Underground Rap Will Never Die

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AzChikeWe’re entering a strange new period where there’s no meaningful distinction between rap’s underground and its mainstream. A regional scene can catch fire out of nowhere. A 16-year-old can blow up on TikTok. After the stultifying years-long dominance of Atlanta trap, other sounds are starting to get their moment in the rap sun. Things can … More »

Tekashi 6ix9ine & The Bizarre Spectacle Of Rap On Trial

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6ix9ineFourteen years ago, I sat in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn and watched Irv Gotti’s lawyer call Ja Rule a fake crook. Irv Gotti, the founder of Ja Rule’s Murder Inc. label, was on trial, alongside his brother Chris Lorenzo, for money laundering. Prosecutors were claiming that the two brothers had used Murder Inc. as … More »

Stream AzChike’s New Album Rich & Ratchet

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AzChike-Rich-And-RatchetRight now, the Los Angeles street-rap underground is absolutely exploding with creativity. Following the lead of currently-incarcerated scene pioneers Drakeo The Ruler and 03 Greedo, there’s a whole generation of younger rappers — Shoreline Mafia, 1TakeJay, Rucci — drawing obvious inspiration from Bay Area hyphy and making hard, nasty, funny party music. AzChike, a young … More »

JPEGMAFIA Makes Some Anxious-Ass Rap Music

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JPEGMAFIA“Disappointed.” In the weeks leading up to the release of his new album All My Heroes Are Cornballs, JPEGMAFIA used that word over and over, like a mantra. He used that word onstage, in interviews, in video promos for the album itself. He used the word so much that I actually thought the … More »

Blu & Oh No, Indie-Rap Survivors

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BluA decade ago, XXL did its best to figure out where rap was going. They’d tried it once before, spotlighting a bunch of rising street-rap stars — Lil Boosie, Young Dro, Saigon — on the cover of a 2007 issue. But 2009 was the beginning of the XXL Freshman class, a mostly-annual institution that’s come … More »

Lucki’s Depressive Drug-Rap Can Punch You In The Soul

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LuckiThere’s an old joke about a lost-dog poster: “LOST: Male dog. One eye. Mangled ear. Paralyzed hind leg. Crooked tail. Answers to the name ‘Lucky.'” The Chicago rapper Lucki, formerly Lucky Eck$, was not joking when he settled on his rap name. Lucki’s rap name is his real name; he was born Lucki Camel, Jr. More »

Future Drifts Off Into A Pleasant Oblivion

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FutureThere’s a moment on Hoodie SZN, the new album from the young Bronx sing-rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, where A Boogie delivers a few words of praise for Future, his favorite rapper, saying all the things he wishes he’d said when he was in the studio with the man himself. “Used to … More »

Lil Baby & Gunna Are The Best Rap Duo In Years

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Lil-Baby-GunnaThere was this rap-video cliché in the late ’90s. The rapper would jump out a window, with police chasing him. Or he’d be in a boat, with DEA chasing him. Or he’d be face-to-face with the sworn enemy that we met four minutes earlier. And these words would flash across the screen: “To be continued…” … More »