Verses From the Abstract: To Bop or Not to Bop - Featuring RMR, Saweetie, God Colony, Buddy, Akai Solo, Open Mike Eagle, and Tall Black Guy | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, September 30th, 2022  

Verses From the Abstract: To Bop or Not to Bop

Featuring RMR, Saweetie, God Colony, Buddy, Akai Solo, Open Mike Eagle, and Tall Black Guy

Jul 29, 2020 Akai Solo
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Like most people that heard “RASCAL” when it dropped earlier this year, I wanted to know more about RMR from the jump. There’s something so perverse about flipping a Rascal Flatts love ballad and turning it into an anti-cop anthem, of making a refrain of “fuck 12” into a lighters-hoisted singalong. Then there’s the video, which largely consists of the singer and his crew flashing big guns and wearing ski masks (plus, in RMR’s case, a bulletproof vest emblazoned with Yves Saint-Laurent branding). What was this dude about, exactly?

Endearingly, RMR is not telling, preferring you focus on the songs and not worry about creating a cult of personality. That leaves plenty to focus on, though, as his debut EP, DRUG DEALING IS A LOST ART (CMNTY CULTURE/Warner), is a maelstrom of conflicting emotions draped in indelible melodies. There’s no shortage of lyrics about drugs and dealing them, a feature not exactly unique in trap music (I mean, it’s right there in the name), but RMR’s keening, vulnerable voice—clear and strong even when it’s fully bathed in the de rigeur autotune — elevates the whole enterprise. Aside from the country influence on “RASCAL,” there’s a wide variety of musical inputs here, marking it as a post-everything pop record first and foremost; hell, the washed-out arpeggios and slow crescendo of “Silence” sound more like Enya than trap.

The only thing DRUG DEALING IS A LOST ART is missing is summer bops. It just ain’t that vibe… but then, neither is this summer? If the best party you can manage responsibly is to push the furniture aside in your living room and dance with your family/roommates, do bops even matter?

Heresy. We can hope, for the artists’ sake, that this year’s dancefloor burners won’t be past their expiration date by the time dancefloors can safely exist again, but it’s still summer RIGHT DAMN NOW. Saweetie knows this, which is why she’s blessed us with “Tap In” (Icy/Artistry Records/Warner), a classic summer bop if ever there was one. Even a grizzled anticapitalist like me can’t resist instant-classic lines like “You better get the card and make it swipe like Tinder/Private villa and the fur chinchilla/When he post me, all the hoes get sicker”. It might be too bold to say that Trina should be watching her throne, but the fact that Saweetie is probably cocky enough to say it herself is a lot of what carries this banger off.

I’m not totally sold yet on Cult (self-released), the latest mixtape from UK production duo God Colony, but in the search for bops, you could do a lot worse than “Please,” the first single from the record, featuring vocals by up-and-comer Azadi.mp3. In a move uncharacteristic of both God Colony’s “Skinny Puppy goes hip-hop” style and Azadi.mp3’s spooky solo work, “Please” is pure Neptunes worship, sounding like a prime-era Kelis track with some atonal noise blasts dropped in for good measure. Hope there’s more like this coming from both of them!

Buddy’s latest with Lucky Daye, “Faces” (RCA), isn’t as club-ready, but this is one you’re supposed to play after the club, anyway. The bubbling bassline is 100% sex jam, and the lyrics don’t shy away from that. It’s nasty and great. Even better is Buddy’s previous single “Black 2,” whose beat is every bit as good, and whose lyrics rail against cultural appropriation in a way that rings very true within the current cultural moment (and, y’know, always).

Eleventh Wind (Break All Records), the latest EP from Brooklyn’s Akai Solo, also speaks to the times, but with production that reflects the dizzying confusion and frustration endemic to said times. The track “Candor” in particular is both musically challenging and lyrically heartbreaking, a bleary stumble that reflects on COVID-19 terrors in one line and nods to Angela Davis the next. Coming in at under 20 minutes, Eleventh Wind would be a cruel act of deprivation from a less prolific rapper, but Akai Solo rarely keeps us waiting and rarely disappoints, so it’s chill.

Open Mike Eagle lets his music drip out a little slower than Akai Solo, but he’s also not one to disappoint. His latest single, “Neighborhood Protection Spell (Lana Del Biden Nem)” (MAD Dragon Music) is, in his words, “a spell to ward off subtle social attacks at Blackness,” and it indeed feels like a incantation, an expression of community love that cuts through all the (very legitimate) anger. This is something that takes incredible restraint, but if anybody can pull it off, he’s our man.

I’m a little late on mentioning Detroit’s Tall Black Guy and his latest, Restless as We Are (Tall Black Guy Productions), but it seems like a good place to leave y’all for this round. Terrel Wallace is both a DJ and traditional musician, and he brings both talents to these supple, soulful grooves. Though rooted in hip-hop, the album is expansive, coming to its coda with “We Gotta Do Better,” an extended, Maharishi-sampling soul jazz excursion tricked out with a chirpy 1960s variety show chorus and sun-soaked horns. Like the aforementioned Open Mike Eagle track, Restless As We Are is a meditation on the beauty and joy overlooked in stereotypical depictions of Black life, but it’s also a direct, plain-spoken reaction to police brutality in general and George Floyd’s murder in particular. Unlike much other music which can claim the same, though, it’s unbowed and uplifting even at its most pained. That’s no mean feat, and it’s more than is fair to expect of anyone right now. Still, Lord knows that when neither the fury nor the bops cut it, we could all use a little glimmer of hope.

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