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Rec-Room Therapy #5: We Can’t Spell Sober
December 19, 2012 | 1:15PM

Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy.  Each week, we offer a spirited debate, discussion, and dissection of recent hip-hop tracks, albums, and mixtapes.  This week, we discuss Rick Ross and Jamie Foxx’s collaboration for the “Django Unchained” soundtrack, Fool’s Gold Record’s “Piss Test” remix, and critical lightning rod Chief Keef.  Jumping on the beat is our distinguished panel of Joshua Phelps, Marcus Dowling, Briana Younger, Steven “You Only Get Half a Bar” Place, and Phil R.

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Rick Ross: “100 Black Coffins”

“Django Unchained” trailers did the impossible and started getting even more badass once this pummeling Rick Ross track – produced by Jamie Foxx! – surfaced.  The movie’s soundtrack, which notably does not feature Frank Ocean, was released this week.

Phil: I firmly endorse the proposition of Rick Ross yelling over Spaghetti Western beats for an entire mixtape.

Marcus: Motherfucking Rick Ross is always on some Peter Pan gangsta shit. This is more of the same, and it’s so absurd that it works. As far as it’s longevity? That’s questionable. It has the feeling of Jay-Z and Lenny Kravitz’s “Guns and Roses” collaboration from The Gift and The Curse. It’s average, but greater on paper as a part of viewing his career in retrospective terms.

Phelps: I’m assuming you reference “Peter Pan” because Ross’ oeuvre is pure fantasy, and I’ll agree totally and care less and less.  I’m less surprised by Ross’ ability to wax western and more impressed by Jamie Foxx’s production.  This dude has done everything – stand up, sketch comedy, sitcoms, comedic acting, dramatic acting, R&B singing – and won at most of it.  Whistles and moans roll in concert with Ross’ malevolent verses:  It’s a nearly perfect soundtrack effort.

Bri: I’m glad the word “average” was mentioned first – I didn’t want to be the only one who isn’t all that impressed with this. “100 Black Coffins” is less about Rick Ross, who insists on using the same formulas over and over, and more about who knew Jamie Foxx could produce a track like this?! The western inspired beat is amazing considering an actor turned R&B singer (or is the other way around?) made it. As it often goes with soundtrack songs, I might like this one better after I see/hear its placement in the movie.

Phil: Average?  Rick Ross was given the unenviable task of essentially making a “Wild Wild West” redux, incorporating plot points from a movie that takes place a hundred and fifty years ago, and he crushes it.  Name one other rapper who could have pulled this off without sounding like a complete and utter jackass.  Ross’ record of unabashedly bending the truth – to put it nicely – absolutely plays to his advantage here.  He’s post-authenticity:  Not only does no one believe a word he says, but his fans have come to explicitly embrace the very absurdity of his mythmaking.  Nothing he says even raises an eyebrow anymore, even when Jamie Foxx is writing for him.  Mass killings, revenge fantasies, and a 12 gauge shotgun?  Sure.  Just another day at the office for Ross.  Plus, the man has always been less about what he says and more about how he says it, and on this track, he’s incensed.   Are you not entertained?

Bri:  I’m absolutely not entertained, because this is just typical Rozay. He didn’t do anything he doesn’t always do; he simply chose a new character. As you said, the man has made a career of fantasizing, so why wouldn’t he be capable of doing this to perfection? If you dropped out the western whistle and dropped in any other Ross beat and switched “Jack Django” with your drug lord of choice, it would be the same song he always makes. This song is definitely well done for what it is, but when you consider Ross’ entire catalog, this isn’t earth-shattering.

Steve:  Rick Ross is the Paula Deen of rap.

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A-Trak ft. Juicy J, Jim Jones, Flatbush Zombies and El-P: “Piss Test (Flosstradamus Remix)”

This spring’s “Piss Test” gets the remix treatment for Fool’s Gold Records Loosies compilation.  Juicy J’s hook returns for the sequel, but, sadly, Danny Brown does not.  (He can, however, be found elsewhere on the compilation, doing his thing over Araabmuzik’s beat for “Molly Ringwald”.) Taking Brown’s place are Jim Jones, Flatbush Zombies, and El-P.

Steve: Holy shit.

