New Rap Music
Wiz Khalifa – “Big Screen“
from Rolling Papers (Atlantic, March 29th)
“Black & Yellow” blew up by placing regular rapping on top of a pop beat, but for “Big Screen” Wiz inverts that formula and drops some soft hands and heavily autotuned sing song shit over a hard ass rap beat. And I don’t mean to deride it when I call it soft hands. Soft hands is a comfortable look for Wiz. He delivers three different hooks in rotation, all of them stadium big. He’s obviously borrowing Max B’s wavy flow but his limper falsetto pushes into more functional pop territory. In a weird way the structure also reminds me of Wayne’s “Did It Before,” the way the choruses just bounces around on a brass anchor. It feels similarly incomplete as well. When I first heard this I hoped it was a rough cut, that they would rerecord the track with fuller vocals but it has grown on me in its under-finished state. Wiz’s greatest weakness as a rapper is probably that his natural voice is less than commanding. Rather than hiding this flaw behind the autotune they use the effect to exaggerate it. He sounds so fragile and endearing here, which also plays into the little n*gga does big things motif. Until recently it’s been hard to get a clear sense of identity from his recorded output but this really does feel like how a Wiz Khalfia should sound. I don’t know why they’re pushing the vastly less engaging “Roll Up” to radio. (By the way Wiz should really think about giving Domo Genesis his album title back. Or at least throwing him a feature or something.)
Gucci Mane f/ Birdman – “Mouth Fulla Gold“
The first Gucci song to drop after the alleged institutionalization and the infamous ice cream tattoo where he actually sounds close to inspired as he did in his prime. The raps are sloppy but that old Gucci ambition, that hunger is present. As we heard on the greatest Lil Wayne album, Birdman is best used as a hard counterpoint and it’s a shame Gucci didn’t tag him in ala Ross on “All About My Money” or Montana on “Party In The Trap.” But his standalone solo verse doesn’t get in the way. Prod. by Drumma Boy.
Rittz – “High Five“
from White Jesus (Mixtape, Coming Soon)
I’m still not convinced that Rittz needs to exist in a world where we already have a Yelawolf but his presence is welcomed as long as he’s getting production of this grade. Burn One puts the Memphis-style pitch bend on his 808 cowbells and it makes me want to start a club fight. It should be noted, however, that Rittz’ “High Five” is not the best song about high fives, mainly because Rittz’ doesn’t seem to be about the literal act of giving high fives.
Pharoahe Monch – “Clap”
from W.A.R. (Duck Down, March)
How is it that Pharoahe, undoubtedly one of the most forward thinking technical rappers of all time, has such a regressive ear for production? I mean M-Phaze’s beat here is fine but it’s just fine. Feeling more like an album track from a Statik Selektah compilation than a lead single from a legend, it does no justice to the raps that it sits under. I know people hated on Desire but at least it tried something. Well intentioned Grown & Sexy missteps are certainly preferable to this type of hollow nostalgia. At this point I’d rather this song just be Pharoahe spitting over the solo claps like he does on the closing bars. Duck Down is putting his album and the production lineup has names like Diamond D and Marco Polo, so expect more middlebrow boom bap. Somebody get dude Young L’s phone number.
Blueprint – “Keep Bouncing”
from Adventures In Counter Culture (Rhymesayers, April 5th)
In the last Wiz Khalfia post some readers complained about how weed rap has almost fully supplanted drunk rap. Long standing Ohio underground favorite Blueprint understands your plight. Of course this is more a Common Sense style lament of the bottle’s mixed consequences than an Alkaholik romp but at some point that’s what drinking does to you. Maybe today’s kids are wise to stick to greener pastures.
Young Ace – “In My Zone“
So two years later and the jerks are still Jerkin’, making for what might just be the longest running single minded dance craze in the history of hip hop. Kids are still doing their dance moves to tracks that still blatantly echo Hyphy (“In My Zone” echoes “Hyphy” specifically, what with Ace lifting TJ’s stupid, dumb, retarded line. Southern California known to borrow a party theme.) So it’s the same as it ever was except it now involves Chris Brown cameos and Myspace sponsored dance competitions that involve kids who look like this. “Cat Daddy” is a big record that we never talked about and really didn’t have to because we already talked about it before it existed. I don’t mean to be so cynical about an obviously thriving independent youth music scene but it’s frustrating that this one seems so motionless. The more promising rappers – Pink Dollaz, Illie, Cold Flamez – have petered out while annoying ones all stuck around. But maybe it’s difficult to prance to good rapping. I wouldn’t know. Anyway producer J Hawk, who laced both this and “Cat Daddy” is still the break out talent of the jerk pack. He’s even broken away from the scene some, expanding his resume to include both E-40 to Odd Future’s Hodgy Beats. The “In My Zone” melody is hauntingly awesome but I mostly just wanted to use this song as launch pad for my Jerk Music State Of The Union. (via Digital Dripped)
950 Plus f/ AG – “Bieber Berri“
It’s hard to call things slept on now that calling things slept on has become the exact opposite of slept on but AG’s Everything’s Berri LP was definitely the album that everyone slept on in 2010. Though not as finely tuned as it’s obvious inspiration, Roc Marciano’s Marcberg, the DITC member’s project showed a real emotional core that I think got overlooked in the pace of web music digestion. Anyway this random AG collab isn’t really seeing anything on that album as far as lyrics go but that goddamn beat. It’s like if “I Can’t Go To Sleep” was given the “Stroke Of Death” treatment. It
has nothing to do with samples that kid Justin Bieber. (via G)