RXK Nephew is a bug-eyed paranoiac with a work ethic like no other. When he’s really in the zone, you’ll blink and discover 10 new songs on his YouTube channel. Included in his immense catalog are insights into all the ways you can block someone online (on Yahoo!, PayPal, the Canadian dating site Plenty of Fish), why certain male artists are problematic (“Lil Yachty never had a yacht before rap”), and why he wants to sue Applebees (“Bitch I’ve been having 2 for $20”). He’ll seemingly riff on anything, over anything—slinking West Coast funk, spacey Atlanta trap—even if he hates the beat.
Earlier this year, Neph declared intentions to be more strategic, slowing down his output ahead of his studio debut, Till I’m Dead, which he recorded sober with only one producer. That more considered pacing didn’t last long—he released five projects in three months, but they all had a sense of polish that his loosies tend to lack. Now, Neph teams up with Brooklyn producer DJ Rude One for The Onederful Nephew, his most focused, pared-down project yet. In lieu of his typically colorful, haphazard palette is tense neo-boom bap; Rude One’s beats are restrained to a white-knuckling degree, pairing barely-there loops with spare percussion.
This restraint rubs off on Neph, who tones down his usual ranting and cultivates a menacing presence. His writing takes on a sickly hue. Over the horror-movie organs of “Murder for Hire,” Neph wrestles with his love for selling dope and the guilt of seeing his auntie nod out and break her teeth. He gives himself a disquieting ultimatum: “If rap don’t work then it’s murder for hire.” On “Raw Dope,” he paints himself as a cold-hearted kingpin over tinny drums and harpsichord. The threat of violence underpins every relationship: When he snarls “beating up that bowl, I got domestic prices,” it’s an unnerving double-entendre.
Neph frequently raps in the second person, lobbing absurd insults at a target just out of view. Here, his disses feel like score-settling. Against different production, a line like “How you 50 with a 12-year-old boy chest?” from the brooding “F**k Yo’ Set” could be funny. But set against Rude One’s chiaroscuro backdrops, Neph is Tommy DeVito pressing, “I amuse you?”
The pair cut the tension with “B.B. Belt,” a hysterical ode to the bedazzled belts designed by B.B. Simon. Over Rude One’s most animated beat, Neph goes into a stream-of-consciousness trance: “I’ll run your ass over in an Audi/ I’ll run your ass over in a Beamer/I’ll run your ass over with some black forces,” he threatens, roasting his faceless, presumably broke haters. It’s a welcome respite from the near-suffocating pressure of the rest of the record, comic relief after a jumpscare, but doesn’t subtract from the rest of The Onederful Nephew’s harrowing vibe. The thrill of The Onederful Nephew comes from watching a loose cannon become more calculated.