At the forefront of the ongoing club rap explosion is Newark’s Bandmanrill, who alongside producer and longtime collaborator McVertt has worked hard to combine Jersey club’s pep and sped-up samples with the moody theatrics of drill. In 2022, he found a kindred spirit in Sha EK, a more aggressive Bronx drill rapper around the same age. Their chemistry is evident on their joint single “Who You Touch,” where both keep pace with producer EMRLD’s triple-time kickdrums and shimmering guitar, their grit and enthusiasm rubbing off against each other.
Teaming up with Defiant Records, the trio of Bandmanrill, Sha EK, and McVertt commemorate all that club rap and drill have to offer with the 27-track mixtape Defiant Presents: Jiggy In Jersey. For a project of such length, there’s surprisingly little filler. Bandmanrill and McVertt fire on all cylinders, delivering rhymes that are vicious, funny, and reflective when they need to be. The beats are fast-paced and eminently danceable: McVertt is a playful, adventurous tinkerer whose talents show through on tracks like opener “Face Down,” where his jungle gym of a beat gives the verses of A$AP Ferg and Sexyy Red superhuman pomp. Or “Respectfully,” where he’s bouncing plinking synths and bubble pops off of EK’s barks against haters.
It’s a singular, fun vibe that the rest of the album’s producers don’t always match; there are only so many combos of a kick drum pattern and ominous synth line that you can hear before you’ve got the gist. Producers Aston Kain and GKRS come closest to McVertt’s adventurousness on “Fanned Out,” cutting the drums out from under a trilling sample, only to gradually add them back in, ratcheting up the tension with every bar.
Several tracks are remixes of Bandman and EK’s earlier solo and group hits. One of the more successful repeats is of Bandman’s single “Mr. D.C.T.,” which gives Crystal Waters’ immortal house staple “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” that trademark Jersey club stomp; the new version is bookended by a killer guest verse from Brooklyn rapper Maiya The Don, who pops off with spicy wordplay. Meanwhile, Chicago drill rapper Lil Zay Osama tries to hold his own on “Never Want to Be Them, Pt. 2,” but his marble-mouthed raps are overwhelmed by the beat. Better is “Jiggy In Jersey Pt. 3,” a remix where McVertt abandons the minimal thumps of the first two versions for droning synths and drill 808s. It’s one of a handful of times that all three marquee acts appear on the same song and proves just how potent they are as a unit.
Both club and drill music have been watered down in the mainstream since the breakout of their biggest stars, and that’s double true of the East Coast fusion on display here. But imitators can’t touch Mcvertt’s springy, breakneck productions or EK and Bandman’s marathon sprints, which they make it seem as easy as a walk to the corner store for grabba. Hardcore fans shouldn’t be concerned: Jiggy In Jersey gets it directly from the source—no artificial rhythms or preservatives to be found.