The 2017 XXL Freshman class was released this week, and it’s one of two things: 1) really bad, or 2) a clear sign I’m getting old. MadeInTYO is a blatant, bland rip of Lil Uzi Vert, which, really? We’ve reached the point of Uzi-spawn about 3 days after he himself was birthed by memes? Meanwhile, I can’t listen to 30 seconds Ugly God’s “I Beat My Meat” without becoming overwhelmed with anxiety that I’m getting a bad phone call from my mom or boss. (Maybe teens aren’t bothered because they’ve never actually their phone ring.)
It’s not all terrible – I’m intrigued by XXXTentacion (horrible dude/indisputable icon), KYLE (he embraces his corniness), and Amine (hip hop needs prickly weirdos). But if there’s one man that stands out from the pack, it’s Kap G.
Kap G is a Mexican-American rapper from Atlanta. His parents were illegal immigrants; now he’s a Pharrell protege signed to Atlantic Records. And based on his early work, he’s an example that you can really have it all: the outsize persona, the hooks, the club-ready production, the conscious tip, the fashion.
His biggest hit is “Girlfriend,” a remorseless, solemn ode to girl stealing, in which Kap effortlessly exhales the hook and cycles through crisp flows without breaking a sweat. The beat is the best possible version of 40’s hazy, liquefied wall of sound.
There are few who can go bar for bar with Young Thug without seeming irrelevant. But on “Don’t Need Em,” Kap and Thugger complement each other perfectly: Thug’s spastic, wheezing soprano against Kap’s thick, garbled drawl. Kap understands that with Thug, the words don’t matter nearly as much as the sounds of them. And so he wastes no time jumping into the aural games: in first two playful lines–he clips the syllables on “big bear” before stretching out “griiiizzly” to marvelous, growling effect. By the time they go head to head trading lines in verse three, it’s hard to remember which one is the star and which is the upstart.
The Ghost of T.I. hangs strongly over Kap’s resonant drawl. But Kap gets more goofy and playful than the resolute kingpin Tip ever did: just check how he brings out Pharrell’s absurd, onomatopoeic side on “Icha Gicha,” and relishes each laughably high note on “Freakin ‘N’ Geekin.” His lyricism remains a bit basic–too many similes! but that’s beside the point with the whole package sounds so pristine. His musical sensibilities, combined with a penchant for sociopolitical commentary as seen on “La Policia,” make Kap G one of the most exciting artists coming out of Atlanta today.