31.8.17

Rittz - "Indestructable"



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.

29.8.17

Skepta - "Hypocrisy"





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.

20.8.17

DISPATCHES: Post Malone - Congratulations ft. Quavo



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.

12.8.17

Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire - "Manboy"



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.

28.7.17

The Faze - "The Black Slim Shady"



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.

27.7.17

ill Camille - "Black Gold"



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.

26.7.17

Conway The Machine - "Moroccan Waters"



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.

25.7.17

Gark Mavigan - "Bad Combination"



"That's a bad combination." Run that a few times in your head, right here, right now. That's the whole hook. Just picture some white kid saying that, dressed like a rapper, and we're good here.

The remainder of our decade is going to be a continuous wash of Gark Mavigans: earnest but unremarkable white kids with lifestyle brands and money to spend. They're not culture vultures because they're nowhere near the actual corpse of hip hop, which has been dead since December 19th, 2006. They're not sellouts because they were all born like this. Hell, they're not even "wiggers," because saying that constitutes a hate crime in most states.

Something is so pure about his Ramen Aesthetic Indie Hunger, however, that RYR is obligated to pass comment. Gark has tried to do viral video before, but even his bootlicker Starbucks theme hasn't broken five figures yet. That kind of face-first failure has to hurt, after awhile.

He may yet prevail. A well-made video can sell anything: Scientology, 9/11 Truth, The Law of Attraction, Kanye West, or a Children's Crusade to Uganda to murder Joseph Kony by hand. That last one didn't end well, sure, but my point remains. They raised awareness, buddy. They started a conversation.

Yung Gark should perhaps heed the example of Russ, the flawless & vapid Drake understudy I was praising a few weeks back. The first time I ever heard about Russ was from bloggers, who were discussing him only because he said that bloggers no longer matter. Fickle little bitches. That's a closed loop that doesn't involve anyone who bought a ticket on his last tour.

This is as it should be. Critics are broken, animal things, and must live apart from The Fans.

You need to do something more outrageous and memorable than sleepwalking through the same "Walk Around Rapping" template that every other bluntfaced wannabe in your city is going to use this year. Just like every other year. God bless the independent camera guys getting paid, though. Everyone needs to eat, buy new hard drives, and occasionally pay rent.

These Dickies won't help them with any of that. "Bad Combination" is basically Tokyo in the middle of March 1945: burned, flattened, annihilated. Nothing remains. Even the water is dead.

20.7.17

Tyga - "Move to L.A."



Bitch I'm the Shit is a decent name for a project, but Bitch I'm the Shit 2 is, somehow, a great name for a project. I was never clear on physics, but I believe "exponential" is the word.

I've heard of Tyga for years, but always assumed he was one of those chosen few celebrity gods, famous for being famous. Turns out he tries to rap and shit. His bars are rock solid, competent radio fare, a crossover hit template aimed at The Ladies™.

What sets this apart is how it's explicitly aimed at underage models. Rarely is fluff this frank. Tyga is out here getting his Cosby on.

Shooting a video while you're hovering around on a Matrix-ass pulley system over a half-dozen industrial fans is admirable. Having dancers on set killing it is also admirable. In the real world, if you're a young creative mammal, "Move to L.A." is very solid advice, not a weird sex trafficking solicitation on Craigslist.

"But yet, it's that, too."

Ty Dolla $ign, I have long appreciated as an artist & human being. Like 2 Chainz, Kool Keith, Riff Raff, Despot, Danny Brown, ICHIBAN HASHFACE ... there's a lot of people who slice that sharp, but there's not enough, either. God bless any rapper or sanger / vocalist who sounds like themselves.

The halftime helicopter break is a smart move. Pure Los Angeles Bullshit Overdrive, radio cameos and low-budget, non-union fashion shows getting faked in someone's loft. Throw in some CGI and you're golden. It's almost too easy.

Once again we've got a motivated and underpaid talent producing a hit for someone with no fucking business recording a hit. One Dicky, entirely for Ty Dolla $ign and whoever had to edit this sleek, smooth, steaming pile of product.

18.7.17

Grieves - "RX"



I was first introduced to Grieves as an opening act -- a Brother Ali show, if memory serves. I made it one and a half songs into his set, then realized I was free to leave.

By that point in my life, I'd seen a cool five hundred rap sets from kids who wanted to be Slug. Not a single one of them ever got signed by Rhymesayers. Grieves did. That's like Troy Ave getting a deal with G-Unit. Validation is seldom so direct.

"RX" is indistinguishable from the rest of his catalog: it's raw, emotional and hard not to laugh at. He is self-serious in a way that is impossible to take seriously. Girls like that, though. None of this is remotely a problem.

As a song about panic attacks, well, it is at least soothing. The glowing goldfish bowl motif is visually solid but not enough to sell a whole video, especially something this familiar. This dude can really look at a camera like he means it. In fact, that accounts for around 70% of the shots here.

Once we're floating through the bridge, chorus and hook, it keeps getting more obvious this is an earnest attempt at making "real music" from someone who listens to very little real music. Or worse, will simply never have the talent or ear to imitate his idols in style. I'm also pretty confident he will never need those things either way.

Kids like Grieves are the rap version of Rowdy Roddy Piper: a legendary professional wrestler was who never all that good at professional wrestling. He never had to be. He was an amazing actor. He could connect with the crowd anywhere.

So these hackneyed, single-syllable, middle school raps are all the young man needs to keep touring, just like all Piper ever had to do was throw his fake punches -- and sell every spot like he was going to die tomorrow.

Perhaps I shouldn't hate on all that, but I sure do. Not pro wrestling, of course -- that is an even greater American artform than Rap Music, and I would die tomorrow for Rap Music, believe you me.

But this? This shit isn't made for people who love, or even like, Rap Music. So why is it on Rhymesayers? They're a very supportive label, and they're also not dumb. At all. This kind of EDM pop warble is the future. This cat is young, weirdly photogenic, and hungry for success. Tours have to profitable and fans love to sing along.

And yet.

No matter how much I want to write some gracious, conciliatory conclusion for this, I can't get past it. There is nothing here to redeem anyone involved. I cannot, and will not, abide this kind of future for my species. This is not even worth setting on fire.

Just to emphasize: this was cheese pizza, facedown on the floor of a subway station. No Dickies for any of you.

17.7.17

Warm Brew - "Let's Get Paid"



I don't need to tell you this track is vapid as a lobotomized donkey. The title does that. Just like I don't need to say Warm Brew is as satisfying as leftover Miller Lite at seven in the morning -- it's right there in the name, right?

But is any of that bad?

Everything is ATL flavored these days, and sure, this is pop. But it's not like this is some schism from the West Coast Orthodox Church. California is a big fucking state, bud. There's a lot of flavors on tap there, and Dr. Dre is only one of them. "Let's Get Paid" is more Thizz than Trap, and the hook is pure backyard gospel. These cats cannot be impeached for jumping on trends. Their only fault is mediocrity.

Red Bull money is a lot like Murdoch Money, except that Rupert Murdoch is not an actual Nazi. The primary interests of the Austrian Red Bull Cult (ARBC) are expensive racing teams, snuff pornography and extreme sports, but they've also set up a record label in Los Angeles.

This makes sense, because Red Bull Sports turned out to be quite profitable, and thus they need to write off many millions of dollars. Fun Fact: most record labels got founded for this very purpose.

Who pays you doesn't really matter, though. Leave the "indie" purity spirals to punk rockers and their STDs. No rapper is allergic to money. More than that, "No More Section 8" is a beautiful thing to aspire to.

Sure, it looks good, but that's because talented creatives want to work with big brands. Build a colorful setpiece, then shoot a couple live takes in a tiny bar that's easy to pack: this is game and anyone on a budget should pay attention. Props to whoever Panamaera is, and good luck in your competition against Porsche for Google SERPs, too. That name was a smart call.

It's encouraging to see ARBC's Hollywood branch investing in rap music after years of incubating shitty indie rock acts. Hopefully this becomes a trend...either way, Warm Brew are going to have a great ride on their way to solo albums and rehab. I wish them the best.