Thursday, April 30, 2015
We all about equilibrium of Feng Shui and other Oriental shit over here, namean? I'm very enlightened and multicultural. Ya boy got seven Oriental symbols tattooed on his calf muscle, and I own thirteen Muslim swords that I show to all the high-class professors and whatnot that be comin to my dinner parties to talk about Republicans and paintings.
After yesterday's Meaning Post, I knew I had to keep things in cosmic balance wit some levity and whatnot. Chuckles and chortles does the heart good, ya feel? As it always does, my mind immediately went from matters of the toilet to a certain excretion and its juvenile diminutives: poo poo and doo doo. The latter made me think of "Doo Doo Brown," and I was like, "Yo, this muzt be what Tha Godz call Serindipity! Miami and Baltimore at the same damn time!" 2 Hyped Brothers & A Dog consisted of legendary Baltimore DJ Frank Ski - Harlem-born, Miami-raised, now apparently some kind of straight-world radio personality in Atlanta - another guy whose name I don't know, and a mysterious and charismatic dog who was sorta like their Maharishi (RIP, Sparkles).
Now the cross-pollination of Baltimore club music and Miami Bass is material for a dry, academic book that would sell 9 copies, so we ain't finna try n cover that shit today (callin dibs right now tho). Suffice it to say that Luke recorded his own take on "Doo Doo Brown" with the legendary "I Wanna Rock." I'm the Rap Internet's biggest Miami stan on account of growin up here (my Dad's job was to glue all the rhinestones onto Blowfly's costume) and still livin that shit to my core like white suits and deviated septums, but for a long time I preferred the OG version to Luke's. It was an embarrassingly long time before I realized Doo Doo Brown's fecal connotation, and I thought it was kind of biterish that Luke ripped off such a badass '70s pimp name. Now I'm not sure. Luke's version is a sureshot party-starter, but Frank Ski rocks that hip-house shit to the fullest extent. Why we always gotta have a winner? They both classics! Turn ya headphones up, close ya door, and do some air D-throwin' and P-poppin' before Mabel from Accounting comes knockin' at your door talkinbout, "Yo we gettin bread bowls from Panera Bread, you down?"
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
- Henry Moore, 1938
30 years ago, there were no black cops!
Although he did it to himself, it's a great tragedy that KRS-ONE's contemporary image is a caricature: hectoring pedant, crackpot doomsday preacher. While his blowhard routine deserves all the derision it gets, I keep thinking back to one of his songs every time a black man is killed by police. With respect to the overseer/officer alt-etymology, "Sound Of Da Police" is more agitprop than nuanced critique. "Black Cop" might be myopic in its focus, but it addresses issues of representation, enfranchisement, and power structures better than any of the more cathartic "fuck cops" raps we rally behind. Stroll around Brooklyn and it's hard not to see the parallels between Operation Impact and military occupation, an issue writ larger in areas that are gentrifying in the most lopsided socioeconomic terms. Who exactly is being protected? Is everybody in the community being served? Answer: it took a demographic shift before Fort Greene even got decent garbage pick-up.
Cam fucked up when he went on O'Reilly. "Stop Snitchin'" could have been a great opportunity for dialogue if anyone had bothered to explore the underlying grievances behind the attitude. Instead, he took an opportunity to give mainstream America a credible definition and made a publicity stunt out of a cheap soundbite. He let the media run with sensationalism at the expense of real injustice. Like its spiritual predecessor Warna Brotha, it was irony as defense mechanism, a way of laughing so you don't cry for lives lost to heavy gavels. Ultimately, "stop snitchin" wasn't some comic-book gangster code of ethics or a petulant justification of criminal activity. It's a reaction to a history of brutality and corruption, excessively punitive sentencing and tactics that prioritize surveillance and containment over protection and real change. In a perfect world, "We Don't Talk To Police" would have got the same attention as Cam, but that shit ain't meme-able.
Here's where rap pundits decry the dearth of political rap, which is usually just coded nostalgia for Public Enemy's heyday. But the beauty of rap is that it encompasses so many things. It sustains itself on contradiction. Toni Morrison insists that all good art is political; while I think that's too clever for its own good, I'm inclined to agree. All good rap is political, but that doesn't mean all political rap is good. Drill music is some of the most political shit to come out in years, so don't underestimate the subversive. We don't need more Immortal Techniques in the world. We could use some more Ices T and Cube, artists who responded to the Reagan-Bush I regime as citizens rather than ideologues. History repeats itself. Let's hope our generation responds in kind.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Around 2009 I went through a weird period where the only thing I listened to besides rap was Steely Dan. Young and confused, still ridden with angst but not as angry as the peachfuzzed manchild of my teen years, I no longer found the sturm und drang of zit-poppers and teenage fascists an effective antidote to this sadistic gauntlet we call life. Instead, I found it in the limp soft-funk of two hideous paleface nerds crooning about dying behind the wheel and suicidal last-stand faceoffs with cops. And man, were they smooth! Not even Michael McDonald could resist their combination of easy-listening plastic jazz and sun-cracked noir yarns.
