eoy_2021: The year plugg took over

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Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Plugg never really went away. Blossoming in the mid 2010s via the BeatPluggz collective, who were inspired by Zaytoven and Chicago bop, the online rap movement receded to the underground for a few years. During this time period, Slayworld, a crew of Auto-Tune obsessed rappers led by Summrs, KanKan, and Autumn!, racked up millions of plays tweaking plugg into an offshoot called PluggnB. In these chords and melodies, I often hear ‘90s R&B; in the drum selection and patterns, Datpiff-era Atlanta trap.

If you click through the SoundCloud pages of artists listed below, you’ll notice many of them have been grinding for years on the internet. What happened in 2021 was that the genre’s new wave brought a freshness and focus to the music, which boiled over into viral success and the expansion of the community. Countless rappers and producers proudly coalesced into a recognizable online movement.

I think a lot about how producer Popstar Benny once isolated the swing of plugg music as its essence, comparing it to jazz. For a genre that is often thought of as basic or simple, reduced to 6 minute “How To Make Plugg” videos, I feel like everyone hears this music differently. Matching the feel of how plugg is best consumed—in an endless, trance-inducing churn—Alphonse Pierre and I put together a playlist/mix of our favorite plugg of 2021 which you can find at the bottom of the article. Here are some of the highlights (producer credits in parentheses):

BoofPaxkMooky & Stoopidxool – Four Seasons 

Stoopidxool is the godfather. The Florida producer, who is an original member of the BeatPluggz, has survived numerous generations of copycats and imitators because there’s a tinge of soul to his plugg beats that is inimitable. Yes, lush chords and ATL drum kits are the foundation of plugg, but the way they’re layered and bounce is what sends you free falling into another dimension. So it makes sense that he linked up with BoofPaxkMooky, a rapper at the forefront of plugg’s newest wave. Their tape Four Seasons is the genre at its purest. On “Bag Szn,” Mooky coos over Stoopidxool chords that feel like being shot with Cupid’s arrow. The twinkling instrumental on “Options” backdrops Mooky’s swag raps colorful enough for a fantasy. It’s a tape that will put you in a good mood whether you’re trying to stay awake in the back of a classroom or watching the clock tick away at your 9-5. – Alphonse

Summrs – Nothing more Nothing LESS

The expectation you might have when you load up some plugg music is that it’ll be sweet and blissful, the soundtrack to a sunny day. Summrs takes you to a darker, more private place. Strands of longing and remembrance weave their way through his heartwrenching tape Nothing more Nothing LESS. The beats, courtesy mostly of Goxyrd and Twinuzis (that’s Autumn!, by the way) pair the sputtering drums of plugg with somber R&B progressions. They’re a handful of the best instrumentals Summrs has ever picked. He bores into their pockets with memories of his deceased grandma, former lovers and family. It’s a plugg soap opera, the sheer melodrama of it all injecting color into the greys of Summrs’ world. The centerpiece is “Blood Always Thicker,” maybe the most devastating pluggnB song I’ve heard. As Goyxrd’s chords swing across the drums, Summrs cycles through anxieties about his loved ones, penning stanzas for each of them: “Neglectin’ my baby sister, I hope that you know that I miss you / I know that we don’t talk that much, we need to keep in touch, you growin’ up fast.” He proves with each tape that you don’t need a new canvas to get “serious” as an underground artist. Plugg is the perfect backdrop for your emotions. – Mano

Daesworld – “2003” (Daesworld)

A long time valid critique of plugg is that it was creatively stagnant. I get it! How many more Diego Money songs did the plugg powers-that-be expect us to put up with? But that’s not true anymore. It’s now a full-fledged genre that sprouts a new take or interpretation seemingly every week. This year, an influx of inspiration from the digicore scene led to an exciting evolution of the sound. Daesworld’s “2003” is like a pluggnB song put through a digicore filter. The Virginia rapper and producer combines the kinetic pace, glitchiness, and distorted vocals that have become digicore identifiers with the high fructose corn syrup sweet melodies of pluggnB. It’s completely new while retaining the heart of the style. That’s what the genre was missing. – Alphonse 

Kankan – “nun to me” / “Broad Day” (30nickk)

I hate to be one of those fans who tells rappers what type of music to make, but KanKan should just make plugg his thing. Like, the rapping he does with Yeat over beats that sound like overheating jet engines is fine, but I would say that the opening seconds of “Nun to Me” where he hums and riffs some gibberish about codeine has more life to it than anything on ##RR. Take “Broad Day.” The lyrics on their own aren’t that deep and the beat separated from the vocals won’t blow you away, but together there’s real emotion to it. He’s heartbroken. He’s in pain. He’s paranoid. Even if he’s not explicitly saying that, plugg has always been more about creating a mood than the actual words being rapped or sung. KanKan gets that. – Alphonse 

Jaydes – “highschool” (glumboy & luna)

Nothing impresses Jaydes on “highschool.” “Fifteen but my bands not up on no high school shit / Sorry I get bored and I say bye too quick,” he sighs. But then he suddenly bursts out some Brent Faiyaz-ass vocal runs in the back half, reminding you that his cockiness is earned. The Broward County teenager’s emo-leaning vocals wouldn’t sound out of place on a digicore record, but his aloofness reminds me most of Lil Tecca, who took notice of Jaydes (then known as Evvls) and brought him into his collective/label 1st Class Angels. Some of the more popular artists in the group sound a little too much like Tecca for my taste, but with “highschool,” Jaydes proves his voice is singular.  – Mano

