Bells & Whistles, Vol. 5: Give Izaya Tiji his flowers

This edition of the newsletter is a good ol’ fashioned roundup. New ones from some of my favorite internet rappers, plus the scientifically determined best song on DS4EVER.

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Izaya Tiji – Nevameant2b

It can take some time to appreciate Izaya Tiji. His voice sometimes gets lost in the music, and there’s nothing traditionally hooky about the beats he selects or the bars he lands on. But once his music clicks, there’s nothing like it. Listening to Izaya occasionally reminds me of the feeling I had when I first heard Future. His most depraved song feel like sinkholes, pulling you further and further into a deep fog. He’s intentional about the access he gives you to his thoughts. Certain lines feel out of reach, barely decipherable, while others are clear as day. 2020’s “Losing My Mind” is a hazy cloud until the line about lean addiction cuts through like lightning. The effect is disorienting and at times devastating, trying to make out the scribbles in a diary. The power is in a voice that spirals in and out of the mix like marbles in a vast funnel, trailed by ribbons of the past.

Nevameant2b is another subtle, drifting work from the Ohio rapper, full of somber reflection and vocal acrobatics. Hearing budding star BabySantana here reminds that while Izaya Tiji isn’t a household name, he’s widely respected–and likely studied–by a certain sphere of SoundCloud. Like Future at his peak, Izaya releases tapes in quick succession, which makes them feel less like distinct projects than a growing playlist, a dynamic capture of an artist’s emotions in real time.

Doxia – BARF Vol. 1

If you’re digging Izaya Tiji, you might want to check out the new doxia tape BARF Vol. 1. He taps Izaya’s frequent producer wifi for some of the beats and iterates on Izaya’s style with more punch. He’s one of the more distinctive digicore vocalists and, like others in the scene, seems to be moving in a more rap-heavy direction.

Flooded” is one of the best Gunna songs ever

No, this isn’t about Pushin P or defending a fine but forgettable Gunna album, it’s about a song tucked deep in the back half of DS4EVER. “Flooded” is the reason why I still give a damn about checking for Gunna. No one in the upper echelon of rap can summon pure, unadulterated bliss like this man when he is in his zone. It’s no surprise he’s so obsessed with the life aquatic; listening to Gunna at his most inspired feels like drifting down a river in a tube (this is also why Drip Or Drown 2 has one of the greatest album covers I’ve ever seen). There was a time when way more people hated on Gunna for basically running with a single strand of Young Thug’s DNA. But Gunna’s steady, in-the-pocket style bears its own fruit that often reveals itself deep inside his records. “Flooded” wasn’t pushed as a single. It doesn’t offer a new meme or feature a high-profile guest. It’s simply Gunna ascending as he reliably does a few times per project, leaving the atmosphere with more iced-out watches and bracelets than human arms can handle.

645AR – Unorthodox

645AR fits into a lineage of Atlanta rappers like Young Thug, Carti and Makonnen who seemed to stumble on vocal styles by accident, then wisely chose to follow those intuitions. For the last few years, his was a squeak so piercing that it often sounded more like a synth wailing than a person vocalizing. By early 2020, he was the viral rapper of the moment, finding fans within rap and hyperpop circles on the internet. That year, FKA Twigs hopped on a song with him (maybe the first widely recognized pluggnb record?) and 100 gecs spun his music at a Minecraft concert. In a way, gecs and 645AR shared a similar artistic problem. Both had broken rules in dramatic ways, and both would have to somehow follow those paradigm shifts with music that still felt fresh.

On this week’s EP Unorthodox, we’re starting to see a new side of 645AR, where the high notes are toned down and the vocals are flatter and unmelodic. SoundCloud diggers know AR used to actually rap like a regular person, but this is a leg up from the formalism of old. There’s real urgency here, supplied by SenseiATL’s beats, which sound like they were car-tested by Beats By The Pound, and AR grafts his squeaks onto a harder, more rappy style. It may not land him a spot on the Hyperpop Iceberg, but it’s cool to see AR come full circle and update his style from the early Sink Or Swim days. (Bonus 645AR content: this shitty photo I took of him and SOS at a Father/Tony Shhnow concert I went to with Millan and my brother.)

Five great moments from HOOK’s RENT FREE MIXTAPE

Lots of people, this writer included, compared RXK Nephew to Lil B last year. But I think the true successor to the Based Freestyle king is Inland Empire rapper HOOK, who’s been developing B’s free-associative, almost spoken word style for the last few years. Her new RENT FREE MIXTAPE, like 2020’s PRETTY BITTY: THE MIXTAPE, is totally improvised, which leads to countless surprising and hilarious moments. A sampler:

  1. “I got mad one day so I was like, BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”
  2. “She’s a rapper? Yes indeed. I should wrap her, presenting. All my powers…point. I think I didn’t, make my point.”
  3. “Tango with a flamingo, they like my pink aura.”
  4. “Watch a flower grow in the middle of the concrete. Climate change. No rain.”
  5. When Hook tells her grandma to move the Christmas tree to the garage.

Plus, in true mixtape-slinging fashion she announced the next album and release date at the end. I’m very excited; I haven’t stopped thinking about “don’t know if there’s a robot in my brain or it’s God” from “gameboy.” 

Thanks for reading as always. Back at it in a couple. Lots cooking…

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