Every week, Vulture runs through the best, most interesting, and sometimes most confusing rap releases. In this installment: punishing experimental rap from Curly Castro, magnetic autobiographical tracks from Rucci, a low-key tape from Mozzy and CashLord Mess, blunt street rales from Buffalo-based Conway, and more.
Curly Castro, Tosh
Through its recent work — especially Elucid’s Save Yourself and the last two Armand Hammer albums — Backwoodz Studioz has done more than any other record label to pull rap that would otherwise be cerebral and abstract into the corporeal world. Curly Castro, the Philly-bred rapper who has popped up on a number of those Backwoodz releases and who now makes his full-length debut for the label, is the ideal practitioner for this. The songwriting on Tosh is heady — even radically so in a couple of spots — but the production is frenetic and, when appropriate, punishing. Castro is a fascinating writer because he will slip from very ordinary syntaxes into ones that are nearly scriptural, and will not only be evocative in both, but will carry ideas from one to the other. See especially the grim, dissonant “Mortimo Planno.”
Rucci, For My Dawgz
Unless I’m forgetting someone obvious, there’s no vocalist in rap who is able to seem as intense as Rucci without ever seeming to swear. For My Dawgz is billed as a stopgap project — it’s loaded with guests and does not feature the local hits he’s posted to Soundcloud since this year’s excellent El Perro — but that intensity, and Rucci’s streak as a shocking, no-frills autobiographer, make the record another magnetic listen. The Inglewood native teams up with fellow burgeoning L.A. rappers like AzChike, AzSwaye, 1TakeJay, and 1TakeQuan, and, once again, it’s that push-and-pull between Rucci’s voice and those of the others that gives these songs their dynamics. The production is lean and serrated. It’s for cars.
Mozzy & CashLord Mess, Chow Time
While it’s not a dominant theory in the field, there is a vocal contingent of climate scientists who believe that one answer to Fermi’s paradox — which asks why we’ve had no contact with other intelligent species in such a seemingly vast universe — is that societies that industrialize in the way we have necessarily burn themselves out, denying themselves the chance to develop faster-than-light travel, etc. I wonder, if this is true, how many societies survived long enough to spawn a rap name as good as Messy Marv — and how many lived too long, i.e., long enough to see Messy Marv abandon the name. In any event, this dying planet is lucky to have Chow Time, which pairs CashLord Mess (formerly Messy Marv) with the staggeringly consistent Mozzy, for a slight record with deceptively high stakes. See especially the wrenching “Off Top.”
Chris Crack, Thanks Uncle Trill
It is becoming redundant to describe Chris Crack’s gifts: he’s a unique writer who can be bitingly funny and unnervingly real, sometimes within the space of two bars; he conjures a Chicago that is neither the hellscape depicted by the GOP nor a pastel-colored version in which all the corners are safe. Barely a month after his crackling Just Gimme a Minute, he returns with Thanks Uncle Trill, where the songs have more heft and are interspersed with predictably hilarious voicemails from underground mainstay J-Zone. Crack’s 2018 doesn’t have a clear precedent. He flooded his fanbase with four solo projects, but the feel of the records themselves is unlike the saturation models of, say, Lil B ca. 2010 or Gucci Mane a few years earlier, where the sheer bulk of material was the point. Uncle Trill, like its predecessors, has a clear shape to it, and is refreshingly self-contained.
Conway, Everybody Is F.O.O.D. 2: Eat What You Kill
All the music that has unfurled from Buffalo and onto Discogs this year has been captivating, but of all the Griselda members, Conway is the one whose best work reaches a level of mercenary greatness that needs no mythology to buoy it. A sequel to his excellent album from earlier this year, Everybody Is F.O.O.D. 2: Eat What You Kill, can be difficult to find on the internet, but is not coy once you hit play on the first track: It is furious and unsparing, and even its moments of introspection (“Cocaine Paid”) are void of sentimentality.
Kodak Black, Dying to Live
Dying To Live is, at a bare minimum, the best Kodak Black record of the last few years aside from Painting Pictures — it pays off the promise he’s shown since his breakthrough, Project Baby, with its marriage of razor-toothed rap verses and pained, sung tangents, and several of its songs, especially its bookends, reveal an emotional depth that would be impressive from any songwriter, much less a 21-year-old. That latter element is, of course, almost impossible to reconcile with the particularly brutal crimes of which he’s accused and for which he’ll stand trial next year.
Gucci Mane, Evil Genius
The first sentence of the Editors’ Notes on this album’s Apple Music page mentions Gucci Mane’s abs. The banner picture at the top of the screen shows him leaned back — shirtless — with a fur draped over his shoulders, gaudy sunglasses, a finger playfully to his lips, everything pure, expensive white. Gucci as aspirational lifestyle brand has yielded mixed results in the booth, but this new context underscores what has always been true about his work: it’s a series of writing exercises, little language games that use rap tropes and Gucci’s self-built mythology as component parts in endless new arrangements. See the hook of “Outta Proportion,” then look back up at that banner pic.