HavinMotion’s new mixtape is nitrous-boosted DMV rap

HavinMotion. Screenshot from the “I Just Want You” music video


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A reliable source of rap innovations and deep talents, the DMV has birthed a new and vivid take on drill in recent years called DMV crank. It’s the weird cousin of the Chicago sound: the darker moments are gothier and with a more clubby melodicism, as though Berghain has been transplanted to Chicago. When it’s light, DMV crank floats through your brain with the buoyancy of scented soap bubbles as 808s thunder and rattle, building on the moods harnessed by producers like Pi’erre Bourne. Some call DMV crank freecar music, a reference to committing robberies in stolen cars; even when it’s not explicitly about criminal acts, DMV crank has a rebel spirit distinct from the rest of the rap world.

This past February saw the release of MOTION, the debut mixtape from DMV crank experimenter HavinMotion. The young rapper’s alias might suggest a half-serious gimmick, a play for the depressingly lucrative meme rap sector. But for 10 tracks, HavinMotion brings us with hunger and style into his section, a place that’s covered in stains but unmistakably turned up. His flow is reminiscent of RxK Nephew and Rx Papi: slurred, near-hoarse, and vibrating with the energy of some recently completed misdeed. “I ain’t been to sleep in like three days, I just be in that trap,” he raps on “In That Car,” where fairytale chords soundtrack a tale about the pull of the criminal lifestyle. Beneath the sly humor, skillful character construction keeps us hooked: “N***** want me to rap but I’m tryna get rich.”

Moments like these reinforce HavinMotion as a hustler first, rapper second, a potent creative force in artists from Gucci Mane to Veeze. A shark will die if it stops moving, and HavinMotion’s breathless energy and dedication to the grind are similarly connected to his very heartbeat. Any trace of stasis is excised from MOTION; two songs on the project, the lovesick “I Just Want You Pt. 2” and plugg-plush and deeply menacing “Missing Body Pt. 2,” are sequels to fan favorites and worthy successors that keep their respective momentums alive. Across MOTION, he flexes an immaculate ear for a wide selection of beats: “One Man Band” is Michael Myers-level murder music while “Carjacking” has synths that glide dreamily across the track, like headlights speeding effortlessly across lanes on a highway.

One of the benefits of having other rappers feature on your tape is the shift in momentum that their verses can provide. MOTION doesn’t contain guest features, but HavinMotion doesn’t need help to keep his songs engaging. With a raw, instantly captivating presence, he lets his bars spill over each other, blurring words into a slurry of crime, drugs, and pure grind. Even if you don’t get the literal meaning, it’s a cocktail that will keep you hooked.