In this clip Donald Fagen recites the beginning of the Steely-sampling Peter Gunz & Lord Tariq's "Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)," and if they hadn't sued for 100% of publishing rights it might have been a fun lil moment. But as Peter Gunz notes, these switched-on hepcat freaks got a little too groovy with the litigation, resulting in this bizarre legal outcome: "So Donald Fagen wrote, 'I'm quick to slide off and slide this dick up in ya wife.' That's who gets credit for writing those types of lines." Walter Becker is equally insufferable and awkward as he bends over giggling, then quickly goes straight-faced like Fagen's robot lapdog, but he's also a former bandmate of noted asshole Chevy Chase, so maybe it's company culture to be rly "caustic" and "off-putting." Though I wish they weren't such living embodiments of rockism's worst impulses, it's worth enjoying as a surreal cyclical blip in history where your dad's favorite band raps lines to a B+ '90s rap hit that samples one of their songs. Anyway, here are some other reluctant contributions Steely Dan made to rap history.
"If You Want It" - The Lox & Ma$e ("Black Cow")
"Gas Drawls" - MF Doom ("Black Cow")
"Sassy Ways" - 213 ("Black Cow")
"Cutting Rhythms" - Tone Loc ("Black Cow")
"Eye Know" - De La Soul ("Peg")
"How It Gotta Be" - The UMC's ("Peg")
"Don't Trust 'Em" - Ice Cube ("Green Earring")
"Walk Into The Sun" - Organized Konfusion ("Green Earring")
"Hard As Hell" - Ant Banks ("Home At Last")
"Stripped And Pistol Whipped" - Big Shug & Guru ("Home At Last")
"Champion" - Kanye West ("Kid Charlemagne")
"Everybody Knows Me" - K-Solo ("The Royal Scam")
"Ride Up" - Ice City w/ Freeway & Joe Budden ("The Royal Scam")
"Dress Up" - Sleepy Brown ("Midnight Cruiser")
"Cemetery Made" - Mr. Serv-On & C-Murder ("The Fez")
"For Those Who Slept" - Bizzie Boyz ("The Fez")
"Live Or Die" - Naughty By Nature w/ Mystikal, Silkk The Shocker & Phiness ("Third World Man")
"On And On" (Alternate Mix) - Godfather Don & Jazz ("Josie")
"Antemeridian" - Count Bass D ("I.G.Y." - Donald Fagen)
"No Static At All" - 3rd Bass ("FM")
"We On 1" - DJ Rashad ("Aja")
And here's a lil R&B bon bon for all my '90s babies still crushin on Ashley Banks.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Rap ain't nann but a game of characters. Back when Tyler The Creator was rapping about raping ladies, a truly refined rap intellectual could brush off all the unsophisticated blowback with five simple words: "He's playing a character, mooooooommmm!" For the purposes of this list, however, we are not interested in peelin back the layers of rap personae - just the characters who appear in songs or skits. Y'all brainiac types can hash out that hair-splitting mise-en-abyme shit on ya own time. We strictly 'bout the rapps over here.
I consulted some other lists as I wrote my own, and while they was alright, I didn't feel like I was truly represented by staid choices like Shorty Doo-Wop and Bonita Applebum. So we decentering the canon with this list. Think of it as an alternative history of great rap characters - a people's history. Unfortunately, that means we had to cut the likes of Suzy Screw and Brenda so we could include the immortal Mizzle from Purple Haze. Duty calls. It was very close, but we always side with truth over politricks. So if you don't want me speaking for you, write ya own or tell me what I missed. As Lil' Zinn said on one of his early Gangsta Grillz mixtapes, "It was easy, it was cheap, go and do it!"
1. Captain Save a Hoe (E-40)
2. Mr. Hood (KMD)
3. Pretty Little Sally (Ghostface Killah, "Child's Play")
4. The Hunted Child (Ice-T)
5. The Redneck (Devin the Dude, "R&B")
6. Dany (Mobb Deep, "Drink Away The Pain")
7. The Baby (UGK, "Pregnant Pussy")
8. Grandma (Gucci Mane, "Wasted")
9. Whining Cop (NWA, "Fuck Tha Police")
10. Poppa Large (Ultramagnetic MCs)
11. Protagonist (Scarface, "I Seen A Man Die")
12. Larry, The White Guy (Sir Mix-A-Lot, "Posse On Broadway")
13. Shannon (Too Short, "Freaky Tales")
14. Triggerman (Showboys, "Drag Rap")
15. Hypochondriac Chick (Jay-Z, "Girls, Girls, Girls")
16. Dead Horse Bride (Ganksta N-I-P, "Horror Movie Rap")
17. Tina (Brand Nubian, "Feels So Good")
18. Shopkeeper (Ice Cube, "Black Korea")
19. Milk Marie (Rich Gang)
20. Tameka (Slick Rick, "Mistakes Of A Woman In Love With Other Men")
21. Sally (Diamond D & The Psychotic Neurotics, "Sally Got A One Track Mind")
22. "Mami" (Kool G Rap, "A Thug's Love Story")
23. The Neptunes' Cocker Spaniel (N.O.R.E., "Superthug")
24. The Guy Big Pun Tells To "Go That Way" ("It's So Hard")
25. Mizzle (Cam'ron, Purple Haze)
Honorable mentions: Ken Kaniff, The Sheriff's Daughter, "Sleazy E" and Jerry Heller caricatures, Peter The Pimp, Chinese Boy Who Goes "Wy ton thai ton thai thai thai," Jimmy, Jane Doe, Puerto Rican Kid On The Train, Buzzed Bus Driver, "Where Are My Panties?" Girl
Worst character: Roger. Golf clap for good intentions, but I'm the type of schmuck who roots for Goofus.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
(Ed. note: had to censor the nudity for our yunger readers, so I gave him some cool cargos [or bool bargos lol]. I'll let u decide if they're pants or shorts!)
Listicle time, bitch! These shitz is the waviest, no Dave Mariner! For those who ain't know, listicles are a way to present ur thoughtz if you don't really feel like ordering ya shit in poisonous paragraphical structures, ya feel? That shit went outta style when the Innanet sonned ya boy Gutenberg, that simple ass Bible printin herb. Fuck Johan Gutenberg, we still got beef. He knows what he did. Anyway, ya just write shit out like it's a list even tho u ain't ranking anything, it's just a lazy way of imposing some arbitrary order to ya shitz. Woop woop, hollaback! Yo fa real, these listiclez is like the hors d'oeuvres of the bloggin game, so sink ya gold-plated ivory toothpicks into my mental goat cheese crostinis and expozitory jalapeno poppers!
1. Like Based God's I'm Gay, the Carter 6 title trolling was funny until it went from soundbite to "Oh shit he actually doin this, SMDH." Retitling it The Barter 6 gets points for stupidity, but not enough to make up for the fact that he titled his album The Barter 6.
2. If Young Thug sets the standard for an inverse relationship between banality of name and banality of music, Young Dolph is the other extreme Such a bizarre name, such a boring, boring rapper.
3. "Constantly Hating" and "Dream" have the airiness I loved in "Shine," the early noughties Cash Money smash that never was. Makes me feel like I'm floating on a flyboard in the nude with a fistful of Xanax and a couple sea-nymphs champing at my bits.
4. Birdman looks and sounds like someone left a loaded Po' Boy in the back of his S-Class, and the oysters just got extra pungent. Say what you will about the most dubious man in rap, but he's the creepy manager-svengali the game needs. The star he had tattooed on his head was one of the great Cool Dad midlife crises to play out in the public eye, the Rap Game "getting frosted tips" or "experimenting with bootcut jeans." From a cell covered in Aaron Carter magazine clippings, Lou Pearlman nods his extraglandular turkey neck in approval.
5. Some of the beats on Barter and the last Rich Gang tape are so smooth and lush. I hope London on da Track is ushering in a '70s-style smooooth era of rap. Think Steely Dan, Frankie Beverley, and the Brothers Doobie and Isley. This the kinda shit that make you wanna dress in white linens and blow lines on a yacht wit hoes wit da Farrah Fawcett hair.
6. I fux with albums that are under 14 songs. Also like that there are no "name" guests besides T.I. and Boosie.
7. Young Thug could have had a career as a voice actor or whatever it is Michael Winslow does.
8. It will take a few years longer before Young Thug is widely acknowledged as a great rapper because 64.6% of what he says is indecipherable without conscious effort. I though this was a stupid criticism until someone whose opinion I respect told me, "I don't like him because I can't understand what he's saying." A major part of being a Young Thug fan is that his music needs defending. It's a rough pearl before the dummies who can't hear the brilliance, and within that is an implicit smug superiority. He is the posterboy of post-lyricism, a school of thought that get off on knowing better than the people who stake their reputation on knowing better.
And that's the rub. Although the slurred articulation is integral to his delivery and style, I'll bet you there's only a handful of people walkin this planet who can recite a Young Thug song verse for verse. He increasingly sounds like he just got some heavy oral surgery done. There's a fine line between acknowledging that lyrics aren't everything and acting like they don't matter at all. True, Young Thug might be one of the more inventive writers out. But how much does that matter if most people can't hear it?
9. 1017 Thug is still the best and most varied thing Young Thug has done. This is p good tho.
10. Barter 6 is at least as good as To Pimp A Butterfly, if only because there is nothing as bad as "For Free?" or the open-mic-night interview with 2Pac. "OD" mentions Mike Brown, so Young Thug is officially #conscious, OK? Rap remains the Buzzfeed of the ghetto!
