Y’all know we’re in a golden age for rap in South Florida, right? With acts like Denzel Curry and Kodak Black gaining national acclaim and a smattering of rookie artists on the come-up, it’s never been a better time to rep the 305 and the 954 when it comes to hip-hop. Here, we take a look at a trio of recent releases from major players in the local rap scene: a new tape from a veteran street rapper, a controversial release from one of the most infamous rising stars in rap, and a calling-card project from a forceful new talent.
Kodak Black: Project Baby 2. Following a splashy major-label album, Project Baby 2, is Kodak Black’s first mixtape since his release from jail in June. Rather than reproduce the messy spectacle of his “First Show Out” at Watsco Center, the Pompano-born rapper has instead delivered a solid collection of street-rap musings over excellent production from the likes of SkipOnDaBeat, London on da Track, and others.
Beginning with the triumphant, six-minute “Versatile,” Project Baby 2 consists of 19 tracks wherein the rapper reasserts his identity as a native son of Broward — on “Misunderstood,” he raps, “Tell the blog ‘correct that shit’ ‘cause I ain’t from Miami” — and a force to be reckoned with in national hip-hop. Features from XXXTentacion and Offset signal the rapper’s hometown pride and major commercial intentions. And overall his lyrics are consistently bold, interesting, and moving. Rap tapes are rarely without filler, but this is the rare project where every song goes hard and the listener’s attention is held all the way through. It’s possibly the best South Florida music release of the year, hip-hop or otherwise.
XXXTentacion: 17. Just a few months ago, XXXTentacion killed any goodwill he might have had following his XXL Freshman List appointment by delivering an embarrassing, melodramatic verse. “Fear will be plentiful, death will be bountiful” — those words were spread all over the internet as memes, mocking the rapper’s overwrought, demonic persona.
The edge does not dull on 17, the Lauderhill talent’s latest release. Beginning with an introductory “Explanation,” telling us that we are “literally entering” his mind, he takes us through a series of morose beats and sad acoustic ballads that take equal influence from Elliott Smith, Kurt Cobain, and the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Suicidal Thoughts.” Within the album is an onslaught of confessional lyrics concerning depression, suicide, and the artist’s troubles with love and law.
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It’s difficult to discuss 17 without mentioning the controversy surrounding the artist’s sexual battery charges, especially when many of the lyrics deny them and even place the blame on the accuser. Yet its success is hard to ignore, with first-week sales of 65,000 units and a cosign from Kendrick Lamar. It’s the kind of album that won’t see critical praise, but will certainly make an impression on the artist’s young fans, for better or worse.
Ski Mask the Slump God: YouWillRegret. The biggest surprise of XXXTentacion’s placing on this year’s XXL Freshman List was that he wasn’t joined by fellow Lauderhill native Ski Mask the Slump God, who, by X’s own admission, is a far more talented rapper and whose lightning-fast flow has brought comparisons to Busta Rhymes and Twista. That flow is out in full force on his latest, YouWillRegret, which places raps about sex and drugs over horror-inspired beats.
For any other rapper on the come-up, a project like this would be a major showcase, but for someone already acquainted with Ski Mask, it’s middling. There’s nothing so brash as his best track, “Take a Step Back,” nor is there anything as fun and creative as his most recent single, “Catch Me Outside.” He also has a problem with mumbling — rapping quickly yet garbling his words to the point of incoherence. Let's hope this is just a warmup and he’s saving his “energy” for a better release.