Michigan rap is evolving from its scam-centered roots. While the Midwest continues to be a Mecca of meshed styles from the south and west coasts, Michigan is becoming a haven for artists who freestyle their verses — or “punch-in” — over heavy sampled production that falls between up-tempo and eccentric beats with frantic percussion and piano keys. It’s considered nervous music — compositions that emulates the paranoia and anxiety experienced in the streets. Artists are fixated less on lyrics that rely on shock factor and more on crafting a polished body of work.
The Shittyboyz — composed of BabyTron, StanWill and TRDee — stepped onto the scene in 2019 with rapid-fire punchlines over the funky ‘80s disco samples of their debut 3-Peat. The outlandish samples (courtesy of Flint producer Helluva) became the Shittyboyz’s bread and butter, going viral on TikTok and the internet. Each member frequently released solo mixtapes in between their group collaborations. BabyTron became an instant fan favorite, finding his own internet fame and earning a spot on the 2022 XXL freshman list.
Trifecta 2, the group’s second release in 2022, and the first since BabyTron’s XXL freshman debut, shows the growth of these artists not only as individual acts but as a functional crew. The production is varied and well-versed, offering plenty of variety in a realm where arrangements can sound repetitive. Each member of the group sounds sharp and their chemistry is more fluid than ever. In the past, verses sloshed into each other due to the rough and erratic deliveries, but here each MC implements timing and well-rationed moments in the spotlight.
The new project never falls short of pop culture references. There are verses jam-packed with Dragonball Z references (“Senzu Bean”), raps painted over Chavo Guerrero’s WWE theme song (“WWE”), and there are bars underscored by the Grand Theft Auto Los Santos Radio station (“Video Games”). The Shittyboyz seamlessly rap about everything over any beat.
On “WWE,” horns fit for a bullfight sound-off, while the Shittyboyz fill their lines with an array of wrestling references — from maneuvers down to wrestlers: “Try to wrestle, boy, I’m like the Sandman, the stick’s on me.” The trio’s raps are exuberant and abundant in goofy and cartoonish nonsequiturs that make tracks feel rich and lively.
Doing what they do best on “Video Games,” they switch flows and styles as the beats swap between classic gaming themes. In what feels like Def Jam: Fight for NY, StanWill playfully raps, “I’m always with some money, it’s my best friend” over a punch-style spin the intro from DMX’s game-changing debut It’s Dark And Hell is Hot.
TRDee and Stanwill lean into BabyTron’s cadence more on Trifecta 2, which can sometimes make things feel a bit similar for new listeners. One of the best verses on the album comes from Trdee, whose snarl becomes audible when a more serene style of production raises its hand. The laid-back dance vibes in “Lion – Hearted” is a perfect fit for Trdee who spits a relationship-focused verse where he settles for chasing the bag instead. “Fucked her then hopped on a flight, had to leave her sad,” he raps with a complete lack of empathy.
Another highlight comes from BabyTron on “Turnt Shit 2” where he executes some of the best rhyming of his career: “MPX, glockiana, and I got a baby Drake, DOAs going off the banks, today I made an 80” The Flint trio come full circle when their alacrity delivery returns on the dizzying dance sampled “Cheers Bitch” and the closer “GGG” — it’s just more controlled and focused this time around.
With the inclusion of both BabyTron and Babyface Ray into this year’s XXL Freshman class, the Michigan rap scene is finally entering the mainstream. Trifecta 2 is an accessible gateway into the world of VPN scams and nervous production, making the project a worthy addition to the Michigan rap catalog.
REAL ONES LISTENING TO SHITTYBOYZ NEW ALBUM RN pic.twitter.com/ZWlo6HXDr2
— nielöc (@nullniloc) August 5, 2022
I know y’all listening to that Youngboy, but ShittyBoyz had to get that play first 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/jAwgBYH6pq
— 𝐷𝑟𝑒-𝑆𝑒𝑛𝑝𝑎𝑖 (@DreSenpaix2) August 5, 2022
trifecta 2 is album of the year, it has changed my point of view of life. thank you shittyboyz. i love y’all.
— kayla🙀 (@kayla2smoove) August 5, 2022