When RXKNephew enters the booth, all laws are abandoned.
The Rochester rapper is notorious for his songs filled with wacky non-sequiturs, stray targets, and memeable quotables that flood social media upon every release. Nothing is sacred when it comes to Neph’s content; ex-girlfriends, former plugs, and past dope fiends that pop in and out of Neph’s subconscious. The allure of RXKNephew comes with his punch-in style unpredictability and his lack of care for consequence, resulting in music that’s exhilarating and refreshing.
On Nephew’s new project, LIFE AFTER NEPH, he teams up with the legendary Harry Fraud to deliver an 11-track mafioso odyssey. Fraud is a longtime Coke Boys collaborator, and Nephew considers Max B his prime influence, which should make this team up a match made in heaven. Nephew is no stranger to strange bedfellow collaborations, making it known he’s a rapper who operates like a mercenary–wherever the money is, comes Neph’s bars. LIFE AFTER NEPH feels different than Neph’s prior creative engagements; there’s a natural chemistry between Neph and Fraud, even though Fraud’s compositions can occasionally feel restricting for a loose cannon like Neph. Harry Fraud’s production is cinematic and glossy with style, making Neph’s raps feel like a part of the Godfather II soundtrack. Nephew is like rap’s chameleon, he can rap on any given beat, from boom-bap (The ONEderful Neph), to vintage ATL trap (Certified Alcoholic).
LIFE AFTER NEPH showcases the most focused Neph has been since his “debut” album Till Im Dead. The opener “Pebble Beach,” sees Neph doing a victory lap over the spoils of his success. He recalls back to his auntie having hard days and fast-forwarding to putting Gucci frames on his face. “Authority Figure” is led by piano synths and kicking snares, as Nephew laments his lifestyle with a shine of luxury, rapping with the slyness of a successful D-Boy. While Nephew sounds exceptional, the track sounds like a cut off the Valee/Fraud record dropped a couple of months prior.
In terms of synergy, Nephew and Rx Papi are always on the same page.”RX INSTRUCTIONS” is the best display of Neph’s artistry; enough negative space for his raps to expand through his personality. Harry Fraud’s production can be a double-edged sword for an artist like Neph, forcing him to conform to a structure that feels tame stylistically. But on “RX INSTRUCTIONS,” the looping sample allows Neph’s delivery to be more zany off the wall, with Papi sharing his energy like a passed blunt.
Harry Fraud does a solid job of accommodating the many styles Nephew brings to the table. On “Dub 4 U” he taps into Slitherman’s world of disco and drug dealing, with quirky synths and funky basslines. Nephew positions himself as the neighborhood plug, serving packs like its fresh Thanksgiving plates. “All Gone,” features a verse from Z Money, which feels meant for Valee rather than Nephew, but Nephew matches the cadence, slightly resembling French Montana in the delivery. On “The Roundtable,” Neph’s distributor for his Ooze weed strain, TedBudz drops a verse and it’s surprisingly solid. Nephew scales back his antics throughout LIFE AFTER NEPH, opting for coolness over erratic carnage in his verses. That calmness is notable in his “Roundtable” verse as he highlights his girl taking him bowling for the first time with a demeanor reminiscent of Pimp C.
The issue with LIFE AFTER NEPH lies with how insular Harry Fraud’s production comes across. While it’s true he brings artists into his world of mafia raps and aesthetics, the beats fail to expand enough to allow the artist’s personalities to find a place in such a fixed setting. As a result, Nephew sounds suppressed on Fraud’s compositions, nearly forced into a template allowing for very few moments of innovation.
One of the few moments Fraud breaks out of his templates is with “Top Chef Neph,” a left-field bonkers sample that leaves everything to Nephew’s imagination. It’s fun, attractive, and refreshing for Harry Fraud’s sonic palette. It’s a realization that it’s okay to break the mold and try something vastly different.