Rich Homie Quan could’ve easily been a one-and-done, a craggy-voiced fake Future who scored one transcendent hit out of nowhere and then disappeared right back into the Atlanta underground. And if he’d gone away after “Type Of Way,” that still would’ve been a good run. That’s an incredible song, a confident melodic slink that floats above the mere idea of jealousy, putting the feeling on the one who’s feeling it rather than the one who’s causing it. And it also got Rich Homie into the single greatest sports victory celebration video I’ve ever seen. But it didn’t end there. Rich Homie kept going, improving with every next verse and hook and mixtape. Soon enough, he’d transcended the fake-Future tag, developing and honing his own voice until there were a bunch of fake Rich Home Quans running around out there. He made hits with YG and Yo Gotti and August Alsina. And then he teamed up with Young Thug to make “Lifestyle,” one of last year’s best rap singles, and Rich Gang: Tha Tour Part 1, one of last year’s best rap mixtapes. With Thug, Rich Homie exploded, making the transition from singer who sometimes raps to rapper who sometimes sings. He hit his stride, doing these goony, ticcy, fired-up, melodious verses that felt like something new. Teaming with Thug helped Rich Homie access his inner weirdo, but when they’re next to each other, Rich Homie overshadows Thug more often than Thug overshadows Rich Homie. They’re a great team. But what happens when that team breaks up? Because that’s what’s happening.
Earlier this year, Rich Homie said that he wanted to leave the Rich Gang music behind for a bit and focus on his own stuff. Thug did not take this news well, referring to his friend as “Bitch Homie Quan” during a live show. Nobody knows what’s going on there. Rich Homie doesn’t even know. The inner workings of Cash Money Records are an absolute mystery to the rest of the world. Sometimes, it feels like Birdman is randomly pitting his underlings against each other, like a bored third-world dictator. If Rich Homie wanted to escape that whole world’s gravitational pull for a little while, I’m sure he’s got his reasons. But it’s a shame, since the combination of Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan is so much better than either one on their own. Thug landed just fine; his new album Barter 6 is a gooey and compelling listen, a simmering fire rather than a series of explosive bursts. Thug even sounds like he’s picked up some lessons from Rich Homie; there’s a quiet melodic grace to some of his singing that wasn’t there before. But now Rich Homie has released his first solo mixtape in more than a year, and it’s more of a mixed bag.
The best thing about Rich Homie’s new mixtape If You Think I Will Stop Going In, Ask Double R is its title. On his solo tapes, Rich Homie has this charming tradition of naming every mixtape by making ever-more-complicated statements about his refusal to ever stop going in. The last one was 2013’s I Promise I Will Never Stop Going In, and at this point, it’s impossible to come up with a parody title that’s more ridiculous than the ones Rich Homie is coming up with on his own. And now he’s awkwardly shoehorning in shoutouts to his daughter, which is nice. But the new mixtape is 20 full-length songs without a single guest-rapper. It’s possible that Rich Homie is going in too much. It’s hard to hear one guy’s voice like that for an hour-plus without things starting to feel turgid. And the mixtape is the first real step back for Rich Homie. He rarely shows the crackling electricity he has when he’s around Young Thug. And the tape feels formless and unmoored — a whole lot of scraggle-voiced crooning over cheap piano sounds, without much to anchor it. Left to his own devices, he’s become something of a drifting voice — a presence that never quite demands attention.
The good news is that even when Quan is at his most aimless, his songs still move. “Flex,” his single, is a sneaky monster, a high-stepping fly-talking master class with a hook that sticks even though Rich Homie sounds like he’s got 15 marshmallows stuffed in his mouth while he’s singing it. You can dance to the thing, which is a thing I don’t say often enough about rap singles. Nothing else on the tape is as immediate as that one, but even the loopiest songs still have these perfect little snatches of melody that seem to bubble up out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. And at the end of the tape, after 19 songs about money and fucking, Rich Homie comes in with “Daddy,” a genuinely wrenching song about learning his father had been shot. It just punches you in the heart, Rich Homie moaning that he’s going to do it for yooooouuuuu while his producers multitrack his voice into a mournful chorus. So no: Rich Homie Quan has not stopped going in. He just might need a little help next time, someone to keep him pointed in the direction of where in is.
Vince Staples – “Señorita” (Feat. Future)
If Vince Staples wanted to be a tougher, less conflicted version of his friend and frequent collaborator Earl Sweatshirt, he could do that. He’d be fine. He’s proven many times over that he’s a master at cold, icy rap minimalism, at getting personal without displaying anything resembling weakness. But with “Señorita,” he’s shown he can do something else, roping in Future for a hard-as-fuck street-rap banger. The track is a florid, gothic piano beat that builds into a fiery drone, and Staples just attacks it: “Fuck ya dead homies / Run ya bread, homie.” It’s nasty.
Fetty Wap – “My Way (Remix)” (Feat. Drake)
In which Drake pulls a Drake, yet again. “My Way” was well on its way to underground-hit status before Drake jumped on board. And maybe it was on its way to more than that, too; after all, “Trap Queen” was an underground hit before it was an inescapable pop smash. But now Drake has subsumed it into his own personal brand-machine by crooning some lovely nonsense over it. The great thing about Drake’s voice is the way it’s got some total howlers (“They should call me Jaaaaaaames because I go Harden this bitch”) that don’t resonate as howlers just because of how Drake sells them. This whole approach worked for iLoveMakonnen and Migos, and we have every reason to believe that it’ll work for Fetty Wap, too. It’s a fun subplot in rap: Which bubbling-under jam will Drake bless next? This time around, he picked a good one. He always seems to pick good ones. Applause to everyone involved for giving that beat a full minute to ride out without any vocals.
Shy Glizzy – “Funeral (Remix)” (Feat. Jeezy)
Jeezy’s emotive, booming grunt and Shy Glizzy’s fired-up air-escaping-a-balloon squeak are perfect, opposite complements. They should rap together a whole lot more; it would only be good for both of them. And this song, with its goofy death-drive and its swollen, churchy beat, was always tailor-made for Jeezy. He doesn’t disappoint: “Might see Farrakhan at my funeral / I swear to God, you might see God at my funeral!”
Lil Bibby – “Better Dayz” (Feat. Lil Herb)
We’ve heard this before: These two young, technically fluid Chicago goon-rappers trading off wizened and haggard crime-life laments over mournful soul samples and orchestral flourishes. As far as I’m concerned, we can hear it again and again and again. It’s always incredible.
Jackie Chain & ST 2 Lettaz – “She’s So High” (Feat. Mic Strange)
That brief burst of internet attention from a few years ago is over, but there are still plenty of great rappers in Huntsville, Alabama. On the new Doobie Brothaz mixtape, two of them team up: Inveterate goofball Jackie Chain and G-Side’s ST 2 Lettaz. Everyone here does nice character-painting work, depicting the girls in their lyrics as actual humans rather than cartoons with asses. But the real impressive thing is the way production duo Block Beattaz sample Tal Bachman’s 1999 dentist-waiting-room staple “She’s So High” and use it to find space-rap nirvana.
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO
When you're married but most of your friends still aren't and you gotta act like you're happy for them. pic.twitter.com/cKYaZicYMc
— Jozen C. (@jozenc) May 3, 2015