11. Someone get this man an echoplex.
12. My mans makes Migos Flow look like child's play on "Just Might Be." There's a lot of rappin-ass rappin' on the whole album.
13. Can Young Thug sustain a career on "weirdness?" Most talk centers on Young Thug as misunderstood genius or rap Antichrist. But what happens when his schtick gets stale and familiar, as it inevitably will? Maybe he'll keep barreling into the unknown. Maybe he'll stagnate and everyone will move on, as with the Gucci Craze of '09. The forced zaniness of Wayne ca. 2010 is a chilling potential outcome, altho Thugga hasn't shown a tendency for making egregious aesthetic choices so far.
I ain't said this in a while, so here it goes: CHUUUUUCH!
Monday, April 20, 2015
Like Gucci before the cone tat and Cosby without the Quaaludes, it's hard to go back to a time when B.o.B wasn't synonymous with the crassest kind of pop-rap. Lest you seedlings get it twisted, there was a time when B.o.B. was gettin hype outside the Meredith Vieira demographic. Thanks to "Haterz Everywhere" and "Cloud 9," he was even bein painted as a drugonaut for a hot minute. "Haterz" was "just MADE to be listened to on pills" gushed a pre-Murdoch Vice, and B.o.B. himself supplied the loathsome moniker trance-hop. Thanks to my peoples in the Thug Mansion up in the sky (a/k/a Heavan) fuh not lettin that shit catch on. Wide-eyed, the interviewer reports that rappers in Atlanta are starting to take "E" and "Ecstasy." In these post-Molly dayz it's easy to clown the article's golly, gee! tone, but drug use beyond weed was actually somewhat notable in '07. After years of coke-rap's straitlaced strictly business ethos, I was ready for the BayTL cross-culture experiment to fly the freak flag.
Instead, B.o.B. went pop in the the most throwback sellout since will.i.am discovered harem pants. A year or two later Future did the whole zooted sonic voyager thing way better, while B.o.B. drifted further into his role as the kind of stock rapper Target might call if they needed someone to dance around in a socks ad.
Who is the real B.o.B.? He was initially presented as a genre-hopper, even tho Clef should've made rap weirdoes totin acoustic guitars forever suspect. It quickly became clear, however, that his eclecticism was of the "I like everything from Coldplay to John Mayer!" variety, his collaborations with Hayley Williams and Bruno Mars less a get-money scheme than a misguided understanding of experimentation. As a rapper he was never better than good, nowhere more evident than when Boosie merked him on his best song.
Seven or eight years after his first appearance on the market, it seems B.o.B.'s brief period of critical acclaim was less about his music than it was a reflection of the rap audience's own unfulfilled desires. He was never the artist we thought he was, never the eccentric or eclectic weirdo found later in Young Thug, Lil B, or even Tree. There was a demand for a certain kind of artist and B.o.B. seemed to fit the bill, so people filled in the blanks until his later choices refuted that characterization empirically by making the worst shit ever. B.o.B. auditioned for a prestige role he didn't want, then went off and made a boatload doing the musical equivalent of Transformers II.
B.o.B. was never all that interesting until he became a pop-star. How many artists who hit #1 later recorded a song about an AIDs conspiracy? If he can keep his most VH1 tendencies to himself, he could rebrand himself as a credible pop-rapper and maybe occasionally indulge in the grating OMG ALIENS! side he refuses to relinquish. I know I'd rather hear B.o.B. get his Infowars on than any Wale ever. Whether he cares about anything but mainstream success remains to be seen. Judging from the way he's kept up with the times, B.o.B. will stay in the picture whether we like it or not.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Ol' Dirty Bastard cashing his welfare check on MTV was one of the finest publicity stunts of the '90s, and this clip of M.O.P. & Friends strong-arming the bootleggers of Brownsville, from their Straight From The Projects DVD, might have achieved similar status if online piracy hadn't killed the bootleg market. Shed a tear for the days of Xeroxed cover inserts as Teflon stomps out a bogus copy of Warriorz, reprimanding an African purveyor who probably wouldn't know M.O.P. from A.B.C. and seems primarily interested in finishing his french fries.
Masta Killa assaulted Cheo Coker and stole his tape recorder; The Stranglers allegedly kidnapped journalists and tied them to the Eiffel tower. In the age of Twitter beef, even angry blog comments are becoming obsolete. Street level bootlegging might be going the way of the buffalo, but that shouldn't prevent artists from taking it back to the streets.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
1998 was the year my parents finally caved in and gifted me n the sis with the only learning device that mattered: Cable TV. We sat in front of that motherfucker all summer, soaking in the finer points of American culture wit the mad hunger of a lapsed Mormon makin up for lost time. Hours I would normally have wasted playing outside with my friends were now devoted to religious viewing of the Box Network. I saw things I can't unsee: Jon B, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Bing & Bowie's yuletide sexual tension. Most importantly, I was exposed to the artists of No Limit and Cash Money. For a simple rube whose idea of rap started with Biggie and ended with Naughty, the music was a culture shock I never got over.
