RXK Nephew is the type of rapper who doesn’t leave any song in the vault, matching the prolific release rates of Chief Keef, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, and Lil B. Since dropping more than 400 songs in 2021, the output has remained steady on his YouTube channel up until the release of his debut album Till I’m Dead. If you’ve been a fan of the Rochester, New York rapper since “American Tterroristt,” then you know Neph is not traditional in any sense, known for crazy quotables about questioning our existence through conspiracy theories and calling out celebrities. He occupies a space in Hip Hop reserved for people enamored with internet meme culture and Rap oddity, packing out DIY venues the moment he goes on tour.
Till I’m Dead takes inspiration from The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 debut Ready to Die, mirroring its cover art and the idea that he has something to say before he leaves this Earth. March 9 is the day Biggie died and maybe Neph wanted to draw from that symbolism by releasing Till I’m Dead on the same day. The album is the first where Neph worked with one producer (Brainstorm), and it’s the first where he recorded the songs completely sober. It’s a distinction that makes Till I’m Dead an intriguing entry point for people who are just catching up to Neph’s music, a concentrated effort of varied beats, mixed metaphors, and non-sequitur raps. Till I’m Dead is neither for the algorithm nor force fed by the industry machine, bombarding us to listen. Instead, the album stands out for being completely original, allowing Neph’s eccentric personality to shine.
Because the genre is so vast, Hip Hop has created subsets of listeners divided by generation and age. If you like your Rap lyrical, focused on one topic, and leaned into specific regional bias, RXK Nephew might sound awful to you. He’s a scatterbrain who jumps from line to line, raps offbeat at times, and experiments so much that you can’t keep him in a box. The old heads would write him off as a jokester who doesn’t take this art form seriously.
But considering Young Thug, Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert, and Playboi Carti’s genre-bending styles and their evolutions as artists, RXK Nephew is right there on the curve of today’s trends, surviving jail to tell his story. His varied beats serve as vessels for partying and getting wavy, which he excels at flaunting on tracks like “1000MPH” (“I hate my opps with a f*cking passion” is a constant theme throughout Till I’m Dead), “Frame” (“I got better moves than Chris Brown” is more fact than fiction to Neph), and “Crucial,” a groovy dance song that slides into his Slitherman alter-ego at the end.
Neph’s longtime collaborator Brainstorm has his best interest in mind, producing a collection of beats that flow surprisingly well despite the genre switches. For a first-time listener who simply doesn’t have the time to go through 100 of his best songs, Brainstorm offers a primer into Neph’s world, letting his talents prove Neph can rap over any beat. There’s pluggnb (“Do It For You”), songs where Slitherman can scream and enter rage mode (“I’m High”), crooning Auto-Tune trap anthems (“TwoTone”), and more songs to shake your shoulders and hit the dance floor (“Dance Song”).
His lyrics rarely make sense logistically, sounding like pure freestyles that string one thought together with the next. When you go off the top and don’t write anything down, moments of brilliance surface. His rapping on “TwoTone” about the Will Smith–Chris Rock slapping incident strikes the right balance of comedic and unhinged. “I’ll slap n***as for clout on TV/Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, not me/If I was Will, I’d slap Jada Pinkett/They would’ve canceled me f**king with these bitches/1-800-slap-a-bitch not these n****s/I would’ve shot Chris Rock not slap him/If Jada was his bitch, she should’ve jumped in/Bitch, jump your bald head ass in/Somebody tell Chris Rock call my phone/Give me two million, Will Smith will be gone,” he raps.
Part of Neph’s appeal lies in how much he doesn’t care about who he’s offending and how expressing himself can label him as “edgy,” placing all the attention on himself. He would make a great heel in Rap, fittingly that he says on the album he looks like Triple H in the ring. Till I’m Dead isn’t going to cross him over because of his controversial lyrics and still in development songwriting skills, but the idea that a rapper is talking his shit and creating music that’s freed of expectations are just some of the reasons why critics and Gen Z Dimes Square/No Bells fanatics love him.
On “Long Song,” which is over seven minutes, Neph starts off with referencing wrestlers like the late Eddie Guerrero and Stone Cold Steve Austin before threatening to DDT an opp on the concrete. By mid-song, Neph is rapping about choosing pasta over pizza, dissing Benny The Butcher (“I got more bars than Benny the Butcher/Guess what? Benny was never a butcher”), Mike Will Made-It (“Brainstorm got better beats than Mike Will”), DJ Mustard (“Trying to lose weight but your name Mustard)” and Young Chop (“N***as is on the same drugs as Young Chop”). By the song’s end, he has gone full OJ da Juiceman and Mike Jones, copying their voices and flows. It’s nutty enough and so authentic that you want to run it back.