: “Moncler Bubble”
Moncler bubble coats are behind only Amiri jeans and Vlone on the list of rapper wardrobe staples that don’t need more tribute songs. Still, I love Baby Money raps about #fashion enough to forgive this sin.
In the video for “Chess Move$,” Bruiser Brigade’s Bruiser Wolf wears the type of straw fedora that has me convinced he’s a 63-year-old time traveler. But outside of appearances, his raps where he packs metaphors into his run-on sentences delivered with his cartoonishly high voice, sound like nothing else in Michigan right now. Again and again his style has been compared to Suga Free and E-40, and it’s somewhat accurate. Lyrically, his punchlines and sense of humor feel aligned with like-minded rappers from around the way. I could imagine Rio or Sada rapping, “I treat my dog’s better than white people do their’s,” just more aggressively. He’s different in sound but not spirit.
I imagine Shaudy Kash grew up riding around in the backseat of a family member’s whip as the CD player shuffled between Tha Eastsidaz era Snoop, Too $hort, No Limit, and Blade Icewood. His hazy, old-soul raps could be sent through a portal to 1999 and things would go well for him. His take on E-40’s “Dusted N’ Disgusted” with “Whole Lotta” just makes sense.
and Glockboyz Teejaee: “223s”
Glockboyz Teejaee clicks with everyone. (Go ahead, search for him on YouTube and just play it all.) But it might be the best with Nuk, who is good for at least one line per track that’s forever stuck in the back of my brain. On this one it’s “See that dog had me always skippin’ school I was like Ferris.”
: “Hit Em’ Wit’ That Fye”
Los’ paranoid and bugged-out raps reach a new peak on “Hit ’Em Wit’ That Fye.” He’s basically Gene Hackman at the end of The Conversation tearing up his house searching for a surveillance device that might not even be there. Come for the fast money schemes and stay for the hectic fallouts detailed enough for a neo-noir. The sinister No Limit-inspired beat by Topside, who may be the best producer in the region right now, is a perfect backdrop to the disarray.
A.T and FamousCurt are yet another formidable Michigan rap duo. Atop the same Bobby Glenn sample flipped on JAY-Z’s “Song Cry,” they bounce off each other with the smoothness of Drego and Beno on Sorry For the Get Off and talk shit with the best of them: “Chains on, Cartier’s iced, ears bussed, and my bitch bad, yo’ broke ass,” raps FamousCurt. She only needs to list parts of her outfit to be compelling.
: “Where They At”
Admit it, you have laughed at the ShittyBoyz before. I get it. Their name is the ShittyBoyz, they wear T-shirts featuring the poop emoji, and they’re led by a dude named BabyTron, who has the same haircut as Steve from Blue’s Clues and likes to rap about the NBA and credit card scams over ’80s pop samples. But BabyTron is a good rapper, a punchline savant to be exact, and his mixtape Luka Troncic—of course, his head is photoshopped onto Luke Doncic’s body on the cover—is one of the most enjoyable Detroit mixtapes of the year so far. Particularly “Where They At,” where over a Helluva beat that sounds like it could soundtrack the first 20 minutes of Beverly Hills Cop, BabyTron pulls the topics for his puns out of a top hat: classic fantasy (“Smokin’ cookie in the wonderland I feel like Mad Hatter”), foundational Detroit street rap (“Feel like Blade back up in the day bitch I’m a stack master”), and a rare 1970s NBA rap reference (“Granddad was scoring in the city back with Bob Lanier”).
YBN Lil Bro: “Trapping n My Jordans”
The comedic side of Detroit rap is still there, but this year has seen a rise in more reality-based forms of storytelling. You can tell that the city’s next generation has grown up with the stoicism of drill and the volatile emotions of YoungBoy. YBN Lil Bro’s “Trapping n My Jordans” is drenched in pain and anger. He howls, “I ain’t got no daddy” seconds into the track in a way that sounds therapeutic and triggering at the same time.
