When somebody is three hours late, you begin to assume that they’re both useless, ghosting you, or psyching you out. When RXK Nephew is three hours late, it’s merely an extension of the identical chaos that makes him one of the thrilling rappers alive. It’s 5PM on a wet Saturday in New York, and I can’t get in contact with the Rochester native for an interview that was supposed to begin at 2. Nephew is in New York for a Soho present tonight on Broome Road, his first dwell efficiency within the Rotten Apple. As organized along with his supervisor, who I solely know by means of Instagram messages, Nephew and I had been set to sit down down collectively whereas he will get prepared for the present. As a substitute, after a number of hours of unanswered textual content messages in search of Nephew’s whereabouts, I get a name from the Slitherman himself.
“You Jay, proper? You interviewing me?” Nephew asks me over the telephone, boldly. “Yeah bro, when can we hyperlink? I’m ready in my crib in your location,” I reply, with a lot concern in my voice. Nephew shortly apologizes and says he’ll ship me the tackle when he hangs up. One way or the other, within the 5 seconds between issuing this promise and hanging up, Nephew completely forgets to textual content me the tackle. I’m nonetheless ready at house wishing Neph would name me again, like a person whose spouse has simply left him with no clarification observe. In the meantime, Neph has participated in two Instagram Lives. All I can do is meekly remark throughout certainly one of them, “Wya bro.”
This was at all times the best way a Nephew interview was going to go. If you happen to cease a track to rap about how unhealthy the beat is, you’re not going to be an organized individual. My subsequent transfer is to message his supervisor, whose title I have no idea, like a babysitter tattling on a misbehaving son to his mom. “LOL, good previous Neph,” the supervisor writes upon studying about Nephew’s failure to ship the tackle. “I’m positive he’ll reply quickly. He has hella ADHD however I ain’t seen him flake on anybody but.” I’ve empathy for Nephew; I too am late on a regular basis and have points focusing. (Ask my editors.) At this level, although, my palms are beginning to sweat.
I’ve good motive to be concerned about making this assembly occur. RXK Nephew is probably the most prolific rapper within the recreation. Identical to 2Pac, Lil Wayne, and Lil B earlier than him, Nephew is an expressionist that challenges the dichotomy of high quality versus amount. The quantity of music Nephew releases is simply as essential as how good the music is, if no more so. Final yr, he launched greater than 400 songs on YouTube; not at some point glided by with out at the least one new Nephew observe. He’s maintaining that tempo in 2022: Three days into the brand new yr, Nephew had launched six songs already, together with the superb “No Bullet Wounds,” the place he raps over a loud siren and a demonic clatter worthy of Black Flag.
Now it’s Jan. 22, and so many tracks have been launched this yr that the quantity is subsequent to inconceivable to gauge. I counted 27, however there’s no means to make certain. There isn’t a web site the place Nephew retains all his music. Apple Music isn’t funneling his tracks into any advised new music playlists. Nephew has initiatives on streaming companies, however he’s greatest consumed on YouTube, the place you’ll be able to miss a number of songs a day in case you don’t subscribe to his account or have somebody texting you each time a brand new add hits.
Crack Goals is a strong tape, however the YouTube channel offers a extra appropriately subversive expertise, providing you with a damaged puzzle of unpredictable music and forcing you to fill within the holes of Nephew’s amusing, generally disturbing id. (If you wish to be a normie and take a look at his work on DSPs, I might go together with Make Drunk Cool Once more. The home beats on the album present Nephew’s eclectic style. “Time Not 2 Go Dwelling” belongs at a rave the place everyone seems to be doing molly and shouting that Bush did 9/11.) Being a Nephew fan is a difficult process, one that always requires leaping by means of technical mazes such as you’re in a Christopher Nolan image. This makes him an much more mystical and mystifying artist, a cult determine, and the premier rapper of the post-truth world that American adults inhabit.
