New Rap Music
If you haven’t yet noticed, most of my day-to-day hulkshare coverage has been taking place over at Tumblin’ Erb. Still sometimes things get backlogged and that’s when the old New Rap Music column rears its head. Which is what is happening now, right before your eyes.
E-40 f/ Beeda Weeda & Work of the DB’z – “In The Morning”
from Revenue Retreivin’ (Sick Wid It, 3/29)
Trying to pick a single track to feature out of the 40 that 40 is about to drop next Tuesday is like trying to choose your favorite member of the Dungeon Family (it’s not necessarily Andre goddammit). Minus a few very minor missteps the second round of Revenues is two and a half solid hours of impeccable spittums and blink and you miss it imagery Ooooh sinister mob shit / choppers all in the closet / hydrogen lamps in the attic / warm broccoli spinach and cabbage / vacuum sealer on the counter / right next to the money counter / that’s right next to the scale / for weighing nuts and fruits not yayo / that’s my excuse if they take me to jail. I went with “In The Morning” for that open, in part, (Beeda and Work hold their own here too) but also that. Goddamn. Beat. There’s one song on Overtime Shift (which, on first listen, is feeling like the superior sibling) that opens with an approximation of the THX deep note test sound. Not the most original conceit – Dre did it (and was later sued) – but it seems like an apt metaphor for 40′s production selections right now. Every song has me feeling like the goddamn Maxell man. Wig blown completely back. This ties into what I was saying about Pharoahe Monch a few weeks ago – with age the most technically effortless rappers have the curse of becoming predictable in their unpredictability. The best way to combat this staleness is by continuing to expand the production palette. As out as 40′s beats get he’s still miles ahead, but new sonics bring out the best in him.
Freestyle Fellowship – “Welcome“
I had perhaps unfairly written off the impending Freestyle Fellowship reunion project too early. The LA quartet is comprised of some of the greatest breathing raw talents that rap has ever produced but they also have a chronic streak of underachievement. Much of their recent solo output has been a far cry from their heyday and this is their third reunion in about twelve years, where the two previous ones haven’t quite delivered and they aren’t getting any younger. The few crew tracks that have leaked thus far have been passable but frustratingly conservative and far from awe inspiring. But over the past few days Jupiter has been leaking very lo-fi rips of their recent recordings (96kbps is the new Maxell hiss – though weirdly the files I downloaded were actually ripped at like 400+ kbps?) via his Soundcloud page and it turns out these guys are still outstanding rappers when they want to be and, more importantly, masters of setting an atmosphere. “Welcome,” with its upright bass and endearingly rambling styles upon styles raps, recalls the mystical shamanic vibe of their very underrated late ’90s Shockadoom sessions. The crew fell apart before that album was ever completed. Hopefully they can keep it together this time around.
Mellowhype f/ Casey Veggies – “Less“
from Tumblr (Internet, 2011)
Once major concern about the sudden ascension of Odd Future is that it might prove to stifle their creativity. The theory is that an early buzz period has the tendency to leave young artists in a state of arrested development. They might feel like they’ve already “made it” when their sound and swag is still in its early developmental stages. But to worry of such things is to ignore the rapid improvement that Hodgy has been showing in recent months – as a studio rapper, as a performer, as a personality. The difference between his appearance at the first New York show and Hodgy a few weeks ago in Philly is immense. From wallflower to riot starter in a matter of months. (Though admittedly there’s still plenty of room for improvement in terms of actual on stage rapping from the entire crew, as anybody watching the recent SXSW clips with a critical eye has noticed. Hopefully that will come with time.) On here, as well as this random track they’ve been performing, he’s really toying with fast flows in was he hasn’t in the past. When I talked to Hodgy for the Billboard piece one of the few things he mentioned (when he wasn’t in a deep internet gaze or getting intimate with the fan made Odd Future bong that was bestowed upon him earlier in the night) was that he’s a big Yelawolf fan. This can only be seen as a positive influence. Casey offers a nice laid back counterpoint to Hodgy’s chops and I’m loving the Hawaiian shirt vibes of Left Brain’s beat (actually those flutes are feeling a little Freestyle Fellowshipish in their own right. Like many Odd Future songs this one has absolutely nothing to do with rape, homophobia or satanism.
