6 great rap albums from October 2017
Between mixtapes, albums, EPs, expanded deluxe editions, collaborative projects, and more, not to mention random YouTube and SoundCloud uploads, it feels like there's more new rap music available at our fingertips than ever before. I cover some of it in Five Notable Releases of the Week, but there's always more great stuff that I don't get a chance to talk about in that column. With October behind us, we're playing a little catch-up and discussing six great rap releases from the past month.
Check out the list below, and let us know what October rap releases you like that we missed.
I was sold on Big K.R.I.T. with the release of 2010's K.R.I.T Wuz Here -- which remains one of my favorite rap albums in recent times -- and I've stayed very biased in favor of him, even as he puts out way too much music and almost never changes his style up. So I was a little hesitant when I heard that 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time -- which, counting mixtapes, is something like his eighth or ninth album since K.R.I.T. Wuz Here -- would be a double album, but it turns out that it's some of his best work in a while. Some things about it are classic KRIT. He's still dedicated to the history of Southern rap and still pulling his guests from that history rather than getting newer, trendier artists. On this album, he's got T.I., UGK, CeeLo Green, and Dungeon Family members Sleepy Brown and Joi, and they all sound right at home in the context of Big K.R.I.T.'s musical world. K.R.I.T. also has another side here, though. When he's not spitting away in his usual breakneck flow, he's working in real-deal old school soul music. And I don't just mean as source material for samples. The run of "Justin Scott," "Mixed Messages," "Keep The Devil Off," and the Joi-featuring "Miss Georgia Fornia" may actually appeal more to fans of '70s soul than to fans of modern rap. He also dabbles in jazz on penultimate song "The Light," which he made with To Pimp A Butterfly contributors Bilal, Robert Glasper, and Terrace Martin. In some ways, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time is kind of a similar album to To Pimp A Butterfly. It might not get as popular, but it shares a desire of making the music you want to make and letting the rest of the world catch up. For Kendrick it was combining jazz and funk with his West Coast raps, and for K.R.I.T. it's Southern rap and soul, but both are lengthy, complex albums that stick to a strong vision. They might take some time to grow on you, but it's worth it.
Twice this year, Memphis rapper Young Dolph was the victim of a shooting that almost took his life, thankfully surviving both attacks, once in Charlotte, NC and once in LA. He responded in detail to the Charlotte shooting on his April album Bulletproof, but Thinking Out Loud, released just weeks after the LA shooting, seems to take a more fun (and funny) approach.
His delivery is both bassy and plainspoken, and seems to take some cues from guys like Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz, who both appear on the album's "Go Get Sum Mo," but Thinking Out Loud also has Dolph honing his own voice more than ever before. It's the kind of album that just has highlight after highlight, where really any song could succeed as the single. It opens on a high note with the boast-filled one-two punch of "What’s the Deal" and "Pacific Ocean," and it stays on that level through sentimental closer "While U Here."
Maryland's IDK -- which stands for "Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge" and was shortened from Jay IDK -- named his debut album IWASVERYBAD, he appears on the cover art in a prison uniform, and the very first song starts with skits of teachers complaining that he's causing trouble in elementary school and ends with the admission that he did jail time as an adult. It might seem like you know exactly what kind of album you're getting, but IWASVERYBAD proves to be pretty unpredictable. He seems less like he's bragging about the jail time and more like he wishes he made better decisions. "No Shoes On the Rug, Leave Them At the Door" features a mock conversation between him and his mother checking in on him while he's locked up, and he sounds full of regret, disappointed in himself for disappointing her. It's a very moving song, and the powerful message is aided by IDK's nifty delivery and impeccable knack for storytelling. IDK has gained more than a few comparisons to Kendrick Lamar, and the kind of storytelling that Kendrick was doing on good kid, m.A.A.d city is echoed pretty strongly here. You can also hear it on "Pizza Shop Extended," which boasts guest appearances from indie-rap heavyweights DOOM and Del The Funky Homosapien (plus Yung Gleesh), the latter of whom works in a little reference to his "Clint Eastwood" verse. As much as IDK's powerful storytelling shines, IWASVERYBAD keeps you on your toes by never sticking to one sound for too long. He offers up a party-ready banger with "Dog Love Kitty," he switches gears for the sex-fueled "Windows Up," and he gets aggressive on the Chief Keef-featuring "17 Wit A 38." He keeps the fat trimmed, he picks his beats and guests wisely, and at just 12 very strong songs, the album flies by.