1998 is where my understanding of rap begins. Aquemini, Capital Punishment, and 400 Degreez are certified classics, but it's the good, great, and spotty releases that tell the whole story. A year of transition, it was a gloriously confused time when the inconceivable was possible: Young Bleed debuted at #1 on Billboard's Rap/R&B chart, Cappadonna rowed a tiny oar on the cover of a gold album. The heyday of the Jiggy Era, it was also a banner year for the South. In addition to quality material from Dungeon Family, Cash Money, and the Three 6 camp, No Limit had one of the more ridiculous runs in rap history.
The South's mainstream inroads signaled the beginning of a cultural overhaul that would change the rap landscape for at least the next 10 years, advancing one of the only compelling arguments for the old industry model. A label putting its money behind an album was a vote of confidence; the risk of monetary loss enforces a modicum of quality control, questionable judgment notwithstanding. Even tho they was "controversial" at the time, a release on No Limit and Cash Money rang more bells than slapping a Coke Boyz logo on your mixtape's cover JPEG ever will. Considering today's saturated yet fragmented market, it's amazing how easy it was for a young bumbler like me to get connected with Fiend, 8Ball, and the RZA.
This is my '88. I can go back and listen to the ol' chestnuts and end up lovin em, but they belong to history more than they belong to me. Sometimes I wonder how many whippersnappin' rap writers really know their By All Means Necessary or whatever. Does it matter? Must you be versed in BDP and Schoolly D before you can extol the virtues of Chief Keef, or is that like expecting ya average rock scribe to go deep with the Everly Brothers? Has rap mutated so much that it doesn't matter if you don't know its past? Does this prove the R-tard argument that rap and hip-hop are different things?
IDK, I just be askin questions n shit. Rap's a deep-ass well, and I'm still twinklin' my toes doin the backstroke thru '98. Here are some good songs from that year. Skews toward the South and East Coast, 'cause that's where my heart resides. With the exception of DMX, the more ballyhooed artists were avoided to let the second-stringers and unsung get some. Like Pac at one time, X is becoming weirdly glossed over in the conversation despite being one of the biggest artists of the era. Fuck what ya heard, "Stop Being Greedy" is a great internal dialogue.
Playa Fly - Funk-N-Bock
Soulja Slim w/ Big Ed & Mr. Serv-On - Head Buster
Parental Advisory - Like We Do
M.O.P. - Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Noreaga - N.O.R.E.
DJ Quik w/ Suga Free, Mausberg, AMG - Down, Down, Down
Witchdoctor w/ Cool Breeze - Georgia Plains (Holy Grounds)
Big Tymers - Big Ballin'
Devin the Dude w/ Odd Squad & KB - Ligole Bips
Cam'ron w/ Noreaga - Glory
Trick Daddy - Back In The Days
Kool G Rap - Let The Games Begin
Scarface w/ Tela, Too Short, Devin the Dude - Fuck Faces
The Coup - Me And Jesus The Pimp in a '79 Granada Last Night
Mac w/ O'Dell - Slow Ya Roll
RZA w/ Method Man - NYC Everything
Z-Ro w/Al-D - Life Story
Gangsta Blac w/ Playa Fly - Da End
Cappadonna & Ghostface Killah - Oh-Donna
8Ball - Time
Young Bleed - Ghost Rider
Ras Kass - H2O Proof
DMX - Stop Being Geedy
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
A certain kind of rap fan stumps for Fabolous: reactionary traditionalists quick to tell you modern rappers are stupid, materialistic, and gay, then explain the difference between rap and hip-hop in excruciating detail like you got Gerber for brains. They got plenty stories bout the good ol days when rap was real and ladies loved grown men dressed in head-to-toe Lo. But when they name current rappers they like, it's invariably Fabolous and Joell Ortiz, and you get real scared cause you get a glimpse into the void where you're the bitter old creep blatherin about Young Thug while ogling nubile honies at the 10th anniversary show for Jaden Smith's This Is The Album.
An extraordinarily listless rapper, Loso obviously benefited from working with an enviable list of producers - Neptunes, Kanye, Timbaland, Just Blaze, Storch, Trackmasters - probably engineered through DJ Clue's back-alley politicking. I always thought he was a pop-rapper of the worst kind, an east coast Lil Zane jockin Jay instead of Pac. Then "Breathe" came out and I was like, "Oh, aight." Maybe it was the more muscular sound, but even his severe young Frank Sinatra looks stopped creeping me out.
With Jay-Z doin his lil Greta Garbo swoon away from the limelight, thirsty east coast loyalists started graspin at straws like Fabolous was some neglected talent. He might have ditched the weird teenage pimp meets J-14 cover model look, but he was still the same rapper: blandly competent with stilted wordplay scavenged from Jay-Z's smarmiest castoffs.