Lastly, I resolve to depart the home when Nephew’s supervisor tells me that he’s someplace in Williamsburg. (Nephew in Williamsburg is hilarious to think about. Did he cease by Roebling Sports activities Membership or Rocka Rolla?) I get on the L prepare to Bedford Avenue, purchase him a bottle of Henny, get myself a bagel with lox and scallion cream cheese, after which lastly Nephew tells me he’s holed up at an Airbnb on Lorimer Road.
“You wasn’t joking with the Henny, bro,” Nephew says to me as I lastly enter the room the place he’s staying. He’s been recording music right now; one track comprises the lyric “I did extra molly than Mac Miller.” Within the room with Nephew are associates from Rochester, together with Ten, who tells me, “I knew [Nephew] as Briscoe when he was robbing niggas again within the day.” Additionally current are some artists which can be acting at tonight’s present plus Nephew’s proud and direct sister, who I solely know as Slitherher. “As quickly as Neph acquired out of jail, he ain’t ever hand over,” she tells me. Born in Rochester, Neph hung out within the juvenile system and jail earlier than getting out and changing into a rapper. He was accused of stealing a automotive and placing a gun on somebody’s head. Nephew, who says he’s harmless of this crime, ended up copping to a four-year sentence. Whereas in jail, he had time to replicate. “I used to be like, ‘Rattling, that is actually my life now, I’m in jail. I can’t get caught doing one thing in my life ever once more,’” Nephew says.
Neph’s been in comparison with prolific Bay Space cult determine Lil B for good motive. The Primarily based God used your RSS feed as his canvas. B was relentlessly dumping new raps into your blogs and Twitter, as a lot a content material creator as a musician. To be “Primarily based” was to be free to create your personal social norms and group, to mix laissez-faire allure with happy-go-lucky trolling. Lil B had followers of all stripes. You ever care to see a real multiracial coalition? Attempt to set up a Primarily based God fan membership. He was the web’s champion, a deconstructionist with a YouTube web page. Lil B was firmly a perform of the heat of the Obama period — together with bourgeois nationalism, Silicon Valley energy brokers, perception within the good of presidency, and Obama/Biden buddy-comedy movies. Regardless of being beloved by a subset of the web, the Primarily based God was typically unhealthy at rap for badness’ sake. I bear in mind Lil B because the man who couldn’t rhyme and as an alternative would present banality, although his affect is simple.
The web is extra fickle now than it was. One wonders if Lil B, the man who mentioned being Primarily based was about positivity and never “being afraid,” would have come throughout the identical means within the schizophrenic and irreverent Trump period. Nephew, nonetheless nice he could also be, is an outgrowth of the Trump period — the inane, stunning, mouth-covering American epoch the place the president headed a birther motion concerning the Black man earlier than him, the place Alex Jones spends time with celebrity podcasters, and the place anti-vaccine theories and faux statistics are disseminated with glee. Nephew has created the style of “Reddit rap,” the place rappers spit conversational bars that belong on a message board about whether or not or not Jay-Z is within the Illuminati. Nephew isn’t solely expressing himself, he’s shouting from inside a red-pill maze he can’t escape. Like his pal and frequent collaborator Rx Papi, who’s doing a bid for causes which can be unclear, Nephew is uneasy and paranoid whereas additionally sounding severe along with his pronounced tone of voice and well-spoken however hoarse supply. (Papi appears to be in good spirits: He referred to as in from IG dwell as soon as to inform Nephew that though he’s jail, he’s “consuming higher than these niggas.”)
Once I ask Ten what makes Nephew higher than everybody else, he replies plainly: “He’s saying shit different niggas are scared to say.” Nephew’s largest hit thus far is “American Tterroristt,” a nine-minute track the place he riffs on all the things from the violence he would inflict on Christopher Columbus and Santa Claus, Will Smith’s canine in I Am Legend, the federal government writing the Bible, and the rapper Cassidy and his road life (or lack thereof). To see RXK Nephew is to see oafishness combined with heartbreak. Sure, it’s crass to listen to Nephew say, “Swine Flu, Ebola, COVID-19, what’s completely different?” However his heartbreak is relatable when he says, “You saying I acquired to die simply to fulfill Jesus? It’s a fucked up world with fucked up folks.” “Tterroristt” is Nephew at his greatest: Heartbreaking whereas punching up towards the legal guidelines of man that had been handed down with out our data. Nephew remembers recording the track. Nicely, type of: “I used to be consuming Henny on the sofa, getting fucked up and blacking out.”