Shady Blaze – “Dreamin’‘”
Green Ova’s Shady Blaze rapped his ass off on the recent Shady Bambino Project but it was buried in a purposeful fog. This is common of the Main Attrakionz camp – their fuzzy and underwater production sensibility is fascinating, but so strong that it sometimes draws away from the acts of rapping. So it’s nice to hear Blaze do a little something different here and in a context where his rhymes – a firm balance of poverty and pride – are placed in the forefront. (produced by Ryan Hemsworth)
Snoop Dogg f/ Pilot – “Gangbang Rookie“
A simple future-summertime knock from Jake One. This slaps so peacefully that it deserves a rapper with a pulse. For now Snoop will do. And, for what it’s worth, Pilot is certainly no Lil Malik.
The Jacka & Freeway ft. Fed-X – “So Many Animals“
Jacka and Freeway’s bicoastal collaboration album is shaping up to be one of the more interesting records of the year. Jack is gonna be Jack, he has his style and audience and is comfortable but his linking with Free might prove to be a good look for Philadelphia’s most recognizable bearded man. Free has always been a skillful rapper but seems to have gotten stuck in a rut of one dimensional hyper focus in recent years. Maybe the Jacka project is what he needs to pull him out of it. “Animals” features Jack’s Mob Figaz partner Fed-X and is some very distinctive production all parties involved, crunchy IDM drums and new age synth washes and it works well enough. As Lil B once said of some Nicki Minaj record, it makes me feel like I’m ice skating.
K Gates f/ Lil B – “Rare Greatness“
from Walking On Hellfire (Mixtape, Coming Soon)
And speaking of the Based God, after recording a couple thousand songs with virtually no guest appearances or cameos he continues his string of completely random collabs here. For “Rare Greateness” he links with very underrated New Orleans rapper K Gates and gets pretty badly outshined, particularly in the presence department. Gates just has a much better natural rap voice. Still B’s been very vocal about his New Orleans love as of late and it’s nice to see that being reciprocated. Produced by Curren$y collaborator Monsta Beatz, the track a nicely mellow horn driven affair although it does reflect a slightly disturbing trend of New Orleans talents getting sucked into the Curren$y/Blu Roc/Ski Beatz/Jets assembly line because that’s the only way blogs are going to pay attention to them. This is what Gates used to sound like. See also: Fiend’s recent transformation from fight music to smoker’s lounge sounds.
Pusha T f/ 50 Cent – “Rain“
from Fear Of God (Mixtape, 2011)
The defining factor of the Clipse/Re-Up hot streak – two near perfect albums and two classic mixtapes – was how insular their vision was. From out the gate they nailed this mournful future apocalyptic drug dealer aesthetic and stuck to it. On the rare occasions they had guests from outside the camp – Jermaine Dupri, The Lox, Slim Thugga – they pulled them into the world of the Clipse, not the other way around. When they rapped over other people’s beats they were relatively obscure ones, clearly hand picked to cater to their style (See: Nas‘ “You Know My Style,” Show & AG‘s “Next Level,” and even the big/only WGIFC 3 standout – Jim Jones’ “Emotionless“) Doing this – creating your own tiny universe – should be the highest aspiration for any artist. This is why Pusha’s recent turn as Kanye’s Louie bag boy has been so frustrating. It pulls him down to the level of just a rapper, not a member the esteemed Clipse. Suddenly he’s doing trap/yacht rap with Rick Ross or rhyming over “Speakers Going Hammer” Some might call this branching out but I call it caving in. Who knows though, maybe that’s what needs to happen in order for him to sell records. I doubt it.
There might even be a simpler explanation for his relative malaise – maybe he just needs The Neptunes. The Clipse (or half the Clipse) without the Neptunes is always going to feel like a Guru solo album (RIP GURU THO BUT YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE). On first listen this single Tunes banger is the only thing on Fear Of God has me feeling anything more than a nebulous “it’s aight” kanyeshrug response. And in todays over-saturated market “aight” is a more damning analysis than, say, “fuck this shit!” and certainly a low point for a guy who was once one of rap’s most moving artists. Anyway Fif sounds good as hell here too and it’s very exciting to hear him pulled into the aforementioned Clipseverse. One of the many perks of his fall from commercial grace is that it puts him on a level where he can do small records like this, non-hits with talented rappers for the fuck of it. And Pharrell does something close to an Ab Liva impression on the hook which is just weird.