It’s too late now, but I really fucked up when I didn’t make ILoveMakonnen’s I Love Makonnen EP mixtape of the week a month or two ago. Makonnen has songs, and he probably would’ve been a cult star in the making even without the Drake co-sign. More to the point, he represents something exciting: A growing wave of young Atlanta DIY rappers, guys who take cues from hometown heroes like Gucci Mane but also from Lil B and queasy synth musicians and ferociously drugged-out internet shit. Rome Fortune presaged that wave, and he’s poised to do some very exciting things. And a rapper like the difficult-to-Google Father, a stylist who permanently sounds like he’s got five different kinds of pill in his system and who has a way of chanting phrases that bounce around in your head all day. Makonnen shows up on Father’s Young Hot Ebony and makes a case that he’s improving as a rapper all the time: “Super-chef Makonnen, might sprinkle serotonin / Be careful when you rollin’ because my wrist is so goddam potent.” But his presence on the tape is symbolic, too; it’s a signal that there’s a small army of kindred spirits out there right now, making rap music its own by pulling in whatever fits his own personal aesthetic.
The feeling I get from Young Hot Ebony isn’t too different from the one I got from Tyler, The Creator’s debut tape Bastard nearly six years ago: Wow, this kid is really talented, but he’s not OK. Young Hot Ebony isn’t as jarring or potent as Bastard, but it does similar things. Father produced or co-produced every track on the tape himself, and everything on it fits into a narrow personal style: a queasy homemade synth minimalism with a ton of open space. The beats on Young Hot Ebony sound like they could’ve been made by any kid who’s just figuring out beatmaking software, but they’re also eerie and thick and wormy and confident. And Father uses shock value the same way Tyler does. Consider, for example, “2 Dead, 6 Wounded,” a song about a party getting shot up and a little kid dying. Most rappers would paint a scene like that as sheer melodramatic tragedy. Father flatly deadpans everything, and he ends the song with this punchline: “Two dead, six wounded, car shot up, goddam / Shit all fucked up, but I didn’t lose no sleep because I got insurance.”
The major difference is that Father clearly grew up with OJ Da Juiceman and snap music rather than MF Doom and Gorilla Vs. Bear. Those beats are half silence, half artificial twinkle, and they have these tiny, mocking little melodies that squirm their way into your brain. Father’s rapping voice is a sleepy mutter, and he always sounds like he just woke up from a mid-afternoon nap. When he pairs up with a higher-energy rapper like Rich Po Slim on “180,” it makes for a fun contrast. The sense of transgressiveness on Young Hot Ebony is nothing we haven’t heard before. (One track opens with dialog sampled from Larry Clark’s Kids, which is close to replacing Scarface as an obvious young-rapper reference point.) But the specific combination of raunch, bloody-mindedness, half-asleep delivery, and slippery melodic focus makes Father sound like something new.
Father’s signature song right now is “Look At Wrist,” which has Makonnen and local star Key! and Father lazily chanting the word “wrist” over and over. That song, and so many of the others here, imply a weird sort of community at work here. There’s a whole little world of kids sitting around each other’s dorm rooms and starter apartments, getting high and playing video games and tossing around these ridiculous ideas. “Why can’t I cry money instead of tears?,” Father wonders at one point, and this seems like the sort of conversation he’s having with the other rappers on here, kids with names like Ethereal and Pyramid Quince and Slug Christ. It hasn’t quite happened yet, but one day, this little community of kids is going to produce something truly, truly great. They’re already making music that doesn’t quite sound like anything else.
Download Young Hot Ebony at Soundcloud.