Young Thug's batshit-crazy baby talk on 'Lifestyle'. I Love Makonnen's alone-in-the-shower howl on 'Tuesday.' Rae Sremmurd's castrato-hop on 'No Flex Zone.' Rap is in its weird-voice phase right now—not that there's anything wrong with that—and Shy Glizzy's "Law 3," his first tape since the success of his street hit 'Awwsome,' makes this world-weary Washington, D.C. warbler, and Baltimore favorite, the underground hero of weird-voice rap right now.
Here, Glizzy and his very special Mid-Atlantic accent (half Southern, half '70s movie character actor squeak) construct the best Gucci Mane song in years ('Everything Golden') and with 'Cocky,' the best Migos song in a year if you're a die-hard looking for cheap strong stuff like 'Bando.' He's also an attentive MC on the sly, bouncing his rhymes off Nintendo Wii piano sounds on 'What You Talking About,' and a tight-lipped tweaker of the trap template: dude-metal guitar riffs on 'Legend'; Death Waltz Recordings-friendly synths on 'Ridin'; and ambient street anthems on 'Money' and 'My Heart.'
Most importantly, Glizzy is a compelling, conflicted figure. At different points, he shouts out late go-go pioneer Chuck Brown (on 'Legend') and D.C. crack kingpin Rayful Edmond ('She Like Me'), and "Law 3" sounds like an attempt to reconcile the attitudes of those two vastly different D.C. heroes: one, the face of restorative, regionally rooted party music for the city's regular-ass people, the other a snarling criminal entrepreneur of massive proportions who admirably, evilly, did not give a fuck.
On two tracks here, Glizzy occupies both roles at once expertly. 'Funeral' is a soaring, somber song in the baroque Rick Ross mode, in which Glizzy imagines his own funeral like so many rappers before him (though his is a surreal, self-defeating Fellini-like circus of street cred, complete with "10,000 bitches" and lots of shooters and d-boys and exotic cars and celebrities). Halfway through, he derails 'Funeral's' tragic swagger to accept responsibility for helping his family ("If I go, who the fuck gonna take care of my fam?/ My uncle in a wheelchair, I'm trying to get him a lam") and tell the story of a neighborhood woman, Ann: "[She] just lost her daughter and her son did not become a man/ Goddamn, everybody love Miss Ann/ But she been through so much pain that she don't give a damn."
Then there's 'Handcuffs,' a dizzying protest track about incarceration where EDM trap blip-bloops and Glizzy's hiccuping delivery makes it seem as though he's high off speaking truth to power on his own terms (at one point, Glizzy rhymes "handcuffs" with "salmon," as in the food he cannot eat if he is in handcuffs). No one asks that this kind of turn-up-oriented trap reach the heights of complexity and nuance Glizzy gets to on 'Funeral' and 'Handcuffs,' which makes their existence even more encouraging. These two songs, like the rest of "Law 3," are celebrations of realness, but they are soaked in stupid-ass, super-compelling hustler overconfidence, a shit-ton of regret, and a specific kind of sadness that never quite reveals itself entirely because to do so might make this young guy give up. It seems as though Glizzy has found another, more sturdy use for rap's weird voice trend: to communicate a heavy-hearted sense of inevitability about damn near everything.
And finally (and belatedly) my favorite songs and albums from November:
- Beyonce, '7/11' (listen)
- Dean Blunt, 'Heavy'
- DJ Slugo, 'GHETTO' (listen)
- Kane Mayfield, 'Lemonade' (listen)
- Labtekwon, 'Capitalism and Slavery' (listen)