Album of the week: Unotheactivist – 8
The enclave of Atlanta rap music was once again blessed over the past two weeks with a pair of projects from Sahbabii and Unotheactivist; two guys that unabashedly remove listeners from gravity-fueled terrain. And when I say this, I quite literally mean each artist forces you to leave Earth’s hardened soil. Sahbabii’s new record Barnacles is a stark continuation of the aquatic ambience from his Squidtastic mixtape, while Unotheactivist’s debut album 8 propels listeners into a nocturnal dimension. Both provide fluffy vocal clips that float above the production like amorphous clouds. Sahbabii uses his love for animals to tell a story while Uno submerges himself into a Perc-filled dystopia.
If you were to passively listen to 8, you’d probably mistaken the hedonistic storytelling for a Future project, or the nasal melodies for a post-2017 Playboi Carti cut. The latter is more obvious because Uno and Carti are blood cousins and used to be a part of a rap group during their formative years in school. Stylistic beef has completely fractured their relationship, which is a shame because each of their laconic deliveries would’ve been fascinating together across an entire project. Add production from Kenny Beats and Pierre Bourne, and you’ve got yourself the perfect platform for zoned-out gibberish.
Uno’s always been adamant about Carti becoming a generational sellout who completely stole his asymmetrical pitter-patter (and apparently befriended someone who attempted to kill Uno). This could very well be true, but since both artists’ aesthetics were so similar-especially early on-it’s hard to ignore the fact that there may have been some subtle jealousy going on. It’s not like Uno is completely DIY anymore either. He currently has a deal with Republic Records under UMG.
Beef or no beef, I still find Carti and Uno to be enjoyably unprecedented. Whereas Uno appeared to be experimenting with different inflections on his three-part Limbus mixtapes, it’s 8 where we find his voluptuous personality in full force. There’s a subtle darkness even when his voice reaches stratospheric tenor, something that’s purely exemplified on “Night Mode.” The landscape is otherworldly, but you almost wonder if Uno enjoys this drugged-out limbo. I’m not saying he’s in a terrible place, but his Percocet talk overall has sharply increased since his last body of work. Most of it has to do with the incessant paranoia of possibly getting pulled over by a crooked bandit at any moment during the day (“Mo Money”). Sometimes it’s just the ongoing violence that causes unwarranted stress.
The reason why I confidently compare his newest endeavor to Future’s mid-2010s mixtape run is because Uno clearly succumbs to the more controversial qualities of a rockstar lifestyle. Even as his name grows outside of Atlanta’s talented castle, he still briefly drops lines about popping Percs for his back pain, or keeping a pipe because his grandmother used to be a crack addict. Much like the Dirty Sprite lord, Uno balances perpetual demons with intermittent gun speech (“Das Him”), designer print drip, and sexual escapism. “Devil On Yo Right Shoulder” paints love as this war-torn feeling, which can inherently be problematic when one adds hard drugs to the mix.
The album overall illustrates an impressive array of cloud trap configurations. Despite the obvious spacial atmosphere, it’s not necessarily something you’d want to “get lit” too. 8 oftentimes masks its initial feeling with unrelenting numbness. Uno’s no doubt a special talent, but I do hope he surrounds himself with the right people before the label villains exploit him as the next Juice WRLD. I don’t demonize him for using drugs as a coping mechanism. I just hope he’s okay, because underneath all of the aphrodisiacal sex talk and party-ready 808s lies a human who reflects on past struggles. This should be acknowledged, even if it’s not always explicitly stated on the surface.
$ean Wire – “Intertwine”
This song was released two months ago on Soundcloud, but it is now gloriously available on every streaming service as of last week. Massachusetts features a lot of talent that I personally believe could appeal to an audience beyond the northeast, but it’s $ean Wire that continues to impress me the most. His album Internal Dialect is one of my favorite projects this year, and featured the Dorchester rapper coming to terms with human connection and mental animosity.
“Intertwine” finds Wire in a more personal setting, though I do think the song’s delicate electric guitar would’ve fit perfectly within Internal’s raw aesthetic. He talks about how he deals with constant family turmoil and systemic racism involving mass incarceration. He definitely sounds more frustrated than ever before, as exemplified through the vivid storytelling and urgent delivery (“Uncle served my whole life in prison, spirit hit him hard…he ain’t get to see his brother go, handcuffs and shackles on his ankles at that funeral”).
BMF Gangsta, Sada Baby and Neisha Neshae – “On Sight”
This is my definition of a perfect Detroit posse cut. Neisha Neshae (who’s worked with other Detroit mainstays like G.T.) injects some much-needed femininity into a region mainly dominated by the male viewpoint, while Sada begins his verse with a meandering mumble that purposely builds off of a menacing atmosphere. BMF Gangsta (who I don’t know much about) falls onto the ongoing assembly line of Michigan’s mean-mugging shit talkers. Everything is tied together nicely by a homegrown found footage aesthetic and hobbled piano keys that sound like Wiz Khalifa’s “Black And Yellow” on ecstasy.
At the end of the day though, it’s Neshae’s seamless transition between hard-nosed rapping and auto-tune crooning that ultimately infuses uncompromising momentum.
Ill Addicts – “Queso”
Boston’s Ill Addicts released an EP earlier this spring titled Malfunction. The production emphasized a darker turn in their music,which at the time, thoroughly foreshadowed where the world was spiraling towards.
Their debut album Beautiful, is the day to Malfunction’s night; an embrace of sunnier soundscapes and 80s nostalgia. I still need a few more listens to fully digest the full concept, but “Queso” is an early standout for me thanks to its Spanish flare and classic Addicts banter. They can make even the most mundane sound electrifying over any isntrumental (“I got cheese, eggs, and potatoes/She gon’ eat them if I say so”). ProSwervez and company are Professional chorus writers.
Koncept Jack$on – “Pansuit Bitch Pt. III”
I was just recently introduced to Koncept Jack$on’s music through a Twitter thread. I still need to dig deeper into his discography, but from my abbreviated research, I’ve been able to piece some loose parts together. For one, he’s a Richmond-based rapper who;s associated with the Mutant Academy with Fly Anakin. He’s released various mixtapes through Soundcloud and BandCamp since early-2017. He just recently released his Thot Rap Chapter 2 project. And oh yeah, he can flow all day.
If you’re looking for mind-bending, turbo-charged energy; this song is the one for you.
Chief Keef – “I Thought I Had One”
It’s worth noting that Chief Keef is one of the few drill pariahs to stand the test of time. The fact that we even have to celebrate someone in this sub-genre making it to 25-years-old is undoubtedly depressing, but here we are.
Keef is well aware of his platform. He’s seemingly traded AK-47s for Nerf and paintball guns. I’ve grown accustomed to enjoying his recent videos as much as his music (if not more). In this particular motion picture, Keef is tossing a football around on his private basketball court. I’m so happy that he’s happy.