Tape of the week: Polo Perks <3 <3 <3 – Punk Goes Drill +**
While Babyxsosa’s celestial vocals have soundtracked the majority of my quarantine, it has been another Surf Gang affiliate that has been on repeat for me over the past few weeks. Polo Perks <3 <3 <3 raps in a subdued tone reminiscent of Chief Keef. On his newest project Punk Goes Drill +**, the Lower East Side rapper teams up with inquisitive producers and fellow group members evilgiane and Tommytohotty to pay homage to pop punk classics from the 2000s. Featured instrumental and vocal samples include The Killers’ iconic sad anthem “Mr. Brightside,” the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps,” Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” as well as “Crave You” by the Australian electronic DJ duo Flight Facilities, just to name a few.
The surf gang collective in general continues to broaden their creative scope, utilizing samples from every corner of the Earth to fit the typical New York drill blueprint. Moh Baretta, another Surf Gang member, has recently worked with evilgiane and Tommytohotty to conjure samples from the Guilty Gear video game, Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” and “Heard Em Say,” the Zoey 101 TV show and theme song, and many more.
For Polo though, the punk image works wonders, especially when he’s interpolating Kanye’s “New Workout Plan” on “Not Another Teen Movie,” or when he’s crooning about hating the opposition for turning his heart cold on “Mr Brightside.” His voice carries an attitude that balances out the minimalist guitar riffs and subtle bleakness perfectly. The sound and energy is nostalgic but also properly updated.
Jordaine Grant – “Stay Around”
Jordaine Grant is a Cape Cod native who has been diligently honing in on his songwriting and producing for a little over year at this point. His song “Stay Around” features a pretty somber, yet effective flip of Mahalia and Ella Mai’s 2019 sleeper R&B hit “What You Did” (which originally sampled Cam’Ron’s “Oh Boy”) over a New York-style drill pattern. “I went to college for my first year and I didn’t like it so I decided to do music full time, and now I’m just trying to build a fan base and grow from there,” Grant once told me with regard to his future passions.
Grant’s version of the Mahalia song is just as austere, maybe even more so. “Bet I take the hate out of your heart like a splinter” he stoically sings. The Massachusetts native initially speaks in first person, but tells a story about a toxic relationship through a second-person lens-“You had to carry a child for so long, but the damage he did to your body was wrong.” It’s an unhinged tale, but one that Grant executes with great care and sensitivity.
Gao the Arsonist – “Brimstone”
The majority of Gao’s recent songs have been grimy, filthy, and consistently deranged. His most recent track with Dr. Skywalker falls in line with his equally diabolical 2020 EP The Hallowed. The hi-hats on “Brimstone” creek and ricochet as if something sinister is about to startle the listener when they turn the corner. The beat in general sounds like it could fit on an old Raider Klan mixtape if Raider Klan solely focused on making beats that were inspired by the chop and screwed movement. Gao trudges through the sludge with layered vocals that mimic the point of a superhero movie where we start to see the climatic villainous transformation. His writing continues to look effortless, too (“Oh, what happened/Only ones keeping tabs of who holding acid”). One final prayer tops off another solid Gao performance.
Red Shaydez – “Lemme Go Talk My Shit”
“Lemme Go Talk My Shit” is a rightful victory lap for Red Shaydez, the always nimble MC who continues to be a crucial voice in the Boston DIY scene. Her 2020 album Feel the Aura was a local breakthrough for an artist who always seems to strike a deft balance between cinematic and intimately personal. I remember she told me through email leading up to the album that she was also working on a film for the album, but COVID-19 forced the production to halt.
The director and cinematographer she was working with for the movie, SnapsbyKat, also directed “Lemme Go Talk My Shit.” The video, which Shaydez describes as the first time she commanded her artistic vision with the help of SnapsbyKat, portrays the MC as a private school student, the bearer of the church’s offering plate, a famous celebrity getting interviewed by the paparazzi, and a successful athlete. Most famously though, she offers an ode to Missy Elliot’s “One Minute Man” video with shots of her head lying on a tennis court without her body. Shaydez’ career keeps looking up.
Rx Papi – “OTF”
A lot of what makes Rx Papi so intriguing is his booming voice and uniquely dynamic flow. For me though, it’s his storytelling, sense of humor, and consistent commentary on what’s happening at the moment that adds a whole other dimension to his artistry; not to mention another level of unpredictability. On “OTF,” the underground cult legend exposes our whitewashed curriculums with his forthright comedy (“They lied to us about Christopher Columbus/I’mma tell my kids I found America too/”I’mma tell my son I was the first president”). His stream-of-consciousness raps continue into more thoughts on the fabled illuminati, musings on how so many white terrorists got into the capital on that fateful Jan. 6 day, how Joe Biden lied to us, and how Donald Trump went out like a bitch. More seriously though, he shames Lil Durk’s OTF label for not striking back after King Von’s death (“All King Von’s homeboys is bitch”). Papi has a lot on his mind, and when given the opportunity, he will speak.