Zee! – “score” (Stoopidxool) / “paypal scamma” (Mexikodro)

Because Zee! typically raps on the brash, shape-shifting instrumentals of digicore–try his songs with CJ808–he comes equipped to plugg with a unique skillset. On the Stoopidxool-produced “score,” he sings shimmering, glaive-like harmonies, stacking his voice to the heavens in bursts that make every bar sound like a message from the plugg gods. And if you want to hear some truly wonky plugg, try “paypal scamma,” which keeps revving up and slowing down and sputtering like Zee! and Mexikodro hacked into the main frame of SoundCloud. – Mano

St47ic – “Xanax” (Dani Kiyoko)

What would plugg sound like if you needed to make a batch of beats for the lost souls of purgatory? Dani Kiyoko has an answer: vamp plugg. This is the digital hailstorm of the demonic, post-BMB underground settling on plugg’s dreamy pastures. It generally pulls the genre in a darker direction, but St47ic’s “XANAX” feels strangely joyous to me. Kiyoko’s beat shrouds the rapper’s voice in a foggy haze of synths, punctuated by cackling laughter and cartoonish gunshots. Is it a little insane? Yes. Am I gonna keep listening? Absolutely. – Mano

MuddyMya – “cashin out” (Mexikodro & CashCache) 

Two generations of plugg link up on “Cashin Out.” The beat is made by Mexikodro, the unofficial leader of the BeatPluggz, and CashCache, a pivotal producer in the genre’s resurgence. It’s a simple instrumental, mostly dominated by a melody that whooshes as gently as the ocean waves in a nature sounds YouTube compilation. MuddyMya layers feathery vocals on top of the beat but doesn’t do too much. They’re all aware that reinventing the wheel is not a requirement for good plugg music. – Alphonse

Tony Shhnow – “Gary Vee” (CashCache)

Every time Tony Shhnow raps on a Cashcache beat, the universe seems to shift closer to order. They’re yin and yang; Tony approaches every verse as a student of Gucci Mane and Hoodrich Pablo Juan, while Cash dreams up plugg beats like he’s trying to create lounge music. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work but has become a standard bearer for the new plugg wave. With their 2020 tape Dis Should Hold U Over, Tony and Cash convinced a lot of folks in this blog’s orbit that plugg still matters, and their chemistry reaches a new high on “Gary Vee.” Cashcache’s sparse, beautiful instrumental asks what plugg would sound like if it scored Minecraft, and Tony Shhnow turns his levels down and mutters sweet threats with perfect timing. – Mano

Rx Papi – “For Da Weekend Pt. 2” (JRDN & Laws)

Rx Papi doesn’t sound like he should be rapping on a plugg beat. They’re usually suited for melodic, singing ass rappers and Papi is definitely not that. That’s what makes this so good, though. On a trap or drill beat, Papi listing off the reasons he loathes his opps would come off angry and hateful, but on a sweet-sounding plugg instrumental it’s like every diss makes his heart grow a little bigger. When he says five of his opps are suburban good kids that act tough on the internet, his heart grows. When he says his opps still drive their mother’s car’s and sneak girls into her house, his heart grows. When he says he bought an opps’ daughter a bike because they couldn’t afford to, his heart grows. Beef has never been so touching. – Alphonse 

Full List:

Soundcloud playlist. Spotify playlist (less complete).

BoofPaxkMooky & Stoopidxool – Four Seasons 

Summrs – Nothing more Nothing Less

Kankan – “nun to me” / “Broad Day” (30nickk)

Black Kray – “50 In My Denim” (BSULV) 

Bloody! – “Pain” (Krazy8) 

Flee – “God Flow” (Stoopidxool) 

Kashglock – “The Goat 2” (Taklo) 

Autumn! – “The Definition of Grateful” (Maajins) / “No New Friends” (Twinuzis)

St47ic – “Xanax” (Dani Kiyoko)

Zee! – “score” (Stoopidxool) / “paypal scamma” (Mexikodro) 

Rewindraps – “Wanted To” (Glumboy) 

Daesworld – “2003” (Daesworld)

5EB – “Amsterdam 2.0

Roxas – “got u” (waifu & jenry)

MuddyMya – “cashin out” (CashCache & Mexikodro) 

Rx Papi – “For Da Weekend Pt. 2” (JRDN & Laws) 

Bigg Bravo – “It’s Green” (Ohmygodnick & Nofriends007) 

Tony Shhnow – “Gary Vee” (CashCache)

Rxk Nephew – “Shawty Rxk Too

BBY Goyard – “TH13TEEN GHOSTS” (bsulv & EJ)

Jaydes – “highschool” (Glumboy & Luna)

Ka$hdami – “Look N The Mirror!” (Glumboy, Cloudbxy & Lincoln)

FarrellB – “Lighter” (Maajins)

emotionals feat. endoh – “#NoNewFriends” (mino & jerry)

1 thought on “eoy_2021: The year plugg took over”

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