Fab can be entertaining in small doses, but you ain't a G.O.A.T. with a career built on pop hits and 3/5 albums. He's the Wynton Marsalis of rap, a minor talent whose reputation is inflated by the custodians of a form in its decline. Personally, I'd fire up the flux capacitor and shoot Sebastian Telfair in the left thigh if it meant liberating some of those beats for abler MCs. The Neptunes joints are especially unfortunate, since he already sounds like Pusha T's pencil-mustachioed evil twin. He did write rap letters, so I guess that's kinda cool and hip-hop.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Can't front: I didn't start taking Lil Wayne seriously as a rapper until The Carter. Mea culpa. He was in my Top 5 from then until The Carter 3, and for a good 2.5 year stretch he was arguably the best rapper in the world.
Some consider the Dedication period to be his best. It was a great era, before youthful hunger gave way to the excess and self-consciousness of success, but I find myself fuckin most with the wilderness years between the Hot Boys and mainstream respectability. Maybe it's cause it bridges what was great about his Hot Boys incarnation and the rapper he would become; maybe it's because Pop Star Wayne has made such frustrating artistic choices that it's refreshing to return to the days when he was focused on rap.
Either way, here he is catchin wreck on a Spanish Guitar beat on the overlooked 500 Degreez, courtesy of the Great Man Mannie Fresh. Wayne sips cachaça from a gourd he then passes to Breno Mello, a rapper and guitarist bearing their souls beneath a drafty veranda in some picturesque favela.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Where was you in '88? I mighta been nowhere, I mighta been everywhere, but we ain't finna dive into them fruity-pebbles metaphysical questions. We strictly about the rap over here. Bein that I was a mere presentiment in the cosmic brainwaves, I been playin catch up my whole life when it comes to '80s rap. With dizzying daily influxes of new music keepin our computers putin', it's inevitable that plenty gems gon' fall through the cracks.
Still, it's hard to believe that in these krazy daze of info-revolution I only discovered a record as good as "Small Time Hustler" after seeing a Ket piece from 1991. Granted, it was an electronic reproduction of a photograph disseminated on a browser-optimized secondary platform for a social media app, but that's Strictly 4 My R.E.P.L.I.C.A.N.T.S.
Although Unkut and Cocaine Blunts posted on Dismasters back in the day, only nerds and old heads seem to remember it. That's a shame. Not only a great artifact of the era, it's arguably a precursor to Migos Flow. The Lord Infamous Triplet Theory doesn't fully explain Quavo & the Boys' herky-jerky syncopation: they're a lil choppier, a lil less fluid than Trip 6 or Bone Thugs. I ain't sayin they was bumpin "Small Time Hustler" in the bando, but it could have had some indirect influence.
While it lacks the Damn son, where'd you find this? brilliance of something like "Top Billin," it's shockingly obscure considering its flip of the Lightnin' Rod sample (as opposed to Melle Mel's) was revisited on a fairly recent Nas joint. But its the lyrics that make this classic. Its first verse, a doomed odyssey ending with a sucker and his Cadillac "stuck way out in Brooklyn," has quickly become one of my favorites. This gallows "El Segundo" segues into some of the most creative putdowns outside of RZA comparing his BM's stretchmarks to the US highway system on the absurdly unpleasant "Domestic Violence," a/k/a the Rap Game "Frankie Teardrop." A real hater's cornucopia, its insults range from the rigorously explanatory ("You be on a mission / I know that you're wishin / You had some food, cause malnutrition / Has made you look like a skinny man!") to tight Borscht Belt one-liners ("Brag on your house but your crib is wack / You come in the front and you fall out the back"); there's even something for MTA nostalgists ("Go with your girl but she wants a vial / So you go suck a token out a turnstile").
Nothing on the And Then Some LP is as good as "Small Time Hustler," but it's strong overall. "You Must Be Crazy (Brutus)" has the 'Masters wavering between Run-D.M.C. shout-raps and KRS-ian dancehall pastiche, while "Black And Proud" is a solid piece of JBs-style Afrocentrism. Then there's "Act Like You Know," a "How To Rob" prototype that's relatively soft on all the aforementioned--except for the Jungle Brothers. Allegedly accompanied by Red Alert, they are said to "go on safaris and play with each other," and if you can't appreciate that kind of juvenile brilliance, you don't deserve it.
So what held em back? Even tho the "swill-swallowing smegma smacker" Wack Alert wouldn't play their record, they did have Chuck Chillout behind them. It couldn't have helped that their LP only came out in the UK, and two years after "Small Time Hustler" first dropped, by which time it seems like they ceased being an active group.
