Chicago is making the most beautiful rap music in the world right now. Over half a decade removed from the drill scene’s peak, the subgenre’s musical descendants are blossoming. The subject matter — survival, betrayal and death — remains intact, but the music beneath the lyrics has turned from sinister to somber and lovely. Instead of the intense, brutal production often associated with drill acts like Chief Keef and Lil Durk (and often imitated since), newer artists like Calboy, Polo G, El Hitta and King Von are succeeding rapping over haunting samples, dramatic piano runs, mournful guitar strums and minimal synths. Lil Zay Osama adds to this recent lineage with the devastating “Changed Up”.
Produced by Wooski, the song is built around a heart-wrenching piano loop that pulls Zay’s voice to the forefront. In under two minutes, the young rapper spins a tale of selfish associates and loyalty taken for granted. In a pleading voice, Zay sings, “I knew that you wasn’t gon’ ride/You say that you got me but you steady lying” as the song hits its musical crescendo. In an interview with Genius, Zay explained what led to the crushing moment that the song is built around.
“When I get locked up, it’s like, only my family’d be there,” he said. “I am all alone. No guys, none of that. They ain’t there for me. So I was like, I get out, what the fuck is I’m still here for these niggas for, and they ain’t here for me? They ain’t coming for me how I come for them.”
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“Changed Up” proves that behind the bitterness of betrayal, you can find beauty. All you need is some AutoTune.