Pitchfork writer Alphonse Pierre’s rap column covers songs, mixtapes, albums, Instagram freestyles, memes, weird tweets, fashion trends—and anything else that catches his attention.
Selling my soul for the Travis Scott meal
Perhaps the most insidious thing Travis Scott has stolen from Kanye West is the desire to be forever recognized by classic American institutions and corporations. So when Travis began to roll out his new partnership with McDonald’s through an Instagram post that’ll surely make you feel like you’re in a simulation—“Cactus Jack is coming”—it wasn’t the least bit surprising. What does a rapper’s soul taste like? I had to find out. On Tuesday at noon I made the five-minute trip to McDonald’s. Walking through the restaurant’s doors, I passed a massive poster for “The Travis Scott Meal” featuring a picture of a very regular-looking hamburger (described in corporate hell-speak as a “Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Travis-Style. It’s Lit!”), a Sprite (“Sprite with Ice. Straight Up!”), and a medium french fries and barbeque sauce (“If you know, you know”).
Inside the restaurant it seemed like business as usual, with elderly people grabbing coffees and construction workers loading up on fries. The McDonald’s employees weren’t wearing the rumored new uniform with a Cactus Jack logo, the customers weren’t 12-year-olds in their crispest Astroworld tees and Cactus Jack Jordan 4s, and Travis wasn’t behind the counter slinging burgers. When I got to the cash register—which was behind a surreally large plexiglass divider due to coronavirus concerns—I had too much self-respect to say “Cactus Jack sent me” or anything else that would only make the cashier’s day worse. “Let me get the Travis Scott Meal,” I said pointing at the poster, already embarrassed.
When I got home I sluggishly started to make my way through the first McDonald’s lunch I’ve had in about three or four years by drowning it in barbeque sauce and removing the pickles. The burger tasted like biting into an onion. The fries were crispy at first, but turned limp within minutes. The Sprite was watered down. I find it hard to believe that Travis has actually eaten this meal himself, though McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer Morgan Flately promises us that he loves their food: “Travis is a true McDonald’s fan having grown up visiting our restaurants in Houston.” Sure, Morgan.
After finishing the meal I could hardly move. I climbed into my bed and stared at the ceiling, trying not to doze off. Not only did I feel terrible physically, I couldn’t shake the idea that I was contributing to the machine that justifies selling out as the American Dream. I wonder if this is how Travis feels every day? Does he even care? Probably not, but I like to think that he does. Realistically, the purpose of this partnership, which includes a bizarre clothing line, is to help both McDonald’s and Travis make steps toward their goals: McDonald’s is desperate to humanize itself to a younger audience, and Travis is desperate to be seen as less of a human and more as a brand. It’ll probably work out for them both.
Where are Brooklyn drill rapper Bizzy Banks and Funk Flex in this photo?
A) The Funk Flex family Labor Day barbeque
B) A little league baseball game
C) A fishing trip in the Hudson Valley
D) Watching the sunset in the Bronx
E) They’ve never actually met, this is Photoshopped
F) None of the above
Correct answer: F (Flex is watching Bizzy freestyle in Greenpoint)
Are we allowed to be skeptical about viral dance crazes?
A couple of weeks back, Sada Baby let loose his new single “Whole Lotta Choppas,” which boasts the type of funk production that made “Slide” and “Aktivated” rise to the top of his deep catalog. But it’s the music video that stood out. In the high-budget clip, Sada hits the robotic dance that has become one of his signature moves. Within days, the dance was all over TikTok—both of the platform’s most popular users Charli D’Amelio (85 million followers) and Addison Rae (60 million) have done the dance multiple times. Though Sada Baby has a history of virality, when the internet’s most powerful influencers are involved, we should be skeptical, right?
It brings up a bigger question: Are viral moments less legitimate if they’re part of a corporate marketing plan? I find it hard to believe that Charli and Addison stumbled onto this dance on a whim and thought it was cute to show their followers; they are brands who do not do anything for free. I’m sure no rapper or label will ever acknowledge which viral dances or songs rise organically, if any of them still do. Maybe organic phenomenons are more uncommon than we think? But we should still question it all, even if it’s as harmless as the Sada Baby dance.