I think it was something else: their questionable choice of imagery. Rap homophobia is perennial thinkpiece fodder, and tho I fux wit homos*, I can see why late-'80s lunkheads might have found the "nude but for a loincloth" look a little suspect. The cover for the LP is even more flagrant. Shit looks like Robert Mapplethorpe exploiting his creepy tribal fetish after discovering Zulu Nation between bathroom shenanigans at Studio 54. As an insecure young tuff, I probably wouldn't have seen the humor in this pseudo-softcore exoticism. Played the wrong way, it can be career suicide if your album looks like it belongs next to a box of buttplugs in a windowless adult bookstore.
In closing, Bed-Stuy Do or Die, thuggin! Catch me sippin Mimosas at brunch tomorrow, drippin hollandaise all over my Yeezys.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Altho I been dabbled in the dark arts, these days I only mix blood and magick when it involves sex and sugar. I hung up my goblet long ago, but it turns out Ma was right about the pitfalls of the left-hand path: I don't have the strength to control these powers. Roughly two weeks after the Martorialist may or may not have killed a reality-show contestant and one-time Gene Simmons protege sharing his stage name with a diminutive Chicago rapper, I may or may not have killed James Best, the actor behind Rosco P. Coldchain's namesake.
It's like the rap blog version of the Goosebumps where Ryan Gosling finds a camera that predicts death or something, but with more MP3s and a less handsome protagonist (speaking for myself of course). I want to use my power for good. Unfortunately, the namesakes of J. Stalin, 8-Off, and most of the Outlawz are already dead. N.O.R.E. is the only candidate that comes to mind, but frankly I'm Team #freenoriega. The man deserves to enjoy some Bocas del Toro snorkeling one last time before he dies.
That said, I don't care if he lives or dies - 81 is enough. To determine the limits of my hex faculty, I direct you to the only interview that matters and the video where he keeps trying to make "off the yelzebub" happen (it should have) and clowns around in the deli aisle with sausage links and a whole turkey. For my money, "Oh No" is the better second-fiddle Neptunes/N.O.R.E. joint, and its video delivers the visual delights: a cheetah sprinting through the desert, N.O.R.E. in a Bentley parting a sea of gyrating females Red Sea style, a hi-def boxing match(?). And for those of you still waiting for Melvin Flynt, II: Simply Melvin, here's a commercial for the original narrated by Funk Flex. Leading into a Clearasil ad and the beginning of the "Wanna Be A Baller" video, it makes a strong case that thems was better times.
Monday, April 6, 2015
File under Great Rappers Who Got Shafted By The Industry: Star Trak Subdivision. Following star-turns on Lord Willin and Clones, Rosco seemed poised for solo success in 2003. There was a video for "Delinquent," a now quaintly dated Bulworth/Chappelle style "Prez in the 'hood" fantasy, while his debut Hazardous Life promised collaborations with Timbaland, Kanye West, Alchemist, and DJ Premier. Evident from the nonsensical clip up top, even the herberts at Spin were reviewing his shit in their execrable proto-Gawker style. But when Arista folded, Rosco's LP was left to gather dust. Blue-balled rap fans held hope against dwindling hope that Hazardous Life would somehow escape limbo, until Rosco (allegedly) caught two bodies in 2008 and put the definitive kibosh on all that. Ab-Liva says Rosco might be out in a year, which seems suspiciously lenient for a double homicide, but maybe he's just been hammerin out those license plates like a mufucker.
Although he obviously benefited from working with the Neptunes at their creative peak, Rosco was more than a Rap Game game manager. The cold heart's steeliness keeps with the hardboiled Philly style, yet his flamboyant vocabulary and delivery endow passages of violence and torture with the ironic dissonance of Looney Tunes gun violence. He was a writerly rapper at a time when that was falling out of vogue, banging out vivid motormouthed verses in torrents of words past the margin, finding unexpected pathos in all the gristle and grit. There aren't any obvious points of reference for his style - razor-sharp enunciation, the dramatic sense of a Big Rube monologue - but the way he weaves between the cold streets and unvarnished introspection recalls a rascally Scarface or Beans with the teetering rhythmic tightrope walking of Mystikal and Sadat X.
What started as mere curiosity ended as a wild goose chase to find as much of Rosco's output as I could, the Hazardous Life material in particular. There are plenty of absences. None of the Kanye or Timbaland material seems to have leaked. Although I found a version of the "Broad Daylight Boys" (ft. Havoc) on There Will Be Blood, I couldn't track down mp3s for his other documented work with the Alchemist: "Gangsta Banger" and "Break Me," the latter again featuring Havoc. Also missing are "Story Joint" and "W.A.R.," glaring omissions to any true Greatest Hits comp.
