RapidFire Reviews: Young MA, Dababy, Danny Brown

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In the span of 8 days, 3 of the best rap albums of the year dropped, so the least I can do is write a bit about each. These are artists from different parts of the country, and they’re all students of the craft of rapping. As multiple people have said recently, finally its cool to be able to rap again, like really rap. From this fan of the artform, I’m glad to see a return to the skill factor, and these records are evidence that the genre is alive and well.

Young MA – Herstory In The Making

New York City breeds rappers. They claw themselves out of the gaps in the dirty sidewalks and immediately start scrapping with every MC within reach. Sometimes the winners, those that are able to gain some sort of notoriety, try to escape the battleground they were born into, but others like Young MA, embrace it. Young MA blew up a few years ago for her hit “OOOUUU”, and some audacious freestyles and mixtape tracks that showed definite flow and passion for the classic New York battle rap style. But of course, there was wondering among the rap world if this would fizzle out or really develop into its potential. With her confidence and sexually charged street rap, she recalled the energy of Guess Who’s Back era 50 Cent and when she lets the bars run she has the power to repeat that success. A top prospect in hip hop’s capital city, there is no doubt that Young MA felt the pressure. “Get Rich or Die Trying, Curtis Jackson moves.”

Luckily, a true New Yorker, she is calm under pressure. She took her time and spent a few years assembling the tracks for her debut LP. What arrived finally this September was Herstory In The Making, 22 tracks in which Young MA raps her face off. Sure, she didn’t go for the radio hits like 50 did, but that only maintains the NY cred of her rhymes. There’s an everyday relateable quality to her voice despite the tough brashness, and it holds up over the substantial length of the album. “They say they packin? Oh we packin too. / Run up like whats popping and whats bracking too? / Said I would get rich and made it happen too” There are definitely some tracks that fail to connect, but it’s not like there’s any real flops on here. When all else fails, MA still has bars. “No off days on the calendar, bout to cop the new Challenger / Mac 10s with the silencer, Even wildin’ out, it ain’t wild as us / Purple kush, call it lavender.”

“Bleed” is a highlight and shows her ability to rev up the engine and leave the contemporaries cut up in the dust. “Flex. Hercules. / In this mutha-fucking booth leaving third degrees.” The bouncing and glimmering beats portray the same New York style that flows through her veins. On “Smoove Kriminal” the heat check does not stop and the 3’s keep draining. “I’m a smooth criminal / I’m a sexy ass cocky individual / and I’m stubborn grudge holding unforgivable / I’m forever in your head unforgettable.” There may come a time when Young MA does not want to spit fire on crackling beats (and there are a few autotuned tracks on here), but I’m glad on her debut LP she gave the city faithful some more of rap’s lifeblood to drink.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Da Baby – Kirk

DaBaby exploded out of Charlotte, North Carolina into the worldwide rap scene with an endless spray of singles and features in every direction. He kicks in the door to the studio like put me on that shit, I can RAP. DaBaby is 50% hyper personality and 50% ability to keep saying more shit. He is his own hype man and his own muscle: the Flava Flav and the Ice Cube. I have heard him compared to Redman and Ludacris for his ability to straight up rap, while being tough, funny and willing to be the center of the joke if it makes the bar go, and I can’t disagree. “I been a boss ever since Rick Ross, who is the biggest boss / Got diamonds all over in my teeth, I been eating chicken, I need me some dental floss.” On Kirk, his second album this year, he may not have as many singles as the first, but he shows a bit more versatility than we’ve seen before.

Dababy more than anything else is an entertainer, but on Kirk he takes a bit to be an artist and let some of his hurt ride on the beat. DaBaby’s album deals primarily with how cool he is and how much everyone loves him, but when the smile starts to crack a bit, he lays out the scars underneath. Multiple tracks discuss losing his father and grandmother and fighting back the haters and attackers, all while being more successful than ever before. Dababy is a rapper who pushes fun silliness out into the world, but Dababy is also someone who has a lot of experience with death and he is not afraid to get dark on a dime. “They’ll probably tell you I went pop / until a n***a play with me and he get popped. / I’m front row at BET without my glock. / I about to beat a n****a up like I’m The Rock”.

If you thought Dababy didn’t have the depth to last for the long term you were likely just proven wrong. The power of Dababy shines from the very first second, I can’t think of an album since Meek’s where the fucking INTRO track laid some of the tights verses all year. Many of the beats on this album stick to the bouncing southern fried bubblegum style DaBaby has showed himself to be most comfortable with, but you can’t hate on the batter’s eye when you’re leading the league in homeruns.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Image result for danny brown young ma

Danny Brown – uknowwhatimsayin?

Danny Brown came onto the rap radar a bombastic and druggy rapper with limitless bars and energy from Detroit, already making his contemporaries sound bored. Much like ODB did in a prior era, Danny plays the role of the jester, and like the best clowns, he is often the smartest person in the room saying the things other people wouldn’t dare to even think about. With all that going for him out the gate, he could have stopped there and rode the wave, but Danny instead chose to further develop his voice over his next few records. He turned away from singles centric albums and hooks and instead toward experimental beats and even more challenging subjects and flows. The result is heavily lyrical rap style in a similar vein to Earl Sweatshirt but with substantially more frantic energy. “It’s quite simple, I’m mental, all over instrumentals / Detrimental to health, lyrics is quintessential”.

After 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition, it was unknown whether Danny would continue down this artistic path, and it most ways he has on uknowwhatimsayin?. Danny again pushes away from consumables and toward the outer edges of the artform, intentionally telling you things you don’t want to hear, vulgar stories, dark prophecies, and depressed pleas over jangly beats that often rely heavily on jazzy brass, drum, and guitar samples. “Papa was a rolling stone, so I sold rocks to him“. The album is mostly feature free, and Danny more than carries the 11 tracks, although no one is complaining about the verses from RTJ on “3 Tearz” and JPEGMAFIA on the explosive “Negro Spirtual” hook.

Danny is out here to make the art he wants to make, damn the torpedoes. “Life like a dice game, ain’t no casino / Street like contra, ain’t no cheat code / Every day on the line like a free throw / Shit weak, like the knees on D. Rose.” In many ways, it is this boundary pushing attitude that has him improving album after album, while still maintaining his reckless energy. On tracks like “Savage Nomad”, he drops some of the best bars of the year over a whining guitar, and then the following track, “Best Life”, relies on an old organ choir sample, with a touching flow about achieving greatness, with oh yeah, some more of the best bars of the year. He puts rhyme schemes together that most rappers wouldn’t even fathom let alone attempt, because Danny is going for it, pushing it to the limit.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal


Henderson Cole // @HendoSlice

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