I've always had a hard time getting into The Doppelgangaz and not a damn thing has changed in 2017. As much as we all want to be unique, rapping raps and making beats is nothing special. The cloaks are cool and the aesthetic is fun, but The Doppelgangaz are typical hip hop story: a rapping duo with great beats...and one good rapper.
That would be Matter Ov Fact, who goes first here. He'll never re-invent the wheel, but he'll never deliver a half-ass take, either. He is smooth, clever, confident and a world apart from the tag-along filler that EP brings to the table.
"Gangaz really out here, movin' on excursions/ never not without beer, shorties ain't no virgins" -- those are EP's opening bars here. That horseshit is unforgivable. You're an adult male human being, write like one. I want to tell myself that this dude could be funnier or better if he tried harder, but in my heart, I know that is a lie.
Every turn of his soft little sixteen here is atrocious, the work of someone who is forcing his flow patterns to fit...and doesn't read very much. Hell, it doesn't even sound like he listens to other people talk very much. Stilted and stumbling. His whole verse is Google Translated from Russian: awkward as fuck, bud.
It makes sense that these guys are huge in Europe, where dope beats are at a premium and good English is not.
Now, the video. This is a very fucking nice video, pal, a serious piece of work. Clean drone work and smooth composition. It looks great and it made me laugh at several points: I expect little else, here in the Kali Yuga.
I also dig the fact they've got Big Josh posted up smoking. Just because. (If you don't know Big Josh, well, check out "Shawty Told Me.")
All in all, this is a Two Dicky affair. As much as I want to give respect to their accomplishments and just enjoy the vibe -- and the crushing wall of glorious sound that is this beat -- I can't. The mediocrity just kills my fucking high. No love.
Deniro Farrar takes flow patterns very seriously. His verses don't deviate a single syllable for this whole song. That's not unusual for Mr. Farrar. He's almost always sharp & crisp like that.
But, you know, North Carolina. That's a sweet spot for hip hop, always has been, where Dirty South crashes up against East Coast True School heads. This is the state that gave us Supastition and Petey Pablo. I mention them because Farrar, at times, sounded like a CRISPR splice hybrid of those two exact emcees. "Nervous" is not one of those times, though. This is a good rapper getting great before our eyes -- his last two EP's are cold killer material.
The point is getting distinctive, right? Carving your own lane? Evolving your own style? I'm preaching to a dwindling congregation, but my conviction has never wavered on this. I'm not rooting for Deniro Farrar because he's "talented" -- that shit is cheap and abundant -- but because he's becoming a unique talent. I would wish the same for any of you reading this: become the monster you alone were destined to be.
The actual video is a clever low-budget triumph. Just a couple simple sets and some carefully coordinated camera work. It doesn't look like a million bucks, but it sure as shit keeps you watching. The same charisma that sells this cat onstage translates to The Youtubes: "telegenic," they used to call it.
As for the extended outro, well, I reckon he earned it.
Third time in a row I'm awarding a Three Dicky verdict. This streak is strictly accidental, but I'm none too worried about featuring some good shit for the rest of September, either.
Fred The Godson might be operating with a handicap or three, but rapping is not one of them. Dude can spit. His grating, disinterested delivery may be an acquired taste, but his pen game is impeccable at this point. Like Conway or Pusha T, his nonchalance is camouflage, the confidence of a careful writer.
This is a breezy, stripped-down video that makes it clear he's got verses for years on deck. I know nothing about the Heatmakerz, but that's because I have no tolerance for this kind of paint-by-numbers, soul-chop fast food. The best that can be said for these beats is that they don't get in the way.
Fred is a busy man, though, following a classic NYC career path. There are better beats in his future.
It was 2011 when he was first injected into the American Dream courtesy of XXL's annual Freshman list. For perspective, the list that year included Lil' B and Kendrick Lamar. As we approach the event horizon of the Shitty Future Singularity, that amounts to a cool 20 years of cultural churn. The music industry is cruel, but surviving it must be satisfaction enough, right?
There's a hard limit on next level rhyme writing. The better you are, the more dipshits you're going to lose along the way. Guys like Big Sean and Fabolous tried to straddle both sides of that fence, and the results are too ugly to look at for long. You have to choose a fucking side.
