As the weather warms and we near the summer months, it looks like more and more long-dormant MCs are waking from their cold-weather hibernation to serve up fresh material to keep our cookouts cracking. Joining the incoming procession of a big names and big releases, ASAP Rocky promises his new album, Testing, will hold up against any other this summer; in fact, his confidence is so high that he’s releasing before his biggest competition in Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Drake, and Nicki Minaj.
He also supposedly faces off with Pusha T, whose long-awaited King Push was promised by Kanye on Twitter not too long ago. Pusha himself called the album “flawless,” but since there isn’t a cover, tracklist, or so much as a single currently out with Pusha’s name on it, it’s hard to say whether or not Friday will actually live up to their hype, or if the mercurial Kanye was merely trolling us all one more time.
Rounding out the competition for your attention this Friday, Rhymesayers’ Blueprint and fellow Midwesterner Bow Wow both return with new albums after extended breaks from the game and two artists make their solo debuts: Veteran producer Zaytoven and Floridian Interscope rookie, Wifisfuneral.
ASAP Rocky — Testing (RCA)
Intriguingly, Rocky’s somehow-still-mysterious third album rides the line between hotly-anticipated and surprise album. While he’s slowly built anticipation for the release with teasers on his Instagram and a relatively steady stream of loosely connected singles like “5ive Stars,” “Cocky,” “Above,” “Bad Company,” and “ASAP Forever,” he only revealed the (possible) release date of the album this week. In the meantime, his other endeavors: AWGE, a collaboration with Under Armour, and his various film projects — have all remained as shrouded in enigma as his new album.
Pusha T — King Push (GOOD Music / Def Jam Recordings)
Rocky’s isn’t the only release slated for Friday that comes with a healthy dollop of puzzlement. GOOD Music president Pusha T was granted a release date during one of the label’s founder’s many tweets, but there’s little to go on aside from a few possible song titles on a whiteboard and Pusha’s word that the album is complete. His claim that the album is “flawless” would certainly justify his earlier pronouncement that it had been completed and scrapped multiple times during its development, but it will need to be just that to stave off finicky fans who may not accept anything less than perfection after being forced to wait so long for it.
Zaytoven — Trap Holizay (Familiar Territory / Motown Records)
Acclaimed trap rap beatmaker Zatytoven already has an impressive back catalog of mixtapes and production credits, but that wasn’t enough. After signing to a label venture with Motown Records as both owner of Familiar Territory and a solo artist, he’s finally ready to step out from behind the boards and make his name as famous as the ones he’s blessed with his signature piano rolls and 808s. Of course, his industry pals will be along for the ride, but the real magic of Trap Holizay is in the unusual combos he’s managed to string together. If DJ Khaled goes for the pop clout on his big-name productions, Zaytoven aims for street-level authenticity, combining Pusha T, Rick Ross, Yo Gotti, and T.I. for “Go Get the Money” and tapping Quavo, 2 Chainz, Future, 21 Savage, Kodak Black, Young Dolph, and more elsewhere on his star-studded debut.
Blueprint — Two-Headed Monster (Weightless Records)
It’s been three years since Columbus, Ohio rapper Blueprint released a full-length album with King No Crown, but the time away hasn’t dulled his pen or his ear for head-knocking backpack rap beats. Two-Headed Monster — not to be confused with the Muppet of the same name — constitutes Blueprint’s reckoning with middle age, addressing health (both physical and mental) and sobriety alongside a who’s who of underground rap stalwarts including Aceyalone, Has Lo, Mr. Lif, Slug, Supastition, and Wordsworth. If you happen to be a fan of chunky, barrel-chested beats, and wordy, dextrous rhymes, don’t let Two-Headed Monster fly under your radar.
Bow Wow — Greenlight 6 (Commission Music / BMG / So So Def Recordings)
Oh, Bow Wow. Unlike fellow Columbus product Blueprint, the artist sometimes known as Shad Moss has become more notorious in recent years for his internet shenanigans than his bars. It’s a real shame too, because whether you hate him or love him, Bow Wow has been responsible for some of the biggest hits of the ’00s and has been cited as an influence by a number of hip-hop’s modern trailblazers like Kamaiyah and Vince Staples. Consider Greenlight 6 his opportunity to get his career back on track, if it lives up to its hype and somehow makes up for the interceding near-decade since his last release, New Jack City II. While GL6 was slated for release on May 21, it appears Bow has settled on a more traditional drop to take place on Friday. While missing his original target date bodes ill, there’s a nostalgic part of me that genuinely hopes he finds his way.
Wifisfuneral — Ethernet, Vol. 1 (Interscope)
Wifisfuneral — born Isaiah Rivera in Bronx, NY — is only 21 years old, but his trio of heartfelt mixtapes have already garnered enough attention to secure a deal with Interscope Records. This Friday will be his first opportunity to reward the label’s faith in him and his burgeoning fanbase with the release of his first official studio album, Ethernet, Vol. 1. Despite being the only newcomer debuting this week, he’s kept to the theme of secrecy, only releasing the album’s cover and release date so far. While he maintains the aesthetic and presentation of other rappers of his generation who’ve come to prominence via streaming services, he balks at the term “Soundcloud rapper,” drawing more inspiration from lyrical heavyweights like MF Doom, The Notorious BIG, and Eminem than the grunge-rock leanings of his peers. Ethernet might just be his chance to prove his doubters wrong.