I’m not tuned in to these streets like I once was, guys. I used to have my fingers on the pulse of what was cool and what wasn’t in rap music. Granted, that was well over a decade ago , but still…I’ve been there!
While rappers named stuff like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert exist, I certainly don’t know what they do or what they sound like (I could guess and probably be right, though). For me, the last time I had a handle on mainstream rap, guys like Jay-Z and Pusha-T were very relevant. Now, in 2016, I can’t say with 100% confidence where either of these rappers stand with rap rans under the age of 35. I liked Pusha’s last album. It had some joints. I haven’t checked for Jay with any real curiosity since, I dunno…”Roc Boys” came out. So, to see them on a song together currently is more confusing than anything. Like, is it good? It could be. Will the kids like it? Who fucking knows? So, today’s column is a check in on all that.
I present to you the new Pusha-T/Jay-Z song. Unfortunately , it’s only streaming on Tidal so I can’t embed it here. But , you can peep it in this link.
Side note, releasing stuff on just Tidal and Apple music…I get why people do it but…goddamn…making music like an exclusive country club is just the worst. Especially if you’re a miser, like I apparently am. But,i digress…
What do you think of this song? Here’s a little poll. There is a wide variety of choices so feel free to vote for more than one option. It’s a free country guys.
Last week, I did a little write up for Brooklyn’s Elucid. I spoke of him being experimental but still maintaining a NYC aesthetic, in terms of having a gritty feel that very particular to NYC hip hop, without looking backwards. This week, I was introduced to Medhane and Slauson Malone. A rapper/producer duo from Brooklyn that are actually a fantastic companion piece to where Elucid left off. The word “Challenging” is not something a lot of rap fans have a stomach for. Most people would rather be spoon fed their entertainment. Medhane and Slauson Malone do not make music that is meant to be heard in passing or booming from car speakers. This is thinking rap. This is more in tune with people like Billy Woods/elucid, The Clipping, and Rat King. Similar to those aforementioned artists, Slauson Malone can rap very well. Madhanes beats are off kilter but not at all just noisy hell. He also takes some really great creative liberites with the directions his songs go. You’re never really sure what might happen next, which is a cool feeling to have when listening to a rap song. The video that accompanies their first song is definitely one that jumps off the screen (and perhaps, might give you a seizure) but, personally, it grabbed me right away.
Clearly, this isn’t rap music made for everyone but it is made for a specific type of fan. I feel that may be right in the wheelhouse for many readers of this blog so I’m curious what you think. Before casting judgement just off the video, I’d advise downloading the album and giving it a listen cause the video doesn’t portray the group entirely how they are.
Chicago has a rich history in hip hop. One of it’s facets is it being a place where you can never really guess what they’re gonna come up with. Being in the midwest, they take from all over the country. There has never been a definitive “chicago sound”, which isn’t a bad thing at all. It could be jazzy, east coast influenced conscious rap like common and Lupe Fiasco or more west coast leanings like Twista or even some Drill music stuff like Chief Keef or a guy like Kanye.
Over the last few years I’ve noticed a movement that I can only assume Phat Friend favorite Tree has been leading. It’s one of the more successful hybrid rap styles/sounds I’ve heard in a while. Tree dubbed it “soul trap” and it’s a mixture both those two things. Samples, triplets, that certain bounce, with raps that cover all sort of topics. Now, I’m sure there are still portions of you that are in that mind set of hearing any beat that sounds like it was made in 2016 and immediately tuning out. If it’s got any trap elements whatsoever. So, for you guys, this won’t be for you. But for those of you who have a more open mind and can see past how a songs high hats are sequenced, I’m curious what you think of this.
“Chris spencer” is a group consists of two up and coming chicago mc’s. Chris Crack and Vic Spencer. They’ve actually been around for a while and put out a fair amount of music but , for the sake of discussion, let’s call them “new”. This group is at least new!
So, yeah…I’m definitely fucking with this song. Curious what you guys think.
What do you think? (you can choose more than one answer)
When you think of North Carolina, hip hop doesn’t exactly jump into your mind. Sure, there have been some acts from there over the years (Petey Pablo was repping very hard for them when he was swinging shirts around like a helicopter, J-Cole, and few others I’m forgetting right now) but, in general, it’s not exactly a hub of rap music.
Well$ is someone I recently heard about. He’s a young rapper who is an interesting mix between old and new. He’s not oblivious to new musical leanings but also takes from an older sound that might actually appeal to all you grumpy old school only types. Whether or not this will translate to popularity or success for him remains to be seen but he’s certainly got a lot of potential.