I mention that because Fred made the right decision. There are a lot of career trajectories available after landing an XXL spot like that. Danny Brown ascended to a living god. Yelawolf devolved into a Kid Rock understudy. Takes all kinds.
Three Dickys. Fred carried this and everyone else involved had the good sense to get out of the way.
"Every single time I come you niggas know I gotta do it," Busta Rhymes admits immediately. There are worse fates than making self-caricature money, of course, and Busta has always done it admirably. His chopping itself is losing precision, but his flow is still some nimble, inventive shit.
More British than Jamaican, more brand than rapper, Mr. Rhymes transcends critique, at this point. He is Snoop Dogg echelon unfuckwithable. Onward.
The biggest takeaway from "East Coast Remix" is the fact Dave East spit one of the best verses of his career on this. In the past, we have been firm and fair about his professional-grade mediocrity. Based on what he did here, though, I'm going to check his new project out now. That's unusual.
A$AP Rocky, as ever, delivers the goods on sheer flow patterns and energy. To come after that and show him up is an achievement. That said, to do all that on a track you have to share with French Montana ... must be pretty depressing. Puffy 2.0 is a consistent letdown, but also a reliable clown who can be endearing through sheer excess. This is one of those moments.
Rick Ross. This fucking guy. Despite being a photocopy of a fabricated persona, he's still one of the realest rappers out -- a fat sweaty creep who jokes about date rape and celebrates consumer nihilism better than anyone except Cardi B & Kanye West. The Trump administration will definitely gift this tubby toucher with a lucrative second act. This is America, after all.
Naturally enough, they wrap this joint up with Snoop Dogg. Everything about it is baffling - the cheap phone camera take juxtaposed against the fact Snoop actually brought some bars to the table for this one. I can't explain it either.
Overall, this was a pure slice of our current dystopia: the highs and lows, baby. Three Dickys. Well done.
Early in his career, Rittz cemented himself as one of the best choppers alive. He's effortlessly fast. Most choppers want you to see them sweat, they make a whole performance of pushing the very limits of human endurance.
And that shit is corny as hell.
Rittz has too much faith in his bars to resort to gimmicks like that. Rittz is a Georgia gentleman: cool, calm and conversational. Steeped in rock and soul, capable of actually singing, he's been a reliable source for quality hooks since his mixtape days. That kind of clout leads to excesses like the 90 second extended intro here, but it also led to excesses like Stankonia or Maggot Brain -- great damn albums, in other words.
Now, it's quite probable that the next Rittz LP, Last Call, won't be that good. Rittz has been under some bad influences lately. He came up with genre-mongrelizing male model Yelawolf, whose career is a bloody trail of Dr. Moreau collaborations, stillborn hooks staple-gunned to the corpses of Scott Storch leftovers. Then he found a home at Strange Music, the epicenter of prog rock hip hop for Juggalo-curious MMA fans.
Despite all that, it's impressive how much Rittz has remained his own mammal.
This video treatment is pretty fucking hilarious. That is not intended as a compliment. This is shot so competently it highlights the total lack of imagination in every frame with the crisp clarity of an Ansel Adams print. The result is somewhere between an 80's After School Special and an Adult Swim meta-parody, the spectacle of a zombie powered by its own entrails.
One Dicky because this is Rittz. Can't find much else to redeem it, I'd just feel weird giving this nothing.
Skepta is both wealthy and successful, thanks to his commanding stage presence, his multiple income streams, and the fact he's one of the few listenable British rappers alive. So it's a pity his lyrics verge into such cheap rubbish. Read that last sentence with a British accent to get it right.
This one, too: "Every day I'm pissing and shitting on this hypocrisy"
It's been a rough year for hooks, in an ugly decade for hooks, in a genre that never cared much for hooks to begin with. Even by those standards, Skepta was born at the right time. The Anglosphere has been losing their shit for decades, of course, but the past two years have seen it finally implode into infancy, all piss and shit and dick jokes. Trump is but a symptom. These motherfuckers are gone, and Skepta may have just the soundtrack they need.
Or he may grow into something better eventually. "I declined some amazing dinners" is a nicely cut sentence, for instance. I'm educated enough to grok the fact he's talking shit about the Queen Mother in the second verse, something I support. Burn it all down. Anytime the UK wants to exterminate that entire family, I'll start taking them seriously.
