Wrestling With The Complexities Of BandGang Lonnie Bands


Wrestling With The Complexities Of BandGang Lonnie Bands


When Chris DeVille and Tom Breihan asked me to take over the Stereogum rap column, I instantly said yes. Although I am known for impulsive decisions, this one felt right. I’ve been a fan of hip-hop my whole life. Hip-hop writing has moved mountains for me. I can’t imagine writing about anything else.

Today marks the beginning of my new monthly hip-hop column for Stereogum. LOTS OF COMMAS is going to be fearless, joyful, and passionate. I’ll take time to celebrate the genius of hip-hop and criticize what I feel it is lacking. I’ll write about unheralded stalwarts and superstars. Not one topic is off limits. The writers that came before me — several of which I am proud to call friends — gave me a battery with thousands of volts in it. Tom’s grind will inspire my grind.

I feel like I was born to do this. I am from Uptown, New York. I graduated from Mount St. Michael Academy High School in the Bronx. Went to college for two years and it didn’t work out. Went back home at the age of 21. Throughout my time working crummy jobs and staring at an unknown future, I knew one thing about myself: There is nothing I’d rather do more than discuss hip-hop. Let’s have some fun.


The pop culture debate about men and their self-destructiveness is hardly reaching its zenith now. In the mid-2010s, Future played the role of A Man Who Makes Bad Choices. Along with his acidic brilliance and his underrated pure rapping ability, part of Future’s lore was his attitude towards women. He couldn’t resist the women — Ciara for one — that would eventually rip his heart out, along with his self-importance. His streak of unabashed Black male ego turned debauched extremity into a ride fit for a TV show arc. Maybe it was their fault everything went to shit. Maybe it was the purple soda’s fault. It was definitely Future’s fault. All of those feelings were rolled into one — giving you a bombastic personality that was devastating to listen to at times, and overwhelmingly macho. (Speaking of which: Can we retire the dumb memes? Even I used to do them, but they lose sight of how Future was always very inward).

It wasn’t just Future Hendrix, either. Kodak Black, from South Florida, was a keen viewer of himself. Whenever he said a line like “I’m 14 and already thinking about death” or released a crushing, self-lacerating song like “Purp,” it was coupled with the fact that Kodak’s grotesque crimes and behavior did not face enough criticism. His paranoia — often about what the future held for him because of his behavior — began to fall on flat ears. Kodak was the avatar for the self-flagellation, drug use, and the depraved indifference of teenage artists. The excellent discography he built could no longer outweigh the sexual assault he committed and the excessive appetite of his disturbing id.

BandGang Lonnie Bands, an excellent Michigan rapper, exists in a similar space. His newest project Scorpion Eyes, released late last month, comes on the heels of his losing two close friends a year before. Where he was once similar to BabyTron, a scamming satirical rapper, he is now closer to Rio Da Yung OG and the fatalism of Me Against The World-era 2Pac, his biggest influence. Lonnie’s a more sophisticated songwriter and pure rapper now. “Scorpion Eyes” is one of the most tightly rapped songs of the year. Lonnie shows himself to be tortured, not only by himself but also by his genes. His father treated his mother just as poorly as Lonnie is currently doing to his girlfriend (see: the heartbreaking “Still A Mama Boy”).

His legato is a formula we’ve seen from mainstream rappers like Lil Baby, but Lonnie’s voice sounds like a dentist inserted plastic so he can pry through his mouth. The production aids him well too. It doesn’t excel in any particular way, but the beats are intuitive. On “Damn My Baby,” the beat switches to something more sinister as Lonnie threatens everyone from women trying to sleep with him to men trying to shoot him. As for Lonnie’s confessions, “MarkTwain” takes the cake as the most shiveringly uncomfortable moment, as he raps about smacking his wife in front of his daughter like Jake LaMotta of Raging Bull.

Lonnie’s rapping and writing are not the problems. His tone is despondent. You can feel his sorrow like you did with 2Pac, Future, Kodak Black, and even Ironman-era Ghostface Killah. Unlike Future, there’s no posturing at first, either. It’s low. It makes the listener just as low. He’s trying to take all the twists and turn them into a coherent picture of a man who is still “living brazy,” in his own words.

I’ve been around the block. I’ve been listening to men struggle in their music my whole life. That’s part of why I love it. Lil’ Wayne’s “I Feel Like Dying” was one of the first times I remember listening to someone and feeling the pain reverberate through me. All Eyez On Me took all the 2Pac paintings I saw and flipped them on their anus, creating a portrait that was complex and often torturous. “Only God Can Judge Me” is negative. 2Pac began to wonder if his life was worth it. Spitting phlegm at the paparazzi was just as core to Mr. Shakur as his sexual assault sentence and revolutionary tactics. On the same level, Lonnie’s song “Ulterior Motives” shows that he understands how dire his livelihood is. He’s complex, not just a violent problem child. Lonnie, and other Michigan rappers like him, are angst-ridden men in 30-degree weather: “We was born with PTSD, been at war since the early teens.”

