Pitchfork writer Alphonse Pierre’s rap column covers songs, mixtapes, albums, Instagram freestyles, memes, tweets, fashion trends—and anything else that catches his attention.
CJ, the wannabe drill star
Currently sitting at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, CJ’s “Whoopty” is the biggest-ever New York drill song not made by Pop Smoke. Through a combination of TikTok virality and a traditional push on the city’s airwaves—which was no doubt aided by the fact that CJ’s uncle, James Cruz, was once the president of Bad Boy Entertainment—the Staten Island rapper has shot up the ranks behind the weight of a single song.
Late last year, during an interview on a low-budget YouTube show called Talking Nasty with Ricky, CJ mentioned how “Whoopty” was the first drill song he ever made. It sounds like it. The beat’s Bollywood sample was used to better effect on Memo600 and King Von’s 2019 track “Exposing Me,” and the raps are borderline 22Gz karaoke. He doesn’t have anything to say or know a fresh way to say it.
CJ’s new single “Bop” is another retread. The slickness of the way he raps the word “slide” on the hook clearly mimics Coach Da Ghost’s signature ad-lib, and his dance moves in the video make it feel like you’re watching a parody that doesn’t realize it’s a parody. Regardless, he signed a deal with Warner earlier this month and is currently preparing to release his debut EP, executive-produced by French Montana (who has similarly butchered drill beats in the past).
The discussion of originality has always been attached to New York’s drill music. We’re only about four years removed from the days when it was strictly considered a diluted version of a Chicago style. Or when Pop Smoke was accused of ripping off another peer, Sheff G. But Pop was eventually able to put his own spin on the subgenre’s bulging sound; I don’t believe CJ ever will.
The CJ experiment appears to be nothing more than a cash grab—backed by an unholy combination of New York rap royalty, Spotify playlists, TikTok, and major labels desperate to find the next big hit. You could probably say the same about the emergence of Dusty Locane, who unmistakably sounds like Pop Smoke. He’s also from the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Pop and even repeats the same ad-libbed chants of “Dior! Dior!” Unlike CJ, Dusty’s songs (there are only three) are kind of irresistible, though it’s hard not to feel like they’re just temporarily filling a void.
Even with these copycats taking center stage, I still feel like better things are ahead for New York drill, with newcomers like Bizzy Banks, 26AR, and Rocko Ballin currently twisting the style in fresh directions. But for now, we’ll have to power through while watching the New York rap ecosystem try to cover up CJ’s ripoffs with big numbers.
Fat Joe’s neverending summer
There have been countless times when Fat Joe, who turned 50 last year, could have just purchased a beachside condo in Miami and proceeded to spend all of his time sipping free bottles of Cîroc until the inevitable lifetime achievement awards began to roll in. Personally, I thought he had already done that before he resurfaced on 2016’s Remy Ma-assisted “All the Way Up”—a moment that felt like watching a basketball player who you thought was washed up get traded and have a career renaissance. But now, Fat Joe is back again (and no, I’m not talking about the “inspirational” OnlyFans page he recently launched with DJ Khaled).
“Sunshine (The Light)” is the latest Joe song primed to dominate NYC and South Florida radio stations, to play at timeouts of sporting events, to drift out of the bluetooth speaker of the dude in the subway who still wears his Yankee fitted with a backwards tilt like 50 Cent in the “Many Men” video, to probably end up in a Carnival Cruise Line commercial, and most importantly, to make us feel like it’s summer in January.
If you want the full experience of “Sunshine (The Light),” I recommend watching the music video, which begins with a ridiculous toast led by Diddy and DJ Khaled. “This is Crack, one of the world’s most famous graffiti artists. He got kidnapped in Africa!” yells Diddy, as if it’s a humble brag. (According to Ja Rule, both he and Fat Joe really were kidnapped in Africa by an evil concert promoter who also once kidnapped DMX.) The video then transitions to vacation-ready shots of Fat Joe: at the beach, on a massive boat, in a mansion with gorgeous views, rocking the type of flowing button-downs Pablo Escobar probably wore, and dancing with a drink in his hand as if Southern Florida isn’t a COVID-19 hotspot.
On the song, he glides over a mashup of Rihanna’s “Kiss It Better” and Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much” by the producer Amorphous that sounds like it would fit perfectly in one of DJ D-Nice’s IG Live sets. Joe attempts to be uplifting, but he really just tells us how great his life is: unlimited Fenty and D’usse, courtside Knicks tickets, trips to Turks and Caicos, and, of course, a shitload of silk shirts. It’s kind of corny and definitely has #brandedcontent vibes, but who would you rather see make corny branded content than Fat Joe? “The life you live is so inspiring,” Khaled tells Joe in the video. He’s right. Fat Joe summer forever.
