Luh Tyler Is The Coolest Teenager In Rap
Even decades after Bobby Bowden retired from coaching the hometown Seminoles, Black boys in Tallahassee are growing up quickly. At 16, Tallahassee’s own Luh Tyler dropped “Law & Order,” a track so smooth that it should play over Deion Sanders highlights. In a voice that is high in pitch but rich in timbre, Tyler raps, “No, I can’t break the code, but I can take your bitch and break her spine/ This a classy ho, this bitch got me outside drinking wine.” Yes, in Tallahassee, they grow to be unruly even before they can legally drink.
Tyler, now 17, isn’t re-inventing the rules of hip-hop – he’s like if Kodak Black, Babyface Ray, or Goldenboy Countup adopted a badass child – but he’s the coolest teenager alive. In recent memory, the young boys have been violent and devastatingly nihilistic. Your teenage years are a refuge of angst because you’re growing faster than you realize; you’re also starting to realize the ills that plague society. And if you are in a cutthroat environment, it seeps inside of you like a needle through an open wound. You don’t quite know how to deal with those outside forces, or worse: Who you truly are is not valued by your social class. So to see Tyler be this chill about himself and his environment is surprising. This is hardly the music of Tay-K, DD Osama, or even Kodak. This is like if Snoop Dogg was from the swamp.
My Vision, Tyler’s first official mixtape, sticks with that gameplan. He doesn’t throw deep. Like any rookie quarterback, he likes that screen pass that gives him 10-yard gains every down. The only surprising aspect about this album is that Tyler decides to rap over plugg beats. He sounds good on them too. His laidback cadence fits with plugg production — a fusion of trap, early Southern hip-hop, and Zaytoven’s gospel-influenced beats, popularized by Atlanta producers MexikoDro and StoopidXool.
On the opening title track, Tyler is unbothered. He barks, but doesn’t necessarily bite. Still, he might sting with his sick-puppy sense of humor. His boisterous bars and technical wizardry become more impressive as it sinks in that this kid is still so young, even alongside evidence that he’s still developing. On one hand, he’s a crisp rapper; on the other, rarely does a flow change within a song. “Stand On Biz” is menacing in tone, “Poppin Shit” even more so, and Tyler is up to the task of performing that menace, injecting some spunk into his cool disposition: “Man, that nigga know he dumb, his ass went broke up on some jewelry.”
With its quick pacing and 33-minute runtime, My Vision is structured well. (Even My Vision: Reloaded, the longer deluxe edition that materialized Tuesday, feels relatively tight.) Even though Tyler isn’t reinventing the wheel, he is making all the correct moves right now. Atlantic Records signed him to a contract rumored to be worth a million. Everyone involved with the making of this album should be commended for not making it the aimless industry affair it could have been (the obviously A&R’d NoCap feature on “Weeks” notwithstanding). This is not a market-tested album. It is a Luh Tyler album, and its star has more than enough funny lines to keep us engaged.
As for the production: It’s very good. The bass lines and vibrating drums hit like a ginger shot. “Poppin Shit” is mob movie music, and Tyler and Anti da Menace are on task. I do wonder what the record would be like if it had more ambition. Tyler isn’t a storyteller or a detailed rapper. There’s a lot of bars about how he is taking your woman, or his favorite subject: getting high. But he is a teenager, after all — exactly the right age for lyrics about how everyone is lame. If he can find a way to continue to grow his ideas and his writing, then rap will take the kid all over the world.
The best song on My Vision is closing track “You Was Laughing,” where the Hydro Beatz track hums like a jazz tune. It’s a song about Tyler’s rise, ever unlikely and euphoric. “Chasin after money, runnin’ up that dough,” says Tyler. “Nigga, I get high when I be feelin’ low/I aint never felt this shit before.” It’s a statement about what happens when you blow up earlier than you were expecting to; when everything in your closet is now something someone gave to you for free; when meeting a woman like Ice Spice is no longer a pipe dream. To see Luh Tyler is to see the future. But the future is not the present – he still has a long way to go.
SILENCERS, INFRARED, & OFFICIAL SHIT
Tyler, The Creator - "DOGTOOTH"
I found it interesting that Tyler left this off of the first edition of Call Me If You Get Lost. It was a good album, but I wonder if he thinks it is an album of half measures. Some of the songs on the deluxe edition could have made the cut; he just didn’t include them for whatever reason. But Tyler knows what he is doing – this is a good time to stay in the conversation. With songs like this, no one will forget that he is an auteur.
Curren$y & Jermaine Dupri - "Screens Fallin"
When we let the soul-sample fetishes die a tad bit, we can get something like this: Curren$y and a production legend on the same song together, giving you a more Southern vibe than what you usually hear from Spitta now.
Rx Papi - "Weed From The Psych Ward"
What is funny about Papi’s music on this new album Dawg Storm is that it doesn’t contain some of his hardest tales, but the songs are better constructed, more crisp on the surface. This was my favorite song on the record; songs about pursuing a woman are where Papi is at his best right now.
Lil Keed - "SRT" (Feat. Lil Gotit)
What we lost with YSL remains to seen, right? We have to play the waiting game when it comes to Young Thug, his trial, and its eventual consequences. But the death of YSL artist Lil Keed last year was an even more acute reminder of life’s fragility. His posthumous record, Keed Talk To Em 2, shows how slippery his delivery was. This was my favorite song on it.
ShooterGang Kony - "Trenches"
Sacramento rapper Shootergang Kony is like the EST Gee of the West. I’m always impressed by his ability to make music with high stakes. Good track here off of his latest, Church Ain’t Safe.
03 Greedo - "Buss Me A Script" (Feat. Maxo Kream)
Greedo is out. Halfway There is solid – reminds you of what made Greedo so special to begin with. Didn’t mind that he dropped 30 songs in the post-jail debut. Some of his best albums ran long. It’s never about digestion with Greedo; he wants to overstuff you.
Fly Anakin - "Outsidigan's Anthem"
Anakin’s a melodic rapper – not the prototypical idea of one, but rather a whole wheat version of the style that has come out of Atlanta. The sounds are lush, and his rapping, armed with a squeak voice, is a good fit on his style of production.
Starker - SPIDIRON (Side A)
Usually do not post entire albums here, but this one deserves a look. Starker is a rapper of precision, not just speed. The Williamsburg native understands specific details is the key to rapping. Someone’s still rapping.
Mari Montana - "Codeine & Pills"
Montana is a rapper of intensity; narration would be a great side hustle.
BLP Kosher & BabyTron - "Mazel Tron"
Another week, another fun Tron verse. Just when you think the gimmick is coming to a close – when he is getting more credit than he ought to get because of his novel appearance and internet presence – he reminds you that he is truly one of the best rappers around.