Album of the Week: Nuk – The Red Tape 2
When I think about Detroit’s 2020 rap scene, I get excited. When I get excited about their music, I tend to reminisce about watching my Boston Celtics play the rival Detroit Pistons in the mid-late 2000s. And when those thoughts come to mind, I think about how scared I was every time Gang Green would enter “The Palace.” Why? Well, not only did the Detroit Pistons have one of the scariest teams in the league-thanks to they’re brick wall of Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, and Chauncey Billups-but they also boasted a thundering voice that got the crowd so hyped, you could barely hear Kevin Harlan’s sternum-shaking pitch. The mastermind behind this indestructible voice was (and still is) John Mason.
What made Mason so uniquely menacing for opposing teams was his ability to change vocal inflections with ease. Sometimes, when announcing the lineup, he would randomly shriek like Mariboy Mula Mar at the end of certain rap lines (just with more bass). His greatest stylistic contribution was a calculated stutter that mimicked a DJ scratching a record for buildup effect. Even with thousands of fans, Mason’s voice would echo as if the arena were desolate.
As a Celtics fan, this made me nervous. Detroit had the team to back the hype up. Witnessing The Palace during that time period was like watching a ten-year war about to begin. One in which I didn’t think any away opponent could win.
The Celtics would eventually best the Bad Boys 2.0 en route their last-and at this point-final championship win. But the electric atmosphere that made those games special would eventually spill over into the following decade, just not through basketball.
Unfortunately, the Detroit Pistons team you see now is not nearly as magical. They’re two best players in 2020 get injured more than any other player in the league. Mason’s voice still echoes, but only because there aren’t many fans anymore (they’re 28th in the league in attendance).
Thankfully, Detroit’s eccentric rap scene continues to carry this uniquely spiritual hype train through 2020. If you’re true fan of the genre, it’s difficult to overlook how global the scene’s become. The past few weeks confirm this sentiment. YouTube work horse Sada Baby has reached Tik Tok fame with his new single “Whole Lotta Choppas.” Veeze made his cult fanbase go crazy after releasing the new video for “Law and Order”, and Big Sean made perfect timing with a sequel that started it all for his career (we’ll get there).
But above all that, it was Nuk’s new Red Tape that’s festered inside of my playlist since its August release. The horror-style piano keys motivate me to go outside and shoot hoops. His punchlines are amusingly reference-heavy and wittingly self-aware. At one point he raps, “trap n***a, how I’m reaching fans up in Milwaukee,” which is about as true as can be since most Milwaukee rappers are inspired by the Motor City’s jittery aesthetic. Following that line, Nuk confidently speaks on other places he’s made an impact, whether in drug dealing or rapping. Phoenix, Argentina, Wisconsin, the south, it ultimately does not matter. Nuk is everywhere, and so is Detroit. Mason’s voice isn’t the only voice booming through the city anymore.
BKtheRula – “Admit It”
Since the release of her stunning debut tape Love Santana, BktheRula has cultivated this enigmatic persona ripe for the underground. She posts on social media, but only does so in spurts. And when she does, the messages are absorbingly cryptic. She’ll post a random date or time without any context. When she takes a picture of herself, her face is usually concealed or blurred, keeping the mysteriousness in-tact.
This would appear woefully pretentious if not for her obvious talents. I for one personally enjoy BKtheRula’s mythical persona. Without the cliffhangers, her music wouldn’t feel as mystifying as it does. Her name has since been attached to major label, but her art maintains a sense of emotional balance. Her last single “Summer” walked a fine line between numbingly depressed and chimerically remarkable. It quietly became the anthem for this particular summer.
BK’s newest track “Admit It” trades stagnant contemplation for stirring eloquence. The synths still sound like they’re leaving the universe on a jetpack, and BK still sounds more reactionary than ever, but the beat moves at a more frenetic pace. Whereas “Summer” felt like a weightless dreamscape, “Admit It” carries a lot of friction and kinetic energy. The Atlanta native is already building her legacy without showing too much of her personal life. She loves designer fits, and understands how singular her aesthetic is. Her delivery is spry, cocky, and admittedly nonchalant. Her next tape is about to turn some more heads.
Nedarb, Hook, and BootyChaaain – “Do My Dance”
Los Angeles producer Nedarb begins Hook’s narrative masterpiece Crashed My Car with the same reverberated drone as the one found on “Do My Dance”-the first song on the two-track EP that also features cloud trap savant BootyChaaain. It’s safe to say that Hook’s dance is very angular to ours. In fact, I don’t know how one would dance to this fidgety beat, unless you’re performing some semblance of a demented Futsal Shuffle. if anyone has any ideas, hit me up. Also, listen to the this fantastic EP from three of rap’s futuristic innovators.
Duwap Kaine: “No Autotune”
There’s footage of a Duwap Kaine interview from a couple years ago where Adam22 bluntly proclaims the Atlanta native a “Soundcloud god.” Whether or not you find this preposterous (I personally don’t completely disagree), Duwap has seemingly taken this statement to heart. His third album of the year is called Thank You Kaine, and the cover art is a painting of Jesus. His talent level is so above everyone else’s that autotune-an aesthetic he’s thoroughly explored and mastered-isn’t needed anymore. Do I think his singing is particularly spectacular at the backend of this song? No. Do I think it’s a bold choice that shows a lot of heart? Yes, especially since a lot of fake fans have been begging for his “old flow” back. The dude is four years younger than me, and I just graduated college. Come on now. There’s no such thing as an “old flow” in his case. Let’s just enjoy Jesus’ time on Earth while he’s among us.
Shootergang Kony – “Red Ice”
I’ve rarely held back my praise for Shootergang Kony, particularly on this site. He’s by far one of my favorite rappers from the west coast thanks to a plainspoken delivery that can stab you in the heart on the drop of a dime. When the beat mirrors this attitude, the music is even more delirious. “Red Ice” starts the engine and never stops. Kony began the year on top with Red Paint Reverend, and will undoubtedly finish there when his Still Kony 2 tape drops around my birthday. That, and a Celtics title is all I want for gifts.
Big Sean (feat. Sara Baby, 42 Dugg, Kash Doll, Cash Kidd, Royce da 5’9”, Eminem, Payroll Giovani, Boldy James, Tee Grizzley and Drego) – “Friday Night Cypher”
I might get reamed for this next statement, or as one famous Detroit spitter once said, chewed up, spit out, and booed off stage (this roundup is turning into a Motor City showcase huh?). I liked the Big Sean album. Sure, it’s more sprawling than I Decided, but there’s a certain level of proudness and grandiosity to the way Sean approaches his newest project. It’s got a classic performance vibe to it, like Roc Nation-era Kanye, even if the material isn’t as cutting edge or revelatory. It feels like more of a moment than it honestly should be.
For as hackneyed of a structure this song has, I admire Sean’s insistence on embracing the city’s best artists at the moment. It feels like a championship-esque culmination of a fruitful year for them. Very few mainstream rappers take the time and energy to do something like this. If there is a video in the near future, it’ll undoubtedly be epic. My applause to Big Sean.
Andre playing the flute again
They say that self-actualization is rarely attained in life. And if it is, it’s usually found at the backend of your existence. Well, Andre Benjamin is serenading people with his flute again, and Big Boi has a stout owl collection. Simply put, that theory is wrong.