“The perseverance of a rebel, I drop heavier levels / It's unseen or heard, a king with words / Can't knock the hustle, but I've seen street dreams deferred”
-Common, “The 6th Sense”
Greetings once again from the couch, where I watch rap music videos to recall what it was like when we all would vibe together.
The city streets are not teeming with the rebellion and revolution of the above clip. The streets are, of course, largely empty, sparse even at peak hours. Common’s clever and insightful verses couldn’t have anticipated an enemy like the one we face now, one whose face looks a lot like our own. But there’s something wonderful about seeing the fire, seeing the overturned cop car, seeing the humanity of “The 6th Sense” video’s narrative. It’s almost liberating to imagine taking a stand in this way, taking to the streets to be heard and seen and felt. When we get through all this mess, let’s try to remember our ability to enact change for the better—as a group.
Anyway, this marks the fifth installment of Irregular Vegetables, a weekly series of CABBAGES’ emails where I share links to recent writings from other hip-hop/rap journos and critics, squeezing in my own work as I see fit. These midweek editions hit inboxes every Thursday as we all self-quarantine and try to protect the most vulnerable among us from COVID-19. Enjoy this week’s reads and make sure to scroll down for a quick Lettuce Wraps Q&A with Memphis rapper Big Moochie Grape.
“This drill shit is the sound of New York,” Pop Smoke declared on a cool evening in early February. “This is what New York sounds like now.” Riding through Manhattan in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the 20-year-old rapper was just hours away from releasing his second mixtape, ‘Meet the Woo 2,’ and he had a lot to be happy about. His music was everywhere, blasting through speakers in every corner of Brooklyn, and now the rest of America was starting to take notice. In the past six months alone, he had collaborated with Travis Scott, Nicki Minaj, and Quavo, and earned his first Billboard Hot 100 hits. All that “King of New York” talk was beginning to feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The city had a new star. (Read more at Complex)
Her latest release ‘Hit The Latto’ is the embodiment of five years of growth from the artist formerly known as Miss Mulatto, winner of ‘The Rap Game’ at the age of 16, to Mulatto: the grownup version who has conquered adversity and fought to be respected among her peers. Over six songs, she raps about her fondness for Lamborghini and McLaren (a nod to her past as a drag racer) through a slew of car-inspired references about her lived experiences of having that "wet-wet" that'll make you pass out. The EP draws inspiration from Trina's ‘Da Baddest Bitch,’ a pivotal album in hip-hop through its bold proclamations of sexuality, luxury and power from a woman's perspective. (Read more at Paper)
While working serving cocktails at legendary Kim Graves nightclub in center city (formerly located at 20th & Samson), Lady B would rock the mic on her own, imitating the rhymes she had heard at those early parties. Unbeknownst to anyone, Lady B’s fun and creative hobby would set in motion a series of events that would change music history. (Read more at The Key)
While Siifu’s catalog centers on traditionally Black sounds, his resort to punk music is more confrontational. He dabbled in the genre on his EP ‘fuck(demo},’ four tracks of which also appear on ‘Negro,’ and credits a former girlfriend with introducing him to Black punk band Bad Brains. Siifu soon broadened his musical rotation to enhance his stage presence, listening to hardcore punk band Show Me the Body, former Standing on the Corner member Slauson Malone, and radical Black Arts Movement poet Amiri Baraka. “If you come to my shows, I’ll be screaming. There are certain songs that don’t sound like that on record, but that’s just my energy [when I’m] live sometimes,” Siifu said. (Read more at MTV News)
The anticipation for Tuesday mornings could barely be contained. Plans were made on how to ensure you could get to the mall and still make it to class on-time. Or, in many cases, how you were going to skip school altogether to sit with your newfound treasure. At one time, Tuesday mornings were the most significant moment each week for the music industry and music fans as new albums hit record store shelves. And unlike modern-day music consumption, decisions would need to be made. (Read more at Vibe)
On the mournful “Lord Knows,” he’s on his knees reaching out in pure desperation, powerfully rapping: “I smoke a blunt to take the pain out / And if I wasn’t high, I’d probably try to blow my brains out / I’m hopeless, they should’ve killed me as a baby.” His throaty vocals show the wear and tear of chain-smoking Newports, true, but the delivery of his bars from the very back of his throat sounds gigantic; like a God, clearing both his throat and his conscience. (Read more at The Guardian)
