Listen to “Peepin,” Atlanta icon Gucci Mane’s commemorative track for THEBURRPRINT.COM, and you’ll hear two of the city’s youngest and brightest rising talents. Playboi Carti and 21 Savage represent some of the best of the “New Atlanta” wave, a sorta shaky label that seems to get more and more nebulous. A better descriptor would probably just be “underground rap” but even this conjures up images of dusty cyphers and grimy dudes with backpacks and NYC golden-age obsessions. It’s best to just say that this versatile group is solely doing their own thing on their own time, which is fine because they’ve kept the city laced with talent for a while now. I’m gonna name names now: Key!, Rich The Kid, Two-9, Peewee Longway, Tk N Cash, K Camp, Bankroll Fresh, and Hoodrich Pablo Juan have been making hits for a minute now and frankly, it’s glorious. Add them to Father and the rest of Awful Records and you start to realize how bountiful good rap is in the city (same city that has Young Thug btw). These artists may not be running the radio game as well as the gawds Future, Migos and Rae Sremmurd (yet) but their presences are definitely felt.
In a twitter blur, the world became aware of an approaching collaborative album between Future and Drake, two rappers who have been collectively running this year. Now, it’s important to note the considerable difference in each rapper’s dominance this year. Future has put in a decidedly inhuman season of being literally the best rapper today whose not named Jeffrey Williams. Seriously if you don’t know by now, you need to listen to the canon (56 Nights, DS2, Beast Mode, Monster). Drake has also been doing well in his own lane, releasing an album (IYRTITL), questionably silencing ghostwriter allegations, and a few songs and remixes here and there. I’m going to come clean though, I haven’t paid much attention to Drake of late, simply because Future and Young Thug exist. But, regardless, Drake, well he’s out here.
This is rap gone Technicolor, if you’re not a fan of Autotune (maybe you’re Jay-Z) you may want to look the other way. Chicago bop duo Lil Trav and Lil Ceno have another stack of elastic high-energy tracks that paint rap in a melodic bloom of colorful effects anchored by bouncy beats.
Coming off some infectious tracks, (“Remy Rick”, “Fiesta”, “Young Heavy”, and “Round N Round”) Sicko Mobb carry on in the latest progression of Autotuned rap-singing melodic rap. Their weird, catchy sound is reminiscent of the hazed out hedonism anthems of Future and pretty boy ego trips of Soulja Boy, though while Future has been chasing around demons and inverting the melody of Autotune to soundtrack his own self-torturing abandonment, Sicko Mobb are flourishing in the elasticity of rap-singing.
Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is a confrontational affair, and the initial response from the general public reflected that. As one of the most commercially successful and critically lauded rappers of the 21st century, looking to follow up 2012’s classic-in-its-own-right Good Kid M.A.A.D City, Kendrick Lamar bravely ensured that To Pimp a Butterfly was too dense to take in with just a listen or two. Infinite tweets, reviews, and “thinkpieces” have attempted to pick this piece of art to the bone, but not a single one will do this labyrinth of cultural and personal meditation justice.