Every week, Micah Peters surveys the world of music—from new releases to bubbling trends to anniversaries both big and obscure—and gives a few recommendations.
If “Bop,” one of DaBaby’s biggest commercial successes, is proof positive that he reads his mentions, then his newest project, Blame It on Baby, serves as evidence that it’s much worse than that—he definitely name searches. A handful of borderline sprightly mixtapes dating back to 2016, and his 2019 Interscope debut Baby on Baby on which he starts rapping precisely at the 0:00 timestamp, garnered attention for the North Carolina rapper as someone who raps, forcefully, as though he were Ludacris’s muscle suit in the “Get Back” video, but sentient, and with an easily recognizable cadence. Dahdah-dah-dahdah-dah-dahdah, Dah-dahdah-dah-dahdah, dah-dahdah-dah-dahdah. Light backlash, or rather, critical exhaustion with DaBaby’s forceful rapping gimmick, had begun to take root before his honest-to-goodness debut debut, Kirk, and on “Bop,” he gave the peanut gallery a little of what they thought they wanted, as a treat: “‘I’m unorthodox than a motherfucker / Aye when you gon’ switch the flow? I thought you’d never ask.”
Let’s just skip straight ahead to the point on his new project when DaBaby switches things up a little too much, and starts singing. It’s bad. “Sad Sh*t” is a sanguine, quintessential rap-sanger song, wherein our antihero feels like pure shit and just wants her back (“I miss you too I cain’eem cap,” he says), but won’t exactly change his ways to get her (“back fuckin’ four or five women”). I don’t love thinking about one type of rap as diametrically opposed to the other, but “Sad Sh*t,” “Find My Way,” and “Rockstar” are all of a piece with the kind of melodic rap that DaBaby has been, for more than a year or so, the antithesis to. The results are pretty mixed.
Blame It on Baby is DaBaby’s first project after the Fallon performance, the chart-topping album, and the Grammy nominations—it serves as a minor autopsy on his tumultuous year-plus in the spotlight (just last month a woman filed a lawsuit against him after he slapped her in the face as he made his way toward the stage at an early-March concert), and wants to serve as proof that he’s not a one-trick pony. On the whole, Blame It is less jagged and incendiary than the projects that came before it, purposefully made to capture listeners that don’t go in for rap that often but like this, but not so limp as to alienate you if you were already on board.
Eight tracks in, Blame It finally demands your attention: “Jump” is the high-octane, pedal-to-the-floor, punch-TK-authority-figure-in-the-face shit that I come to DaBaby for. An electric YoungBoy Never Broke Again feature ensures this is the song on Blame It with the most chaotic energy, but more importantly, DaBaby seems most like himself. His first bar? “She say I look good, bitch I been doin’ push-ups.”
Now for some recommendations:
“George Bondo,” Westside Gunn
Westside Gunn is rapping as well—better, really—as he ever has on his newest album Pray for Paris. It’s also his most accessible, and perhaps the most I’ve enjoyed any rap-fundamentalist project in some time. While Gunn’s Hanna-Barbera voice rings through clearest, he’s willing to cede ground to the likes of Roc Marciano, Freddie Gibbs, and Boldy James throughout the project. The best songs, however, are still the Griselda posse cuts, like “George Bondo,” in which the Gunn, Benny the Butcher, and Conway The Machine trade fantastical gutter raps (“I’m impactin’ the culture like Eric Bischoff”).
“This One,” Jme
This song has been out since the end of November, and in the intervening time, I still haven’t figured out exactly where the video game sample comes from. Some Zelda game? Final Fantasy? Pokémon? Galaga?
In any case, the standout song from JME’s Grime MC album finally got the visual treatment this past week, and both P Money and JME’s brother Skepta make cameos.
“Inconsistent,” Buddy & Kent Jamz
All of the songs on Buddy and Kent Jamz joint project Janktape Vol. 1 hover right around three minutes, and no song exceeds four, but the shortest, “Inconsistent,” which comes in at just under two, is the one I’ve been listening to compulsively. It’s a simple outline of a gospel melody over sparse production that consists of little more than a guitar, and the two get incredibly soulful, and honest, about their aintshitness. “I’m inconsistent, I’m inconsistent, she can’t depend on me,” they sing.
“Same Songs,” Jeshi
Jeshi is an East London rapper who spent the past year touring with Slowthai and Mura Masa, and his Bad Taste EP, released earlier this month, was his coming-out party after a fashion. There’s something that feels unplanned about his music, although each song is thoughtfully constructed, with at least two movements—he doesn’t really rap the words, so much as he lets them spill out of his mouth. Just look at this passage, at the top of the second verse: “I’m first class trash, drive ‘round the Benz, life ain’t that bad / try to help out friends put the Rambo knife in ya back / no spliffs on plaques, whole year later, still can’t relax.”