The first time a lot of people heard Meyhem Lauren was when he appeared on several songs on fellow Queens rapper Action Bronson's 2011 album Dr. Lecter. All these years later, Bronson is a lot more popular than he was back then, so it's cool to see that he still rides for Meyhem Lauren, who still goes harder than half the rappers on the radio. Bronson's got him on his new album Blue Chips 7000, he tapped him to open his tour, and he appears on three songs on Meyhem's new album Gems from the Equinox, a collaboration with Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs. Muggs gives Meyhem more cinematic-sounding production than he usually has, and it works perfectly with Meyhem's combative, New-York-for-life rhymes. Guests come in the form of other no-bullshit New York rappers like Roc Marciano, Conway, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, and the late Sean Price, and Muggs' Cypress Hill groupmate B-Real joins Bronson on the closing track. All of them bring their A game, making Gems from the Equinox not just a great Meyhem Lauren album but one of many great showcases for how New York rap refuses to die.
OMB Peezy is relatively new to the game but already has a ton of ambition, as implied by the name of this debut EP, and explicitly spelled out in a recent interview with XXL: "I want to change hip-hop back to hip-hop, not just mumble rap. Niggas don't even be talking about shit. Niggas don't be saying nothing." Peezy is from the South (Alabama, specifically), where mumble rap is especially big right now, but Peezy's delivery hearkens back to the Dirty South sounds of the '90s and early '00s -- he cites Boosie as a main influence and is often compared to him. Peezy now lives in Sacramento, and for Humble Beginnings, he marries his Southern twang to the booming West Coast production of Cardo, who's worked with Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and more. The EP's got one guest from the South (Baton Rouge's YoungBoy Never Broke Again) and one from the West Coast (Yhung T.O. of Cali group SOB X RBE), and the geographical diversity helps keep Peezy sounding unique in his current home as well as his former one. The EP is just six songs, but all of them are worthy and if these are indeed just his humble beginnings, I can't wait to hear what else he's capable of.
Future and Young Thug's careers have been associated with each other for years. Both have been defining the sound of modern-day auto-tuned Atlanta trap, both are ridiculously prolific and usually put out at least two full-lengths a year, they beefed and then ended their beef, and both are frequent collaborators of Metro Boomin. Now they finally teamed up for their first-ever collaborative full-length, which noticeably features no Metro Boomin production at all but does have other frequent collaborators like Southside, Wheezy, London on da Track, and Mike Will Made-It. The only guest spot comes from another defining Atlanta trap artist, Offset of Migos.
Both Future and Young Thug have a handful of collaborative albums/mixtapes/EPs, though it's most tempting to compare this one to What A Time To Be Alive, Future's collab with Drake. As the title rightfully boasted, we were lucky to be living in a time where Drake and Future would team up for a full album and have nearly every song sound like an effortless hit, and it'd be understandable to apply those same expectations to a Future and Young Thug collab. It turns out that Super Slimey doesn't exactly have that same effortless hit power, and it feels like both rappers have either peaked or become too prolific for their own good, but even if it's not an instant classic, it's still a fun record. Future and Young Thug both have distinct styles that complement each other well, and they both at least know how to sound good, even when they aren't rapping or singing their hardest. The production is as shiny as you'd expect, and as always, it's dark and minimal and seemingly not radio-ready but somehow totally radio-ready. And they show enough of their various sides that Super Slimey never fully becomes Super Samey. They both bring a nice amount of melody to the gorgeous beat of "200," they dive into their sad sides on "Real Love" and "Group Home," Future brings some welcome aggression to his solo song "Feed Me Dope," and the extra star power of Offset collab "Patek Water" makes that one even more fun than the rest. The best song, though, is the one that's the most different: Young Thug's solo song "Killed Before." He's almost fully in singing mode over a clean electric guitar, sounding more like a recent Frank Ocean or SZA song than syrupy trap. More than any other song on Super Slimey, it's the one that suggests Young Thug has some new ideas up his sleeve.