The first comp contains all the Neptunes material, except for "Sun Will Shine" w/ Jadakiss & Pusha T, the nigh mythical "Leave It Alone," and the two Lord Willin features I assume everyone already has. The other is a collection of stray shots, including two Primo joints and "Box of Bullets," supposedly produced by Hit Boy. There is nothing from the Almost Famous LP - y'all can contribute to Rosco's commissary fund for that one. As I cobbled together my Hazardous Life facsimile, I learned that someone already undertook the same project with the Shoulda Been Platinum Album. As I could only find dead links in a The Coli thread, I decided to brave the sketchy Russian bootlegger back alleys and glory holes so you don't have to. Exhaustive by no means, I hope these comps will at least open the ears of those who only know the Clipse joints. If anyone has the songs I'm missing or a lead on either Street Commission mixtape, holla at ya boy.
DISC 1 - COLDCHAIN & THE NEPS
1. Hot (w/ Pusha T & Boo-Bonic)
2. I Can't Help
3. I'm Talkin' To You
4. Cocoa Leaf (w/ Philly's Most Wanted & Fam-Lay)
6. Mask & Gloves
7. Itchin' To Get Ya
8. One More Time
9. Don't Take It Personal (w/ Clipse)
10. Only God Can Judge Me
12. Sick Of Goin' To War
13. Digital World (w/ Kelis)
14. At Your Door (OG 12" Mix of "Chinese New Year")
DISC 2 - ODDS N SCODS
1. My Screw's Loose
2. Box Of Bullets (prod. Hit Boy)
3. I Don't Know You
4. Im'ma Kill This Nigga (w/ Ab-Liva, prod. DJ Premier)
5. Whut Itz All About (prod. DJ Premier)
6. Hammertime (Beatnuts Freestyle)
7. Fresh 2 Game
8. Slow Walking
9. Welcome Home
10. City Wide (w/ Sandman)
11. Tic Toc
12. Evils (w/ Stockholders)
13. Broad Daylight Boys (w/ Havoc, prod. Alchemist)
14. Give It Up
15. Man Of The Hour
Thursday, April 2, 2015
Sometimes I get so angry I have to get nasty on my recumbent bicycle until the feeling passes. Try as I might to woosa the pain away, it's the feels-y steak and potatoes rap that really does it for me in the end.
Like Boosie, Trick Daddy is a thug in the Tupac-ian sense, which means he isn't afraid to temper the swagger and get embarrassingly real. Besides allowing me to get all reflective and deeplike, this song features what I, in all my ignorance, have decided to call "Spanish guitars," basically shorthand for any instance of soulful acoustic fingerpicking in the context of a rap song. "Living In A World" (ft. Society) also boasts the distinction of featuring what sounds like a bouzouki at the 41s mark. There's also a child chorus on the chorus, proving once again that Trick loves the kids.
Sometimes I love rap music so much it's as if writing about it cheapens the feeling. But if I didn't write about it, I wouldn't know exactly why I love it.
Miami Bass died long before I had enough D to throw. Uncle Al and "Dickey Ride" still inspire reverential ass spasms, but it's not really a vibrant genre outside of hipster quotation and dancefloor STD perpetuation. I don't know the exact turning point, but I'd wager it had something to do with the emergence of Slip-n-Slide Records, later MMG, on a national scale. Trick Daddy and Trina were the catalysts, Rick Ross was the nail in the coffin. Rap loves a winner, so that's whose DNA gets reproduced.
I'm ambivalent about Ross and the DJ Khaled Timeshare serving as Miami's rap avatars (I don't count Pitbull because he is a living marketing gimmick for the tourism board; Flo Rida is a mysterious life-form who exists solely in the pop cosmos). While I like some of their music, it's not the sound I associate with the city. There isn't really a definite name for it as far as I know, tho jook music is a term that gets thrown around. I always just called it Miami Shit. On the evolutionary ladder it's a couple steps from Miami Bass via cribbed elements from wu-tanging/stick n roll subculture, but its MCs (in the literal sense) often adopt a brash post-Trick sneer. Some artists obviously subscribe to Trick's Thug.com e-blast, while others are just interested in rocking the party and having fun. Another salient feature: big dramatic beats with horns aplenty.
Alls I know is this. Coming up as a lil jit in Miami, a lot of us fell victim to a Scarface mentality. It's kinda similar to why mafioso rap happened in NYC, but less nerdy and more superficial: i.e., no Rain Man-y obsession with names and organizational structure. You're growing up in this absurd place that's visibly built on drug money and you develop an undue sense of machismo and bravado cause you see yourself as an heir to the city's Cocaine Cowboys lineage, and directly or indirectly you probably are. This is the sound of that city in all its mirth and megalomania. Thugs, throw ya choppaz in the air. The rest of us may throw or pop the genitals we possess.
P.A. Teezy - Bennie Biggle Wiggle
K-Kutta ft. S.O. Certified - Pull Out Ya Stick
Desloc Piccalo - Stick And Roll
Hustle Holicz - I'm So Throwed Off
Choo Choo - Where I Live*
*Choo Choo lives in Pompano, so it's really a South Florida thing. Much love to my Broward and Palm Beach bredren.