Valee Credit: Bryan Allen Lamb

Chicago rapper-producer Valee Taylor, who records and performs under his first name, talks a big game. If you believe the claims in his breakthrough single, “Shell,” he’s the kind of guy who walks through luxury-brand stores like a master gamer let loose in an arcade with a backpack weighed down by quarters—he’s effortless and in full acknowledgment of his own abundance. But as much as Valee raps about excess, his strength is his brevity. Few songs on his recent 1988 mixtape cross the three-minute mark—some clock in under two—but Valee packs in plenty of panache to make his work linger for longer. On “Racks” he blurts brief bars in bated breaths that feel a smidgen louder than a whisper. A wobbly sample of a piano is played on loop, accentuating a sense of instability, while Valee carries himself with an irresistible swagger that’s both a grounding force and a strange source of joy.   v