28.11.17

Joyner Lucas - "I'm Not Racist"



When you start off your video with a heavyset white man in a fake MAGA hat dropping a dozen n-bombs into the camera, it's pretty obvious we're dealing with a Serious Artistic Statement. This is a subgenre that tends to suck, but Mr. Lucas really delivered the goods here, spraying shots in all directions. He operates on so many simultaneous levels of caricature it approaches art.

The hype for Joyner Lucas is hard to avoid anywhere in New England, even the Outer Sticks I reside in. Despite that, I didn't know for a fact that he was black until about a minute into this video -- his grievances against other black men are just too articulated. Nobody wearing a real MAGA hat could muster such a cutting, knowing argument...not even Malik Obama, since he's actually a white guy running a (shitty) parody account on Twitter.

Now, most Trump supporters think Steve Jobs died of Gay AIDS, and Jewish physicists don't really resonate with that demographic. Joyner Lucas has a much higher opinion of white people than actual white people do, but this doesn't really dilute his big moment at all. He's grabbing so many third rails at once, the sheer juice powers past little details like that. Again, this is a Serious Artistic Statement.

As such, it bangs. This is a song that could have taken hundreds of wrong turns, but Lucas never lets go of the raw urgency and honesty of the opening barrage. More than that, his writing is tightly cut, a conversational jazz piece that camouflages the intricacy of his rhyme schemes.

As a career move, this reaches further and costs less than a Quavo hook or a Nicki Minaj feature. JUST SAY SOMETHING REAL. Everyone wants to be famous, but yet few self-professed artists are willing to put their dick on the line quite like this.

The secret sauce, of course, is nihilism. You see it in the refrains that run through both verses: the hypocrisy, the victimhood, the self-deception, the laziness -- humans in general are generally shit. America will never get over blackness or whiteness, it's true, but there's really no good reason that we should. I am all for poking these wounds in the meantime.

It's a shame he worships Eminem so much, though. Especially when he's delivering a better product than Marshall ever could have written.

Three Lil Dickys for the ambition & songwriting skills, and one more for the incredible lip-sync performance that tubby cracker puts on here. Without him, this video just wouldn't have the impact. Paul McCartney wrote a song about this with Stevie Wonder, I think.

27.9.17

The Doppelgangaz - "If It Wasn't For The Cloak"



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.

23.9.17

Deniro Farrar - "Nervous"



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.

22.9.17

Fred The Godson - "Intro / Let It Cook"



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.

UPDATE: Yes, I have since been informed that Heatmakerz produced over 85% of the Dipset classics I grew up on. I'm leaving that line as is.

21.9.17

A$AP Ferg - "East Coast Remix"



"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.

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.

16.7.17

DISPATCHES: Blac Youngsta - "Hip Hopper" ft. Lil' Yachty



This is almost undoubtedly some executive coffee boy’s idea of a “retirement home for rappers”, a first grade play layout with unfunny comedic relief; a Sony-Exec ideas man idea probably, of old black people in an underfunded government golden years project building. I bet they were laughing over lattes in the 42nd story at iHeartRadio over this shitheap concept.

My opinions on Lil-Yatchy don’t matter just like none of this all ultimately matters. The old guard is dead. This is what tens of millions of people now want. Let them eat shit. The cake is in the freezer, it’s fatty but damn good. No advertising can make you open that door though. You have to either stumble upon it by accident or pay way more attention to things than mostly anyone else does.

My opinion on this type of rap is like the opinion of those who chided me for liking the type of rap I liked when I was coming up; nothingness, meaninglessness, verbal vibration with an intended effect that will never, ever actualize. I could stand here and wail like the town crier until I collapsed and it wouldn’t ever change the mental, automated inertia of the average commuter consumer with a 9-5 and kids to feed, bills to pay and alcohol to drink. I could write for the New York Times and have Mark Zuckerberg posting this article, hyperlinked on the side of Elon Musk’s next interspatial projectile and still not marginally effect Lil Yachty’s numbers.

In spite of all that, I stand here as a single blade of grass left untouched by the lawn mower that all of you, reading this, fuel. There is nothing here, in this video, for any of you but a rotting, abandoned shopping mall, another corridor that you think reads solace but amounts to angst and you whipping out your phone to check Facebook.

I implore you to shut it off, run away, and think your own thoughts in a more conveyable format. As a human being, you’re privileged enough to be afforded the opportunity to engage in the miracle of language, whether by accident or design. For the sake of those who you love, If you have something to say, look me in the eye and say it as if you understand and accept that.

14.7.17

Another XXL Attempted Cipher



"Ay ... What? ... Yo ... Ay." I've had a few people earnestly tell me Playboy Carti was a rapper I should check out, and I will die before I take advice from them again, on anything.

As a big fan of both Lil' Debbie and 2 Chainz, I figured all this "mumble rap" hatred was just the same guys in hoodies and boots who were calling me a faggot at shows in '02. You know, those sad losers who carry the torch for "real hip hop" -- an ugly scene.

I didn't realize that most of these new kids had actual Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; I do now. This Carti twink has all the energy and charisma of a teenage gas station cashier, his voice cracking as he hands you small change & avoids eye contact. I have contempt.

You want it to improve from there, but God Hates Us All. We've got another Soundcloud autist who comes off like he's in the middle of a stage fright panic attack...for his entire fucking verse. Can't hate. I'd have confidence issues if I was three feet tall, too. He wraps it up by lapsing into one of his own hooks, then simply walks away. I get it, I do: these guys are here because they're every bit as broken and doomed as their fanbase.

This is a generation that can't look up to those who came before because they can't even understand them. These dudes write bars with emoticons. Much like the Trump Administration, there will be hell to pay for all this but hot damn, it's entertaining.

Ugly God comes to center stage after spending a lot of time jerking off his wireless mic in the background. That is not a good look for any primate.

How do these poor kids not have anyone to teach them better? How did English, as a language, die out so completely in the American Southeast? I don't know, either, but Ugly God is the best rapper so far. He's a special needs student like anyone else here, but at least he's got some energy and manages to crack himself up.

Up next is XXXTentacion -- who I actually first heard about from DJ Multiple Sex Partners. Seriously. He reminded me of Young Thug, in the sense that he was at least interesting. A lot of these Lil' Hypebeast goth bitches have some potential, should they ever grow up enough to give a fuck about making good albums.

Turns out, the kid is still interesting.

He deserves a lot of credit for 1) staying silent as he comes in, and 2) immediately copping a rap squat. Then he kicks a beat-free blast of pure nihilism, and I dig it. "Man, if the world ever has an apocalypse, I will kill all of you fuckers... / fear will be plentiful, death will be bountiful, I will spare none of you peasants." Finally, a young man with some goals.

Overall, this was a stunning, illuminating experience, no lie. Teach your kids how to read or we're all going to die on Instagram.

13.7.17

Russ - "Got This"



Russ is a talented motherfucker, any conversation about him should start there. Self-produced, prolific, consistent, and he's cynical enough to not only see the next wave coming, but do it as well as any artist he imitates.

Based on his last album, yeah, that would probably be Drake. That's pretty impressive considering Russ, unlike Aubrey, is too proud to buy bars from better writers. The work ethic behind a project like There's Really a Wolf is undeniable, sheer electric charge.

Russ deserves his success, he deserves to eat the heart from G-Eazy's shattered corpse. He is an apex specimen of arena rap, better than most of his influences. Yet he's only better at being them... you know?

It's intended as big baller showoff, but this video speaks to why suicide rates are so high & heroin is back. Like, directly. Russ is a talented motherfucker, yet how he applies that reveals the howling void eating the heart out of America.

Conspicuous consumption is a subsidized industry. Only rubes are really out here stunting like that at their own expense, and it's admirable to blow a video budget partying with your friends. It's just amazing you're all braindead enough to do that throwing money around in a private jet drinking champagne; that is 1994 shit.

You could have been blowing up vintage cars with vintage tanks in the desert surrounded by strippers with flamethrowers. Grow the fuck up.

This isn't even hate so much as heartbreak. The one thing that Russ always made clear, from early email list days to actual tours, is the fact he takes himself seriously as an artist. He means well and he has so much to give. But like all of us, he grew up in the ruins of a strip mall porno factory, practicing gestures he learned on television, aspiring to act rich.

He's not wrong for imprinting on this kind of suicidal bullshit. This really is the best America had to offer him.

Perfectly executed and still perfectly empty. There are car dealerships in Michigan who produce better advertisements than this. It's competent and slick enough, but the editing and direction here is pure Taco Bell.

As Billboard ran it: "I’m really questioning if I want to do any more interviews because people always f------ twist my words and they end up pushing the wrong narrative and people end up taking my s--- wrong," which is poetry. Cool story, bro. Burn in hell.

10.7.17

Kool Keith - "Cheesecake"



Kool Keith has been doing the laziest fucking hooks in human history for decades now. It still works, too.

When Lil' B dropped "Ellen Degeneres," a million broken haters crawled towards the sun, lamenting how lazy his hooks were. Half of them owned Dr. Octagon on vinyl. Keith fathered that whole style -- minimal effort, maximum results. Sure, "THEY DOGS DRINK MY PISS" surpasses anything Kodak Black could give you today, but my point remains.

Kool Keith was on social media before Bruce Sterling realized that was possible. If you take nothing else away from this, know that much.