Veeze: “Law N Order”
Even if you’ve never cared about Dick Wolf’s television universe, you must admit that the Law & Order theme song is a heater. So it only makes sense that it has been flipped into a rap beat, perfect for the solo return of Detroit enigma Veeze. Over the course of two minutes, his relaxed delivery makes everything he raps sound poetic: “I knew this shit was gon’ come just like I seen it in The Simpsons.” Like Chief Keef at his chillest, Veeze uses his nonchalant swagger to spit absurd hypotheticals with a straight face: “I don’t give a fuck if we go to the pearly gates, I’m takin’ a mag.” Veeze brings new life to the Law & Order theme with the same self-assured presence that has made him the most exciting rapper in Detroit.
Brooklyn rapper Maassai and New Jersey beatmaker JWords are in their bag as H31R. On the duo’s new album velocity, JWords lays the foundation with production that never feels the same across the record’s 12 tracks. Her beats are like a fusion of dirty New York hip-hop, house, and New Jersey club music; they aren’t the easiest instrumentals to rap over, but Maassai is not intimidated. On “breathe thru it,” she sounds as sharp as ever. “I am an entity,” she raps, “And I don’t even need external validation, as long as I’m feelin’ me.” On “heavy on my crown,” JWords’ production sounds like it was made to soundtrack the club at the beginning of Blade, and Maassai doesn’t miss a beat, picking up the intensity with ease. “They don’t shower us with love, ’cause they scared/They don’t doubt we will air this shit out,” she raps. It’s breathtaking.
YN Jay’s recent YouTube singles, ranked
6) “Whisper Man” [ft. YSR Gramz]
The YN Jay verse has a steady amount of memorable punchlines—including “I get to touching on your body, I’m the tickle man,” delivered in an unsettling whispers—but it just isn’t long enough.
5) “Face It”
Next time somebody hands you an aux cord, play “Face It” if only to see their reaction to the opening line: “I just walked in with dog shit, I need some toilet paper.”
4) “Biggest Fan”
The beat’s sample feels clichéd, but in about a minute and a half Jay has three different personalities, including an insane bit at the end where he has an argument with himself pretending to be a nasal-voice fan. I appreciate the up-and-down experience.
3) “Coochie World”
Maybe the most confusing song he’s made so far. There’s offensive accent work, frustrated screams, and a beat that sounds like it was made on accident.
2) “Coochie Man Pt. 2”
“Coochie Man Pt. 2” has all of the essentials: the “hold onnn” ad-lib; the flow that sounds like he’s trying to tell a story, but can never get to the end; the horniest punchlines (“I just had to hit from the side, this bitch pigeon-toed”).
1) “Triple S” [ft. Louie Ray]
YN Jay and Louie Ray are the perfect duo. Earlier this year they released “Coochie” and “Reflection,” two of the best Midwest rap songs of 2020, and “Triple S” deserves to be in that conversation, too. Over a thudding beat from Enrgy, who has quickly cornered the market on hyper and anxious Detroit instrumentals, the duo have one thing on their mind. Do I really have to say it?
Monday Night: “Holly Poltergeist”
The prolific Richmond, Virginia rapper Monday Night has already dropped two projects that have worked their way into my rotation this year: Holly Favored and Thug Tear. Similar to his Mutant Academy peers, Monday Night delivers smoothly confident vignettes over soothing loops. On his new single, “Holly Poltergeist,” he’s the dude on the block always telling a story that seems too over-the-top to be true, but that you believe anyway—a personality that brings to mind Jim Jones’ DVD era. “Cold stunting, the cops on us, you thought the truck was a Bronco, huh?” he raps on a soulful Benji Socrate$ instrumental. It’s safe to say that whatever project “Holly Poltergeist” ends up on will be in my rotation, too.
We have to let Power go
No rapper in Texas right now has a better beat selection than San Antonio’s HOODLUM. His croaky delivery works well over any type of instrumental: a soul sample, trendy minimalist Texas production, or a Bay Area funky flip. On “Breathe,” he continues to evolve, his flow more stripped-down than ever. Over the pounding drums of the first half, he moves at a syrupy pace before descending into madness in the second half. Over an old-school West Coast beat, HOODLUM has never sounded so distinct—it’s like he ate something too spicy and is trying to get the words out of his mouth without using his tongue. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork