Every week, Vulture runs through the best, most interesting, and sometimes most confusing rap releases and other news. In this installment: a big week for collaborative projects, including J Balvin and Bad Bunny; Nicki Minaj gives BET a(nother) piece of her mind; Mustard cements his legacy; Chance the Rapper’s mixtapes finally come to streaming, Chaka Khan belatedly starts beef with Kanye, and more.
Oasis was released without an official date but with plenty of warning: For months there were stray comments in radio interviews, cryptic teasers tacked onto the back ends of songs, and veiled Twitter messages suggesting the existence of a joint record made by J Balvin and Bad Bunny. While the solipsistic American view is to talk about what dominance the budding Latinx superstars have shown over American domestic charts, what’s really happening on Oasis is two of urbano’s titans luring or outright shoving one another into new, interesting corners and hearing one another battle his way out. One of the record’s great strengths is its refusal to aim for the all-things-to-all-people middlebrowness that such a high-profile collaboration would seem to necessitate; instead you have the uncut Afrobeats pulse of their Mr. Eazi collab, “Como Un Bebe,” or the strangely tranquil “La Cancion,” which is stitched together by what’s nearly a jazz trumpet solo.
The cartoon cover of Bandana is, as always, at odds with the relentless naturalism in Freddie Gibbs’s rhymes. The Gary, Indiana, native’s career began in earnest ten years ago with a pair of scorched-earth mixtapes and continued for the next half-decade despite label red tape and the near-collapse of the record industry. By the time he and Madlib released their first full-length collaboration, 2014’s Piñata, Gibbs’s very presence on the songs was seen as antithetical to the producer’s comparative whimsy. That LP was superb as a formal exercise for Gibbs and as a showcase for Madlib, who had not produced a high-profile rap album in some time. Bandana feels much more like an act of collaboration. It lurches from the slippery, shifting lead single “Flat Tummy Tea” to the crackling sepia of “Palmolive,” from the contemplative “Gat Damn” to the unlikely trap of “Half Manne Half Cocaine.” It exists to rattle chest cavities.
For the past several years, the former DJ Mustard has seemed to skip between dual lives: one as a high-profile hit-maker fluent in pop and dabbling in EDM, another as a sort of kingmaker in L.A., largely responsible for the ratchet sound that dominated the city at the beginning of this decade and whose DNA can be seen in the new generation of rappers bubbling up at the moment. Perfect Ten, his third album, smartly tries to recenter that latter identity from its first track, a mean, minimal careen with the buzzing rapper 1TakeJay. There are plenty of high-profile guests (Future, A$AP Rocky, Young Thug) and old friends (YG, Ty Dolla $ign, Tyga), but the album’s most gripping moment is its other bookend, a collaboration with the late Nipsey Hussle.