Can you imagine being in the room when Columbia records was handed Black Elvis/Lost in Space? Those poor bastards were still trying to figure out if they could make more money off Slayer than The Afghan Whigs. This is back when Destiny's Child was starting to blow up, back when their Epitaph imprint was still making Offspring money. Just a bunch of terrified children.

I'm probably only trying to justify -- to romanticize -- what Kool Keith "meant" by his crap-tastic catalog. Strip away the, uh, concepts, and we're only left with another rapper full of ideas but too smart to do all that work. Kool Keith nailed the perfect persona early and coasted ever since. Year after year after year.

...and is that even an insult? This is a big part of why he's The Godfather to this day. Shit, one of my favorite Keith personas never even happened: Ricky the Fly Wine Taster, which got scooped by some bitch "producer" from The Netherlands with the same ethics as Com Truise.

My favorite Keith album remains Masters of Illusion. Motion Man brought out the best of him back when he still had the energy to give it.

So is it weird that the "Lao Tzu in hip-hop" conscious crew at Mello Music Group are putting out videos that are 70% strippers in 2017? Frankly, no. And that's a stupid question. The Kali Yuga devours us all, it's just not evenly distributed yet. Keith will keep perfecting this same recipe until he dies. That probably means he's got fifty to one hundred great tracks left in him. That has to happen somewhere.

Was this song good? Was this video good? Again, fuck no. But what truly matters is that Keith keeps racking up points under the same name he's been giving Critical Beatdowns with since 1988. No matter how much work you put into your bars, no matter how many songs you release between here and the grave: few of you will ever match up. Die slow.

7.7.17

Aesop Rock - "Get Out of the Car"



Aesop Rock is an unusual specimen for a lot of reasons, but here's my favorite: he continues to improve with age. That's rare. To be more specific, that is rare as fuck.

I didn't get the appeal for awhile and still harbor no love for his early works, but the dude changed abruptly with Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives. No mistake, a different rapper.

He always had a gift for turn of phrase, he always had that eye for the right detail, but what really came together was his flow. Bars that used to be uneven, cramped & stuttering suddenly turned lean. Perfect, even.

What followed has been a trilogy of magnificent word cinema. He makes very good albums. This is a writer who can do whatever he wants, and wants to do new things. Mostly. Sometimes he just makes bangers, too.

The treatment for "Get Out of the Car" could be sentimental cringe, if not for the quality of the art. What really sells it, of course, is that verse -- veering from wry to broken and back in the space of a single line. The balance of raw and calculated here cuts deep.

Aesop Rock is another example of an Ideal Rap Career Outcome. Being able to tour at will, to improve upon your best album twice in a row, all without having to endorse any products or maintain a Twitter account...that's juice. That takes a lot of work.

Definitely have some doubts about doing two Four Dicky reviews in a row, but it'd be a lie to rank this any lower.

5.7.17

BROCKHAMPTON - "HEAT"



Brockhampton -- sorry, BROCKHAMPTON -- is some exquisitely inexplicable shit. It's art rap weirdness, sure, but it's also some of the most cold, calculated product hip hop has seen in years.

Just witness the rollout for their latest project, Saturation. A constant artillery barrage of dope singles, all of them backed up with videos, and pixel-perfect consistency on the visuals & branding. Witness the two-month slow burn into an album release date that coincides with the debut of their TV show on VICE.

That's a hell of a lot more impressive than plastering New York with 4:44 posters, then buying a Platinum Plaque from those starving, greaseball hyenas at the RIAA.

Inexplicable, though. This is a recipe with a lot of chefs and it's going to launch ten thousand thinkpieces. They claim Texas but they're all in LA. BROCKHAMPTON is both flagrantly street and flagrantly gay: not in some sitcom stereotype sense, just matter of fact.

They seem like family in every video, thick as thieves, but when you close your eyes it sounds like an open mic. All of these verses come out of nowhere. Some of them aren't even verses. Perhaps the greatest thing about this rap crew is how little sense they make as a rap crew.

The connective tissue is late night cable culture and God Mode beats. The only real imperative is that is has to bang, right? The fact half of these cats can't rap for shit is incidental. They bring some emo little cracker on just to scream "FUCK!! YOU!!" at the camera. Nobody involved with this cares about "bars" too much. It is a nice gesture to have token whites, however.

Now, it's true that Vice money is Murdoch money, but it is also true that Murdoch money is good. I would much rather see it wasted on these guys than documentaries about Syria.

Great video, great beat, and while I didn't enjoy what I heard much, I will never forget it, either. Thus do I award this Four Dickies, a score seldom attained here at RYR. You're welcome, motherfuckers.

4.7.17

Jaden Smith - "Batman"



This young man has nothing to offer but his money -- let's start there. He's had years to demonstrate some spark of potential: nothing. The fact I still get emails about his projects indicates his money buys deep, the fact I still see his name is inescapable. Smith. The Fresh Prince bodied everyone and nobody noticed, and his lineage will outlast his competitors.