Marcus: At this very moment, A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs’ Fool’s Gold Records are quietly the best pure rap label on the planet. This song is the most brilliant thing the future ever heard. Between A-Trak’s DMC champion at 16 credentials, Flosstradamus’ new found legacy as the men who took Lex Luger to outer space and four rappin’ ass rappers performing their craft unencumbered by feeling like they have to bend their flows to the will of the dance floor, it’s simply put, exquisite. Very soon, everything will sound like this, and I’m not mad at that.

Phelps: I wanted to label this unnecessary, but, honestly, it’s a perfect compliment to the brilliantly raunchy original.  Pin the two together and you got A-Trak pouring lean down your throat and Flosstradamus spiking it with liquid acid.  What I miss from Juicy J’s druggiest bars and Danny Brown at his porniest, it’s made up for with a surprisingly able Jim Jones and the ever serious El P a sobering epilogue.  Dude is so intense!  Flatbush Zombies, my jury is out but I think we can all agree that if these bangers get dropped at U Hall then people are catching bows in the mouth.

Phil: This remix isn’t going to have quite the shelf life of the original “Piss Test”, because, well, when it comes to quotability in 2012, it would take an upset of Miracle on Ice proportions for Jim Jones and Flatbush Zombies to match Danny Brown and Juicy J.  The former are indeed, to borrow Phelps’ words, “surprisingly able,” but that’s all they really need to be, because with the way Flosstradamus reworks A-Trak’s somewhat sinister beat into something ecstatic and club-ready, the production duo is the star of the show.  That is, until El-P shows up and walks away this thing.  The man just destroys his verse.  I’m having “The Last Huzzah” flashbacks.  And I’m adding this remix to my case for El-P as this year’s hip-hop MVP.  Marcus, I’d be curious to hear why Fool’s Gold is “the best pure rap label on the planet.”

Marcus:  I wrote all about it here.  And it’s all about perspectives on why the remix is better. It’s a perfect marriage of rap then and rap now, with El-P on the end being better at everyone in both realms.

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Chief Keef ft. 50 Cent and Wiz Khalifa: “Hate Bein Sober”

This week, Chief Keef caps a very big 2012 – people are still freestyling over “I Don’t Like” – with the release of his Interscope debut, Finally Rich.  (Not to be confused with Finally Famous.)  The record finds the seventeen year old trading verses with some heavy hitters (and breathers), including Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, and French Montana.  Perhaps most notable is “Hate Bein Sober”, where Chief Keef is joined by 50 Cent and Wiz Khalifa on a typically bruising track from his go-to producer, Young Chop.

Bri: Fortunately for Chief Keef, I’m not yet over his incoherent “singing” (is that what that would called?) and Young Chop beats. I really like this one – almost as much as I [Love] “Love Sosa”.   I wish he wouldn’t have left 50 and Wiz hanging; I kind of want to see this video now.

Marcus:  Chief Keef’s greatest greatness is that he makes your brain sentient only to slap you in the face for using the cognitive process to register his hooks in your memory. It’s an embarrassing space to occupy, but Keef’s clearly too young to realize this, or moreover, care. 50 Cent’s the uncle who catches his nephew smoking dope in the bathroom. However, instead of ratting him out, gives him the keys to his house, then teaches him how to use the rare, loud pack-filled hookah in the basement. Wiz Khalifa’s just here, his space as 21st century Snoop making him on this particular song an absolute necessity. Again, this song is embarrassing, but, Young Chop’s on the beat and in the zone overall right now, so you’re absolutely going to give it a listen.

Phelps:  I’m co-signing on Young Chop – between this and “I Don’t Like,” I’m guessing his beats keep a fair amount of people sticking around for Chief Keef’s inanimate warbling.  Unfortunately, Keef’s ignorant and very real fascination with guns coupled with a widely publicized gloating over “rival” Lil JoJo’s death at the end of another blood soaked Chicago summer makes it hard for me to gleefully enjoy a half assed party rap.  If he smoked enough good weed maybe he’d be less of an asshole.  I don’t expect anyone who stands to make money to hold him accountable for his actions as long as pockets stay filled (I mean, he has a Rick Ross feature on the new album) but I can’t really separate the art from the dickhead right now.

