Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we debate, discuss, and dissect recent hip hop tracks. Today, go looking for trouble with Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz, catch up with old flame Lauryn Hill, and let up-and-coming mumbler Tree take us to Graceland. Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Joshua Phelps, Marcus Dowling, Briana Younger, Phil R, Damion M, Aaron Miller, Shelly Bell, Joey Minock, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.
Gucci Mane ft. 2 Chainz: “Use Me”
Say what you will about Gucci Mane, but do not knock his hustle. We are not even five months into 2013 and Radric Davis has five mixtapes under his belt, the most notable of which is minor-key grinder Trap God 2, arguably his best effort in several years. Admittedly, this is not saying much, as Gucci has spent most a good chunk of this decade doing dumb shit, getting arrested, and not making good music. But next week, he plans to release his first proper studio album since 2010′s The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted, and it’s the third and allegedly final entry in his Trap House series: Trap House III: The Guwop Edition. (As a reminder, Gucci announced he that intended to change his name to Guwop when the album dropped, but then his fans yelled at him on Twitter and he changed his mind.) “Use Me” is the latest taste of TH3, and like the preceding “Dirty Cup”, it features fellow ratchet man 2 Chainz.
Bri: Why didn’t anyone tell 2 Chainz how to pronounce “Givenchy?”
Shelly: It’s Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz: What is there not to like about this joint? I love it. This is the next rachet club anthem. You can grind drunk with it. You can bounce hard with it. You can sing-a-long with it. I totally support it. The track fits their flow: The laid back southern drawl drops off the last letter of every word, creating a choppy, confusing, yet clear, catchy dialect. “Makin no noi / Dem n*ggaz ain’ makin no noi. ”
Marcus: This is a story of the realities of trap rap understood in regal terms. Gucci is the undisputed king of the trap. In less than one year, 2 Chainz – merely a respected lord of a tiny fiefdom in Gucci’s kingdom – rose up, excited the people like Jesus did to the Romans, but in being smarter than Herod, 2 Chainz gets to live and drop bars on “Use Me.” Gucci’s 2013-to-date then should come as no shock. As the trap king, Gucci certainly rested (and deservedly so). His prince – Waka Flocka Flame – was largely responsible for the day-to-day operations of the kingdom, dropping crunk classics and keeping the wealth of the throne incredibly high. However, he too began to rest, which allowed for the insurgence of Tauheed Epps. Now, Gucci is motivated, not by the fact that 2 Chainz took over, but by the fact that 2 Chainz exists. I imagine Gucci the Great mounting his Givenchy-clad steed to meet Tauheed the Tall in a field of coca, nude, twerking and bodacious attendants serving them the finest of peach Ciroc in Jacob the Jeweler designed goblets. Unrelated to the story, this is 2013′s summer rap club crusher.
Aaron: Oh mane. Where to start? Gucci is one of those rappers that is a poster boy for the age-old hip hop debate trope of Real recognize Real, or Game recognize Game if you have a regional ,or perhaps, a semantic preference. The dude is undeniably from the Trap. He shot somebody and got away with dropped charges and probation. He appears to get arrested, like, every 35 minutes. He really speaks to the irresponsible, gangtster-loving, fan in all of us that just wants to wile out, hit a dude with a bottle, and wreck a Lamborghini. The spectacle that is Guwop outweighs/negates/renders moot any snobby, anti-trap criticism that I might have. He goes hard in a style that is killing hip hop,-but I like him the way my predictably male, lizard-brain likes danger and things that are bad for me. I imagine standing next to him is like looking at a retarded Tiger covered in platinum ice. So shiny. So dangerous. So Real.
The Legend of 2 Chainz: A decade ago Ludacris brushed off his shoulder and that dirt turned into a thing called Tity Boi. No one cared for a minute, so he changed his name. That little Boi has now grown up to be the king of guest verse Jibber-Jabber. A highly marketable anti-rapper called 2 Chainz who routinely wears more than two chains. And they lived Trap-pily ever after.
Bri: I hope y’all are paying attention. Honorable C Note is definitely one of my favorite producers right now. I was convinced after “Bob Marley,” even though he’s approaching a very distinct sound, which means he’s also approaching the part where all of his beats sound the same, but I’m good with that for now. 2 Chainz and Gucci almost always come with the fire, word to both of their tracks on Trap Back. After Radric and Cozart failed to deliver with that mess of a song, “Darker” (no link, because who wants to hear that), this song is quite the redeemer. I’ll forever ride with Gucci regardless because he’s constantly making sure everyone is clear on what real trap shit is about (hint: it has nothing to do with EDM). 2 Chainz ad-libs definitely take this song to another level. And Marcus, I actually don’t see this getting spins in the club. This sounds just like all the other Gucci tracks that don’t get played in the club. I’m not sure I foresee this one being any different, but we shall see. We know I’m keeping hope alive.