Scientology exposure seems like a reliable ticket to fame. I'm only basing that on Beck, Action Bronson and Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, but that's plenty. We've seen enough.

Factor in the fact that Will Smith took his blood oath in front of L. Ron's lacquered corpse without ever having to admit that in public? That's more power than Miscavige could ever afford. That is raw electricity.

Some rich actor's kid making a video about a multi-billion dollar Warner Bros. property is like your drunk neighbors burning off leftover fireworks at 2 am on the 5th of July -- nobody in charge really gives a fuck. Go ahead, call the cops. This little poodle gets another pass he didn't earn.

There is a long, strange essay to be written about Jaden Smith pretending to be the orphaned heir of a dead father who is still, currently, alive. That said, let's just enjoy this.

That said, it's hard to enjoy this. Your video doesn't even start until we're 90 seconds in. Your Rocky montage is awkward footage of you acting tough with trainers who could clearly murder you, no sweat involved. Being able to afford things is a whole different planet from earning them.

All in all, daug, nothing could convince me to give this vapid parasite a chance again. Who the fuck paid any of you to enable this kid? Get a real job.

Respect to Michael Keaton and Christopher Reeves for their respective cameos in the second half: you're an inspiration to us all. No Dickies, No Dickies for any of you.

2.7.17

Nyck @ Knight - "Off The Wall"



Pro Era is a Brooklyn crew with some talented folks. They're a close parallel to the Save Money posse I was slandering just yesterday. They're led by Joey Bada$$, who has two heavy, impressive LPs under his belt though some Sony vanity imprint. He's been on late night talk shows and done well for himself. Just like Chance from Chicago, lots of women you know have heard of him; more than you think.

They've also got rapper/producer Kirk Knight, who has been building a damn solid catalog on both fronts. He's on the beats here, with his signature blend of stadium pop arrangements and deep cut boom-bap. Pro Era has a deep bench. They're also super woke on the race question -- this was their actual logo until Lyor Cohen intervened:



Signs of the times, innit? What with all Kanye's Confederate merch, you'd swear we were slouching towards Post-Racial America. Or something.

No matter what city or cornball decade you're from, though, all crews get ravaged by that mighty sculptor, time. The Pareto Principle is a cold, merciless bitch. Applied to you and your homies, that means most of you won't make it -- most of you won't even amount to footnotes.

This is a cool video, in other words.

Jack Begert & crew deliver a sweetly calibrated 80's-ass VHS-gloss After Effects buffet. I talk abundant shit, but this is dope. Somewhere between Kung Fury and lo-fi Adult Swim promos, and always entertaining. Sure, having your lead performer hop off an actual wall on camera dozens of times might be an obvious treatment, yes. But there's enough ideas here to keep it moving.

Nyck Caution is an earnest NYC cat on the same Russell Jackson / Curtis Simmons trip as anyone else from Gotham. Or at least, anyone else like him: that's a diverse city, but there are roughly thirty thousand other Nyck Cautions there right now.

Kirk Knight is a whole other animal; he's doing the hook, the beats and then he steals the show on that third verse. This is someone with a long career ahead of them, a careful student of the game.

Overall, pure money product. Three Dickies, which is perhaps unfair -- this may deserve four. These mogs will survive either way.

1.7.17

Towkio - "Drift"





This is inevitably corny, but it's also inevitable. Dude is named Towkio. He had to make this song eventually. Better to do it when you've got a decent budget.

Towkio hails from Chicago, part of the same Save Money crew that launched Chance, Vic Mensa and perhaps most importantly, Thelonious Martin. Towkio has big ambitions, but there's a simple reason he didn't blow up like that: the talent just ain't there. His bars are the work of someone who has to write raps in order to do other, more important things, like making music videos and getting free clothes.

His delivery is a carefully studied affectation, full of fake hoarse high notes and blackface cottonmouth. Like any dumb young eager beaver, he only perceives the rule-breaking spectacle of his idols, not the fundamentals & tradecraft that got them there to begin with.

Despite that, his hunger is inspired. I can't lie, the dance breakdown interlude at Teotihuacan transcends everything, a beautifully absurd turn. Once he starts doing his rap karaoke routine again, the spell is broken, but it's nice while it lasts.

So what is "Drift" - why is "Drift" even here? Because this is a testament to the power of tradecraft. A bunch of talented professionals took a desperate nobody and his Quaker Oatmeal single and made it into something awesome. Because they could, and also because they got fucking paid.

It is important to consider that perhaps rapping doesn't matter anymore, even in terms of rap music. The concerns of elderly haters such as myself may prove to be dust in the wind.

I'll live with that when it happens, but I doubt it ever will. I'm guessing it's more important to consider this: after being around so much talent, after being given so many opportunities, maybe this is as "talented" as Towkio will ever get.

One Lil' Dicky for absolutely exceptional car stunts & drone footage from Todd Burr. The rest was garbagewater.

30.6.17

Sick Jacken - "Cutlass Supreme"



I joke about being an alcoholic, but it's a utilitarian choice: I drink to make my brain shut the fuck up. This doesn't come naturally.

A month into talking shit about all these pork-fisted amateur videos, I almost forgot that I fell in love with rap music for the same reason. The right combination of beats and rhymes will absolutely silence the radio in my head for as long as the track runs. This is one of those cuts - a perfect pocket and rock solid performance on the mic.

Sick Jacken has carried a lot of weight on his shoulders and never broke a sweat on camera. In 2017, he's the Ideal Rap Career Outcome - someone who has earned enough worldwide respect to tour, but can still shop for groceries without shit getting weird.

Psycho Realm entered my life right around the same time I swore to die rapping.

There's hearing a verse and then there's listening to a verse - it's almost telepathy when you're really listening. Long have I suspected this is the true, naked power of rap: asynchronous mind-to-mind communication. Unpack that. There is no audio book in the world as potent as the right three minute rap song at the right time.

Contemplate, if you will, the absurdity of mogs from Minneapolis, Minnesota being inspired by Wu-Tang, or a young man in Idaho bumping Project Blowed and growing up to become Doseone.

Contemplate how Cypress Hill tapes re-wired the brain of a young Ninja, 23 hours away by plane. He grew up to become the maniac behind Die Antwoord. ("The Answer." Zef.) Fast forward a dozen years and Die Antwoord is posted up in the studio with DJ Muggs cutting an album track. None of it makes sense even in retrospect.

Big Tiny directed this. No clue who that is, but he made cheap cameras look good as hell. The framing is raw but not clumsy, and every shot here works.

Overall, big ups to Big Duke and hell yeah to everything here.

29.6.17

Jay Worthy & The Alchemist - "Four Fifteens"



Very few people can get Meyhem Lauren on a track without being outshined. Like, objectively. To the point that even bystanders and mouthbreathers could tell the difference.

Jay Worthy is absolutely not one of those very few people. He gets washed here. That's not a bad thing when you've got The Alchemist on the beats, though. Sure, his verse is lazy, pimp-by-numbers fluff, but he's convincing with it. Jay Worthy comes off like more of a host than a rapper, but he's good at it either way.

This Ray Wright cat delivers the goods: catchy, purebred West Coast Rap Hook material. He doesn't give much of a fuck while he does it, either. I'm betting his career will still be going strong a decade from now, the vibe is timeless.

Still: "Enormous with endurance, throwing bullets at informants / y'all undercover cops, like bums with clean socks." Meyhem Lauren is an utterly impeccable motherfucker who classes up everything he touches, even Action Bronson's career.

Again: "Stefano Ricci'd down when we hold the beam at targets / the team is heartless up in Neiman Marcus." Queens will never stop winning. Meyhem embodies that grandiloquent, epicurean tradition of living the best possible life. Your audience never wants to see you as bored as they are.

Props to XB Cinema for a dead-on California Backyard Rap Video streaming product. You could dump any old turd into this template and it would look fantastic. That's a compliment. I respect tradecraft more than content, most days.

It is interesting how every big deal rap artist from Massachusetts to Florida is coming out with mini-movie videos about bank heists and corrupt cops raiding trap houses -- basic action movie shit -- at the same time so many West Coast rappers are trying to out-relax each other. Fashion changes fast, but fuck, aesthetics never do.

Back when "California Love" was setting the standard for what Saturday afternoons should look like for famous people, you had Life After Death and The Firm and Wu-Tang Forever and even Soundbombing. Sure, it's predictable, but it's kinda beautiful.

Also: Three 6 Mafia had the best album that year. Like, objectively.

28.6.17

Cardi B - "Bodak Yellow"



I have no idea what this is, but I am interested. "Bodak Yellow" is an expensive & bizarre video; the opening 20 seconds are pure fucking bewilderment and this is awesome. It's not quite Michael Bay level, but it's definitely McG level and that ain't cheap.

The beat is trash, and cheap trash at that. Shouts to J. White Did It, who is, by and large, a bargain bin knockoff of Mike Will Made It. This Instagram-ass approach to personal branding is ugly to look at, but undeniably effective. Besides, "cheap trash" is kind of my entire bloodline, as an American.

Cardi B is blessed with gravity. She can command the camera. I felt bad for assuming she was a stripper until she mentioned, twice, the she doesn't dance anymore because she's "making money moves." True indeed.

I don't mention this to belittle her. Tucking bills to pull off content this weird and ambitious...if you can't respect that, you're broken: human waste.

Like anything else in this Shit Show 2017 run, her energy is more impressive than her bars. Atlanta infected everyone, in the long run that will be a good -- even great -- thing. For now, it's awkward. Cardi B can be way more agile than the styles she's flexing here, yet this is her breakout hit, approaching a million views as I pound beers and pass judgement.

Meanwhile, rest assured, Cardi B is living on a whole different planet.

I have questions about cheetahs on leashes, but I won't stop looking at them, either.

Cultural Appropriation? Check -- I doubt she's got enough of a Suburb Pass to rock Anarchist symbols like that.

Comic Relief? Check -- having your posse dress like Saudi royalty is solid gold.

Dope beats? Nah. In fact, fuck nah. Still, like Meatloaf said...two out of five ain't bad. Hopefully next time she tries actually rapping.

26.6.17

Watson & Holmes - "Black-O-Teric"



Lord Almighty, I used to talk shit about Esoteric. I've changed my mind over the years. Mostly by virtue of the fact I gave up on life itself, but he's improved as a rapper, too.

Besides, everyone sucked back then. Indie rap was mostly a mistake. I'm not talking in terms of hip hop culture, it was a dysgenic wrong turn for our species. This is the wave that made Swollen Members and Dilated Peoples happen. Yak Ballz is making a comeback. We're still suffering for this shit.

Back when it was 7L & Esoteric, jealous losers like me couldn't understand the logic of buying a feature. "Speaking Real Words" had almost nothing going for it aside from a couple decent beats and that Inspectah Deck feature. In the haze of shitty blunt smoke and adolescent jihad, Esoteric was just a rich kid faking the funk. Making rap music for money? Blasphemous, or something.

Over a decade later, everyone everywhere is buying features every day, and Deck is doing Czarface pretty much full-time. This is a classic story. Young men are dumb as fuck.

Stu Bangas is an MPC purist and weightlifting enthusiast whose sound falls somewhere between Marco Polo and Kutmasta Kurt. If either of those references are a bad look to you, we're not the same species. It's more minimalist than musical, but I appreciate the hell out of reactionary aesthetics like that.

I like Blacastan a lot, he's a rock solid live performer, but I laughed out loud when he said he's "often been imitated." I don't even know what that would involve: there's nothing distinctive about him.

An exceptionally forgettable video, all in all.

24.6.17

Dave East - "Paper Chasin"



Dave East is cut from the same cloth as Saigon or Jay Electronica, but he's more prolific. It's a classic formula: young talent getting all the co-signs in the world, hella press coverage, high visibility guest spots, album coming soon. Jay Elec disappeared in style, but Saigon finally got that album out & now Dave East will, too.

It's called "Paranoia," which is appropriate, because yo, what the fuck is a debut album when you're ten mixtapes deep? East dropped Kairi Chanel last year, and that had fifteen tracks, verses from Cam'Ron and Beanie Sigel, and it charted on Billboard for a minute there. It was also released on an actual record label, with offices and money. Run by Nas.

So apparently a debut album, in 2017, is a PR gimmick for making your eleventh mixtape seem like a big event. I can respect that. This is tradecraft.

Music videos that play like action movies are always a good call, just like hiring A$AP Ferg. The production values here are pretty film school, but they do amazing work at film school these days. You can only see the seams if you've had to budget or edit that shit before. Their Denzel-alike is an amazing score, he classes the video up so much he almost steals the show.

All in all, this is solid product, a vapid shitrock, one more New York City brick in the wall. Dave East has a flawless flow but, like Saigon or Jon Connor, it's too familiar to be compelling. He's not more than the sum of his influences, and he doesn't have the charisma to make his orthodoxy entertaining. Think Action Bronson or Fashawn: it's nothing new but they have some fucking fun with it.

Both stars are for A$AP Ferg.

21.6.17

2 Chainz ft. Migos - "Blue Cheese"



After awhile, the bastards grind you down. Autotuned arpeggio warbling, keyboard preset synths, Trap Lite hi-hat templates: sure, fine, fuck it. This is just where we're at in 2017.

But listen, 2 Chainz is one of the funniest, most concise writers making rap music right now. Yeah, 90% of his catalog is music for strip clubs, but the same is true for Trent Reznor and critics still review his "concept albums" with a straight face. More than that, we're talking about someone who kicks off their verse with this:

My side chick got pregnant by her main dude and I'm offended

The older he gets, the more overtly weird he becomes. I expect him to be banging out masterpieces long after 50. Every time he starts rolling out singles for the next LP, rappers can tell he's been honing his game. You either get it already or you never will.

This video is something Miley Cyrus will rip off once she falls back in love with black dick. The glossy fashion notes in the middle of abandoned public housing is some choice shit, and the framing here is halfway between Superbowl ad and actual cinema. Which is to say, a damn fine rap video indeed. Shouts to ATM machines on the porch.

