Rap Song of the Week breaks down the rap and hip-hop song releases you need to hear each week. Check out the full playlist here. For our latest installment, Kanye West teams up with Fivio Foreign and Playboi Carti for “Off the Grid.”
Following three public listening events and several missed release dates, Kanye West’s much-fabled Donda finally dropped on Sunday morning. With 27 tracks to choose from, picking a standout song was no easy task, but “Off the Grid” fits the bill because it sees the G.O.O.D. Music founder at his best. Sprinkling his own touch on Brooklyn drill, Kanye brings out a lyrical side of Fivio Foreign rarely seen before, while also sounding right at home over the wobbling bass and gothic synths.
The track was reportedly first made as a solo track for Playboi Carti, who turns in a forgettable verse before Fivio goes super saiyan. Recalling his dark days in jail, the Brooklyn rapper declines to attribute his past mistakes to his upbringing. Instead, Fivio soaks in Kanye’s influence by referencing religion: “They call me a product of my environment/ I tell them, ‘Nah, I’m what God produced,'” he raps, before boasting about his success and lamenting the downsides of fame.
Meanwhile, Kanye continues taking potshots at his critics as he raps about shutting people out of his life when they don’t see his vision. “Had to move away from people that’s miserable,” he explains. “Don’t wanna link you, I ain’t finna sit with you/ Ain’t finna talk to you, ain’t finna get with you.” There is a moment of self-awareness hidden among all the bluster, though, when Kanye admits, “I gotta help myself out of selfishness.”
“Off the Grid” isn’t any sort of redemption tale, but an encapsulation of the contradictions that come with Kanye and his relationship with God. For that, it’s at least worth a listen.
Meek Mill feat. Lil Uzi Vert – “Blue Notes 2”
After tag-teaming with Lil Baby and Lil Durk on “Sharing Locations” last week, Meek Mill links up with fellow Philly native Lil Uzi Vert for a blues guitar-driven sequel to his 2016 fan favorite. Still rapping with a chip on his shoulder, Meek spits line after line about his unlikely come-up, friends who’ve turned their backs on him, and stacking money. Uzi manages to keep up the pace, asserting his dominance over young rappers and sharing his ambitions to earn $100 million before turning 28. Be sure to check out the music video too, in which Meek and Uzi zip around on street bikes
Mr. Green feat. Jadakiss – “Street Champion”
New Jersey hip-hop producer Mr. Green has been teaming up with heavy hitters like Lil Wayne, DMX, and Rick Ross for his ongoing singles series combining throwback samples with inspiration from ’80s ninja movies. His newest track with Jadakiss is one of the best of the bunch, as The Lox rapper rides a soul-sampling beat with shit-talking rhymes designed to humiliate his opponents: “Never can tell what I might do/ I ain’t nothin’ like you/ I put my dutch out on your Nike boots/ Pull my nuts out on your wife in the mic booth.”
BIG30 feat. Pooh Shiesty – “Free Shiest Life”
Pooh Shiesty associate BIG30 pays tribute to his friend on “Free Shiest Life,” a bruising track off his debut project, King of Killbranch. On a seemingly neverending verse, the Memphis rapper reels off bar after bar about his reputation in the streets. “Can’t ever go for shit, ‘fore rap I really was a stepper (I’m steppin’),” he spits. “Two steppin’ with that .40 catch me dancing with the devil (I’m weaponed).” Unfortunately, Shiesty wasn’t able to finish his verse before getting locked up, but 30 still showed him the respect of closing out the song.
Kay Flock – “Being Honest”
In mid-August, Kay Flock reinvigorated the New York drill scene with “Is Ya Ready,” and now he’s followed up the regional hit by revealing a more introspective side. While rapping over a sped-up soul sample, the 18-year-old Bronx native gets vulnerable on “Being Honest” with lyrics like “Lately I been feelin’ alone/ But I’m clutchin’ my chrome/ Pray to my mama I’m gon’ make it home.” It bodes well for Flock that he’s showing versatility this early in his career.
Smoko Ono feat. Joey Purp, Yxng Bane, and Chance the Rapper – “Winners”
Chicago producer Smoko Ono has crafted a song for Labor Day playlists with the Afrobeats-influenced “Winners,” a laidback collaboration with fellow Windy City natives Chance the Rapper and Joey Purp. UK rapper Yxng Bane lays down the foundation of the track with a motivational chorus and opening verse celebrating his success. Meanwhile, Purp and Chance describe cutting out fake friends who are only going to bring them down. By combining food for thought with a catchy beat, “Winners” is well worthy of its title.
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