They Might Not Allow Tony Shhnow On This Airplane, But He’s Taking Off Anyway

Jelani J Miller

They Might Not Allow Tony Shhnow On This Airplane, But He’s Taking Off Anyway

Jelani J Miller

Tony Shhnow is concerned that the TSA will not allow him on a plane with his chain. This chain, which looks like it was made in the fictional country of Wakanda, has a pointed metal tip around the pristine gold that covers it. As he prepares to fly to an unnamed destination, Shhnow is showing me the chain over Zoom. “They got to let me in with this, mane,” he says, flashing a playful grin. Right now, this chain is the biggest worry Shhnow has.

There’s no way the TSA is letting that chain on the flight. Anything that pointy and metal is going to get flagged. But if this is the only problem that Shhnow has right now, it’s a good one to have. His music – atmospheric and full of non-sequiturs – is in rare form. Plug Motivation, his November mixtape, is a callback to works of Gucci Mane and Lil Wayne, stuffed with shape-shifting music that makes the listener catch up in real time. “I feel like there was a space for this to be made – like in Atlanta. Around the time the SoundCloud documentary came out about Plugg music, we started making this album,” Shhnow says. The mixtape belongs on DatPiff more than it does on streaming services.

Shhnow, the premiere underground rapper out of Atlanta, has built upon the works of his forebears while still being dramatically current. He’s chameleonic, often rapping in absurd asides. Just like Rx Papi from Rochester, Shhnow uses transgressive humor (“Bad bitch be loving me but in public, I can’t give that ho a hug”) to give the mixtapes a feeling of levity. Plugg rap is defined by its conviviality and exuberance – think if trap music stripped the hi-hats and bombast for dream sequences of a man high off of shrooms. Shhnow’s music becomes cloudy; it could be the theme music for Darius from Atlanta. He’s a space cadet that will still punch you in your mouth (“Little pussy nigga fuck your mean mug”).

“Trust”, the third track on Plug Motivation, is recorded with no structure, just a running diary of thoughts. It makes for something messy but subversive, as if the lyrics are coming to him in real time, forcing the listener to catch up with him. “Shook Dem Haters Off” is de rigueur for plugg rappers; the beats are colored with a pink crayon and the lyrics are biting. “Paper Trail” features some crooning from Bear1Boss that sounds like Kodak – messy and villainous. Plug Motivation comes after several more structured projects from Shhnow. “Plug Motivation is more on the street side. Reflextions is more clean,” Shhnow says. “This one is raw. Plug Motivation is for when you are on the block.”

Shhnow says music is less a career than a way to feel vital — that and “hanging out with exotic women.” It’s a hobby he must spend a lot of time on judging by how often he drops music. Shhnow is constantly in your RSS feed, posted up on SoundCloud and streaming – the best of both music distributions. “It is like watching TV,” Shhnow says. “You are more in tune if you are watching a new episode every day. Niggas fuck with anime shows because they are so ubiquitous. Adult animation too. Simpsons, Family Guy. They all around us. Same with the music.” We’ll be hearing from Shhnow more – something tells me that he’s just getting started.


Rx Papi - "Kiss The Ring"

The first song Papi dropped after his release from jail hit the pavement like an earthquake. With its mix of paranoia and braggadocio, “Kiss The Ring” is why Papi has become a folk hero. “It’s a big ass glock on my BB belt,” he says. Pap came home on some other shit.

CEO Trayle - "Alter Ego 2"

HH5 is one of the best albums of the year – in any genre — as demonstrated by the excellent “Alter Ego 2.” Trayle’s whisper is ghostly. His alter ego, C4, is allowed to have a personality too. The song is detailed and creepy, like the best horror movie you can imagine.

BlueBucksClan - "Jeezy WYA"

Los Angeles duo BlueBucksClan often goes forgotten in the era of innovative stars like Drakeo The Ruler or 03 Greedo. They’re still good, and have dropped solid mixtapes. Their chemistry and camaraderie are excellent: “I don’t touch niggas’ drink, I don’t know” – “you the last nigga I seen with it, where it go?”

Drake & 21 Savage - "Major Distribution"

There are hit or miss moments on Her Loss – middle-aged joint album – but I love Drake’s flow on this. Reminded me of some of the best moments of So Far Gone or IYRTITL.


Lil Maru - "What U On"

The San Diego rapper Lil Maru reminds me of 03 Greedo if he had some Spanish in his blood. “We up to no good,” he croons on an excellent song off of his latest project.

Nicki Minaj, Maluma, & Myriam Fares - "Tukoh Taka"

I usually ignore songs that become the theme song to capitalist world events like the FIFA World Cup. But Nicki sounds good here. It reminds me of how weird she could once be. Once she desired pop stardom and made straightforward songs, I felt she lost her originality. Her use of different voices was slick here. More of this from Nicki would be great.

Wacotron - "Let Me Find Out"

Still need Wacotron to get more detailed in his writing, but he has something conceptually. His voice is distinct too. At his worst, it can sound like the worst Drake music though. Clean and banal. Need him to get dirtier.

No Cap - "NBA"

The Youngboy vs NoCap battle has been all over Twitter. Haters and beef is hip-hop. I’m fine with this, as long as nobody gets hurt. Cap has a great song here. Youngboy fans shouldn’t be so quick to write him off.


Nas - "Thun"

Hit-Boy’s production is sleepy and redundant. But if you’re a Nas fan, it is easy to like these albums he does with Hit-Boy. Nas remains an evocative rapper, someone whose raw talent will always override whatever production he has. For some, a tendency toward poor beat selection is the chief strike against him. For me, it has made me tip my cap to him even more, even if it prevents me from fully enjoying his recent releases and some of his mid-2000s work. Nas might not have the best music ever, but you’d be hard pressed to find a rapper this talented. Even now. It’s never word salad, either — just a complete mastery of language and form. Excellent track here.


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