Here’s a profile Complex did about him for some more background:
This is one of those “I kinda know what you guys are gonna say” situations but fuck it…I like what I like so I’mma keep imposing that on you. After all, you’re here reading this, right?
So, a while back, I wrote about Westside gunn. A rapper from Buffalo who started making a little noise. He talks about guns, violence and drugs and he does it well. He just dropped a very stellar new album the other day called “Flygod” that, if you’re a fan of Roc Marciano and east coast street shit in general, you should check out. It’s only streaming on Spotify at the moment so check it here. I think it’s really good.http://2dopeboyz.com/2016/03/11/westside-gunn-flygod-lp-stream/
Anyway, While Westside Gunn has been bubbling, he’s had his man Conway with him the whole time. While Gunn’s voice is high and energetic, Conway is more laid back but just as aggressive with the lyrics. He’s no new act at all but he’s finally starting to get some shine and I figured I’d throw him out there for you guys and see what your take is. Here are some videos
Like I said, this is definitively some east coast street shit. I know most of you guys require some flowerly language and weirdness to enjoy your rap music but this is the type of shit I grew up on, with a modern twist.
So, what do you think?
Kanye West is nothing if not a polarizing figure. The depths in which people hate or love that guy are astounding. I mean, I get it…he makes it easy. He’s talented and a total asshole. I suppose it’s easy to pick a side if you really feel some sort of way about it.
Every time a new Kanye song drops, the internet hiccups for a day. Tweets are fired off. Blog posts (like this one) are written. It’s an “event”.
When “Yeezus” dropped, people were freaking out. Kanye basically made a non-rap rap album with no drums that art nerds could pretend to enjoy while his older fans kinda scratched their heads and pissed on. He abandoned what he had made a career on. The man formally known for making sample heavy ,catchy rap songs was now leaning more towards avant garde noise rap and whatever else his circle had been playing him at the time. Personally, I liked about 3 songs on it. But i also don’t think it’s was the worst. He tried something different and , when a huge pop star that is the focus of pop music does that, I can respect it. If nothing else, pop artists having balls is a rare thing these days so , even if the results don’t work for me, it’s the attempt that counts.
Since then, Kanye married Kim Kardashian , had two kids, had a bunch of Kanye ass moments and kept it moving.
Now, full disclosure, I’ve always enjoyed Kanye the rapper. I don’t think he’s amazing and it’s comical that anyone who raps like he does would ever call himself a genius with such regularity BUT I think he’s clever and entertaining. I think , due to his ego and how he comes across in the media, people wanna hate him more than he deserves. Now, as a producer, I’ve always respected him as well. That said, dude hasn’t been making his own beats in years and is now taking a more Dr. Dre approach to music. He’s a producer in the Rick rubin sense. He’s not flipping through records and slamming away on the ASR 10 anymore. He’s curating. As much as that should bother me, it doesn’t. He’s a world famous dude who’s probably got like 4 managers cause he’s so fucking busy. I think about how, somedays, i have to force myself to sit down and work on music and , best believe, I’m not as busy as Kanye west. I’m not even as busy as North west. but I digress…
Recently he leaked two new songs. I could be wrong but they are both apparently produced by MadLib. Say what? Yup. Now, I don’t know if this song is gonna be on an album or if it’s just something he leaked to whet peoples appetite but what I do know is that Kanye isn’t stupid. He’s hyper aware of the effect he has on pop culture. He’s always on the front end of trends and, in a way, a guy with the power to start them. could this song be Kanye ushering back in the sample heavy style of hip hop he started with? Is so…
I mean, i don’t wanna get too excited cause it’s not like anyone followed “Yeezus” lead. It more just added to Kanye’s legacy as a risk taker. But , still, is this a turning point? Could it be?
If you’ve somehow missed it, check it out…
Now, stepping back from all the musical connotations and cultural weight that a Kanye release brings, what about the song itself? Listening to it in vacuum…
My buddy Ben Detrick tweeted this yesterday
and it’s pretty spot on.
