Pitchfork writer Alphonse Pierre’s rap column covers songs, mixtapes, albums, Instagram freestyles, memes, weird tweets, fashion trends—and anything else that catches his attention.
Viral white rapper Lil Mabu must be stopped
The premise of the viral song “Teach Me How to Drill” is simple: Brooklyn rapper Fivio Foreign is a teacher who takes his nerdy, white student—Lil Mabu—on a “field trip” to the hood, as if they were going to the Bronx Zoo. They go back and forth, even finishing each other’s lines, as Fivio introduces Mabu to a world of robberies and shootouts. This is supposed to be funny, or maybe shocking, in 2024. But really, it’s just lame.
“Teach Me How to Drill” doesn’t just stink because it’s about a white boy learning to be Black (where being Black is boiled down to drill music and saying “nigga”)—it’s also a mindless encapsulation of the white voyeurism that surrounds drill, where kids sit behind their keyboards and are more interested in commenting on the violent beefs and real-life stakes of the subgenre than listening to the actual music. This is Mabu’s whole thing: The 18-year-old college freshman is a certified troll bleeding all the fame he can from drill by parodying the actual conditions and tragedy associated with it, all while he sits in his Upper East Side mansion or his pricey dorm room.
I’ve mostly tried to avoid Mabu in this column, despite the tens of millions of views he’s accrued on YouTube over the last couple of years, because his strategy of trying to outrage-click his way up the charts is so shameless and obvious. But let’s get the facts out there: He’s a graduate of a $60,000-a-year Manhattan private school, he summers in the Hamptons, and his dad is the wealthy CEO of a funeral-home service who is extremely involved in his career—he even makes a cameo in the “Teach Me How to Drill” video holding a gun. Mabu constantly hints, or rather brags, about the fact that his fame has been part of some master plan, and that there’s nothing anyone can do about it. (This is literally an Atlanta episode.)
Pretty much all of Lil Mabu’s songs are the same try-hard troll jobs. “Trip to the Hood,” which has over 22 million YouTube views, is about a sweater-vest-wearing kid who turns into a drill rapper when he finally leaves the house. On “Mathematical Disrespect,” which has over 60 million views across two YouTube videos, he delivers typical drill taunts amid alternating voices while wearing a “I <3 NYPD” T-shirt. “Mr. Take Ya Bitch,” with a little over 36 million, features Blueface’s ex, Chrisean Rock, who either doesn’t have any idea that she is the butt of the joke or doesn’t care. He is the worst of all white rappers, wrapped up into a grifter. There’s not a single redeemable quality. Even his best bar on “Teach Me How to Drill”—“They gon’ know who did it when the face white”—is just a line he jacked from MaxThaDemon, the original white New York drill rapper.
We all know how this is going to go once Mabu squeezes as much as he can out of drill—he’ll just pivot to something else like none of this ever happened. The only person who will be permanently stained by “Teach Me How to Drill” is Fivio Foreign—though I’m not going to pretend like I have ever held Fivio to some high moral standard.
Actually, New York drill itself is a subgenre that has been fairly easy for opportunistic content creators and executives with fat checkbooks to exploit. It’s a style that mostly comes from low-income and neglected outskirts of the city, and regularly births rappers looking to get on as fast as possible before the next hot artist climbs the ranks or the NYPD comes knocking. So when Dusty Locane or DD Osama made their Lil Mabu collabs early in their careers, I understood why they did it, even if it was clear they were being used to legitimize a scammer. But with Fivio? He really made it. He’s got songs on the radio. He’s got a decent verse on a Kanye album. He’s the guy the old heads look to as a way to modernize their sound. After Pop Smoke, he’s damn-near the official symbol of drill in New York.
All of which makes his involvement in this song that much more embarrassing. In a particularly rough promo video for “Teach Me How to Drill,” Mabu “sneaks” Fivio into a dorm room at his elite private college by putting him in a Groucho Marx get-up. (They just should have gone all the way and put him in a clown mask.) There at Emory University in Atlanta, where Mabu is enrolled, the freshman orders around Fivio, who is in his 30s, in scenes that aren’t far off from the Black acting school sketch in Robert Townsend’s 1987 satire Hollywood Shuffle, in which a doofy white guy shows a group of Black men how to “walk Black.”
Throughout the promo, there doesn’t seem to be a thought going on behind Fivio’s eyes other than dollar signs. He’s only really shown making meaningful contributions to the creation of one bar, and it’s an extremely dumb bar. “You a white boy, but you my nigga,” he raps. “Really?” Mabu asks in a fake innocent voice, as if this isn’t all scripted. Fivio goes ahead and raps it again, looking like an even bigger dummy. Then Mabu turns to the camera and whisper-screams “let’s go” with a fist pump. That actually isn’t the only time they play with using “nigga” in the song: One of the running bits is that Mabu starts feeling so comfortable that he’s about to say the word, before Fivio interrupts: “He can’t say the word, I’ma say it for him.”
Ever since Fivio cozied up to New York Mayor Eric Adams, another known grifter who has used drill for his own agenda, it’s been clear that the rapper is about nothing other than his catchphrase “viral.” Well, he got his wish with “Teach Me How to Drill.” Congrats, I guess?
Picking a few cast members for American Dream: The 21 Savage Story
This week, we were teased with a poster and trailer for an apparent movie advertised as American Dream: The 21 Savage Story, starring 21, Donald Glover, and Caleb McLaughlin as different versions of the ATL rap star across time. Or maybe it’s just a music video. Or maybe it’s the beginning of a 21 Savage multiverse. Who fucking knows?
