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So Necessary: Young Nudy, Gunna, Ex Hex, and the Week’s Best Moments in Music

Our weekly roundup highlights new rap from Atlanta, Portland, and the U.K.; a tantalizing guitar riff from a three-woman band; and a parody song earworm

Young Nudy, Gunna, and Ex Hex Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Because he has nothing better to do with his time, each Friday, Micah Peters riffs on the most awe-inspiring, confounding, addictive, or otherwise hilarious moments from the week in music. This week: Young Nudy Free (for now), Ex Hex returns with a classic rock stomper, and Young Thug and Gunna form the hydra.

The Pre-hook on Young Nudy’s “Yeah Yeah”

In early February, during Super Bowl weekend, 21 Savage was arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. ICE spokesman Bryan Cox claimed that Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph (21’s government name) was British, not American. “His whole public persona is false,” Cox said. The statement was like bad close-up magic—regardless of his overstay status, if 21 Savage isn’t from Atlanta, then who can feasibly say that they are? And isn’t every public persona false on some level?

Still, the conversation surrounding the arrest whizzed by anything resembling pause or confusion and careened straight into stale comedy as public figures, celebrities, and journalists, otherwise calling to abolish it, took ICE at its word. Savage’s plight—the threat of imminent deportation—was flattened into jokes about “tea” and “crumpets.” Atlanta rapper Young Nudy, who was arrested alongside 21 on four charges from 2017 and not transferred to ICE custody, was less of a story and fell largely by the wayside.

When 21 Savage was finally released, his cousin Nudy was nowhere to be found; where was he? To my mind, both cases are examples of law enforcement influencing public opinion, which makes this clip of Nudy performing his minor hit “Yeah Yeah” at a recent show in South Carolina feel so close to vindication. (I recommend his charming Fader profile, published in advance of Slimeball 3, which arrived in August.) Consider Nudy’s ad-libbing before the cut from 2016’s Slimeball opens up: “Look at the picture they try to paint on me.”

I have watched this clip going on 50 times.

I’m wary of making this seem like more than what it is—a rapper performing a beloved mixtape cut in a smallish venue—but the crowd’s spilling over onto the stage and scream-rapping every word (“GANGSTA! BLOOD! SHOOTER!”) sort of demands it. “Yeah Yeah” seems to me conciliatory and defiant, a little more than four minutes of Nudy considering what’s been decided about him and scoffing, fine … I’ll be that. I have to believe there’s a kind of freedom in it.

The Awesome, Scratchy Thin Lizzy–ish Vamp on Ex Hex’s “Rainbow Shiner”

I know virtually nothing about Washington, D.C., rockers Ex Hex, but I do know that they’re a trio of women led by Mary Timony, and that their newest single—a taste of the follow-up to their 2014 album, Rips—rips. There are lyrics to this song, and they are good, perhaps even great, I promise. But the most immediate thing about “Rainbow Shiner” is easily the blistering guitar that it starts with. The riff recalls ’70s hair metal, or classic rock maybe—I wasn’t alive during the ’70s, don’t listen to hair metal even now, and got acquainted with classic rock canon through Guitar Hero.

It still sounds like cinders falling on reinforced steel in a highly saturated wide shot while someone in an unironic top hat wags their tongue at me, and I dig that.

Skepta’s Verse on Octavian’s “Bet”

Not that it’s any of your business. but I drive very far to play basketball very late on Monday nights, and on the drive back—usually around 12:30—there’s almost no one on the road. I’m headed home, but as Los Angeles slinks back up from the night to greet me and highway lamps flicker overhead, it feels eerily like navigating a drop ship through forgotten swatches of space. This is when “Bet,” an airless, zero-gravity thumper from French British MC Octavian, sounds most correct.

It features two other U.K.-based rappers: Michael Phantom and Skepta, Drake’s sometime friend. Skepta’s verse is characteristically rude and precise, but I’m particularly fond of how he says that quasi-inquisitive “whadyewmean?” like he’s just caught the salt shaker you clumsily knocked off the table. “Whadyewmean ‘why am I wearin’ Louis’ / can’t you see Virgil’s in the office? GREATNESS ONLY.”

The Drum-and-Bass Breakdown on the Last 30 Seconds of ePP’s “Short Run”

I love a good statement of intent, and Portland rapper ePP’s newest single “Short Run” is just that. The loosie is teeming with the kind of vengeful energy you’d normally see from an act that’s bubbled locally for sometime but hasn’t yet transcended regionality— that’s ePP. “Hey, what’s ya name? / Did it for the glory but I’m creepin’ to the fame.”

That’s all well and good. But the most emotive part of the record is the final 20 seconds or so, when ePP’s said all he needs to say and Damon Boucher’s and Neill Von Tally’s beat begins to stampede downhill.

Young Thug and Gunna “Swiggity Swapping” on “3 Headed Snake”

Gunna’s Drip or Drown 2 is moody, not quite meant to be listened to while standing up, but not while fully horizontal either. It’s murky and full of negative space for Gunna, the most popular of Young Thug’s stylistic children, to spread his designer cape and flutter around, harmonizing about clothing brands you’ll never be able to afford. It’s under an hour, and it’s surprising, even after you’ve heard it in full, that Thug is on only the one song.

If you were to stop me on the street and ask me to explain Gunna, I’d say that if Young Thug is a five-tool player, his protégé is maybe a two- or three-tool player. In instances where Thug is this dialed in, though, you see just how big of a gulf that is—Thug’s voice takes strange and beautiful shapes as he yelps and squawks and keeps his absurdist boasts ultra-current (“My gator got measles!”). Gunna keeps great time, though, just like when he and Thug played Patty Cake on Future’s “Unicorn Purp” last month.

BONUS: Literally Any Part of SkinBone’s “Pla-Ket”

Comedian SkinBone seems to have observed that basically any Top 40 pop song from the last 20 years becomes hilarious if you lightly shift the subject matter—from walking 1,000 miles to see a lover, or whatever Metro Station was on about—to something about the pla-ket.

We’ve moved past all of the other names for guns in music—gats, toolies, biscuits, burners, sticks, et cetera—and I appreciate that SkinBone thought up a new one that’s sort of onomatopoeic and so much fun to say aloud.

Also, I really miss the parodic eBaum’s World internet. Bring it back. Pretty please.