Here in our Post-Eminem wasteland, most celebrity punchlines are cheap hyperbole. In this case I'm inclined to believe him. What the fuck does a son of Nigeria care about the House of Windsor? The British are weak, frail animals, but none are more fragile than their ruling class. As Churchill once famously remarked, "Inbreeding is a hell of a drug."
This video is a bright, colorful and clever piece of work. I'm confident that I'm far too American and white to appreciate the references here, but I'm going to say it's a tribute to Street Karaoke, the only Nigerian TV show I've ever seen. This is what serious music critics do: we make it about ourselves.
One Dicky for the folks who directed & edited this here video. You're the real heroes.
Post Malone is the ugliest girl I’ve ever seen. His physical appearance wouldn’t matter if he had talent, but all he does is ape the movements and inflection of a million other almost famous white rappers. Watching this video elicits heavy despair and sullen contemplation. Within a single viewing, I can feel how distant, far and unreachable the righteous path has gone; I can somehow also smell his breath through the moving images.
Austin Post “Malone” should be a mistake. Three-hundred and ninety-million views, and only one out of every 12 people watching, slam the dislike button. That is a deliberate conspiracy against the good, perpetuated by villains behind curtains I know not.
As the confetti flies over the sound of descending trap snares, I give thanks for the happy accident that he is he and I am me. I would bear the whips and scorns of time a millionfold as a peasant girl in the Middle Ages of Europe to not be this rap hippy soft Drexel Spivey Kid Rock in vocal blackface. His lyrics? An ode to winning the corporate music lottery. His flow? Expertly crafted to cater to the label overlords, so much so, that I have to assume this dude was probably a teacher’s pet, an A+ plus student in school; that is, if he did, indeed, write this piece of shit. He may have searched for originality at one point in his life but it is evident that he’s come up empty.
Wikipedia writes that his vocals have been described as laconic, but I feel that to be imperially merciful. They are distilled banality, pure purposelessness save 21 year old hedonism, on a level that could only come from a place where the sterile mathematics of profit over content control it’s subjugates; stringless, wooden-brained meat marionettes vibing with people who may have had talent at one point, hoping that they can cover up the shame and embarrassment of being walking dead. Thrust forward into life without entrails or pithe, hanging on Instagram or Twitter like life-sustaining IV drips, for a check that will dissipate faster than their momentary fame. YO POST! Congratulations.
How long do we let it slide? How long before it all falls down and there’s no time left? Do not let the The Thing Behind Your Eyes become a ghost. If you are reading this, you do, in fact, deserve better, for you are now with the gods. Brush your teeth, grab a molotov cocktail and start running. As always, the power to do and be better is microcosmically and macrocosmically dependent on you, and you alone.
Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire has always been a great name, but somehow it becomes even greater when you see it on Wikipedia. That's a big deal for any mammal. This cat is proof that you can get famous for fucking up -- a proud hip hop tradition that spans from RA the Rugged Man to Lupe Fiasco.
A damn good thing, in other words. Artists are fuckups, bud. Ask Johnny Cash.
eXquire's path was inevitable. Projects like Kismet are way too much for the likes of the Universal machine. He is the best possible mix of brilliantly smart and bluntly crude. He is also a born surrealist. Even his most stripped-down, classically rapping-ass rap video was full of Jodorowsky touches. (If you haven't seen "The Last Huzzah," fix that ASAP.)
"Manboy" kicks off with some Anticon shit over some old-school CGI footage of conception. Then the verse starts. A video treatment that looks corny at first starts getting compelling as fuck. Front to back, this is a great study in making low-budget ideas work. The key to separating yourself from the average mog is doing at least three times more work than the average mog.
Out of all the shit I've written about this year, this morsel right here gives me the most hope. My favorite shit about rap music, aside from the dope rap music, is watching artists evolve into the monsters they were meant to be.
A strange, dope video; a wall of bars over a minimalist beat; an honest lunatic at the top of his game. There's no way I could give this less than four Dickies in good conscience.
This is an incredibly fucking stupid concept that, somehow, really works. This is a Cali struggle rapper doing an Eminem impersonation over the instrumental track for "Duel of the Iron Mic." All of this is gimmick blasphemy on paper, but yet The Faze pulled it off.