Marcus: Briana, you’re in the wrong club. EDM and trap are in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” type love right now, so, I could easily see someone like Brillz or especially say, Heroes x Villains remixing this. My great hope in life is to see Gucci Mane at Electric Zoo 2014 and extending his brand in yet another direction. Seeing Snoop there as a similar rap-to-EDM emissary in 2011 pretty much radicalized me and opened my eyes to the idea of where we are right now.
Leah: I only have two things to say. First, Gucci Mane’s singing voice takes me to a very special place. Second, this is absolutely all up in the club this summer, Bri.
Aaron: Ladies love a billion dollar thug with an ice cream cone on his face and warrants out.
Damion: I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to a Gucci Mane track and waited for him to save it lyrically, but that happened here. Tity Boi, 2 Chainz, whatever wack name he’s going by: I can’t even listen to tracks with him on it anymore. More importantly, Gucci is my [insert word that I don't want associated with my name on the internet]. This is the most gutter dude out right now. And Trap God 2 went extra hard. This track is just a continuation of that album. While most rappers make more money and get more bougie, Gucci is somehow getting more gutter by the minute. As Aaron alluded to, my man is getting arrested left and right and he’s still rapping about the most rachet nonsense all the time. I couldn’t ask for a better trap rapper. Lil Wayne used to save these types of tracks back in the day. Can we get the old Wayne back, just one more time? That’s it. One more time.
Lauryn Hill: “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix)”
Shelly: WHY? NO! Lauryn, your career doesn’t look better with this part added to the parts you left behind! Nothing about this is a smart. The beat is weird for her flow. She can’t catch it. I listened to this track attempting to open up to another type of Lauryn Hill. I attempted to accept that she is not The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, she is Lauryn Hill after being “miseducated.” However, with all the bad press she gets, I am hoping that someday her team says, “Oh we left the world with these parts! Lets transition them this way.” She doesn’t have to be the Lauryn I once loved, but as a fan, I do expect her to find a way to make me fall in love again.
Joey: I think the smartest part about this song was the fact that in making it, she somehow avoided some amount of liability for tax fraud/evasion/Wesley-Sniping-the-System. But other than that, yeah, I guess it’s not 1998 anymore.
Phil: I’d like to think the first few seconds of “Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix)” are a winking reference to the opening of “Losing My Edge”, and how that sentiment speaks to sound of Lauryn Hill making rap music in 2013, but she’s not exactly known for her sense of humor. Ultimately, whether Hill’s heart is in it or not, this song comes down to what Jay-Z once said: “Can’t leave rap alone, um, I need money.” Or something like that.
Leah: Shit, are we listening to the same thing? I am really digging this track. “It’s like post war they’re looking for the communists or who the Marxist is /10,000 pictures on Facebook / That’s like the pot calling the kettle narcissist / Come on really / Saying the devil but you’re the chief arsonist / Hypocrites can’t even see their own part in this / No reflection / Vampire paradigm” She is hot fire on this track, and I don’t mind her rough vocals, and IDGAF if it sounds like she dropped a dictionary on my face, or that it should probably be about forty-five seconds shorter to keep my earholes from overheating, because this beat is straight up turbulent sugar and she rides it like Noam Chomsky surfing with a middle finger up. I loved the old Lauryn, sure, but I am really starting to like the new one too.
Damion: I think I’m with Leah on this. The issue isn’t Lauryn. Its this wack beat. Its like she let her lil’ son produce the track and homey just kept pressing all the buttons that lit up. At the same time she needs to stay in her lane. She is not in Public Enemy. Keep it 100 Ms. Hill and lets get back to some normal shit. I’m trying to hear that Fugees Lauryn Hill.
Bri: Damion, I don’t know what “normal shit” is – her music has been politically charged since The Fugees. Maybe it wasn’t the entire catalog, but it was enough to consider her a “conscious” artist. I think the issue is both. Yes, the track is lame. However, you can rip a lame track if your flow is nice.
Aaron: Surprise! I like this joint. I’m leaning towards “hot fire” as well. I have issues with the beat, but I could listen to this as a blistering acapella and be happy .I just like hearing her voice. She has always kept it really real – to a fault, even. One might say a realness of Chappelle-ian proportions, except she didn’t get crazy paid on the way out… just a little crazy. I’m not sure what everyone expected from a woman who seems to be at odds with her own fame. She is literally cursed by bad decisions and worse accounting. Oh, and let’s not forget – a solo album that debuted at No.1, killed the entire planet, sold 19 mil, and won a sackful of Grammys. We as fans, and Stans, have to decide whether we want her to succeed again, or whether we prefer making her the butt of some kind of joke/cautionary tale. Did we seriously think she was gonna play nice and sing us some pretty songs? Fuck that Killing Me Softly shit: It’s time to go hard. She’s angry, and I’m angry too. It’s awkward and intense, but it speaks to the time we live in pretty accurately. This is an album’s worth of scathing message on one track. The flow is mean and dark as hell. Current angry-Ms.Hill-inspired fantasy track: Lauryn Hill and Immortal Technique on an El-P beat.