Speaking of Ja Rule... headline of the week: “Ja Rule Is Pissed After Robinhood App Restricts Stock Trading: ‘Do Not Sell!’”
Ja is clearly ready for his own finance show on CNBC.
Glaive doesn’t take heartbreak well. “So fuck you I hope you rot in hell/I know you never cared, but I’m still doing well,” wails the 16-year-old on “Cloak n Dagger.” His contribution feels like it started out as a regretful, emoji-filled social media rant, but fellow hyperpop artist ericdoa’s section is much more empathetic. “My bad, upset I missed your call/You got your arms out to save me/You hoping that I don’t fall again/But it’s too hard,” he sings sweetly, though the tremble in his voice leads you to believe he’s holding back. Collectively, they make a two-sided lovesick anthem that could fit on a playlist right after Future’s “Throw Away.” The verse that resonates the most with you personally will say a lot about the way you handle breakups.
Los and Nutty are ready to go Hollywood
Last week, Griselda Records attempted to revive the street-rap film subgenre once dominated by No Limit and Roc-A-Fella in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It didn’t quite work, but not because there isn’t an appetite for the subgenre’s return—Griselda is just the wrong crew from the wrong Rust Belt city.
If rap flicks are going to make a legitimate comeback, some movie studio needs to drop Detroit’s Los and Nutty a duffel bag and let them film the crime epic they were born to create. Their paranoid take on Michigan rap already feels like a cross between John Woo movies and Paid in Full, and now they’re finally getting to explore that side in their visuals.
Their new seven-minute, self-directed short film for “6 N Da Morning” and “Heroin Charges” opens with a recurring character in Los and Nutty’s Panagnl4e trilogy: the suburban white dude who leaves the comfort of his neighborhood in search of drugs, played by an actor who looks like he could’ve been an extra in Good Will Hunting. The suburbanite ends up making a call to a drug dealer, who is selling out of his grandmother’s house (another Los and Nutty trope) and agrees to meet him. The ominous lighting, frigid weather, and uneasiness of the characters let us know the ending will inevitably be twisted.
The first deal goes smoothly. But after some convoluted shadiness and an unnecessary choice to have the white actor drop a few N-bombs, the second deal ends tragically, like most Los and Nutty songs do. We’re flash-forwarded to a police procedural scene, where cops determine that the suburbanite and a friend overdosed. The scene cuts quickly to Los and Nutty performing “Heroin Charges” on a cop car. “Nine times out of 10 if it go good I’m going again/$200,000 cash will turn a nigga hardhead,” raps Nutty, before the film ends with a detective—who thinks he’s Denzel in Inside Man—giving an impassioned speech about drugs in the streets. The whole thing is marred by bad acting and plot holes, but trade in the theater kids for some local rappers, and Los and Nutty could soon be on their way to making the next State Property.
Slimelife Shawty and his crew should challenge Pooh Shiesty to a money spread battle
Bizzy Banks: “I Feel Like Dying”
If you only watch the video for Bizzy Banks’ “I Feel Like Dying,” where the 22-year-old East New York rapper throws money on the shaking asses of video vixens in a hotel room, you wouldn’t realize how bleak the single actually is. Prolific producer A Lau flips a sample that Lil Wayne also famously rapped on into a drill beat, and Bizzy raps as if his life is a blur of tragedy, revealing the dark scenarios that often drift through his mind. Despite the gloominess of it all, Bizzy’s sometimes humorously detailed punchlines puncture the feeling of despair. “I think these niggas work for cops/I still hit the store and peace my ock,” he raps, always finding room to describe a humdrum moment amid the madness.
DaBaby, the semen snowboarder
DaBaby’s willingness to do anything in front of a camera is part of what made his early music videos stand out. How many other rappers would go through the effort of putting on a buff suit, dressing like a cowboy, or learning choreography with the Jabbawockeez when they could just mean mug under the streetlights or do some donuts in a Hellcat and call it a day?
But on occasion, he has gone too far—like when he showed up to SXSW looking like a Rugrat. And now, in the video for BRS Kash’s “Throat Baby (Remix),” he shreds like Johnny Tsunami through a mountain of snow semen. It’s even worse than you could imagine. As the white stuff surreally gushes out of a woman’s mouth, DaBaby cruises down it in full snow gear—including Moncler goggles. It’s so unnecessary (and kind of hilarious), and only DaBaby is shameless enough to do it.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork