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.