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Where were you the first time you heard “Broke Boi”? For me, Playboi Carti’s entrance on that song paired with producer MexikoDro’s seismic drop opened the doors to a world of online music. Carti, Warhol.ss, Uno, Fauni and, of course, the BeatPluggz producer collective.
Back then, their beats sounded like nothing else. Blown-out, blissed-out collisions of Atlanta trap and the ethereal, Project Pat and Paper Mario. Critics called them alien transmissions, clouds of purple. To my ears, they simply sounded joyous in an unambiguous sense, like sucking on a lollipop.
Like any iconic sound, theirs was imitated, watered down, beaten to a pulp and canonized as Type Beats. It’s a formula any producer can easily replicate, down to the “Plugg!” producer tag you can find online. But now, several years removed from that era, Plugg music feels familiar, worn-in. To me, it’s comfort food. I still get a nostalgic urge to listen to this stuff. Thankfully, people are still making it, Drake seems to have just discovered it, and the style is fresher and more therapeutic than ever. (This list is not exhaustive, just stuff I’ve been listening to recently.)
Tony Shhnow raps like if Gucci Mane had to record with a roommate sleeping next door. It’s a punchy, assured delivery, but there’s this faintness to it too, like the levels are always turned down a few notches. It’d be a mistake to call him a “Plugg rapper” because he raps on so much more than that. On this tape, he raps over New Jersey producer Grimm Doza’s moth-eaten loops. On this one, he goes over his favorite Neptunes beats.
But as of now, his bread and butter is subtle, sticky-sweet Plugg largely produced by the superb CashCache. Their tape together Dis Should Hold U Over is essential. Tony Shhnow makes lullabies about packs coming in the mail and stepping out in designer. It’s music you could fall asleep to but won’t put you to sleep — you’ll want to lean in close and catch every bar.
4 Tony Shhnow bars that shouldn’t go so hard but actually do because he raps them like that:
- “I put food inside my music cause I know that they gon’ sound bite!” (“No Ceilings”)
- “I made plays when you was playin’ on the slide.” (“Fly Water Fish”)
- “I got cash in the present, they keep talking ’bout the past.” (“On Me”)
- “I hate when you talk shit but I love when you walk away.” (“Signed To Da Pavement”)
This whole thing probably could’ve been about CashCache. He’s one of the main reasons Plugg is still so fresh. Some of his beats could’ve landed in 2016, but his best ones feel like a natural evolution of the sound. Everything is softer, cooler, quieter. To mix things up he’ll sometimes bring in some congas or saxophone. Plugg is basically smooth jazz for people who feel things when they see this shade of red:
My 5 favorite CashCache beats rn:
- Tony Shhnow – “TikTok”
- BoofPaxkMooky ft. Texako – “Outside” (prod. CashCache & Pvt. Joker)
- Tony Shhnow – “Deacon Tony” (prod. CashCache & Voidd)
- FLEE – “I Really Be Walking”
- 10kdunkin & ATL Smook – “Lineman”
One thing spending a lot of time on SoundCloud reveals is that the mainstream has really watered down Auto-Tune. I’m never again trying to listen to Travis Scott mumble on the same note for a whole song after hearing Summrs. He’s spent the last couple years tinkering with vocal chains and beat selection and seems to be finally settling into the warm textures of Plugg&B.
On the one hand, Summrs has a “sound” — it’s hard not to think of his bright Auto-Tune warbles and solid ear for Plugg beats. On the other hand, you never really know what to expect. Sometimes he’ll come in squealing like baby Carti; other times he’ll plow through the beat with no Auto-Tune. It sounds like he’s experimenting in real time. No matter the Summrs you get, the music will usually transport you somewhere into the cosmos.
5 Summrs songs that sound like this artist’s depiction of the largest sea on Saturn’s moon Titan:
- “Right Na!” (prod. Cash Bently)
- “Attached” (prod. Dior Daze)
- “Mudd Bruddas” (prod. 30Nickk)
- “Packrunner Bitch” (prod. XanGang)
- “Summrluikang!” (prod. Autumn!)
In another life, 10kDunkin would’ve been a librarian. But seriously, it’s impressive that he can whisper with such confidence. Sometimes nonchalance is what you need to sell your lifestyle raps. Try his tape 10k Smook with ATL Smook if you want the kind of glowing, gorgeous Plugg that soundtracked my 2017 dreams of D Savage taking over the rap game. Where 10k really shines, though, is on the hilariously titled Rp’s & Plan B’s with Tony Shhnow. With its tongue-in-cheek R&B and soul loops, that tape answers the question: could Plugg ever make it to the Tiny Desk? (Yes, yes it could.)
4 times 10kDunkin rapped some shit that’s tame on paper but way cooler on wax because it sounds like the title of a book he’s requesting at the library:
- “I think this double cup against me, it keep trying to put me down.” (“Traffic”)
- “My producer walked in with a Draco.” (“Producer Gotta Draco”)
- “I’m addicted to this money, she addicted to this life.” (“Me Ova U”)
- “Them racks turn your foes to your friends. Them racks turn your friends to your foes.” (“AMG Benz”)
Idk, I just wanted a place to say that blackwinterwells singing about a toxic ex over a Plugg beat by 4am, angelus and dolly is brilliant.
Pretty much anything you say on a good Plugg beat will sound cool. French rapper Serane takes this to its extreme. Given my limited French knowledge, I never really know what he’s saying, although the way he mutters “Je spend” on “Spend” is fucking sick. CashCache seems to agree.
4 Serane bars that I understood on first listen with my high school French:
- “Je spend.” (“Spend”)
- “J’ai du good gas et il vient du Canada.” (“Pardonne Moi”)
- “J’ai dropout….pour smoke la pressure.” (“Pressure”)
- “Je fume la zaza et je me retrouve dans le cockpit.” (“Brad Pitt”)
Plugg is an ocean and BoofPaxkMooky is a waterbender.
5 BoofPaxkMooky songs where his voice is a placid lake:
- “Essence” (prod. NeiiBurr)
- “Laced Blunt” (prod. NeiiBurr)
- “Exposed” (prod. StoopidXool & Milanezie)
- “100mph” (prod. Lincoln & CashCache)
- “Like Dat ft. 1600J” (prod. NeiiBurr)
Hour 3 of listening to Plugg. The songs have congealed into a thick transcendent soup. I could keep recommending songs or I could just let you experience it the way it’s intended: as a day-long trance in your isolated abode. To guide you on your retreat I’ve made a playlist with all the songs I mentioned plus dozens more. Long Live Plugg.
(originally self-published on 1/29/21)