Which is good and bad, of course. To his credit, everything I dislike about this song is everything I dislike about Eminem.
Predictable punchlines about celebrities, a worldview shaped entirely by cable TV, the cadence that emphasizes the rhyme patterns with the same subtle touch Hulk Hogan brought to acting. He definitely nailed it. Wisely, he cuts closer to early, indie Mathers than the past decade of Muppet Screamo Rap that has defined Eminem's second act.
And for what, though? This video has racked up fewer views than that Gark Mavigan creampuff.
The Faze never deviates much from the same four patterns he starts with, but shit, neither did Em. This is the kind of gimmick that should work -- should raise attention, should get casual listeners curious about what else he's released. There is chaos under heaven, comrades. Rap music, as a culture and a business, is broken on a structural level, even as the talent pool grows bigger than ever.
I'm fine with The Faze desecrating some classic RZA shit, whatever, everything crumbles. I'm less accepting of the naked cultural appropriation. Eminem is an abusive, sexually dysfunctional, opiate-addicted white man, and I don't think that a black guy from California can really understand that life. His caricature cheapens the history of my people.
I forgive him, though. I forgive him and I wish him the best. Two dickies for execution and props to Foreign Shooter on the video itself.
The fact there's so few dope women rapping is simply because there's so few women rapping, period. That's just statistics -- it's a value, not a value judgement. Back when blogging still generated ad income, hundreds of writers made grocery money writing about 10 Dope Female Rappers Who AREN'T Nicki Minaj. Those were good times.
Let's be honest, though. Past that list of ten names, what else is there? Especially considering all those lists were nearly identical. How many more names are there? Ten? Twenty?
The "Female Rapper" category exists because this PR angle always works, just like Child Prodigy Rappers, just like Great White Hopes, just like Mixed Race Kid Finds Himself, just like I Got Shot And Almost Died. It's not like Rah Digga or Jean Grae need a league of their own in order to compete; they're both dope rappers, period.
This brings us to ill Camille. She's doing well and she damn well should be. She's making smart moves, building a real fanbase. The beats are always on point, but there's no getting past it: I can't accept these verses. They're just not very good.
Rap is pure expression, there are no wrong answers, and I really like this person as a human being. It's positive, heartfelt stuff. None of that changes the fact both verses come off like a mediocre freestyle.
Maybe that's a smart business move. Maybe, in 2017, simply spitting actual bars is enough to be considered real hip hop. Maybe artists like Rapsody, Invincible, or Psalm One are indications that writing top notch verses isn't some ticket to a successful rap career. Maybe it's more of an impediment, more of a handicap.
That's probably all true, but I'm never going to bump this song again, either way.
One Dickie for being a dope mammal. I hope you get to headline tours, and I hope your management doesn't let you read this.
After a certain point, I have to actively detox from the bullshit I've been featuring here. Relaxing to some Conway and Meyhem is a full-service sauna experience.
Last time I was writing about Conway, it was my birthday, back before I caught the Griselda Records backstory in full. That was cool, but catching the whole mixtape catalog really set me straight. Like I said back when, the Buffalo brothers can spit. Like Metallica lead singer James Hetflield once observed, nothing else matters.
Our partisan deathwish for 1) Meyhem Lauren verses and 2) black-metal heavy Prog Rock breaks from East Coast producers ... that's no secret, now. You already know this is going to be a good review.
I've said a lot of unkind things about Marshall Mathers over the years, but his willingness to bet the farm on Conway and Westside Gunn is enough to redeem it all.
The fact these two artists are related by blood says uncomfortable things about genetics and destiny. The fact they've been getting such steady media coverage in the past 60 days indicates they're ready to work and comfortable going big. This machine is already in motion.
Watching human civilization unfold is a continuous lesson in unintended consequences. Watching the corporate apparatus of Interscope being used to spread the purist nihilism of Mobb Deep, well, that's almost beautiful. That almost makes all those singles with Skylar Grey and Dido seem like a good idea for the human species.
They weren't, though. They were not, and any success that the Griselda crew carve out from here was the result of their own talent and hard work. This is one of those anomalies, like Digital Underground helping Tupac happen, or how Busta Rhymes might be an even bigger name than Leaders of the New School. I mean, maybe.
This was dope and this has high replay value. A warning shot. Three Dickies.