Those Migos boys are mostly natural charm and good PR. Ain't saying they don't deserve their buzz, I just know how that sausage gets made. That buzz is curiously contradictory, too. I've heard Migos is pop rap and rap art, misogynist and progressive, homophobic and international, futuristic and 90's ATL. That's a nice spread.

Quavo is the opposite of 2 Chainz - more clever than smart. His charisma is too practiced and he's got a date rape aura. He will keep delivering quality features until the drugs inevitably claim his soul.

As to how the fuck we're supposed to parse the difference between Offset and Takeoff, well...no easy answers. Both are consistently mediocre, Takeoff is consistently the least impressive. The key to enjoying Migos is letting this wash over you and knowing none of it matters.

PRETTY GIRLS LOVE TRAP MUSIC IN STORES NOW

Decent product overall. The score below is carried by 2 Chainz and the nameless corporate tool who directed this. Supporting local hip hop is cool and all, but I'd rather just listen to the experts.

16.6.17

Yo Gotti - "Dogg"



Yo Gotti is blessed with a perfect rap voice and a couple natural cadences that always work. He also had the rare wisdom to stop calling himself "Lil Yo." He also dropped two albums last year. One was a mixtape, but if I can buy your fucking mixtape as a physical fucking compact disc at Best Buy, Target, and various high-end gas stations, that's a fucking album. Fuck.

Anyways, I'm saying he's good.

The relentless demands of the content cycle scrambles everyone's catalog, here in the awesome liberated future The Internet gave us. If only rappers had been around in the cocaine glory days of the 1970's, when "recording artists" only had to release a dozen good songs a year. Few of them even managed to do that much, sure, but just enjoy the visual.

Imagine you didn't need to drop an EP to raise awareness about the mixtape you dropped to raise awareness about your album. Imagine you didn't need to produce at least five videos, every year, that cost you thousands and earn you pennies, just to raise awareness about...so anyway, Yo Gotti.

He's got this 2 Chainz, Tupac, Z-Ro, Curren$y style effortless mastery type shit going on. Wu-Wei, the Orientals called it -- I learned that at Harvard. He's not the best rapper, but he is his best self. That counts for more than most rappers could admit.

So it's entertaining no matter how corny or simple it gets, and it gets very shitty indeed.

The video is high-gloss but awkwardly, beautifully back-yard. Perhaps Yo Gotti's most impressive achievement here is making footage of dogs and Suicide Girl leftovers seem weird and idiosyncratic. This is a very based, rare space that A$AP Ferg occupies with more gravity but less grace, over on the East Coast.

And nobody in Yo Gotti's orbit gives any fucks about an East Coast. It's hard to believe even he believes most of the shit he talks, but that just adds to the surrealism. And the appeal. Rap ain't shit but positive thinking, prosperity gospel made flesh. Fake it until you make it or whatever.

Imagine you didn't have to, though. Imagine your best self.

15.6.17

Rejjie Snow - "UNBORN"



The first time I watched this, I was sufficiently baffled to gather up some Serious Drugs and give it a second shot.

Which is a compliment. Probably. Rappers with deep UK connections had damn well better be slapping Yanks upside our polyunsaturated faces, innit? At least I was confused. Next round is on me.

A lot of what follows is just compliments to the chef - whoever shot and edited this knows their shit. The video opens on strong cinema notes and stays in that same pocket, half Led Zep, half bootleg Kubrick.

The most important thing to understand about the new EU Rap Wave is only this: our opinions on their bullshit fads don't matter and never will. Sure, this Rejjie Snow cat will have a hard time catching on in Peoria, IL. But he will have more children than Bob Marley in 20 years, and tour long after Danny Brown is gone.

So what are we dealing with here? Ultimately, just an emo rapper who won't fucking rap. There's a lot of professional talent behind this - the aesthetics, the photography, the beats, this is nice damn work. But none of it can save him.

What I really have to question is the management. A dude who sets you up in a fur coat and a Dangerous Liasons wig in front of a DSLR camera -- well, he may or may not be having fun at your expense, there, Rejjie. I think you need to ask yourself some tough questions.

The bars are fucking terrible. Dead simple. Just shit. As the mushrooms start to kick in, as I throw this garbage on a third time, I wonder if we're not due for another round of Anticon non-rhyme, fake-deep "Art Rap." The key insight Mr. Snow capitalizes on: just blend into the beat and the EDM kids will love you until they die.

First as tragedy, then as farce, then as snapchat memesex. I'm pretty sure Socrates said that, shortly after Big L died. All in all, nice video, but fuck this fake surrealist heroin-chic model rap.

DISPATCHES: Nocando - "Severed"



Nocando, I've seen his name a couple of times on Twitter I think.

I really appreciate his honesty on this track and I can identify with him on some inane, banal, nice-weather-today type level.

