The torrent of “best of 2017” content started last week, with album lists at Rolling Stone, Paste, and Consequence of Sound. Like Christmas lights and “Winter Wonderland,” these lists seem to arrive earlier every year—and I can’t say I look forward to scrolling through a “year in review” list as I digest Thanksgiving dinner. December is usually a quiet month for new music, but there’s some precedent for dropping great music then. In 1998, DMX put out his sophomore album, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, three days before Christmas (it was his second full-length of the year); it hit number one immediately and went platinum about a month later.
Now that so many established artists are calling their own shots instead of working with labels—and now that they can upload an album to streaming platforms whenever they want—some of them were bound to see December as a chance to compete with fewer releases for listeners’ attention. If that assumption is right, then Chicago rapper-producer Supa Bwe ought to vacuum up new fans when he drops Finally Dead on Wednesday—I’ve only had a chance to listen to the whole album once, and I already think it belongs on every “best Chicago rap” list for 2017.
As Supa Bwe has ramped up his promotional push for the project over the past few weeks, he’s put out a couple of the best tracks, including “Down Comes the Spaceman,” which features Pivot Gang rapper-producer Saba. I admire Supa in part because of how hard it sounds like he’s pushing himself—when he sings, it sounds as though he’s trying to put his arms around the whole audience, straining to spread them wider than the laws of physics will allow. On “Down Comes the Spaceman,” he challenges himself as a lyricist, ditching his usual impressionistic style in favor of autobiographical lines about growing up in Austin, moving to the western suburbs, and getting into scraps. He raps for the whole song, never using his dark, animated singing style, but he’s emotive as ever. Sometimes he seems to be gulping for breath at the end of each line, like he’s lugging a ten-ton hammer.