In 2013, I described the emerging music of West Seattle–bred rapper/producer Mackned as "focused on glamorous/dangerous living, drug abuse, and zero-trust/100-percent-predation on the entire female half of the planet's population. There's only so much room for truly groundbreaking content within those strict parameters, but none of these releases are without their enjoyable moments. Chief among them are those emotive... beats and the serotonin-low bipolarity."
Ned came to local notoriety first as a new recruit to the Moor Gang massive. A prolific rapper and producer, he quickly established himself as a self-starter who wasn't made to wait in the wings. He quietly built a loose framework of his own, incorporating some of the other young influencers around the Gang (including Key Nyata and BB Sun/Bolo Nef of UDF). This very quick-moving and contemporary rap movement, accessible via frequent SoundCloud and YouTube uploads, became known as Thraxxhouse. ("Thraxx" being weed slang popularized by Lil B the Based God, whose influence on the 'House and millennial rap in general is so pervasive—check Ned and Key Nyata's "FYB" as evidence—that Ned recently said in an interview it didn't even need to be stated, it was a given.)
In addition to the internet-fueled culture of Based World, Ned's art is informed by obsessions with anime and Japanese culture (there are countless Dragon Ball references throughout his catalog and a song on his newest album dedicated to Asian superstore Uwajimaya), witch house (his second album was named Alice Glass after the former Crystal Castles singer), and, tellingly, Seattle's opioid-ravaged grunge era (see his mixtape Hurt Cobain, which has a sequel soon to follow).
With Thraxxhouse now clearly one of the most popular underground movements native to the Northwest (with members also residing in Los Angeles), the group's founder has returned with Female, his fifth (!) full-length album in two years.
Ned has fallen back somewhat as a producer, becoming more collaborative with other beatmakers—but his innate talent as a curator is impressive. The totally consistent, swirling aesthetic he cultivates between the dozen different producers on Female is somewhat akin to being drunk. No, not inebriated; it's like being a thick liquid that is sipped and swallowed. More like being drank—a word that is indeed very prevalent here, as always. If the drugs of an era help define that era's music, then lean (codeine cough syrup with promethazine) is this generation's chief muse and stumbling block. The pervasive influence of arch-addict Future is indelible here—tasteful Auto-Tune makes some of the best moments ring, buzz, and blur. The chirping, burbling beat of "100 Oz." (via Seattle's Tele Fresco) sounds like an underwater-cavern level on some obscure Sega Saturn game. Ned and Key Nyata bounce through Female's poppiest moment on expert, proclaiming "gold wrist, brick—gold wrist, brick, work."
Though he's clear that "syrup never had (him) lazy," Ned's cultivated an enviable restraint as a rapper—less being more, impressionism over exposition. The only bars he concerns himself with come two milligrams at a time. The style fits—for the modern internet rapper to care about anything (especially the act of rapping itself) would be heresy. "My whole generation is gone," Ned tellingly tweets, "and I don't feel nun." The title of "Rich & Lonely" feels like a mission statement—Ned is most comfortable high by himself, surrounded by luxury, popping the seal on another Actavis pint. Smoke trails off, phones ring, salmon dinners and Nike Foamposites get ordered. Intimacy is dead—Female is lean on lust, almost the dark-mirror image of 1990s indie-rock sexlessness. "I know you really really wanna fuck, bitch," drawls guest Larry June, "but I'm too tired... solitude."
What's more—trust is the only luxury Ned and company reject. "I don't trust nobody—I don't trust myself," Ned shrugs on "Hearin' Nothin (Band Up)." "Trapped in the hood," he says on the fragile, crystalline "White Mountains," "I don't trust my old bros." Dreamy chants about "twisting fingers out the sunroof" float through the gothy vapor and the bassy heartbeat of "Beach Drive," with Ned's main PIC SneakGuapo summing it up: "Soul's hurt, could give a fuck about it... I'm all alone, I got trust issues." You can consider it the millennial update of Mobb Deep's dead-inside nihilism—just switch the Hennessy for lean, the jazz samples for Enya, and the crew-first mentality for a collective self-interest.
Hurt people hurting people, ad infinitum.
Things that sound sweet on the surface, like the hazy, addictive "Elissa Steamer" (upon which guest Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, who sounds like he should be rapping on a Japanther record, compares himself to Kurt Vile), are nonetheless laced with venom. "In Arizona you can find me with the baddest bitch," Ned deadpans, "But they ain't shit/My game ancient/I wanna see your heart breakin'/Baby, do you wanna see a nigga make it/It's more money if the trick want her naked."
Steamer, the first female pro skater, would probably not find this much of a tribute, but even she might find herself singing along as Ned mumbles "teeeenage guillotine."
But for all its gloom, Mackned's music is also a lot of fun. If you enjoy patently amoral drug rap, Female makes a strong case for Thraxxhouse's emerging vision. A body under such varied influences can go only so long without the inevitable comedown, but Female's viscous charms are a high for the low-serotonin set. Everybody else: Party smart and keep your heart.