Monthly Archives: August 2016

SOMETIMES THE TRUTH DON’T RHYME (PART 6)

Once again Tree resurrects this series after another long break!

This is not my favorite song on the new I.B.TREE tape, but it might have my favorite chorus all year.  Other rappers would sound like they were auditioning for the audiobook of The Hood Phrase Book if they tried to rap this chorus – “My bitches is perfect / My niggas is awesome / My mama’s amazing” but Tree can make you feel the depth and profundity of these sentiments in ways no one else could. Glad this refrain had no rhymes in it so I’d have an excuse to write about it here.

Tree – All Dat

This whole tape is such a breath of fresh air after having only the somewhat hit-and-miss #Treestyles to get us through 2015 (at DRIVE SLOW we just pretend Trap Genius didn’t happen).  I’ve heard haters griping that they’re disappointed by the project because Tree did not rap and produce the whole tape.  It’s unclear if this complaint is driven by some kind of rigid purism they imagine must be in place for good music, or if there are people out there that think Tree sounds bad over other people’s beats, but either way I totally disagree and think the pairing is quite complimentary and brings out some of the greatest Tree moments we’ve seen in years.  The mumbling, crossing-the-bar complexity of “Heard Nothing“, the mounting emotional intensity in the verses of “Kinfolk“, and the compelling storytelling of “Couple Nights” are right up there with the strongest points of Sunday School I & II or The MCTREEG EP.  I mean people do realize that half of Sunday School II was produced by other people, right?

Check out the whole project here, and take a moment to relish the unrhymed beauty of the opening track before falling in love with the rest.

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RIP SUPA VILLAIN

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Back in April I was puzzled by Rich Boy’s decision to release a video to an eight year old mixtape track, and hypothesized that perhaps he had come to the same realization I had about his career – that his ’08 – ’11 material with producer Supa Villain was his true golden era and everything that has followed has been middling at best in comparison.  He then did something even more surprising: he put out another video from this same era, and then another, and then another, and then another.  It wasn’t until this final video in the series came out that the motivation became clear.  In the intro to “All I Know“, arguably the best song out of the five getting this throwback video treatment, “RIP SupaVillain” flashes across the screen in simple white text as the beat kicks in for the intro.

This came as a total shock to me, I’d heard nothing about this at all – no tribute tracks, no Twitter shout-outs, no blog posts, no magazine coverage.  Looking a bit deeper I was even more surprised – he actually died two full years ago from an epilepsy condition he developed as an adult.  Maybe Rich Boy just needed some time to process the loss before releasing this low-key tribute, but whatever the reason this put my motivation on full speed to put together a compilation of all their best material during what I consider to be the intersection of their most unique, interesting work.

I mentioned in my last post that this duo could have made an Alabama Yen Lo album in 2010, which was my first plan when wanting to put together this compilation.  During this period, Supa Villain had an incredible knack for creating dramatic, gripping backgrounds with shockingly sparse instrumentation and texture (like Preservation’s beats on 2015’s Days with Yen Lo with KA), especially considering the popularity of Lex Luger maximalism and post-Mannie Fresh hyperactive 808 programming in much of the South at the time.  So my original goal was to find only those prime examples of this specific phenomenon, to make my best effort to Frankenstein together the album I wish they’d made themselves during this period.

When I learned of Supa Villain’s death, my focus changed.  It now seemed more necessary to give a comprehensive view of his work with Rich Boy, not just the select few extreme cases that would have gone on the first draft.  Supa Villain did, of course, work with other artists and had plenty of solo material, but I honestly never liked any of it as much as his work with Rich Boy, so I still kept it to their collaborations for the final mix.  Rich Boy is a thoroughly underrated rapper, and I believe if he’d grown up in Houston, Atlanta, New Orleans, or even Baton Rouge he could have been as much of a star as any hot rapper from those big scenes today, but coming up in places like Mobile, Alabama don’t give you much of a head start on success in the music industry.

The thing that worked best about these collaborations was Supa Villain’s understated but thoughtful backdrops with Rich Boy’s charismatic conviction generating most of the energy and forward motion.  Many rappers need a hyper-energetic beat to ride like a wave to make compelling music, but Rich Boy’s conviction demands your attention in ways few rappers can measure up to.  His words hit harder than the loudest bass drum or clatter of hi-hats on other artist’s tracks.  I would put him in my top 5 rappers who are best at conveying that level of conviction along with Pimp C, Tupac, Boosie, and Z-Ro, and Supa Villain during this period had an uncanny ability to draw this emotional power out of Rich Boy.

Here is the track list for the compilation.  I’ve put stars next to tracks that would have been on that first concept mix so you can make your own little mini version of that yourself if you like.  Download link is below that.  All tracks produced by Supa Villain.  RIP.

  1. Off the Court
  2. Stop Traffic
  3. Cover Girl *
  4. Got Purp (feat. Al Myte & Supa Villain)
  5. Ghetto Boy *
  6. Haters Wish
  7. She Wanna
  8. So Slow *
  9. All I Know *
  10. Convertible Status *
  11. Capuccino
  12. High Designer
  13. Game Proper
  14. The Ruler
  15. Hater Curse (feat. Supa Villain & Playboi Lo) *
  16. Play Day *
  17. Gold Kilo$ *
  18. Da Pacc *
  19. Gutta (feat. Shug) *
  20. Everyday Christmas *

Rich Boy & Supa Villain – RIP Supa Villain

 

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