Phil:  I’m not going to pretend understand what happened between Lil JoJo and Chief Keef based on handful of news reports, and even if I had all the facts straight, I certainly can’t relate what it’s like to grow up in the South Side of Chicago and how that may shape your view on acts of violence.  But, this song doesn’t really force me to force me to go there.  There is no chest-thumping on “Hate Bein Sober”.  This song is about being a teenager and wanting to get fucked up, and that certainly is something that I can relate to.  And, surprisingly, I love everything about this song.  I love Keef’s garbled hook, and how there’s debate on RapGenius about pretty much everything he says.  I love how Keef keeps saying “I can’t spell sober,” and it’s unclear whether he means “I can’t spell [while] sober” or “I can’t spell [the word] sober,” because both options make absolutely no sense.  I love the way 50 Cent admits to being an old creeper (“Too young for me / She wants Sosa”).  And this beat is fantastic.  It’s nice to hear  Young Chop production with a major label quality mix.  This song is going to be huge, right?

Phelps:  Define “huge” and there may be a 50 dollar bet in it for you.  Cheef Keef is aping Waka Flocka here, and maybe he’ll catch fire like “No Hands,” which is a pretty close sonic approximation to this chorus.  We already talked about a song with pros rapping about getting fucked up  a hundred times better than Keef: “Piss Test.”

Bri:  I’ve had this on repeat all weekend, and I actually like it better than “Piss Test.” The pros might do the actual skill of rapping better, but due to the visceral nature of music (especially recent music), this one wins. Chief Keef obviously knows something we don’t, because I fully expected his album to be garbage until “Love Sosa” happened and then this. And now the album is out and it’s, dare I say, good. It’s probably better than the projects of the ratchet rappers I respect like Gucci and 2 Chainz. It’s definitely better than the man of the moment, Trinidad James. Keith Cozart is the new rapper we love to hate.

Phil: Amen.

Phelps:  The Chief Keef record is garbage.  I’ll give you the sing-songy shit is catchy, but so are nursery rhymes.  His rapping is repetitive and banal at it’s best.  At least 2 Chainz  has a few songs that build on his charisma and humor.   Finally Rich has a handful of good beats from Young Chop and one from Mike Will, but this would be a non-event if Pusha T had never brought “I Don’t Like” to Kanye.

Bri:  Let’s not sit here and act like Chief Keef is the only one with catchy nursery rhyme raps. 2 Chainz definitely falls right next to him in that category. People like 2 Chainz as a person (his charisma, as you said) and therefore overlook his lyrics, as if they’re not laughable 95% of the time. Finally Rich has a few songs just as well: “Hate Being Sober” and “Love Sosa” are the first two, and “Don’t Like” and “3Hunna” make it four. Based on a T.R.U. Story also had, at best, four decent songs (none of which are the singles). As far as whether it’s “good,” compared to the people in his lane, it definitely is – due in large part to production, as it so often is when you’re talking about this category of rappers.  And the issue of whether he would be here if Kanye didn’t do “I Don’t Like” is another story for another day, considering the man already had millions of views and mixtapes that actual people downloaded before that happened. It might have accelerated the process, but he was definitely Chief Keef before ‘Ye pushed the single. We can only speculate though, since what’s done is done.

Phelps: I won’t argue that there’s a ton of difference in the lanes these two are traveling in skill-wise, but 2 Chainz is ultimately more fun to listen to. “Mercy”, anyone?  It’s why the four songs on his record that I can stand by – whether because they’re funny (“Crack”) or absurd (“Birthday Song”) – trump “3Hunna” or anything else I’ve heard from Keef.  I’ll give you he gets a lot of views, just like Psy and Rebecca Black.

Marcus:  2 Chainz has four times the experience of Chief Keef, and experience writing hooks. Chief Keef has hits and great production, but he’s just barely scratching the surface of learning his craft as a professional. Comparing the two of them is like comparing apples to cider: They’re of one, but not the same.

Steve: I can’t lie: I really like this song. Keef sounds like he huffed a paper bag full of WD40, but puberty will do that. Regardless, like Phelps said, I have a problem liking Keef since he’s such a douche in real life. That could be puberty as well though. Marcus is dead on about how this track makes 50 look like the enabling elder who seems more interested in making himself relevant than actually trying to improve Keef as an artist. Young Buck would have been dope here though!

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