The appropriateness of Nephew’s conspiracy rap songs is difficult. At occasions, his fashion of humor may be so abrasive and edgy that it turns into off-putting to some. In August, a track leaked the place he rapped about his ex-girlfriend who had just lately handed away from an overdose. Nephew denies any malice. “I recorded that earlier than she died,” he says. “It was a misunderstanding. I used to be affected by what occurred to her too. I used to be unhappy once I discovered she died.” On high of that, on the No Jumper podcast, Nephew just lately joked about Barack Obama being Hawaiian earlier than he was Black: “Inform me what’s his title, Barack Obama, and he was from Hawaii once they made it a state. He acquired no connection to us. He’s from an island, bro.” That mentioned, Nephew is usually hilarious. There was the time when he mentioned Papoose was a bozo on “Been Them Boyz,” or when he tried to talk Spanglish on “Dominican Plug,” or that point he mentioned his woman is thick like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Rappers don’t have to comply with what is appropriate socially; all they’re required to do is rap nicely. And Nephew, nonetheless, red-pilled he could also be, is the very best rapper alive proper now.
“I’m not saying what I’m saying to show info, I’m simply saying it as a result of that is my reality,” Nephew tells me. “It’s rapping. That is my shit.” Nephew brings up a very good level about who he’s. There are biases and blind spots in standardized testing and regular curricula. I bear in mind by no means studying something concerning the Tulsa Riots in my textbooks rising up. That’s a key a part of historical past that the American training system doesn’t speak about. I as soon as had a instructor inform us that slaves weren’t handled as poorly as pictures make it appear. When the folks meant to show you might be masking up the atrocities and true tales of our historical past, it is smart for precocious children to begin questioning what’s instructed to them on the mainstream information. Nephew exists in these query marks. His potential to query American dogma and mix his conspiracy theories with humor has endeared him to leftist political communities on Twitter. My associates Will Menaker and Felix Biederman of the leftist politics podcast Chapo Lure Home are followers.
Nephew is an artist and never a instructor. He’s primarily based within the margins of doubt, ache, and the lack of innocence that comes when a Rochester child is pressured to develop up on his personal with an absence of assets in his house and his neighborhood. 2021 was the deadliest yr in Rochester’s historical past, with 81 murders on file. Nephew’s existentialism and paranoia is a product of the capitalist black gap that American cities like Rochester are put in. It’s a symptom of the shortage of safety that the American authorities offers to small and poor cities, not the issue itself. “I been alone since I used to be a child,” Nephew tells me after the weekend is over. “All the time been that means. My mother left once I went to jail. My grandma raised us, however I used to be out right here, alone.”
On the present on Broome Road, I’m considerably stunned at how a lot Nephew appears to be like like a traditional rapper onstage. Web rappers typically would not have the formal coaching to impress you if you find yourself watching them dwell. Nephew avoids that entice along with his peak, his vitality, and a crew that’s rapping simply as arduous as he’s. (Slitherher, his sister, goes in.) Nephew’s glorious stage presence is undeterred by poor audio and a two-minute halt to maintain a sick fan that had fallen. Wearing a black bomber jacket and an all-black Yankee hat, the mania of Nephew’s crew and his bark on stage is harking back to watching Odd Future carry out for the primary time. After the present, I lose contact with Nephew till the subsequent day, once I cease by the Airbnb to retrieve my misplaced jacket. Once I ask if he has time to speak some extra, he says not proper now. Quickly, he’s out of sight and again on the run to launch extra music. “I dropped six tracks yesterday,” he tells me. “That is what I do.”