Welcome to the 34th issue Backseat Freestyle. This is my weekly hip-hop newsletter I send out every Friday focusing on one big thing that happened over the past seven days. I also include links (15-25 of them) to what I’ve been listening to, reading and watching. You can check out the archive, here, and read more about me, here. If you’re already a BF subscriber, thank you for your continued support. If you’re arriving to this issue by way of a forward, LinkedIn or social media, please subscribe below. And please share this newsletter with your circle so that they can enjoy it, too; personal referrals are my best path to long-term growth. With that said, let’s get into it….
This is what’s driving hip-hop this week….
THERE'S TWO WAYS an artist has a moment coalescence for them. The institution synchronizes the rollout: artist's have the high-profile interview drop on the day of their album's release, a big critical review in New York or The New York Times runs, and tickets sale trend after a tour is announced days ahead of the new LP. You can look at Lil Durk and Daddy Yankee as recent examples. Then there's the times when the artist gets it out of the mud themselves and skip ahead in the line. Gunna was an example of this earlier this year when he topped The Weekend on the album charts. Now we have Latto, whose grind led to her moment, culminating with the release of 777, her sophomore project that's already notched her a number one radio hit in "Big Energy." The first way is earned, to be fair. But second way is a lot more satisfying. And fun.
Respect my mind or die from lead shower.
1) She can spit. Like spit, spit. You can start a lot of places, but a good one to begin with is her XXL Freshman freestyle, where she moped the floor with her fellow cover stars. There’s also her LA Leakers freestyle. And then just last week during her New York run, she visited Funk Flex to touch the “Int’l Players Anthem” beat as a part of his freestyle series.
2) She pays homage to southern classics. Most notably, of course, on “Muwop,” her collab with Guwop, where she flips “Freaky Girls” for her own banger. On “Wheelie” she lays out a bar from “Slob On My Knob.” The Clayco native represents.
3) She came in the game grinding. Back in 2016 at the age of 16, then known as Miss Mulatto, she participated in the first season of "The Rap Game" hosted by Jermaine Dupri. She took on the other contestants and emerged victorious. And her reality TV experience has proved to be an advantage for her rather than something for her to be ashamed of.
4) She built her following brick by brick. Latto clapped back at someone on Twitter who tried to clown her over a “small ass stage,” to which she replied in a later interview that she’s done Rolling Loud and Made In America (for which she’s proud of, but despite being on a larger stage at those festivals she also knows fans were coming to also see 100 other acts) whereas this tour are folks coming to see her and only her.
Everybody start somewhere. I’m still selling out 1-3k capacity venues on my first tour. Doing a hour long set w amazing breath control & choreo. I came a long way. I counteract everything y’all say too btw. Watch the next tour. twitter.com/cognacnae/stat…
— BIG LATTO 🎰 (@Latto)
Mar 20, 2022
5) She has a legitimate smash on her hands. “Big Energy” was a new sound for her, but despite the mainstream go of it all, Latto doesn’t temper her lyrics and the slow build of the single resulted in her notching a number one on radio.
6) She won’t back down. Latto told Big Boy she was going through it over a male rapper not wanting to clear a feature for her album over a DM slide (a very trash move). But she delivered the story about the B.S. in a poised and measured way. Latto said she was sharing the incident so other female rappers coming up after her know about potential pitfalls.
7) She (*Meek Mill voice*) did shit with Mariah.
Music, news, reads, podcasts and videos that I’m checking for.
