Katie Got Bandz - Drillary Clinton

A quick programming note: El-P and Killer Mike’s Run The Jewels is out now, and it is a monster. The music I usually consider for this column is the music that’s out there for legal free download, and Run The Jewels qualifies on that front. But El has repeatedly insisted on Twitter that Run The Jewels is an album, not a mixtape, and I don’t want to piss off anyone who’s rapping with El’s current level of throat-slit intensity. So because of that, and because physical copies of Run The Jewels are out there for sale right now, I’m considering that one for Album Of The Week rather than this column. Anyway.

Other than the odd street sign collision, nothing Kanye West does these days is an accident. So when he only brings in one guest-rapper on all of Yeezus, he’s telling us something. On Yeezus, Kanye mines the past few decades of music for the hardest, most punishing sounds he can find: Synthetic postpunk grind, apocalyptic dancehall, primitivist early house, confrontational industrial throb. And Kanye’s one rapping guest comes from Kanye’s hometown but represents a scene very different from anything that existed when Kanye actually lived in Chicago. It’s King Louie, hammerhead uncle of Chicago’s dead-eyed and minimalistic drill music subgenre, and he verbally slaps the shit out of the dope-as-fuck “Send It Up.” (Drill star Chief Keef also shows up, singing and making an unlikely duet partner for Justin Vernon on “Hold My Liquor.”) Kanye uses drill music on Yeezus because he hears it as elemental facepunch music, music of dead-souled violence, and it certainly can be that. But this month, King Louie also showed up on another Chicago rap full-length, one that shows just how fun and lively and engaging drill music can be.

Katie Got Bandz is a South Side teenager with one of the best ad-libs in rap today (“Katieeeeee“) and the rare ability to convey sass and attitude without compromising drill music’s terse, tough, inflection-free aesthetic. If you look at King Louie in her video for “Pop Out,” you’ll see a very different guy from the one who snarls in monotone on “Send It Up,” even if he’s pretty much rapping the same way on Katie’s song. In the “Pop Out” video, Louie and Katie gently clown each other, dance with each other, laugh a whole lot. They seem to like each other, which, in a genre famous for inter-neighborhood blood feuds, feels like a minor revelation. I don’t blame him; I like Katie, too. She seems tough as hell, her flow growly and assured and her voice loud enough to blow bricks out of walls. But even though she’s rapping about fighting and getting money, and even though she sounds credible doing it, there’s this amused wink in her voice that shines through no matter what she’s talking about. As anyone who’s spent any time in a high school punk band can tell you, it’s fun to sing about fighting, especially when you’re young enough that you don’t have too many other ways of asserting agency. And that element of fun is way more obvious in Katie’s music than it is in the music of any other prominent drill music voice.

Most of the beats on Drillary Clinton come from producer BlockOnDaTrack. His style has plenty in common with that of drill music production mastermind Young Chop — the titanic drums, the eerie minor-key synth melodies, the general sonic flatness — but the BlockOnDaTrack beats are busier, less monolithic. Occasionally, they turn into full-on trap-rave on the songs’ outros, and there’s usually a little house-music push to his tempos. That’s important because it means the music here moves. There aren’t any instantly iconic tracks here like Chop’s beat for “I Don’t Like,” but all of it has forward momentum; all of it moves. It’s the type of mixtape where I can’t sit still when I’m listening. And with one producer handling most of the tape, there’s also a sense of cohesion here; even when Katie ventures out into Future-esque Auto-Tune singing, it never fucks the flow up.

But as fun as those tracks are, Katie is still the primary point of interest here, the force of personality holding everything together. Katie, after all, comes from the same scene that produced Lil Reese, who found internet notoriety last year when a video of him beating the shit out of a girl, in a crowded room, made the internet rounds. (Reese never apologized or anything; instead, he complained about haters trying to bring him down by posting an old video.) Katie comes from that same scene, but she sounds as tough and self-possessed as anyone else in it. When she snarls, “Boss bitch! I’m a boss bitch!,” I catch flashbacks to Diamond and Princess, the two girls in the great early-’00s Atlanta group Crime Mob, whose energetic sneers were so perfect on tracks like “Stilettos (Pumps).” Like them, Katie comes from a part of the world that’s actively hostile to young women, but she sounds happier and more in control than any of the boys around her. If every other drill rapper is making music about tension, Kantie is making music about release. And if Kanye is over the pre-fatherhood jitters that animated Yeezus, maybe he should look her up when he gets around to making another album.

Download Drillary Clinton here.

Comments (12)
  1. I know this weekly feature usually tends to focus on hip-hop / rap mixtes, but Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly’s new Darker Matter /// Mixtape 2 is a pretty impressive body of work that’s far removed from his days screaming. There’s a dark, industrial noise meets Cult of Youth thing going on with it that would fit in well with Sacred Bones’ catalog. That’s my piece. Continue on with whatever this is…

  2. Wow, “Pop Out” is a garbage song. I’m sorry, it’s just not good. I don’t get the personality you’re talking about either – she seems boring.

    • I agree 100% with this whale. The music is pedestrian, and does she even know what beat she’s rapping over? And her voice and the mixing sound awful! I’ve discovered some good stuff from this column, but listening to this gives me the same feeling of embarrassment that I get watching stand-up comedy. Eeeeeeeek.

      • YES. Thank you. I understand the downvote – I try not to state opinions so matter-of-fact, but this one just really threw me. I also always try to give something a fair shake, but I just don’t get this at all.

  3. Drill and Drillary Clinton.

  4. This is one of the worst songs I’ve seen on SG in quite awhile. I enjoy real hip-hop music, not this snare-tripping, $$$-grabbing garbage. This album won’t be remembered, even 6 months from now. Please pop this one out of heavy rotation, for your own sakes.

  5. So disheartening to log on and see a bunch of crotchety, “real hip-hop” reductionism. Hip-hop includes drill, just like it includes east coast boom-bap, etc. etc. This is a strong female emcee with a unique presence in the drill scene, and it’s a hell of a lot more fun and refreshing than a lot of big name rap releases thus far this year.

    • I don’t think anyone on here was whining about “real hip-hop.” I’m not even a huge hip-hop fan, but I do like to find new things. I think the consensus is not that this is not “real hip-hop,” but that it’s just not good or interesting music.

    • I do see your point. I should have toned down the “real hip hop” talk, because that’s not up to me to decide. However, regardless of labeling, what I hear in this song is an incredibly generic beat and song structure. She certainly has charisma, sure. But I personally enjoy more complexity and meaning in my music, instead of lyrics about cars, designer clothes, money, and guns.

  6. You guys going to do some coverage on ESGN? No Heavy Rotation? Nuthin?
    The album is nails.

  7. Listening now. Katie works really well with the production. She certainly has the charisma to command the mic. I’m enjoying this

  8. pure garbage, the beat sounds like a recycled Wacka beat …
    she sounds like a little boy, the song is completely ignorant
    and has no substance…screw this crap
    id rather her shoot me than have to listen to any more of this crap
    and you can call me a hater and all that whatever makes you feel
    better about accepting this crap as digestible music
    whatever…..

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