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Negus Irap presents his hip-hop calling card with 'My Name Is Guss'


Corey Waterman, aka Negus Irap, pairs street-wise wit with an untiring flow on the album "My Name Is Guss." - PHOTO BY JOE MARCHETTI
  • Corey Waterman, aka Negus Irap, pairs street-wise wit with an untiring flow on the album "My Name Is Guss."
I first heard rapper Corey Waterman, aka Negus Irap, in the music video for “Cereal,” a kind of novelty hip-hop song by Redbeard Samurai about the perennial breakfast food staple. Of the three emcees featured, it was Waterman who stole the show with his irreverent, almost punkish delivery and ability to spit bars with a combination of smooth and sass.

The album cover for "My Name Is Guss" by Negus Irap. - IMAGE PROVIDED
  • The album cover for "My Name Is Guss" by Negus Irap.
Fast forward to 2021, and Negus Irap has reemerged with a commanding performance on his new album “My Name Is Guss,” mixed by Ian Fait at Wicked Squid Studios and released Sept. 3.

Negus packs nine songs into a mere 25 minutes, a testament to the value of leaving the listener wanting more. On the opening track, “Change of Heart,” a mellow keyboard hook and trip-hop beat set the tone.

“I used to feel like the truth was gonna kill me/ Now I feel like the truth is gonna heal me/ Middle finger to whoever don’t feel me/ All I got for you is the real me, and I don’t mean to be so harsh,” Negus sings before launching into what comes across like an unapologetic diss track to anyone who might doubt him.

Negus’s voice is not deep, booming, or overly intimidating, but his tone is loaded with swagger. The 25-year-old Waterman leans into Negus’s wily and street-wise persona, utilizing whip-smart wit and an untiring flow. “Nu York Giant” stands out as a prime example of Negus’s distinctive brand of clever taunting over complex rhythmic patterns.

Negus Irap’s commitment to his authentic self is a recurring theme on the album. What sets the rapper apart is his unique blend of piquancy and poignancy, and “Reset” may be the best example of this combination:

“Throw up the peace to your cancel culture/ Believe I’m the man who taught ya/ Some people can’t handle culture/ ...My heroes are canceled authors/ So keepin’ it real can haunt ya sometimes.”

Musically, Negus Irap keeps things fresh by teaming up with a different producer on each track, resulting in an engrossing sound world that rarely repeats itself.

Speaking of repetition, if “My Name Is Guss” loses a step at all, it’s when Negus makes what can only be described as a “meow” sound during songs’ interludes. It’s silly and innocuous, but it’s also gimmicky and distracting, particularly because this sly cat impression pops up frequently. Ultimately it’s not enough to dismantle the powerful momentum Negus has built up for himself here, but what was endearing and quirky the first time becomes obnoxious after the fifth time.

That blip notwithstanding, there’s a lot to love about “My Name Is Guss.” In particular, “Corner” is a sleeper pick for the best track on the album. Produced by Nat Beats, the song pulls no punches about the realities of city life and the ever-present threat of violence.

“I stay right around the corner from another corner,” Negus raps. “Ima new survivor, Ima rep my side/ If you don’t see me in the mornin’ Ima ‘nother goner/ Ima ‘nother n**** that got caught up on the block.”

Negus Irap is one of Rochester’s brightest young hip-hop artists, and “My Name Is Guss” is an excellent calling card. Negus makes music that manages to be both fun and intense — not an easy feat. If you hadn’t heard of Negus Irap, consider yourself properly introduced.

Daniel J. Kushner is CITY’s arts editor. He can be reached at