Tree: “The King”
After a string of three singles (“No Faces”, “Devotion (Get It)”, and “Trynawin”), Chicago’s MC and producer Tree released his Sunday School sequel this week. But not before he fired off one last single last of these on Monday, “The King”, as in the King, aka the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, aka Elvis Presley. Tree told Complex that he was inspired by the realization that he’d never heard an Elvis sample used on a rap song, and after spending some time surfing YouTube, he settled upon “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”. Speed up the sample, add some hard drums, and voila: “The King”.
Phelps: It’s a great sample, and he’s creative for it, but is he really, as he claims, the only one making the style of music he’s making? I can’t really get past his gravelly whine. I would love to hear someone else spit over this though.
Shelly: The sample is awesome. It reminds me of “Diplomatic Immunity”, except that Tree is actually rapping. For two whole discs, Dipset spewed adlibs, but the tracks were so dope that you couldn’t help but rock to them. No one has ever used an Elvis sample on a hip hop track? It’s still just a sample. Does sampling a song that no one has ever sampled make you creatively unique when sampling in and of itself is what most present day tracks are made of? I guess.
Marcus: I wonder if the hardworking PRs out there who are working Chicago rappers ever get together for lobster and caviar brunches after they bathe in the green ink from the freshly printed hundred dollar bills they’re now receiving on a regular basis. As a hard-working journalist, DJ and college radio personality for 17 years of my life, I want to take the next train to NYC, walk into the Complex office and DDT the editor responsible for this getting published and supported on a stack of iPads. Giving this music an audience in an era where hip hop cultural fanatics are arguably largely suicidal lemmings addled with ADD, it’s up to the trendsetters to know better and well, take care to set trends that have efficacy.
It’s not that Tree is bad. He’s not. He’s just woefully unseasoned and a victim of being in a hot city at it’s current creative apex. By comparison to Chance the Rapper, Chief Keef, the Treated Crew, King Louie, Sasha Go Hard and Katie Got Bandz, he’s extraordinarily average and too caught up on nouveau faux pauvre, starving artist swag to even notice that he’s a parody of every so-so rapper at every open-mic in every urban city in America. He doesn’t fit with the dudes smoking weed, fucking bitches or shooting gats, so, when his lane gets hot, he gets to swag out and let his nuts hang. “I gotta call the King in on this one?” Really, bro? Really? It’s an amazing sample – maybe one that ex-Dipset, current DJ Khaled disciple Vado could jump on and do his best Juelz impersonation. But, yeah, this track as it currently stands does absolutely nothing positive for me.
Leah: Marcus, I resent that. I regularly hear better rappers at Austin’s weekly open mic (s/o Austin Mic Exchange!). The Souncloud data really tell the story of this track, and dare I say it, of Tree: almost 4,700 listens when I checked, and a measly 89 likes. So, I guess the promo is working, but this song is pretty hard to like. And I’m no Elvis-lover, but this verse could have worked over a Don King or Steve Harvey sample, and made just as much of a connection. All in all, a pretty mediocre effort.
Marcus: Excellent point on the analytics, Leah. The numbers never lie.
Phil: Say what you will about Tree as a rapper, but the man taught a choir of drunken cats to sing Elvis. This song is going to make the animal shelter go crazy this summer.
Aaron: I do not like this Tree person. I do not like this tired sample. Just because Kanye can make a fresh beat with any old sped up line from a smash hit of yesteryear does not mean you get to do it all lazy and boring. I am more intrigued by how a rapper that I’ve never heard of can afford the sample clearance on an Elvis song. He’s so unremarkable that, even as I write about him, my body is trying to forget… pulling blood from my extremities to protect my Brain so that I have the energy to fully erase this track from my mind before I pass out. In these bleak times of less-than-average-ness I find comfort in the words of the Prophet Chuck D: “Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me / You see straight up racist, the sucker was, simple and plain / Motherfuck him and John Wayne.” I think all producers who think about sampling The King need to just back away from the greatest hits record and put on “Fight The Power” and Keep Calm and Carry your ass out of the studio for a quick moment of self reflection. But, if you absolutely need to freak some Elvis, rock it like this.
Phil: It is highly unlikely that the Elvis Presley Trust is seeing a dime off of this mixtape track. But, I did get a kick out of Tree failing to connect the dots about – or at least outwardly acknowledging – why producers aren’t rushing to negotiate with one of the most protective estates on the planet. It would be a little bit like like Jay-Z saying, “I created this limited edition Great Gatsby soundtrack after just wondering why other rappers weren’t making CDs made of gold and platinum.”
Damion: My man couldn’t take care of that cold before he wrote this? That sample is sick - straight Heatmakerz right there. I want to like this, but this flow and delivery is garbage. Can someone give this beat to Cam’ron and/or JR Writer?
Bri: I actually don’t find this hard to like at all. Of course, I’m just all about this sample. He could’ve counted backwards from 100 on this joint, and I still would think it’s crazy. But, I most certainly get all the love for The Diplomats. Had the Heatmakerz dropped this on Diplomatic Immunity, it surely would’ve been an instant classic. Instead, Tree got it, and we’ll enjoy it for the next 72 hours and that’ll be that. Nevertheless, I’m happy this happened to my ears.