Talking to me via Zoom, Skinner is in what looks like the (slightly) converted front room of his undoubtedly nice house in north London. This light-filled space is his music room-slash-studio, in which the kit is minimal but enough: big speakers flanking a Victorian fireplace, piano, his phone, a bean bag-slash-cushion on the floor on which he plonks himself for our conversation. “It took me a long time to realise it, but if you put all your crap somewhere else, you can have a really tidy room,” he says, looking round a place that is indeed remarkably clutter-free. (Read more at The Face)
The rapid flow he employs on “Lawyer Fees,” assisted by the sorrowful croons of Polo G, sounds like the distressed ramblings of a victim breaking down, before achieving a breakthrough. Herbo details the morbid horrors he witnessed as a teen, listing dead homies off like the stars on the blood-soaked and bullethole-filled flag shown on the album’s cover. “High Speed” takes the listener on an anxiety-filled ride as Swervo recounts his last velocious getaway from the cops matching his flow speed to the events in the story, slowing down when the situation steadies but speeding right back up when the intensity builds. (Read more at HipHopDX)
With production by Almighty Quise, “Uno” kickstarted a plethora of Latino-influenced slaps such as YG’s “Go Loko” last year and Tyga’s “Ayy Macarena” remake, and though the 20-year-old is proud of his influence and accomplishments, he’s ready to show the world what he’s got with his latest release, ‘It Cost To Live Like This 2.’ The project’s only guest feature is Wiz Khalifa on “Blow The Pickle,” who Jaay says was extremely supportive of him from the very beginning as the song began to gain steam on the fun video-sharing app TikTok. As someone who blew up relatively quickly straight out of high school, the buzzing star is simply grateful things happened the way they did. (Read more at Uproxx)
22Gz brought an authenticity and aggression that was unrivaled in Brooklyn at the time. He packed each verse with vivid details of his street lifestyle, like, “It’s a man down when we lurking/Pull up in all black we purging/Pull up in all black suburbans/If he ain’t dead, we reversing” from “Suburban.” Later, on 2018’s “Spin the Block” he spewed more deadly lines as warnings for anyone trying to diss his crew: “Headshot, face shot, if them rakes is dropped/ABS and PIX11, yellow tape the block.” As 22Gz would argue, you can say what you want when you’ve really lived that life. (Read more at Complex)
If there’s a song on ‘Gang’ in which Headie does reinvent the wheel, it’s “Smoke,” a giant, glitchy, claustrophobic collaboration with Jamie xx where Headie presides over a dance party that he’s too bereft to enjoy. There’s a pulsating drum progression that gains in speed until it spins off its axis entirely just before the second verse, where Headie is at his most indignant: “Hugs, no hugs, I had to hug my thoughts / Nobody come to court, I just done a couple months on tour.” More than the sheer bombast of it, the most flooring thing about “Smoke”—about ‘Gang,’ really—is Headie’s adaptability. (Read more at The Ringer)
While hip-hop has broadened enough over its successive generations that there’s much more room now for an artist in his or her 40s to remain relevant and successful, he makes clear during our chat the importance of getting the input of younger people and genuinely opening oneself up to contemporary sounds. “You do that by embracing it, by keeping your ear to the street, knowing what’s new or not blocking it out,” he says. “Once you put yourself in a bubble and say, this is not my cup of tea, I'm not going to entertain it, you gonna be finished.” (Read more at Forbes)
Lettuce Wraps with… Big Moochie Grape
Three questions. Three answers. That's a wrap.
If you’ve been following Young Dolph for a minute, you know what he’s building over at his Paper Route EMPIRE imprint. Early signings Key Glock and Jay Fizzle have generated considerable attention as more and more listeners pick up on Memphis’s contemporary creative surge. Joining the label’s ranks more recently is Big Moochie Grape, an East Memphis native with an instantly catchy sound on his hands. A mane of few words outside of his tracks, he briefly answered a few questions about his come-up and the recently released Eat Or Get Ate EP.
Memphis obviously has a rich history in rap music. Did you grow up listening to a lot of locals and did you have a favorite album?
I don't fuck with a lot of rappers, but I came up bumping Young Dolph, 8Ball And MJG, and Three 6 Mafia. Comin' Out Hard by 8 Ball and MJG… and "If You Ain't from My Hood" by Project Pat featuring DJ Paul and Juicy J.
BandPlay's production plays a big part on your Paper Route EMPIRE debut. What did you like most about working with him and rapping over his beats for this project?
BandPlay been my dawg since Day One. We just did a song one day and it turned out fire. He go hard AF; he was meant to be Paper Route. Band got a great sound and he's easy to work with. So when you got good vibes, you'll make good music.
A lot of people got introduced to you thanks to your verse on Jay Fizzle's "Now & Next" single. How did you first connect with him?
We connect real good. That’s my brother. We catch each other vibes and make hits. We got more on the way fasho.
Stream Eat Or Get Ate here.
See you on Sunday.