Taylor Swift has returned, again.
The sister album to folklore, evermore, is all the internet can talk about, and if you’re a rap fan, Kid Cudi’s highly anticipated Man on the Moon 3 has finally landed alongside Jack Harlow’s debut That’s What They All Say.
While these three records have consumed today’s new music headspace, there remains a handful of great underground releases that will scratch the itch for anyone looking for something a little bolder. Here are the most slept on underground releases from this week.
Buzzing southern rapper Lil Loaded has seen a tumultuous rise in recent months. The 20-year-old emcee turned himself into Dallas authorities back in November after he was wanted in connection with the shooting of 18-year-old Khalia Walker. He has since returned home, ankle monitor and all, and celebrated his freedom by announcing a new project.
CRIPTAPE is a compact 8-track collection of braggadocious street raps. Still, the project’s quaking bass and sinister piano keys alongside Lil Loaded’s gruff young growl take up a monumental amount of space. Songs like “Link Up” and “6acc Doe” are full of ominous paranoia, with Loaded sounding almost sadistic as he raps.
In a brief moment of levity, the young rapper explores melody on “Harder Times,” where he sings candidly about the origins of these anxieties. “My guy switching up, it f*cked me up on the inside,” he raps before calling out, “Most hated in my city, I won’t let ’em take me out.” Lil Loaded may be a buzzing new talent, but fame never warrants protection for young rappers, and CRIPTAPE demonstrates that the young rapper still remains focused on survival.
“The Boy With The Bars” – Skooly
T.R.U. emcee Skooly has always had an ear for curating fierce melodic trap music. 2 Chainz loves him, and he’s been featured alongside many A1 contemporaries like Young Thug and Lil Baby. Still, the question has remained whether Skooly’s brand of melodic rap would stand on its own. Despite having influenced most of today’s singer-rappers at least somewhat, Skooly has kept to himself, mastering an impressive output of projects all while maintaining a low-key profile. But on The Boy with Bars, the ATL rapper’s latest collection of syrupy trap ballads are infectious ear candy and find Skooly as open and transparent as ever.
The project offers a few moments of levity, but mostly the tape serves as an emotional testament for Skooly, who uses the project’s expansive 15-tracks to warble words of wisdom (“4rmdawestsidewidluv6ix”) and roll his eyes at the sleepers who haven’t given him his flowers (“Thank Me Later.”) His frustrations are warranted; he is responsible for a massive movement in Atlanta rap, and The Boy with Bars merely reaffirms what we already know: He’s the most influential melodic rapper out of ATL.
“Double O Baby” – Hotboii
A brooding new talent, Hotboii’s glitzy swagger may have the appearance of youthful exuberance, but the South Florida emcee instead creates emotional rap music that often reflects on a childhood full of trial-by-fire experiences. Incarcerated at a young age, Hotboii’s music is transparent and melancholic, revisiting traumatizing experiences with wisdom beyond his years.
Double O Baby, the rapper’s debut album and second effort of 2020, is made up of more of these somber melodic trap ballads. “Out of the Mud,” a particular highlight that features recent XXL freshman Lil Mosey, reminisces on the stints that landed him in a youth correctional facility in the first place. Hotboii pines to escape his past, which has stuck to him like glue.
“Soon I’ll be out of reach,” he raps with a tone that is both cautiously optimistic and full of yearning. Hotboii knows he’s on the path to greatness and just hopes for now to stay the course.
“Zaystreet” – Young Scooter
For years, the Freebandz emcee Young Scooter has been one of Atlanta’s most reliable street rappers. He’s repeated time and time again that he makes “counting music” – music to count money to – and has fed the ATL underground with a reliable and consistent stream of street rap over the years. On Zaystreet, the emcee’s collaborative tape with Zaytoven, Young Scooter still raps with his signature slow burn droll, but his bars carry more weight than before, even after more than a decade in the game.
Even though the project remains stacked with high-profile guest features (2 Chainz, Rick Ross, Young Thug, and Future obviously), Scooter isn’t as bogged down by his superstar friends this time around. He rides through the sludgy instrumental on “24 hours,” but his voice cracks with urgency on “Pressure” and takes off on a great melodic tangent on “Want More.” But after all this time, some themes will never change” “A trap rapper, if it ain’t ’bout money, I don’t wanna rap,” he chirps on “Black Migo.”
Raised on Jay-Z and Nas’s gritty street gospels, 38 Spesh uses sparse boom-bap instrumentals to spin intricate motivational wordplay. At just 16 minutes, 38 Spesh’s latest release 1995 is a brief but captivating effort. The tough emcee wastes no time as he winds his way through the dark street experiences that have haunted him.
“Chalk Board” is rank with old-school east coast stylings, while tracks like “Past Tense” and “Round Table” toy with Griselda-esque loops and sludgy breakdowns. With co-signs from most of the Griselda team, 38 Spesh is a captivating underground voice ready to meet this moment.
“Don’t Play” – Anders
Canadian R&B crooner Anders has been slowly building up a reputation throughout his city as the country’s next big popstar. With a brief discography to his name, Anders has relied on slick loosie singles to keep his momentum afloat, as fans collectively yearn for the singer to put forth a debut project. “Don’t Play” doesn’t necessarily signify that a project is on the way, but it’s still a catchy new track that shows Ander’s has a bonafide talent for curating bouncy contemporary R&B.