I’ve yet to discover a Lil’ Uzi Vert song that’s as good as “U.Z.I.“ and this is no exception, but it’s put me on a whole new search that’s been much more fruitful.
Lil’ Uzi Vert – All Night
While Uzi is busy rapping boringly and ripping off Young Thug’s “termite” double entendre, Cardo is steady making a taffy machine out of my skull behind the boards on this track. Like Rocko’s “I’m High“ earlier this year, “All Night” is one of those songs that I’ll blast shamelessly on the strength of the beat alone, despite its huge discrepancy with the rap quality. But while researching Rocko’s pick brings you to an obvious “oh, 808 Mafia” dead end, this little Vert track had me scratching my head. Car-who? Some cursory searches reveal that he provided the backgrounds for Meek Mill’s “Levels“ and a couple of minor hits for the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Sir Michael Rocks, and Mac Miller, but so far these more well-known examples are some of his weakest and from what I’ve heard of his recent material, he’s due to be a very sought-after producer for at least a certain subset of rappers and listeners.
Young Jeezy – The Realest (feat YG)
His texture palette is definitely the initial attraction for me, but I’ll try to avoid an annoying onomatopoetic description of the types of sounds he uses and focus on the two things that I can explain with words that make him special.
Whereas Lex Luger will forever be remembered as the champion of maximal rap production, Cardo is able to to achieve the same density of sound Luger did while having enough finesse and subtlety to to make it not just powerful, but immersive. Lex Luger hit you like a cinder block wall wrapped in steel; it crushed you, it flattened you against the pavement like some used-up flavorless Juicy Fruit under a trucker’s bootheel. Cardo can make almost the same beat but make you feel like you’ve been swept up in a deep ocean or deep space current and you can still make out certain fleeting details of your surroundings as you’re forcefully yet delicately towed along. There’s just as much power, but it’s in a fluid form that feels like it’s interacting with your mind, muscles, bones, and senses in intricate ways that the Lex Luger wall of sound could never hope to accomplish.
Young Jeezy – Birds Could Talk
The other factor that sets Cardo apart from the pack is his unyielding sense of urgency, which is achieved mostly through a masterful sensitivity to timing in the rhythmic structures of his beats. I remember this one Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire freestyle video where he says something about how he’ll always prefer a beat that “tells a story”, and while usually I think stories are kinda overrated I think I agree with him in this sense. I think what he is referring to is not that the beat slowly build and morph and resolve over the course of four minutes to tell one complete “story” in one play through, but that like a story, on a small scale each element seems to occur as a direct result of what happened previously. I think a good story (and a good beat) has to have some kind of sensical causality to it while still being unpredictable enough to keep you interested. Cardo succeeds at this time and time again, and it makes his music captivating in a way that many producers will never achieve.
The side benefit is that it makes the rappers on his beats sound amazing because under Cardo’s influence, even Jeezy’s basic flow is suddenly a crucial element in this very intricate texture that makes you hear his voice as a seamlessly integrated instrument in the soundscape as much as a way of delivering a verbal message. And if you have a more elastic flow like PartyNextDoor’s, it melts just as easily into the mix, stretching and contracting time like a Star Trek anomaly while Cardo’s synths rotate dizzyingly around your head.
King Louie – Clique’d Up (feat. PartyNextDoor)
Or take this more conventional beat he made for Snoop. I can’t remember the last time a Snoop song held my attention for this long, and I think it’s the production that makes that possible.
Snoop Dogg – Passenger Seat
For your browser’s sake I won’t embed any more videos in this post but if I still have your attention, take the time to hear his soulful yet spacey track for Vince Staples and Joey Fatts, this floaty bouce with Iamsu! and P-Lo, and some rugged determination from Pizzle.
My only concern for the wellbeing of his career is that while he has great range and his production is consistently urgent, immersive, and fresh, there’s not much in the way of “catchy” songs that would turn him into the hitmaker that he would need to be to get to that DJ Mustard or London on da Track level. Hopefully he can find a way to either gracefully integrate that element into his already well-defined sound or keep developing his current approach and be ok with not being on the radio all the time. Either way, I’m excited to hear what’s next.