Rapping on club beats is hard. The instrumentals are so fast and layered that they can bulldoze vocalists who are unfamiliar with their rhythms. Yet in cities steeped in club culture, there is a long history of rapping over speedy, thumping production: In Jersey, there was DJ Frosty’s 2010 remix of “Ride That Wave”; in Baltimore, Tate Kobang’s 2015 single “Bank Rolls” was a phenomenon; the “T2RChallenge” took off in Philly a couple of years ago. But Bandmandrill is spearheading a new take on club rap.
In March 2021, Bandman released “Heartbroken,” where he merged the intensity of drill flows with a Jersey Club beat by Mcvertt. It led to the emergence of scenes in Newark and Philadelphia, where rappers are embracing high-octane tempos, triplet-kick patterns, fierce drum breaks, synths full of reverb, and twitchy dances. The trend has injected rap with a refreshing burst of pulse-quickening chaos; now, rap scenes from New York to France are adopting elements of club production. On TikTok, the jittery dance steps have become ingrained into the platform’s fabric. Even rap’s biggest star, Drake, tried riding the wave with this summer’s Honestly, Nevermind.
The explosion has been fun, but with it comes fears about the appropriation that has swept through club music again and again. Rappers and producers in Newark and Philly are excited to see their homegrown music spread beyond city limits, but they’re also protective of their sound and dances. Their innovations have been stolen before. “We were busting our ass trying to make it out the hood, and people were just running with our sound,” says the 30-year-old Jersey Club stalwart DJ Jayhood of the mid-2010s moment when DJs and producers around the globe became infatuated with their music. “If there’s one thing people love to do, it’s not give credit.”
“Delirious Tempos, Viral Dances, and Hometown Pride—Welcome to the Next Generation of Club Rap”, Alphonse Pierre, Pitchfork