Monthly Archives: May 2015

LET ME SPOIL YOU

A couple weeks ago I was taken aback when the homie at Rap Music Hysteria! brought up some concerns he had about the new directions in Boosie’s post-incarceration output.  I’m usually skeptical about comebacks of any kind, it’s too easy for even the most gifted artists to lose the magic when there is a break in their creative flow, but everything I’d heard from Boosie since he completed his sentence showed promise.  I remember watching the Show the World video when it first came out and before verse one I could tell he wasn’t the same man – dark, sunken eyes, prison yard muscles inflating a black sweatshirt that would have hung on old school Boosie like a muumuu, and a facial expression somehow even more resigned yet hopeless than before his penitentiary stint, even when he smiled.

As the music continued to flow, it was clear that Boosie’s transformation was not skin-deep, and I welcomed the new developments with excitement and respect.  He was doing what so few rappers are able to do – age with grace.  He hadn’t abandoned on his old style, but he didn’t resign himself to it to the point of awkward self-imitation.  Sure the music was less fun than his younger material, but I would have been more concerned if it was.  As people mature, I expect them to become interested in more mature subjects.  In place of the levity (to use my man’s term) of old Boosie was a captivating sense of fervency and fortitude that I found just as compelling as his previous (relative) lightheartedness.  As far as I could tell he was doing exactly what a 32 year old rapper should be doing: taking what he’d learned from his youth and distilling it into a new creative fuel that could sustain a whole second wind of quality material free from the self conscious style-morphing or played-out drudgery so often found with rappers in his age group.

So when I read homie’s post I wanted to stick up for Boosie, I thought everything was rosy!  Then I listened to the song he posted from his then forthcoming post-prison debut album and I was suddenly much less confident in my opinion.  I’m even less confident now that Touch Down 2 Cause Hell is on the shelves.  I’d hoped that “All I Know” wouldn’t be representative of the album as a whole, just a tinge of grandiose accessibility insinuated among 18 tracks rooted in the grounded intensity that Boosie has always excelled at.  But the homie’s concerns have proven valid.  There seems to be a clear shift toward appealing to a more mainstream demographic in this effort; the production flashy, reverby, and polished, the features seem to be chosen by either hot-right-now standards (Young Thug, Quan) or established-name standards (Jeezy, Rick Ross, TI, Chris Brown) and not by who would actually be a good compliment to his style (even the two Webbie features feel like they were done out of some sense of obligation than any real chemistry between the two), and, as Si Mane Price points out, there is a total lack of regional identity on this album, which has always been one of Boosie’s strong points.

Boosie Badazz – Spoil You (feat. T.I.)

I just finished Scarface’s new book and he talked about how making The Fix was such a liberating experience for him: he got a fat advance before sessions even started, he was working with a label he’d respected his whole life (Def Jam), he had “the best beats, the best studios, and the best engineers at my disposial”, he could spend “thirty or fifty grand on one track” if he wanted, he worked with all the hot producers of the time (The Neptunes, Kanye West), he almost got a damn Stevie Nicks feature on “In Between Us“.  Everything was luxuriously presented to him like a casino buffet and he got to record a whole album feeling fully supported and free.  But The Fix is not Scarface’s best album.  I’d take The Diary over it any day, and it’s interesting to hear him talk about his process in making that album:

There was never a moment where we sat down and said, This album is going to be this, this, and this, and it’s going to fuck motherfuckers’ heads up for real!  It was never like that with us.  We just knew I was cold, N.O. Joe and Mike Dean and my uncle Eddie were cold, and all of the musicians that we brought in to work with us were bad motherfuckers.  I’d get fucked up and record and see what came of it and then take that and see what we could do with it.

The process shows though heavily on both of these albums, for better and for worse.  The Fix was recorded in an upper echelon New York studio and it fucking sounds like it.  The Diary was recorded at his house with his friends and it fucking sounds like it.  I’m sure the process for The Fix was more enjoyable for him, but it did not result in better music.

Touch Down 2 Cause Hell is Boosie’s The Fix, and while I’m happy that both of these extremely talented artists reached a level of success where they can create in the lap of luxury, the music definitely suffers.  I don’t wish that Scarface had to always record on painkillers, Miller Lite, and pounds of weed because he’d recently broken his hand punching through a wall, and I don’t want Boosie’s process to be any more arduous, but isn’t there a way for these artists to have some room to breathe without them getting all self conscious and wanting to prove themselves as “great rappers” in some abstract sense?  The journalists certainly aren’t helping.  The Fix got 5 mics in The Source, and Touch Down 2 Cause Hell is receiving more favorable press from the mainstream rap media than any of his previous efforts.  I’d like to think that Boosie just needed to get that album out of his system or prove a point before returning to his previous self-assured disposition, but I’ve watched too many rappers start down this road and discover that it’s one-way.  As a human being, I’m happy Boosie has arrived at the comfort level he has earned, but as a rap fan I’m sad to see what I’ve always loved about him fade away.

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INTERIOR PINK, COLOR COORDINATED

“And now, the incredible artist, poet, lyrical genius, positive icon, last bastion of hope in an unjust, sorrow-filled world and future savior of mankind Kendrick Lamar is here to perform a song about pussy.”

Kendrick Lamar – These Walls (Live on the Ellen Show)

I wonder how many of those free studio audience copies make it out of the shrink wrap.

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SUCCESS IS BITTERSWEET, YOU KNOW?

I know it came out a month ago, but I don’t hear anybody else talking about it so I’ll go ahead and say it I think the new Bloody Jay is pretty good!

