Every week, Vulture runs through the best, most interesting, and sometimes most confusing rap releases and other news. In this installment: J. Cole unites his Dreamville label for another compilation, what happened with A$AP Rocky’s arrest and subsequent detainment in Sweden, new music from Jaden Smith, and more.
Dreamville, Revenge of the Dreamers III
Revenge of the Dreamers III, the third compilation from J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, feels distinctly like a relic from a million news cycles ago. Early this year, Cole invited dozens of rappers and producers, including extremely famous ones, to a ten-day recording camp in Atlanta, which was exhaustively documented. The sheer bigness of the recording process is the album’s chief selling point (“142 SONGS RECORDED”); the bloated roster of attendees calls into question what, exactly, Revenge of the Dreamers III is supposed to be — a label comp anchored by people who are signed elsewhere? And yet the record succeeds, more often than not, by feeling lean and specific from song to song and by shirking the pressure to bend toward where rap radio is at the moment.
Jaden Smith, ERYS
Jaden Smith is the kind of artist who will take his previous album’s title, reverse it, and call it the new album’s title; ERYS is the kind of album that would have that kind of name. It’s conceptually overwrought (a young man in a partially destroyed Los Angeles — which is kind of like the movie The Warriors — tries to rule his peers through fear) and aesthetically underdone, frequently lapsing into the kind of rap that might be found on radio, SoundCloud, or TikTok. Glossy, of its moment, and almost entirely disposable.
Devin the Dude, Still Rollin’ Up: Somethin’ to Ride With
Devin the Dude is not a booming demigod like Scarface or a laconic kid who could have blown up in Houston’s 2005 renaissance. And yet over the course of two decades, he’s carved for himself one of the greatest and most consistent musical careers in the history of his hometown. He’s an Everyman if every man were a little sharper and a little more charismatic, a populist who’s always the most charming one in the room. And when the dust (well, ash) settles, he’ll go down as one of the most enduring rappers of his generation.
But the point of Still Rollin’ Up: Somethin’ to Ride With, his tenth solo album, is that that moment isn’t coming anytime soon. True to its title, the 12-song album is almost shockingly easy to listen to, as if each beat had been fashioned entirely out of silk. But where the music is warm and loose, Devin’s writing is sneakily purposeful: There are songs, especially on the front half, that play like self-help, while later he slips into a series of apologies and moments of self-reflection. It’s a smartly made, veteran album.
A$AP Rocky Detained in Sweden
On Friday, a Swedish court ruled that A$AP Rocky must be held at a Stockholm detention center for two weeks during an investigation into an alleged assault. Rocky, whose given name is Rakim Mayers, was deemed by the court to be a flight risk. His Swedish lawyer, Henrik Olsson Lilja, has said that the detention will be appealed, insisting that Rocky will gladly return if and when a trial is scheduled. If convicted, Rocky faces up to six years in prison.
The incident in question occurred a week ago Sunday. Video footage, published by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet last week, appears to show Rocky and members of his entourage fighting with a pair of men. The footage was filmed by bystanders and contains no dialogue between the parties or context from their earlier interactions. But around the same time the footage surfaced, Rocky posted a pair of videos to his Instagram account. One shows Rocky and members of his entourage, primarily a security guard, asking a pair of young men to stop following the group. Rocky captioned the clip: “SO A FEW DRUG ADDICTS ARE NOT MY FANS , WE DONT KNOW THESE GUYS AND WE DIDNT WANT TROUBLE , THEY FOLLOWED US FOR 4 BLOCKS , AND THEY WERE SLAPPING GIRLS BUTTS WHO PASSED , GIVE ME A BREAK.”
The second is spliced together from a number of different interactions with the men, who are asked repeatedly to stop following Rocky and his crew. At one point one of the men attacks Rocky’s security guard with a pair of headphones; at another, Rocky clarifies for the camera that he and his friends simply want the men to leave them alone. At the very end, a woman who cannot be seen onscreen says that the men groped both her and her friend.
In the comments — amid messages of support from fans and famous artists and spats over racist policy and sentiment toward Arab immigrants in Sweden — Rocky himself posted twice, saying first, “IM INNOCENT” and then, “THEY TRYNNA ARREST ME OUT HERE NOW , SMH.”
The detainment has disrupted a string of international dates, including planned shows in London, Dublin, Oslo, and Gdynia, Poland. Rocky was scheduled to play in Moscow this week and at seven other festivals across Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Ukraine between now and July 21.
The circumstances of the arrest and detainment have caused some controversy. TMZ is reporting that Rocky was arrested “immediately” upon his arrival to a police station, despite the fact that he arrived voluntarily to discuss the incident. The website also reports that the American embassy in Stockholm was not notified of an American citizen’s arrest — a break with protocol — and that representatives from the embassy have been barred from speaking with Rocky. TMZ says that the Swedish embassy in Washington, D.C., has gotten involved, but does not say what role it’s attempting to play. In an Instagram post over the weekend, fellow A$AP Mob member A$AP Ferg said Rocky is “in solitary confinement with no visit or phone call privileges.” As news of Rocky’s arrest has spread, several of his peers have declared a boycott on Sweden, including Tyler the Creator, T.I., Schoolboy Q, and Lil Yachty.
According to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s Supreme Court has denied Rocky bail. Per Complex, lawyers for Rocky argued in their push for his release that his detainment has already cost the rapper $1 million and that further incarceration could “spell the end of his career.” Though an alarming TMZ report described the jail where he is being held as “shockingly inhumane,” both Rocky’s Swedish lawyer, Henrik Olsson Lilja, and the Swedish Prison and Probation Service have denied any “horrific” conditions.
On Tuesday, a Change.org petition launched (reportedly by Rocky’s manager John Ehmann) urging that the Swedish government release the rapper on the grounds that Rocky and his entourage acted in self-defense. The petition, #JusticeforRocky, echoes the TMZ report of the jail’s unsafe environment, calling it “inhumane conditions and the clear violation of human rights.” It claims that Rocky has been subjected to “solitary confinement, restriction of amenities for the most basic of human functions, access to palatable and life sustaining food as well as unsanitary conditions.” The petition also claims that Sweden, in denying Rocky’s request to counsel upon being detained, violated Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. It goes on to say that Swedish prosecutors are seeking a two-week extension for a trial to begin mid to end of August. (Charges have yet to be filed.) It ends, “To keep Rocky and his colleagues in jail pending the lengthy trial proceedings is a punishment before the fact, with no due process.” The petition, at over 350,000 signatures at press time, has received an outpouring of support from the entertainment community, including Michael B. Jordan, Post Malone, Miguel, and more.
Car Registered to YG Involved in Shooting
Late last Wednesday, a black Cadillac Escalade registered to Keenon Jackson, better known as the rapper YG, was involved in a deadly shooting in Compton. The shooting took place on the 400 block of West Spruce Street — a block the rapper has immortalized on his records — and resulted in the death of an unidentified 65-year-old man. It appears that the man was a bystander who was killed in the crossfire as a person driving the SUV and a sheriff’s deputy shot at one another; no news report or statement from the sheriff’s department says whether the fatal bullet came from the suspect or the deputy, but it stands to reason that if the authorities had found that the suspect’s bullet had killed the man, it would have been reported as such. YG told TMZ that while the SUV — which was fitted with armor and bulletproof glass — is his, he was nowhere near the incident and had no knowledge that the car was being used. “I was nowhere near the scene of this incident and had been in a recording studio all day in Hollywood,” he said. “I was there until after midnight on the Fourth of July and didn’t learn of these events until after they happened.”
This post has been updated throughout.