Courtesy of Rio’s Facebook

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26AR & Tazzo B – “6 Foot 7 Foot”

There comes a time in everyone’s life where a song they argued about in a high school cafeteria gets flipped by someone over 10 years younger than them. What a scary thought. Fortunately, I was still in middle school when Cory Gunz rhymed lima bean with Dramamine so that day has yet to come for me. 26AR and Tazzo B sound like they’ve been waiting their entire lives for the chance to rap on the “6 Foot 7 Foot” beat. Sample-driven and loop beats might be part of the next wave of NY Drill in 2021, opening the doors to new sounds that finally lets rappers move past searching “[FREE] POP SMOKE x 808MELO TYPE BEAT” on YouTube.

This wouldn’t be entirely uncharted territory though. The Yellow Tape Boyz out in Queens have been flipping things for a minute. There’s also Eli Rivers, who’s already crooned over a Giveon sample. For NY drill rappers, samples and interpolations are normally reserved for love songs like Pop Smoke’s “What You Know Bout Love” and “Something Special” or Rah Swish’s “We Can Do It.” By the time the sample kicks in, you can already predict what kind of song it’s going to be. Maybe that’s why CJ’s “Whoopty,” a song full of cliches that could’ve been written by anyone who spent a few hours studying Fivio and 22Gz lyrics on Genius, popped off. The “Sanam Re” sample, which Memo600 already used in “Exposing Me,” a much better song, is like a cheat code. As soon as you hear it, it won’t take much else for the song to be memorable. The beat is already stuck in your head. 

When you hear 26AR immediately start talking shit over Harry Belafonte’s pitched up vocals, you know it’s something different. . Instead of switching off, it feels like 26AR and Tazzo are snatching the mic away just as the other’s starting to heat up. “Since I came home a nigga been on defense tryna repent for my sins,” 26AR raps. Combined with A Lau and Luca’s racing drums, it’s like listening to a high speed chase. We might be witnessing the start of a new wave in New York.

Big Kahuna OG, Monday Night & 3WaySlim – “3 WAY PHONE CALL”

I love when songs sound like someone found a fire beat while chilling and then decided to call up the guys to have an impromptu cypher. “3 WAY PHONE CALL,” has little time for hooks or introductions from the Richmond trio. All that would take away from what Big Kahuna OG, Monday Night and 3WaySlim do best. On here, you get 3 minutes of bars stacked straight to the ceiling over Big Kahuna OG’s warm, fuzzy loops. “I had to get my hustle up, triple double somethin’ / Westbrook, yeah it sound good, but how that check look,” 3WaySlim raps over the muted drums.  You’re pulled in and out of all their worlds — there’s 3WaySlim’s ruthless aggression, Big Kahuna OG’s endless taunting, and Monday Night’s carefree attitude. Hoping that 2021 brings us more hookless posse cuts.


If BIGBABYGUCCI made a ten minute long song filled with beat switches and his stickiest hooks, I’m sure those ten minutes would fly right by. He’s job hopping in the “For Sale” video, delivering packages for UPS in one scene and running his own ice cream truck in another. “Got a call from my momma she said ‘Boy I’m so damn proud of you,” he dreamily sings. “I told her just be cautious cause she ain’t got a house on the moon.” The groove from the gentle keys and soft drums keeps you at ease. These short, downtempo earworms are the kinds of songs BIGBABYGUCCI has perfected.  When the songs that fans want the most are stuck in snippet form, why not try to match that feeling with your actual releases? BIGBABYGUCCI knows how to leave you wanting more with every song he drops.

Rylo Rodriguez – “Home Run”

Rylo Rodriguez snuck in his debut solo project, G.I.H.F. (Goat In Human Form), in late November, right before End of Year list season. If it came out a little earlier, I have no doubt that it would’ve slowly crept its way onto a ton of lists. On the way to G.I.H.F., Rylo’s leaks and recordings of snippets from IG Live would always make their way to my YouTube recommendations. It makes sense — Rylo’s style isn’t easily imitable. You have to go straight to the source to get what you want. There’s a reason why the top comments on his videos are always people quoting their favorite bar. He’s a poet for the streets. This lane of rap is entirely focused on the writer’s storytelling abilities, it makes you become a fan of how someone puts together words and narratives: love and loss, success and struggle. Melody comes second to them. 

On “Home Run,” he makes it all seem effortless. But that’s how every song feels with Rylo. Rarely does it feel like he’s breaking a sweat. His warm Southern drawl makes words blend together like paintbrush strokes. “I know a nigga got three strikes, he ain’t even see the mound,” he laments, pausing for a moment right after before  going on to talk about people showing fake love. Moments like that are what makes Rylo’s music punch well above his weight class. The melodramatic production makes every line sound like it’s meant to be Rylo’s last words. Rylo’s singles from the top of 2020, “Yesterday” and “No Fentanyl / Camera Roll” left people wondering when we would get an album from him, but aside from some loose features, including an appearance on My Turn, there wasn’t much from him. G.I.H.F. isn’t a landmark of a debut, but it’s enough to hold folks over until whatever comes next. Rylo Rodriguez is set to have a breakout year if he wants to, but maybe he’ll take some more time off for himself. His spot isn’t going anywhere.

Rio Da Yung OG – “Who Made This”

Rio Da Yung OG is the kind of rapper that puts effort into every single song he’s on. Phoning in a verse isn’t in his DNA. “Who Made This” is Rio at his finest, where his punched in punchlines sound more like an endless stream of consciousness than nonsequiturs, giving you a look into the day in the life of Rio. “Unc smoke swishers, but the weed he got’ll hurt your chest,” he raps over the ominous beat. 

It hurts to watch rap scenes have their momentum potentially halted by tragedy. Last week, Rio was sentenced to 5 years in jail on gun charges stemming from a January 2019 arrest. Last year, Rio, RMC Mike, YN Jay and Bfb Da Packman (who currently lives in Houston) brought a ton of eyes to Flint’s burgeoning rap scene with their own unique brands of raunchy comedy. But if you asked anyone who they first heard, they’d likely say Rio. Rio never quietly enters a song. He’ll make sure to start his verse saying something you won’t forget and by the time he finishes, he’ll have said at least three things you wouldn’t want your mother to hear. In a year, he’s become a vital part of the Michigan rap ecosystem and it’s clear that no one can fill his place. #FreeRio 

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