Bloody Jay – Want It Like This

At first, “Want It Like This” has some slight “The Story Behind It” flavor in the production but then the mandolins come in and Jay starts swerving all over the beat like he’s steering with his knees and you realize you haven’t heard a song that quite sounds like this before and it’s damn refreshing!  It’s not the only track worth your eartime tho, the tape opens with “We Bros“, a blithe tribute to friendship during hard times, “Pain” mourns the tribulations of hood life over ponderous piano loops and shimmering organ swells, Jay ecstatically transforms a pretty middling, low-fi beat into a genuinely fun, bounce-educing party track on “Flossin’“, even the weird Brodinski techno song has a strange charm that makes me not disappointed with it as a closer.

Sonically, The Dark Night doesn’t quite fit in with the Barter VI/56 Nights/Solace trend I hypothesized about earlier this month, it’s too eclectic and playful to fit into that mix, but conceptually it still exhibits many of the important components of that trend: its brevity, its indifference to mainstream/radio tastes, and its bold individuality that never gives way to self indulgence all make this tape very much worth listening to.  Jay does a great job of balancing his weirdness, emotions, and jokester tendencies on this project so you always find yourself grinning at his unusual creative choices, not rolling your eyes.

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WISHIN’ I WAS WITH MY CHILDREN WATCHING MARY POPPINS

This one’s for Amber and anybody else in Hawaii that’s fed up with warbly vocal harmonies and slide guitar: Kevin Gates with the most un-Hawaii song ever recorded in Hawaii.

Kevin Gates – Khaza

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HOPPED IN THE ASTON IN MY PO’ PIMP FASHION

The first time I heard “Po Pimp” it was on DJ Screw Chapter 15, and I’ve been steady studying P.I.M.P.ology since that day.  Still, I didn’t really expect to hear an original Do Or Die member reference it in 2015, but after Jodeci got back together I guess I should expect the unexpected.

Twista & Do Or Die – Aquafina (feat. Scotty)

Stream the whole Twista/Do Or Die EP here.

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LET THE BEAT BUILD #13 – RICH HOMIE QUAN

This track would be presiding over its own category of “Most Epic” in the Rich Gang: Unreleased Awards (if not supplanting “The Story Behind It” for best Quan solo) if it hadn’t leaked about 10 days prior to the collection that I was working with.  Luckily it’s got a wicked build so it can still have its place on this blog, which it more than deserves.

Rich Homie Quan – Listen

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THE “RICH GANG: UNRELEASED” AWARDS

My free moments this weekend were spent winning a very small amount of money on a $1 scratcher, eating some really overpriced chicken and waffles, and aurally digesting the insane fire hose blast of unreleased Rich Gang music that erupted from the depths of the rap Internet earlier this week.  First listens are unreliable, especially in my case, but I’m going to do my best to justly pass out a few important superlatives from the 100+ tracks in this collection to help y’all navigate the chaos.  I’m omitting from consideration the 30 or so tracks that were leaked or released before this last deluge so it’s only the newest new shit in here.

Best Duo Song: Love Her

Thug and Quan trade 4s like Ervin and Dolphy and triumphantly profess their love for each other in this joyful duo track.

Best Rich Homie Quan Solo: The Story Behind It

Quan rappin’ even better than he did on “Rappin’” with some serious bounce in the production.

Best Young Thug Solo: Guarantee (I Want It)

I’ve already changed my mind four times in this selection and I still might change my mind some more because there are so many great Thug solo tracks in this collection, but for now I’m putting my stamp on this one, it’s got some of the intensity of “Givenchy” but with unfortunately only about half as much rapping, but wins with the declaration “If you got AIDS, I want it!”

Best Feature: Runnin’ Out of Money

Thug really brought the best verse I’ve heard out of T.I. in a long time in this ode to determination .

Most Unique: Here

Late Gil Scott-Heron samples and expansive synthy dark emptiness coupled with Young Thug’s slippery style-switching make this sonically the most unusual track in the collection.

Best “Ruff” Track: Boy

The intensity on this track is really great, but this selection truly shines in its ability to unquestionably prove that it’s much more pleasant to listen to an unaccompanied beat than a Wiz Khalifa verse.

Funnest: Bitches

It’s hard not to at least chuckle when Thug starts his “bom bom bom bom bom nom nom nom” chant with the synth in the intro to this blatantly yet so playfully offensive track.

Most Excellent Birdman Rap: No No No

I can’t remember which one right now, but in a recent Stay Hatin’ episode there was a brief debate on whether or not Birdman is a good rapper.  It’s much less debatable that Birdman at least used to be a good rapper, but for the question at hand I offer this and the next selection as evidence.

Most Embarrassing Birdman Rap: Count Up

Yikes.

Most Heartfelt: Yesterday

Although Quan is a little under-represented in my selections (because his solo songs in this collection just aren’t as strong as Thug’s on the whole), he’s always had a little more warmth than Thug so it’s no surprise he comes out on top in this all-too-often neglected category of rap songs.

Sexiest: Lil’ Nigga (They Know It)

This was a strong contender for best duo but I really wanted to include “Love Her“, so it got relegated to this arguably more prestigious category.

Stay tuned for inevitable corrections and additions.

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ONE FOR THE ROAD

This new Devin the Dude has everything you’d expect from a rap video: a late-model Chevy Tahoe, a Google Instant Search demo, a hot girl eating cheerios, and no rapping at all.  So typical.

Devin the Dude – One for the Road

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DAY 70

Dr. Yen Lo – Day 70

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I WOULDN’T CHANGE OUR LOVE, I WOULDN’T CHANGE OUR PAIN

For all the mamas.

Lil’ Boosie – Mama

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