Music critics and taste-making blogs seem to come up with new terms every day for the rising genre du jour. Chillwave, vaporwave, trillwave were all invented even before artists started making the music itself. Cloud rap, however, preceded its label, gaining steady steam over the past year and a half. Heavily indebted to Southern hip-hop and trap, cloud rap is also distinguished by ethereal, dreamlike beats that often use wordless, dramatic vocal samples and abstract lyrics that are deliberately absurd. Its producers often rely on unconventional sample sources, incorporating elements from experimental, ambient, and even pop songs into their beats.
When done right, cloud rap is hip-hop at its freshest in years—Oakland duo Main Attrakionz’s fantastic mixtape 808 & Dark Grapes II was one of those visionary records. The spacey production of Clams Casino and Friendzone perfectly complemented the lazy weed-rap flow of MondreM.A.N. and Squadda B, the team behind Main Attrakionz. Bossalinis & Fooliyones is MA’s first full-length album, and although the lyrics are as pessimistic and aimless as ever, the production is mostly complacent and conventional. With a seventy minute run-time and seemingly endless track list, there are only five or six songs of note. MA still has much more to flesh out with their sound, and Bossalinis lacks the soul, bravery and aesthetic experimentation of Dark Grapes II. The album is pleasant and fun, but the ultra-shy synths and sing-songy G-funk choruses aren’t what Mondre and Squadda are about—this is, after all, the group that vibes to Glasser and J-pop group Perfume. They’re on that new school, modern sh*t, so it was a major letdown when new producers replaced Clams, Friendzone, ADHYE, and other Bay Area upstarts.
Despite the switch, the new sound still produces a handful of choice cuts. “LFK” is the duo at their most self-aware, and there’s a powerful urgency to their usually easygoing demeanor. Mondre jests that they’re “big time,” but then ruminates on paying off his loans, lost time and his neighborhood. “Wings” comes completely out of left field and reveals that the duo can craft moving, vulnerable songs as well. Squadda aches with sincerity as he speaks about accepting life’s realities: “If I had wings I would fly and leave the sky / But I can’t so I roll and get high.” Both “Bury Me a Millionaire” and “La Piñata” are bangers with strong replay value. Yet the last two songs, “Zoney Nights” and “Cloud Body,” steal the show, primarily because they return to Main Attrakionz’ bread and butter: absurdist lyrics over airy marshmallow sounds. Squadda contends on the last track, “cloud rap, it’s that s**t you can trust.” It’s the idea of going back to one’s roots to solidify an identity. As the hardest working weed-heads in the game, there’s no doubt Main Attrakionz will find a way to bridge where they come from and where they want to go.