Bells & Whistles, Vol. 17: The Fulcrum Show

It’s been a week of extremely high highs and low lows. I feel like life isn’t supposed to move like this, but sometimes the rush is exactly what you need. I’m talking, of course, about the Boston Celtics, a team that, in the span of 7 days, made history, elevated one of its role players to a local legend, and finally reverted to their old, loser ways, choking Game 7 in the ECF to the overachieving Miami Heat. Insane beautiful disgusting hell. I have rap music to thank for grounding me through it all. – Mano Sundaresan

Art by Tyler Farmer.

Fulcrum IRL

Mano: At Brooklyn’s underground venue Market Hotel on Sunday night, there was somehow even more weed smoke in the air than usual, and way more people than usual who didn’t look like rap fans. 

These were the meeting grounds of the Yodie Family, the fanbase of Fulcrum, a Bay Area rapper/producer best known for videos where he rips a dab pen in Ikea stores and Wal Marts and offers self-help advice to his young audience. He’s gained close to a million subscribers in less than a year off his hilarious public stunts that don’t feel like stunts and expansive lingo and lore. Pens are “penjamins,” getting high off a dab is “taking a trip to Dabbington City.” If the penjamin’s really hitting, you’re probably obliviated. There are the filler words…necessarily, perhaps, peculiar.

“Yodieland” is my favorite, an evolving catch-all for whatever location he’s getting faded than a hoe at. It also seems to signify faceless strip mall malaise, the sunken greys of modernity. With Yodieland, Fulcrum names and creates something—a home—out of the bleak mundanity of suburban America.

If you can’t tell, I’ve been indoctrinated into Yodie Gang and use his catchphrases with reckless abandon. He reminds me of the kinda wavy Asian dudes I would meet visiting family in the Bay growing up. We were all too young to smoke but we loved rap, being outside and going on aimless walks around the burbs.

As every artist on the evening’s absurdly long bill came up to perform, they’d fire off their requisite Fulcrum-isms. 1600J led a “Faded Than A Hoe” chant. Flanked by dazegxd, kaspergem and what looked like a whole crew of high schoolers, xaviersobased ran through his recent streak of hot singles then took a trip to Penjamin City. Then, in an intermission before Fulcrum went on, the DJ collective Crashout Boyz brought out Bear1Boss and played the DJ Phat-tagged version of Tay-K’s “The Race.” It was this bizarre combination of the Fulcrum Experience and an underground-as-hell rap show, all very weird and fun to experience in real life.

As evidenced by pages like Hyperpop Daily and Cash Cow Music, meme culture and underground rap practically grow out of each other at this point. If you’re a great underground rapper you’re gonna end up in a somber corecore edit, if you’re a great shitposter you can put people on to cool music and change the life of an artist. 

Fulcrum might represent the absolute zenith of this. He started out as a producer, but in the last year, gained significantly more notoriety for his comedic videos and livestreams. But as he discussed in an interview with Dope As Yola, he never intended for his music, a strain of slick pluggnb infused with Yodielanguage, to fall to the wayside. It’s still his main focus, and it’s why he’s so in tune with the underground still.

You could tell how serious he was about his craft at the show. I’ve never seen a pluggnb artist actually try to rap every word and hit every note live like Fulcrum did. For someone who smoked at least two blunts during his set, he had good breath control and actively engaged with the crowd. (At one point, he made everyone say “Faded than a hoe” with him 20 times.)

No fewer than five expensive-looking cameras followed his every motion on stage, and he’d interact with them constantly. After one song, he asked the crowd to grade his performance thus far: “Ws or Ls in the chat?”

At times, in his content, it can feel like he is just cycling through his catchphrases, like someone’s button-mashing a Fulcrum soundboard. But then, a genuine burst of humanity will peek through. There’s one particularly silly moment I love where, instead of illegally hopping the turnstile to the BART, he goes up to the worker monitoring the turnstile, pays the fee, then asks them if he can hop it for fun. 

A few different times throughout his set, Fulcrum asked the DJ to cut the music. Then, he’d give an impassioned speech about never giving up and always believing in yourself, “fr fr, real spill.” He told us that he’s just a normal ass dude who discovered his passion, and every single one of us has a passion, too. Kids all around me raised their dab pens in solidarity and whooped and cheered like he was Sadhguru. In a vacuum, there was nothing particularly original about what he was saying. But to some kid out in Yodieland, USA, who’d never heard those words before, I imagine it made all the difference.

After one speech later in the night, he got ready to perform but was then informed he was out of songs. He giggled, thanked the Yodie Family then shuffled off stage to a meet and greet where he’d smoke with fans. Obliviated, munchies kicking in, I made my quiet exit, too.

Lil Crank’s Chorus

Millan: I like Tony Shhnow’s new tape. I think it’s some of his best work and that he gets better with every release. But I gotta say, Lil Crank’s chorus on “Something to Remember” is my favorite thing about the whole project. His gift for melody can’t be taught, and whoever put him on those drums deserves a raise. 

Lil Crank is in his early 20s, from Cobb Co, and made a splash in Atlanta back in 2020 with his tape Crank Mode. His momentum tapered off a bit, unsure why, but the talent remains. Here’s Jack Ellis’ 2020 interview with him

Mano: Wow I haven’t thought about Lil Crank in a minute. “Brainstorm” is a Pocket Full Of Stones classic! A real belter, not many voices in rap as sinewy and singular as his.

ZAYALLCAPS – “Accordion” / “Orange Indica”

Mano: As I’ve followed along with the Blog Era podcast, I’ve been playing this strange game in my head of which artists from today would’ve fit right in back then, for better or worse. So far, the list is POLO PERKS, Mercury, Jack Harlow, Shawny Binladen and ZAYALLCAPS. The latter’s Daedalus-sampling “Accordion” is the type of track that’d blow up the NahRight comment section instantly. Zay sells the DOOM homage with a cool aloofness and solid punchlines that unspool into a flow to get lost in. Stay for the floaty B-side “Orange Indica,” where he says he’s “so indie like some indica.” 2011 is so back.

Kendrick Lamar & Baby Keem – “The Hillbillies” (prod. Evilgiane)

Mano: Like how!!!!!! This felt obligatory to post. Maybe the most #nobellscore Kendrick Lamar song of all time. (When Surf Gang’s manager sent me and Millan this I nearly crashed my car.) Evilgiane dished the Range Brothers a beat that’s kinda drill-ish, kinda clubby, extremely wavy. Is that a Bon Iver sample? Is Baby Keem the best thing to happen to Kendrick Lamar’s artistic development? He’ll always be a prestige act in critics’ eyes, but ever since the Keem connect, he’s actively moved away from that image and gotten way looser and funnier.

Charley Crockett – “Just Like Honey – Billy Horton Sessions”

Millan: “I never saw much difference between country, soul and blues.” I’m not gonna stop preaching the Crockett gospel. One of the greatest to ever do it is in his prime, and if the country & roots world wasn’t so siloed from the rest of the music industry I wouldn’t even need to tell y’all this. The Man From Waco, his 2022 album and first true masterpiece, has the vision and songwriting chops to put a whole lot of Pitchfork Best New Music picks to shame. It’s a no frills saga; an album that would work one hundred years ago and one hundred years from now. His sincerity and discipline, matched with his band’s chemistry, destroys the need for experimentation or anything other than the credo laid forth by Willie Nelson. It is so very human. 

Here is the most comprehensive profile of him to date, published as Texas Monthly’s June 2023 cover. He is living proof that real life can be more unthinkable than fiction. 

1 thought on “Bells & Whistles, Vol. 17: The Fulcrum Show”

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