But that doesn’t mean you can’t criticize these men for what they do, even if you’ve used the agony of the Lonnies, the Pacs, and the Kodaks as a stand-in for your own. Whenever I go through a breakup, I put on All Eyez On Me. I’ve never heard a record simultaneously so musically sound, chest-pumping, narcissistic, and self-reflective. While the brilliant “Picture Me Rollin” plays, the D.A. is known as “that bitch.” The beauty of hip-hop is that we, the fans, are these men. They come from the same screwed-up genes as us. The women that left me become “that bitch” too. It creates an unhealthy relationship with the crimes and attitudes of our favorite emcees. Their neighborhoods are often like ours, or they’re literally ours. But what I don’t think I realized is how the people who will always be victims in an auteur’s world are women and innocent bystanders. Where we are regular people, having to deal with our issues in front of everyone, Lonnie can do it on wax without putting in the real work in his actual life. There’s grim grossness in that. Despite his inimitable talent, knowing that Lonnie will go home, go to sleep, and continue wreaking havoc like this no longer appeases me.

I don’t know who Lonnie is in his real life. Maybe he is doing the work. Maybe his daughter will see him have brighter days. But I do know that after Kodak’s posturing about “his daughter making him go harder” on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, he sadly was arrested again on drug charges. It gets hard watching our favorite rappers, whom we feel a kinship with, continue to get in trouble. The fact is, their issues run deep just like ours. Their gang ties stretch further than the middle-class mind can understand. No song or album can undo the depravity that violence against women brings to our communities. And part of the beauty of art is to see people grapple with that. But it remains to be seen whether Lonnie is for real, or if he’s presenting a glib and facetious sorrow as a means of entertainment. Your move, Lonnie.


Young Nudy & Baby Drill - "Duntsane"

This song was out for a few months, but it’s on EA Monster, Nudy’s new album that came out Monday night. Young Nudy remains hot. One of my favorite things that Atlanta rappers do is when they respond to one another after a hot bar, like even they are surprised they dropped it. When Drill says, “For real nigga?” after Nudy drops, it’s electric.

ShittyBoyz - "Slam Dunk Contestants"

BabyTron, one-third of the group ShittyBoyz, is on a run. But StanWill went crazy here: “It’s a lot of double cups in here, my babies pouring potions up.” Don’t sleep on Tron’s mates; they might not look as novel as him, but they’re just as nasty at rapping.

NBA Youngboy - "Home Ain't Home" (Feat. Rod Wave)

Youngboy’s sprawling new album The Last Slimeto didn’t have the shot percentage of AI Youngboy 2, but this is a highlight.

Shordie Shordie - "Choosing" (Feat. Mozzy)

Shordie’s hook here is excellent. It sounds like a groan and a whine at the same time. Mozzy remains one of the best rappers working.

WifiGawd - "Rich Porter"

WifiGawd’s production always throws you off. Over this Pac-Man-sounding beat, his raps are close to illegible.

Jay Worthy & Harry Fraud - "Stick Up Kids" (Feat. BandGang Lonnie Bands)

Credit to Worthy here for switching it up and giving us a feature that is not a part of the minimalist boom-bap scene.

Young Slo-Be - "Bedrock" (Feat. EBK Young Joc & Bris)

To be a fan of rap right now is to have tragedy hovering over you like a ghost. It’s impossible to deal with. Slo-Be, a Stockton rapper who made waves on the West Coast for his ability to take the flow that Drakeo and Bris popularized and put his own spin on it, got killed last week. It’s sad and cruel. Rap and death should not go together. Here is Slo-Be, EBK Young Joc, and Bris together on a song. Bris is also no longer with us.

Domo Genesis - "Don't Believe Half"

It’s been 10 years since Domo dropped his collaborative album with the Alchemist, No Idols. That was excellent. Domo’s always been unheralded to me. He’s hungry on this track. Stream his no joint, Intros, Outros, And Interludes. It’s good.

Mozzy - "Real Ones" (Feat. Roddy Ricch)

It was good to see Roddy Ricch performing well on a song after his disappointing second album. His smooth Auto-Tune filled voice fills the spaces around Mozzy’s gravelly voice well.

Megan Thee Stallion - "Regulate" Freestyle

I wish the production on Megan’s albums were better. Same as her flows. But she remains a strong writer. She can pack punchline after punchline with ease. Enjoyed her rapping over Warren G’s “Regulate.” Wanted her to keep going!



more from Lots Of Commas: The Month In Rap

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