Peezy: “Rio Flow”
On “Rio Flow,” the mentor is influenced by the mentee. Years ago, Detroit staple Peezy invited Flint’s Rio Da Yung OG to the Eastside of Detroit and ignited a Flint rap renaissance. Though Peezy missed most of Rio’s rise because of a jail stint, when he was released earlier this year he paid homage to his protege’s non-sequitur-heavy delivery and demented punchlines with this song. OK, Peezy may be far less crazy, but he’s cool and reserved like a mafia boss, which makes his take on the flow feel fresh. It’s a return to form for one of the cornerstones of Michigan rap.
One day, Rio Da Yung OG’s 2018 to 2021 run may be spoken about in the same breath as Gucci or Jeezy or any other street rap movement that set their city’s tone for years to come. But a jail sentence brought his career to a sudden halt. Right before he went in, Rio released “Last Day Out,” a track that doesn’t sound quite like anything else in his catalog. Absent are the explosive and jaw-dropping punchlines and the chaotic ringing church bells. Instead he somberly reflects on his meteoric rise and runs through a checklist of family members to say his goodbyes to: “I think I need to go church where my mama at?/Got to spend my time with my granny, where big mama at?” he raps, as meaningful photos flash across the screen in the video. It’s the most vulnerable he has ever been, unfortunately it had to come during a moment that feels like the end of an era.
It’s insane that a frustrated and bleak reflection on trauma and loss with heavy lines like, “I lost half of my friends, I’ll be lying if I tell you I won’t really hurt though/But I knew since a kid the game I was hopping in, was really cutthroat,” sounds this good.
Damjonboi has been the beatmaker behind the boards on a handful of recent Michigan rap anthems like Teejayx6’s “Dark Web” and Drego and Beno’s “Recipe 2.” But he deserves respect as a rapper as well—few can ride his piano-centric beats with as much enthusiasm.
Three from the GuttaBoyz: Pros Ap: “,” Guttfats: “Conversations,” Guttaboy Khida, VI, and ItsRoddo: “ ”
The GuttaBoyz are a crew of young rappers who don’t give a shit. There’s very little information about them on the internet, but I look forward to finding a video from one of their members on my YouTube homepage every week. My favorites have included “Freestyle Pt. 3,” where Pros AP has to be the first rapper outside of Milwaukee to drop a Khris Middleton reference, and Guttafats’s breezy “Conversations” (he seems primed to pop up on a Topside beat to list off nefarious activities). And Guttaboy Khida’s “Jenga” is a fun posse cut; if you’re a fan of Michigan rap you know that the more fun posse cuts that exist, the better.
RTB MB, Glockboyz Teejaee and The Godfather: “”
During the off-season, Charlotte Hornets high flyer Miles Bridges is a Flint rapper by the name of RTB MB. Of the many NBA rappers he’s clearly the best one, and yes, I know the competition isn’t too stiff, unless you are somehow a fan of Dame D.O.L.L.A. But listen, when the Hornets were eliminated from the play-in round this season, all I could think about was the return of RTB MB, which thankfully came instantly with “After Laughter.”
24Lik, 392 Lil Head, FWC Big Key, and RealRichIzzo: “”
My biggest omission from the list above is likely CashGang. The crew’s cold and brutal diss tracks, paired with fans cheering them on as if it’s fiction, have rubbed me the wrong way. It has the spirit of the darkest side of early 2010s Chicago drill, and feels like it puts shock before creativity. It’s not for me.
Veeze is the human eye-roll emoji. His raps sound as if he was forced into the studio like a kid whose parents made them suit up for baseball practice even though they’d rather just stay home and play video games. It’s probably why he refuses to drop a new mixtape. Every couple of months he’ll throw out a random track or feature. “A&W” is good enough to hold me over, as he continues to experiment with his lethargic and croaky flow. I just wish he didn’t treat rap like a part-time job.
If you want to see how far Michigan rap has come in the last year, just look at “Tear the Club Up.” Future, one of the signature rappers of the last decade, joins Icewear Vezzo on a ominous piano beat, and it doesn’t feel like that much of a surprise. At this point, the only rapper I wouldn’t expect to hop on a Michigan rap song is Drake, and we already have Veeze doing OVO Sound Radio drops so even that doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Though “Tear the Club Up” is just OK, the unknown of where Michigan rap will go next is so exciting.