That's about it. This is a cathartic lamentation about a relationship, or relationships, gone awry and forty-five seconds in, I'm already seeing red. Being by myself as I watch it, I jump up from the computer chair and bark "no can do", as I jolt backwards like Paul Allen when Bryce asks him to play squash in American Psycho, but he can't because he's got an "8:30 'rez' at Dorsia"; swinging my arms in like manner as I back pedal into the wall because my room is not nearly big enough to get far enough away from this track.

Plain and simple: I'm not going to type up a laudatory article about how it's great and never been done this way because he's got an ill voice and can rhyme with multies once in a while. That is a prize few earn, but when they earn it, they DO earn it; RYR is the farthest thing from a participation trophy you're going to find in our sewer rat culture.

So, you know the whole story front to finish without even needing to listen to the song. And, oh buddy, when the chorus kicked in, I almost put my fist through the ceiling plaster. This dude is softer than warm butter and this grab ass sing-a-long, twittering hi-hat fuck show can get grouped in with all the other forgettable YouTube fodder we pass through when we're looking for venison.

New rule, from now on, if you're going to tell me about your love life run amok, I want you to take the knife yourself, jam it into your thorax, and rip out your beating heart in front of me. Anything less than that and I'm going to treat your song like the empty beer can that it is, crush it, then chuck it the fuck off my rooftop deck.

Love,

Louis.

14.6.17

lojii & Swarvy - "Due Rent"



The beautiful thing about social media: you can hear about a project for months before you have to hear it. At least, I sure as shit can.

Despite gushing recommendations from dozens of people I trust, despite being on the consistently worthwhile Fresh Selects imprint, man, fuck it. My psychic immune system won't let me check out new shit without the proper drugs.

The setup: lojii's the rapper, Swarvy is the DJ. Both of them occupy the Zen space where you can't tell if they're lucky or talented. The loops and rhymes are deceptively simple shit, they are also meticulously on point.

The lyrics are a mix of Malachi York mathematics, Roc Marciano detachment, and being both broke and high. This is perfect summer day music for stoners with nice porches.

The video itself is nicely framed black and white cheap goods. The animated overlays are done by RUFFMERCY, and about as inoffensive as a Superbowl ad for Pepsi. All content gets rendered in the same Creative Cloud, only the lack of branding makes this "indie." The lack of fucks given is what makes this good.

The tape, as a whole, turns out to be laser focused on the narrative of Rent, Money. This is one of those lurching moments where I question the entire concept behind Real Yeti Rap, but I get that all the time...and it hasn't stopped me yet. Should rap groups live or die by their random singles? Fuck Yes, Absolutely.

So perhaps these lazy, talented motherfuckers will put in more effort the next time they're broke. But it's not like they have to. This is already one of the best reviews I've written in 2017.

13.6.17

DISPATCHES: Denzel Curry - "Ultimate"



I respect the raw style of this type of video and, believe it or not, I watched​ the whole thing. The intro had a dirty groove, but I saw where it was headed with the easily hateable master of ceremonies wasting camera time right up front. This isn’t an entire set, you’re not Miles Davis with legendary backups, bro, just rap. Your perceived self-importance is also going in your folder for my reference when I sit through this sure-to-be barnburner music video.

Then the song began: and by jove, Watson, this motormouth reggae rapping windsock has got the multies. He's so good with them that it doesn't matter what the fuck he's saying. As sure as we will all be dust one day, you'll be relieved to find that it wouldn't matter even if you could understand the English language he's threading together so beautifully​.

I am the one, don't weigh a ton
Don't need a gun to get respect up on the street
Under the sun, the bastard son
Will pop the Glock to feed himself and family
By any means, your enemies my enemies
We wet them up like a canteen
The yellow tape surrounds the fate
Don't have a face so now you late, open the gates


You don’t need a glock to get respect; but in the next line you're completely unhesitant to pop? What's the point of saying the first thing then? No sooner than the next bar over and you're completely ready to wet people up “like a canteen”.

All the non-sequitur and cringe aside, that's just a really tired and shitty simile; also not my only complaint but I want you to continue reading so I'll stop it there.

The rhythm, the groove and the instrumentation on this joint are all fairly ill. Unfortunately, that's all the nervous system of the track, the rapper, can afford to be on this attempt; his voice serves only as another musical element, yapping quilted bars of loose meaning, boring quarter-erect battle rap and banshee turd-bobbing bluster. I also feel like the engineer didn't do all he could to sweep out the screechy, unflattering frequencies of his voice. I almost hate the tone as much as I hate my own.

I give this song and video a 4 out of 10, which, knowing me, is magnanimous. You caught me on a good day, when walking through this momentarily golden and emerald city of orchids and summer dresses makes it worth all the days of ashen grey decay, verdigris spires and weather vanes, and traffic koans.