This song is just two dudes rapping , with a vague hook over a loop. It doesn’t get more 90’s hip hop than that. That’s a thing i feel like people overlook when delving into 90’s hip hop revival music. Sure, guys like Joey badass capture an element of it. Or older rappers still trapped in that era try and reinvent it , while peppering the new music with more relevant rap trends. But this song? It is basically from 1993 but with rappers rapping about 2016 shit. I’m not mad at that. I also don’t think it’s amazing either but , hey, I’m old and of that era so this does speak to me on some level. So, what do you think? you can vote for more than one choice…
if you are even mildly aware of pop music this year, you’re probably familiar with Jidenna’s hit song “Classic man”. Taking the formula of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” but making it engaging and not terrible, this joint was everywhere. Hell, I even remixed it for fun. But here’s something I bet you didn’t know (I sure as hell didn’t): Jidenna raps. He’s not the first r&b guy to surprise us with that skill set. Chris brown did it. Even your man young BIEBZ has been heard spitting #barz. Let’s be honest, anyone can rap. It’s not rocket science. But what sets apart the good from the bad is something totally different.
So, I happened upon this Jidenna song/video the other day and was honestly kinda surprised…he can rap. Like…seriously. He’s not bad at all. I’m curious what you guys think. I don’t love the production but it does have a mood to it and it allows Jidenna to go in more than I ever would have thought possible. Check it:
A common complaint a lot of you guys have when I post these “yay or nay?” rappers is “But he’s not really saying anything!”. It’s funny cause ,being a rapper and having a message or songs that were truly a concept, was once something a lot more people strived for. Any rapper worth his salt would have a song or two where they tried to take a deeper stance than just rapping about rap, bragging or talking about the dirt they do. That was a different time though. Things change. The value of rapping ,itself , has lessened. Some people still wanna hear #barz but mostly people are more into a song as a whole than a concept. The hook. The beat. Can they turn up to it. Basically, what I’m saying is, ain’t nobody got time for that thoughtful shit. At least that’s how it would seem.
I realize this mindset doesn’t represent everyone though. There are still people out there who seek substance in rap music. I honestly can’t even tell where I stand on that anymore cause part of me requires a little substance but the other can step back and take a song at face value, judging it from there. I feel like both sids of this coin are necessary. We need high and low brow. We need a song where someone digs deep into an idea as much as we need a song where some drunk guy just says whatever the fuck he wants but it sounds good. They both serve a purpose and have value.
I say all that to introduce Joyner Lucas, from Worchester, Mass. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a rapper this focused on concepts. Every song is a different topic. Some told from his perspective, some from someone else’s entirely. I gotta say, if nothing else, his dedication to working on ideas is impressive. And, luckily, he’s clearly intelligent enough to put these concepts off. I think , in the past, an issue I’ve had with conceptual rap song is that the artist isn’t quite smart enough to tackle the idea with the depth it deserves. Luckily, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Joyner.
Check it out…
This dude Anderson Paak has had quite a couple of years. He’s all over the place. From working with underground dudes like Jon Wayne to pretty much stealing the spotlight on Dr Dre’s “Compton” album. It’s pretty cool to see someone able to play both those roles with success. He’s a singer who kinda raps but more so just sings in a rappish manner. It’s hard to put my finger on but it’s pretty addictive once you catch the mood.
He recently dropped an EP with producer Knxwledge on stones throw under the group name NxWorries. I’m fucking with it. Curious what you guys think…
This first video is just so damn likable, I can’t see this one getting bad feedback but you soulless bastards have surprised me in the past.
Sometimes a good video can really give you a different perspective on music. There have been countless times I’ve seen a video for a song I probably normally would gloss over and then ended up loving it cause, subconsciously , I connect the music to the visuals. This isn’t always a mirage though. Sometimes, it’s actually a deeper look into the aesthetics of a group. A good video will sometimes help you “get” a groups mission statement.
So, here we have a video by the group SWAG TOOF. It’s just so fucking weird and awesome. Add in the beat is dope and the raps are kinda crazy in a ridiculous way and , well, here we are.
Thing is, I looked through a few of their other videos and , while I see why people fuck with these dudes, it was a case of “eh, this isn’t for my old ass”. As much as i don’t wanna admit it, I still hold on to some old school rap biases. It’s hard for me to look at the members of this group (a white dude with dreads down to his ass and a guy who looks like Stitches but soft) and be okay with that. I realize this is short sighted and unfair. More than anything, it’s just me dating myself. The old rules of authenticity no longer apply to rap music. Funny thing is, you’re reading this and probably on either side of this argument. You agree and are stuck in a similar mindset or you’re young and shaking your head at the old man. But, what can I say? A man can only try so hard to keep his tastes relevant.
That said, this particular video and song? I think it’s awesome. I can’t say if it’s cause it doesn’t show the members of if the song just works but I’m not going to question that.
So, join me in dropping all preconceived notions for just a moment and tell me what you think of this particular song.