter to figure out who’s in, who’s out, who’s really in, and which rappers are the rappers one needs to pay the most attention.  The other aspect that won’t intrigue many of my normal readers is that the Raider Klan as a collective are, generally, fairly disinterested in lyricism for the sake of lyricism.  While it’s hard to speak on them collectively – since there are at least twenty five or thirty of them making music – most of them prize style over substance, and most of their substance strokes are broad and indefinite.  Their primary concern musically is the ultimate quest for the phonk, the ability to convey the appropriate musical vibe the marriage of the vocal performance and the beat.  In an era when so much rap is devoid of a strong relationship with it’s musical ancestry, the Raider Klan members are hyper conscious of their roots, and paying homage to those who came before them.  Where else in 20120 can you hear a Bone Thugs influenced rapper, alongside an Ice Cube influenced rapper, alongside a Boss influenced rapper, over a g-funk track fashioned by a midwest producer and have them all be open and honest about the rappers they’re channeling and who truly influences them.  What’s more impressive is that they manage to do this without sounding like a bunch of dinosaurs trying to revive their youth or a bunch of new jacks sharking an aesthetic without any sense of the history behind it.  For those with whom the 90’s shtick may wear a bit thin, especially those of us who lived through the 90’s first hand, they actually make some very good music that competes with their contemporaries quite well on a modern playing field.


“Black Magic” Ethelwulf & Yung Raw

Since “Nostalgia Rap Surrealism – Decoding the RVIDXR KLVN” was published here on I’ve been working to put together an interview with all of the Raider Klan members.  Initially, I planned to interview every member individually, combine their answers, and create one collective interview for the entire Raider Klan.  While this is still the intention of the project, having finished about eleven of the interviews, with plenty still to go, I realized that there’s way too much material to publish in one interview without severely editing the material down.  It also became clear to me, that with the fast moving pace of music today, and the Klan’s development, that by the time I got around to interview each member, the earliest interviews would be extremely dated.  The Memphis interviews were three of the first ones I did on the project so I thought it made sense to share them now.  And then share each of the group’s regionally, as I found throughout the process that like their music, the attitudes of the Raider Klan members is often strongly influenced by their locality, despite the group’s geographic diversity and diversity of musical influence.  It is important to note chronologically that the interview with Chris Travis was done over two months ago, Yung Raw was interviewed in the middle of June, and Ethelwulf was interviewed in mid-July.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out Chris Travis’s Codeine and Pizza, Yung Raw’s The Trill OG, and Ethelwulf’s The Wolf Gang’s Rodolphe as they undoubtedly represent three of the finest Raider Klan projects to date.

Link here to Part 2: NYC (Grandmilly, Matt Stoops, & Big Zeem) and Part 3: Southwest (Amber London, Eddy Baker, Sky Lex)

JB: What projects to you have coming up?


Well actually, right now, I don’t really have anything coming up really.  Well, actually I might do this mixtape with this producer named DJ Manny Virgo.  I’ve been working with him so that’ll probably be the next thing popping up if I get to it real fast.  I don’t know what it’s going to be called yet.  I’m just waiting on him to send me the rest of the beats, it’s going to be a five track EP.  Once he sends me the rest of the beats I’ll be working on them and we can crank something out.

Chris Travis:

My next project is gonna be, I don’t know what I’m going to call it yet [editor’s note: it ended up being this past week’s Codeine and Pizza mixtape], but the theme is going to be underground horror.  I’m trying to find a producer.  I’d like one producer to producer the whole mixtape if possible.

Yung Raw:

My next project will probably drop in 2013.  I don’t know the exact time.  Most likely around Spring Break if not before Spring Break, because I want to make sure everything is down packed again, everything is perfect.  Because if your work is not perfect, if you got one bad song, and everybody can have one bad song, people can say you’re not a good rapper.  You want to make sure everything is at a good point, or your buzz can fall all the way down.  So I’m not going to rush it.  Also, you don’t want to give out too much free music, because you’ll be over and done with before it’s time to release your real album and people won’t have time to crave it and build that buzz.


Historically, Rap crews generally tend to develop locally, but groups of like-minded artists coming together through the internet has been in practice for well over a decade now, as archaic forms of internet communication like AOL chatrooms and hip hop message boards gave emcees and producers a way to collaborate at a distance and form new duos, groups, and crews, sometimes without having ever met one another.  The dawn of Myspace only made this type of remote collaboration easier and more common, and developments like facebook, youtube, twitter, dropbox, tumblr, and soundcloud have made it commonplace.  Still, it is unusual to find a crew as large as SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan, with so much interconnection in their music, and so many remote outposts and crew members so dedicated to a similar purpose.  Furthermore the Raider Klan like one of their early influences NWA has shown an early ability to influence the development of similarly themed rap crews all over the map.

The Raider Klan’s inter-regional membership accentuates their most interesting sonic characteristics – their post-regional surrealist nostalgic phonk, made up of a concoction of mid-90’s Memphis underground, early 90’s diasporic G-funk, RZA’s early 90’s layering of film sound effects (in this case often video game samples from Mortal Kombat or the moans of female porn stars), and occasional hints of Miami Bass.  Listening to Raider Klan is like listening to rap in a bizarro alternate dimension where the dominant influences on the commercial rap scene were Screw tapes, Memphis underground tapes from artists like Three 6 Mafia, Frayser Click, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, double time midwest artists like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Crucial Conflict, early nineties West Coast NWA, D.O.C., Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Texas hardcore rap, hints of early 90’s 5%er influenced Afrocentricity, Mortal Kombat arcade games, codeine, and robitussin and they all arrived hermetically sealed in a time capsule in the basement of each member along with a bag of OG Kush and a SpaceGhostPurrp decoder ring.  While chronologically many of those things occured during roughly the same time period, Raider Klan is made up predominantly of 90’s babies, who either absorbed much of this era through the passion of their parents and older family members, or through thorough research of youtube archivists who have made so many things from the early and mid-nineties readily available for nostalgic 30/40 somethings, or intrigued youth.