A summer of rap in review

New classics and old beefs

Oludare Obadiya

More stories from Oludare Obadiya

Time to get groovy
October 27, 2021
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Hip-hop legends and legends in the making released new music this summer and did not disappoint, all can be listened to anywhere you stream music.

Summer 2021 was jam packed with releases from some of the most notable artists in hip-hop. From long-standing titans of the rap game like Drake and Kanye West, to younger, but still well established, stars like Tyler the Creator and Vince Staples, a rap fan should be pleased and a little overwhelmed by the amount of new music that dropped in the past three or four months. 

The summer of rap music this year began in late spring with J. Cole’s release of The Off Season on May 14.

Cole’s spring time release beat the traffic of the ugly Drake-Kanye conflict that would resurface later in August.

While not eclipsing any of his most well known projects, the North Carolina native still proved to be in good form. Cole’s biting wordplay and clever double entendres that have become his calling card are littered throughout this project. 

He even branched out, uncharacteristically so, and added a few features from superstars like 21 Savage and Lil Baby that gave the album a boost on the charts.

A month later, Tyler the Creator or “Tyler Gregory Okonma,” released what many see as an instant hit. His latest album, Call Me If You Get Lost, proves Okonma to be a musical chameleon. The synthesizers and old school R&B influences on his preceding project, Igor, are nowhere to be found. 

Instead, the listener is treated to a classic rap record, complete with the constant presence of a DJ, in this case DJ Drama, elevating Okonma throughout the duration of the album.  

Best of all, this album contains an actual story, a narrative that the listener can keep up with. Does it also contain braggadocious lines about cars, mansions, and expensive yacht parties? Yes. 

It is a rap album after all, but those parts do not detract from it’s overall theme which is that of an unfortunate intersection of love and friendship. 

To begin the month of July, Vince Staples released his self titled album, Vince Staples. With all the notable projects that came before and after, this record may have slipped under the radar, but it’s still a great listen.

Staples gives us his classic aloof delivery as he shares the perspective of a Long Beach native who grew up with little, now has a lot, and somehow has yet to lose his humility in the process. 

Then on Aug. 29, Kanye West, a seemingly perpetual elephant in the room, came stomping and trumpeting to center stage with his release of Donda. The actual music almost feels like an afterthought, West doing this is in tune with his usual antics. 

The initial release was scheduled for late July according to The Rolling Stone, but West kept his loyal fans chomping at the bit until Aug. 29.

The music was good because it’s Kanye West we’re talking about. His production is detailed and impeccable as always, and the fact that this album was inspired by and dedicated to his late mother Donda West is a beautiful sentiment. 

But, he also seems to use this project as a chess piece in his ongoing beef with Drake. 

It was speculated by many, including Variety Magazine, that he upped its release date only to ensure that it would come out in closer proximity to Drake’s album which was supposed to come out late that summer as well. 

While it’s a love letter to his deceased mother, it’s also another bitter chapter in the already acrid saga between him and the Canadian superstar who he just can’t seem to get along with.

Drake followed suit, releasing his album, Certified Lover Boy, a mere four days later on Sept. 3. Drake gives us a few party anthems and some of his usual swag rap. It’s what he does best and he does it well here, but it would be nice to get a different look from him, or at least feel like the album carried some weight and meaning. 

Just to make sure we didn’t think he was taking the high road, he throws a few subliminal jabs at West on the album as well. A full breakdown of this can be found in this GQ article. 

However, the undeniable talent of the two of them is evident as both of their records still sit comfortably within the top 10 on Billboard as of Oct. 9.

Obadiya can be reached at [email protected]