By Milend Kolbet
22gz, also known as “the General,” openly claims to be one of the pioneers of the Brooklyn drill music scene. That claim was backed by his 2017 single Suburban, which created an explosion of remixes and a surge in popularity for the genre. As early as 2014 Blicky affiliates have been releasing music, however 22gz is the only one of the group to gain traction beyond Brooklyn, thus explaining his position as the “General of the Blick army,” as he states on the recent track “LLNB.”
In a recent interview with Off the Porch 22 reflected on Brooklyn drill’s growing popularity. “Even though it’s a lot of my sounds,” he likes where the movement is heading now. While this sentiment shows his maturity, he did take a few jabs at upcoming NYC artist CJ, whose Whoopty gained viral status with over 376 million plays in just under a year. 22 said that coming off Suburban 2 he feels as if CJ stole his wave without paying homage — although in his own words “It ain’t that serious.”
22gz went on to preview The Blixky Tape 2, which dropped on March 19, 2021, declaring “I got a lot of versatility on this one.” That’s certainly echoed in the album where he deploys diverse beats and flows throughout. In the opening track, Twirlanta, a reference to a twirl dance which he popularized, the beat plays the song in for 40 seconds before the lyrics begin — a less frequent choice in current rap music as artists aim for shorter songs geared towards higher streaming revenue.
The piano is on a loop throughout the song — music with simple beats forces the artist to produce interesting lyrics. Twirlanta is also unusual in that the beat drops 1:45 into the song, creating a dramatic punchline. In the next track, Fallen Blixkys, 22gz once again takes his time in an age of increasingly short songs. With a 40 second introduction the song is lyrically strong. What it lacks in emotional depth for a song about his dead friends, it recovers in delivery and flow.
Joke’s Up presents a simple beat on a loop over which 22gz drops hard lyrics over, creating a sharp contrast with the following, more reflective track. Never Be the Same offers an interesting collaboration with Jackboy, an artist who along with 22 is signed to Kodak Black. Jackboy’s distinct Florida style combines well with the slower flow 22 deploys.
Collections is one of the most exciting songs on this album, offering a strange beat created with a high pitch and an 8-bit type sound, that shows a tremendous amount of experimentation. While navigating this tricky beat, 22 seamlessly changes his flow, without tapping in much. (Tapping in is the common rap practice of recording lines one by one, but by avoiding this the song has a smoother flow). The combination of the beat with fast lyrics is pleasant, as he reflects on his new success: “County jail I was calling collect. Now before my shows I just come and collect.”
The album continues with a club banger, Casa, changes up the flow a lot with Waterfall, and Movie, on which he does an interesting job trading lines with frequent collaborator CoachDaGhost. Closing out LLNB (short for “long live Nick Blicky”), 22 deploys a rhythmic melody in a track about his recently deceased friend and musical partner.
Overall The Blixky Tape 2 gets high marks in originality, lyrics, and flow. Notably on Blixky Gang Freestyle, 22 aggressively uses ad libs to positive effect throughout the album. While No Love City along with GTA features relatively obscure artists with minimal success, Jackboy is a welcome addition. While doing all this he makes sure to slip in a few shots at CJ: “Tried to run off with the drip but ain’t give me attention” on Twirlanta, and “Jackin my swag stealing my lingo” on Casa.
On this album 22gz shows his versatility as an artist and continues to cement his status as a trendsetter in the game of Brooklyn drill. The beats are not simple at all, but they are predictable. There are few beat switches and all that changes is the bass line. This predictability means that the album’s lyrics and flow need to provide surprise and ingenuity, and 22 delivers.