After all that...go press play on that Latto 777 album. [Listen]
This Nigo album, I know NIGO!, is fun, a bit quirky and really fucking good. It’s the children of Pharrell, which makes sense considering he’s the EP alongside Nigo. But the Japanese culture maestro put forth a good vision on this project. Check out “I Want It Bad” with Kid Cudi and “Come On, Let’s Go” with Tyler, The Creator as starters. [Listen]
Nicki Minaj’s crown doesn’t budge as she moves on to Fivio Foreign and their “We Go Up” number after joining forces with Lil Baby for two recent tracks. [Listen]
Key Glock with the re-up, 10 new tracks on the Yellow Tape 2 deluxe edition. [Listen]
Following his excellent Unlocked series with Kenny Beats, Denzel Curry returns with his own solo LP, Melt My Eyez See Your Future, with a vibe for a sound and a a chopper for lyrics. Peep “Mental,” “Angels” and “The Ills.” [Listen]
I don’t get Larry June in Backseat Freestyle enough, but he’s helping me out this week with his latest, a collab LP with Jay Worthy (and LNDN DRGS) called 2 P’z In A Pod. “Big Funds” featuring CeeLo Green is one to ride out to; same for “Leave It Up To Me.” [Listen]
This man put a GOAT on the cover of his retirement album (!), which was already called LEGENDADDY. Daddy Yankee is a king. “Pasatiempo” featuring Myke Towers is an early anthem. [Listen]
Verzuz and Triller name Steve Pamon president. [Info]
The Diverse Representation Music Database aims to increase the hiring of Black professionals in the music industry. [Info]
A trip down memory lane by revisiting Odd Future’s “Oldies” video in an oral history featuring the group. The vid was shot during an XXL photoshoot when I was the executive editor of the mag and we were gonna put the group on the cover. Was a pretty insane day (Earl had just gotten home and this was a couple days before he re-emerged at a Hammerstein Ballroom concert; we ended up going with a different artist for the cover, etc.) But no one who worked at XXL on that day was contacted for the story. Y'all loss. [Read]
Megan Thee Stallion covers Highsnobiety magazine. [Read]
New Oscar winner ?uestlove pens an essay for the NYT about the obsession of collection. [Read]
Cabbages Gary Suarez: Benny The Butcher, Dave East and the Def Jam Question. [Read]
My man Shareif gets the spotlight put on him courtesy of Billboard about his flicks of Hov, DMX, Drake and Chris Brown, and more. [Read]
Having him on the cover is a reach (this early considering his debut album was more promise than the goods) and the cover line is egregious, but this is a great story on Jack Harlow in RollingStone, where he says “Nail Tech,” is his least favorite record on the new album and that joint rings out. [Read]
Why Is Rap Music Still On Trial? [Read]
Season 2 of The What?! Hip Hop, Questions, Legends and Lists podcast premiered with Black Effect network boss Charlamagne Tha God as the guest to talk greatest hip-hop groups of all time (ATCQ has my vote). Have a go at it on the link and scroll down for my appearance last summer when I chatted with Mouse and Nyla about Watch The Throne. Shout out to D-Block! [Listen]
“Blick Blick!” has got good energy and I like a collaborative Nick (she usually steals the show) but hand claps for Coi Leray, who does it again with another fun joint for her discography and visual collection. [Watch]
Residente dropped “This Is Not America,” which is an interesting counter to Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.” Where the latter puts the focus on discrimination via institutional racism, the former rests its lens on imperialism by way of anti-immigration. [Watch]
EST Gee and 42 Dugg are living an Instagram influencer's dream in “Free The Shiners.” [Watch]
A$AP Rocky and his team manned the cameras for Nas’ “Wave Gods” music vid and it’s a trip down memory lane but some surrealism that’s like Christopher Nolan looking at the Big Apple. [Watch]
Backseat Freestyle is written and produced by me, Jayson Rodriguez, for Smarty Art Media. If you have any comments, feedback or questions, feel free to email me: [email protected] If you would like to discuss sponsoring an issue of the newsletter, contact: [email protected] smartyartllc.com. And follow me elsewhere:
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Podcast: coming soon
Disclosure: I’m an employee of Spotify and given that I frequently include publicly available news/streaming numbers from Spotify in the newsletter, I want to note that the views and opinions reflected in Backseat Freestyle are solely my own. Also, as the showrunner of Nas’ podcast, The Bridge, I work closely with him, however, any inclusion of his music is without influence.