I won’t believe that this is anything more than elaborate album promo until I’m sitting in a theater with a tub of buttery popcorn watching Donald Glover light a blunt to Savage Mode. But it would be pretty hilarious if it were real. Imagine all of the actors they would need to cast to make this film happen (in the trailer the only one that seems to have been selected is Bel-Air lead Jabari Banks as Metro Boomin, a solid get). I have some suggestions for who should play 21’s various collaborators through the years:
- As KEY!: O’Shea Jackson Jr. (aka Ice Cube Jr.)
- As ILOVEMAKONNEN: Isaiah John (aka Leon from Snowfall)
- As Offset: Leon Thomas (aka the Black kid from Victorious, yes I know he has a successful music career, don’t yell at me)
- As Travis Scott: Jaden Smith (aka the other Karate Kid)
- As J. Cole: Kelvin Harrison Jr. (aka the tantrum-throwing Tyler, the Creator fan from Waves)
- As Young Nudy: J. Alphonse Nicholson (aka the dude from P-Valley)
- As Drake: Marcus Scribner (aka Junior from Blackish)
It’ll do numbers on Tubi!
1Up Tee: “Lose Lose”
1Up Tee is a fresh-faced Detroit rapper currently blowing up off a string of concept singles that get at the contradictions and unrealistic expectations of our social media-saturated society. He is a standard-bearer for keeping it real in 2024, and the commenters on his YouTube videos speak about him like he’s a prophet: “Bro I dropped a tear listening to this much real ass shit!”; “I’m glad real MEN still exist”; “God keep this man in yo prayers watch over him plz he gotta message we need to hear it’s only going up from here sooo motivational god bless.”
I’m not quite on board yet. Tee is a good rapper with an ear for the gentlest Detroit beats and a smooth, patient delivery that gives every bar space to breathe, but some of the messages feel regressive. Take “Spoiled Rotten,” where the concept is that he’s lecturing his daughter—a literal baby—about not growing up to be Sexyy Red or whatever. Weird. Leave that shit for the Joe Budden podcast.
His newest single “Lose Lose” is better. This time the idea is that he’s advising the youth that people will find any reason to criticize you, so just do your thing. He goes about this by laying down three minutes of hypothetical lose-lose situations. For example: “They gon’ say I’m lazy, I’m a slob if I ain’t got a job/But if I work, they say I settled for a 9-5.” Or, “Girl got a rich man, they say she want his rubber bands/Girl got a broke man, they say she need to up her standards.” You get the point. It’s clever enough, and it’s pretty cool to hear a rapper in this message-based style with a modern flow and beats. Maybe his next song can be about thinking critically about rap lyrics.
LORDY: “40 Dayz and 40 Nights”
D.C. rapper ANKHLEJOHN is now known as LORDY, but he’s as reliable on the mic as ever: It always feels he’s spitting through gritted teeth, and his chilly beat selection is still perfect for a brutal East Coast winter. Some music just sounds better when you have your puffer coat on, and Side B of December’s In Him We Trust makes it into my snow-ready rotation. My go-to cut is “40 Dayz and 40 Nights,” where the soul sample, by producer Kirti Pandey, blares so powerfully that it could probably shatter a glass like Julie Andrews. LORDY seamlessly weaves together words that will make you want to hustle harder, references to hip-hop lore (Wale won’t be happy), and one of the few pro-Palestine bars I can think of in recent memory: “Free Palestine, cease fire, and tell Egypt open up the gates.”
Glorygirl2950: “Dior Skirt”
If you’re listening to underground Atlanta rappers right now, you’ll want to keep your finger near the volume button. Sometimes it’s because they’re prone to break out into hellish shrieks (see: L5), other times it’s because they rap like they’re faded in a library (see: Anycia). Glorygirl2950 isn’t quite as extreme, but on “Dior Skirt” she alternates between battering ad-libs and a scream-rap flow that catches me off guard every time. Even with all that going on, it’s a stylish-sounding song sprinkled with swagged-out Bear1boss-style melodies and a rage-driven guitar beat hard enough to make Destroy Lonely jealous.
RRB Duck: “Uber Eats”
I have a slight gripe with RRB Duck’s new mixtape Half Man Half Dog: Clearly it should be called Half Man Half Duck. He already has a tape from last year titled Scrooge McDuck—might as well make it a thing! Anyway, the Duck Man is a Milwaukee rapper that I’ve underappreciated, though he frequently pops up as a guest on my favorite SME Taxfree songs. On “Uber Eats,” he shows out, laying down smooth D-boy raps over a piano-driven beat sure to get your shoulders bouncing. I particularly like the part when the beat fades out and he says, “I just got a brand new batch of dog, I finna put my paws on it,” even if it’s not an aquatic bird reference.
Nino Paid: “My Turn”
Nino Paid is making DMV crank for all the sadboys and sadgirls. Usually the homegrown sound is powerful like a thunderstorm, but Nino’s take is more of a gloomy drizzle. His new single “My Turn” is like if one of Gud’s raindrop-on-the-windshield beats from Victory Music got layered with thudding percussion. Nino is up to the task: Like local rising stars KP Skywalka and HavinMotion, he uses the DMV-specific punched-in flow to deliver a string of somber memories that serve as motivation. It’s not a coincidence that nearly all of his song titles—“Pain and Possibilities,” “Been Thru,” and “Feel Better”—hit like words of encouragement.