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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


Black Pegasus - "Idolatry"

I first remember thinking Black Pegasus was a stupid name in 2003. I was wrong even then: there are no stupid names in rap. Sure, even 2 Chainz had to concede the point on "Tity Boi," and yes, Lil' Poopy represents a fundamental threat to our civilization. Yet the fact those two make good money is proof that only branding matters.

Black Pegasus put in work and Black Pegasus stuck around, and thus do I still have to talk about Black Pegasus in 2017.

It's unclear whether or not this dude still lives in 2003. Sample bars: "I'm not a ghost - this isn't Halloween - when I get inside your girl's walls and make the bitch scream." This is a guy who has spent most of his adult life trying to impress people who are even dumber than him. Even C-Rayz Walz would rewrite that shit.

It's not about offensive, it's about corny - it's also about basic standards of masculinity. That dude who keeps on talking about getting pussy - isn't. That cat who keeps on talking about winning fights - can't. Black Pegasus is a bitch and the camera can't hide it even when he's paying money to look good. Life is unfair like that.

Awkward setup, lame punchline. For millions of rap fans around the world, that's not a problem, it's a product. This is the international network that keeps Coast 2 Coast mixtapes alive, the overlap between Rogan Podcast fans and Juggalos who really like Wu-Tang.

Case in point would be Mr Biscuit, who has a great name but an interchangeable "I'M INTENSE BUT LYRICAL" aesthetic that tries to sell cheap, autistic bars off sheer energy. That only works at local freestyle ciphers.

I'm glad they let him sit on the rental, though. Small gestures like that mean a lot as I get older.

I've talked a lot of shit about Madchild in the past. I'll be honest, I've always hated indie rap, most of you are fucking terrible. And yet. As he ages I find myself enjoying him more and more. I won't defend him as a writer, he just seems like a fun human being to hang out with. I've been a lifelong fan of other rappers for far less.

Overall: this was forgettable and that last guy was the only one who belonged on camera.