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Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.

Today, Travi$ Scott sprawls with Future and 2 Chainz; T-Pains wants to build a house on that ass; and Slum Village is right back with De La Soul.

As always, our distinguished panel consists of  Marcus DowlingPhil R, Jose Lopez-Sanchez of Dead Curious, Clyde McGrady, and Weird City Fest’s Aaron Miller and Leah Manners.


Travi$ Scott ft. Future & 2 Chainz: “3500”

[Stream on Spotify]

Travi$ Scott is often linked with Kanye West, because he inked a production deal with Ye’s Very G.O.O.D. Beats and showed up in the credits to three Cruel Summer tracks. (He also twiddled a few nobs on Yeezus.) But as a performer, he’s been on T.I.’s Grand Hustle Records since the spring of 2013. Since that time, he has released two mixtapes: Owl Pharaoh (2013) and Days Before the Rodeo (2014). At some point this summer, he will present with the actual Rodeo, his proper studio debut. This week, he released its first single, and, boy, is it a lot of single: “3500” is a nearly eight-minute track with production assistance from Metro Boomin, Mike Dean, Million $ Mano, Allen Ritter, and Zaytoven. It also features Future and 2 Chainz for good measure. I guess that you have the financial security to do crazy shit when you co-wrote and co-produced “Bitch Better Have My Money”.

MARCUS: Of all of the young upstart rappers doing this Atlanta-inspired trap-as-art-rap thing, Travi$ Scott is the most self-aware of the lot. By this I mean that he doesn’t approach every track like he’s making some sort of artistic statement or super-awesome turn up, but rather he treats making artistic statements and turning up like its a job. The bar about him and Future doing the same drugs is the one that allowed this to all sink in. This is all so paint-by-numbers now, like more than before. He almost sounds exhausted here, like he’s just sitting around waiting for the moment when he can just become the next Kanye that the rap industry machine is grooming him to become.

Put him on a track with the other two professionals walking around in that space, plus a literal slew of producers with their hands in the the production pot and this is the most underwhelming “star-making” song I’ve ever heard. It’s as if everyone working inside at the nucleus of the traditional industry that still remians is tired of doing 50 million guest raps, 100 trillion club nights and one billion concerts and appearances. It’s almost as if we’ve burned out Travi$ Scott before he even actually became a star.

Jesus, this is actually terrible. I’ve never been less excited to hear 2 Chainz rap in my whole entire life. Christ.

PHIL: If people listen to Travi$ Scott and hear a star-in-the-making, then their eardrums possess a frequency I lack. The least interesting part of a Travi$ Scott track is consistently Travi$ Scott. That’s not to brand him a song-ruiner, but if you get excited when this guy steps on a beat, we probably don’t value the same thing in a rap – namely, personality, and maybe a modicum of originality.

Case in point: “3500”. This is the lead single from this dude’s proper debut? He’s got one wack verse and a hook that sounds like sampled himself. Meanwhile, Future – very much in his recent druggy flutter flow pocket – handles the intro, the bridge, and a verse. And 2 Chainz raps for a whole (glorious) minute! (“Emoji sad faces!”) To the degree “3500” succeeds, it’s on those other guys’ shoulders. But it’s tough to call this song a win when I spend a significant chunk of its almost-eight minute runtime just waiting for Scott to stop jackhammering me with “o-o-o-only trill n*ggas I know.”

Also, for the love of god, how low is the bar to be “the next Kanye?” Do you just have to be a rapper-producer? I thought that there were a lot of those. When Kanye emerged, he had exuberance and personality and a unique perspective, and those qualities came through in both his lyrics and music. Travi$ Scott appears to have fast-forwarded past that part. There are five other producers on his lead single, and he has nothing to say. He’s skipped over Kanye’s foundation of the republic phase and gone straight to the imperial overstretch.

AARON: Jesus, how many motherfuckers does it take to screw in a lightbulb in a trap house?

I am absolutely not listening to 8 minutes of this. Mr. $cott, if these are indeed the only trill niggas you know, I suggest you get out and meet some niggas. The grocery store, church, a pick up game in the park: These are all good places. There are lots of trill niggas out there for you; you just have to put yourself out there.

The fake screwed down part at the end is just a little tight though. They shoulda done that deconstructo-beat the whole time and put some weirder dudes on it.

CLYDE: Gretchen, stop trying to make Travi$ Scott happen. It’s not going to happen.

Yeah, Marcus I’m burnt out on this dude already. He has no personality or identity other than I guess he is really good at networking? I have not been interested in anything he has to say nor will I ever be.

Damn I really wish Mike Dean & Co. gave this off-kilter beat to someone else (Nicki, maybe?) because I love it.

JOSE: What really grates about this is that it feels like Travi$ Scott is taking a victory lap, when in reality he hasn’t shown us that he’s got the chops to carry a song by himself, much less an album. I’m tired of the rap/corporate overlords trying to play kingmaker. I think that’s part of the reason why Chance the Rapper was so refreshing: He just bubbled up on the radar with a high quality mixtape, a lot of charisma, and a broad and deep palette of musical references. I know Travis Scott had a big hand in producing Cruel Summer, but it’s been two and a half years! Let’s move on and try something new.

This song has a 91% “VERY HOTTTTT” rating on Hot New Hip Hop. I’ve been to house parties where they played two straight hours of this dude’s music. I’ve heard people whose opinions on hip-hop I usually respect go to bat for this bruh. [Editor’s note: Steve Place.] Are we like totally out of touch with Joe and Jane Hip-Hop? Get off my lawn.

AARON: No way, Jose. I firmly believe there is a difference between having taste and being out of touch. That ball comes in my trap again I’m keepin it.

LEAH: I’m real sad that I wasted four minutes on this.  Oh, what’s that? It’s eight minutes long? Oh…

T-Pain. ft. Juicy J: “Make That Shit Work”

T-Pain has been on the grind-to-redemption circuit since the latter half of last year. First came his NPR Tiny Desk performance, where (gasp!) he performed without autotune and revealed the voice of angel. (If at least one of your friends did not attempt to show you that video, you do not have any friends.) Then came “Stoicville”, the title track from his awfully titled comeback effort Stoicville: The Phoenix, where T-Pain was more interested in rapping than singing. Most recently, in March, he released a pretty great mixtape, which featured the instant-classic “Booty Butt Ass” and was called The Iron Way. (House Greyjoy, stand-up! What is dead may never die!) But all of this has been a Trojan Horse, or a sacking of Winterfell as it were: Now that T-Pain has worked his way back into our hearts, he has release an auto-tuned-as-fuck stripper-joint bomb called “Make That Shit Work”. Featuring Juicy J! Produced by DJ Mustard! T-Paaaaaaain.

AARON: Let’s not forget about last year’s freestyle show-off from T Pain on “Sway in The Morning”. Boy got flows. If he made a rap record, I would steal it off the internet for sure.  It’s a damn shame how good some of these singers can rap and vice versa. The game is all fucked up right now.

As much as I once hoped T-Pain would be Roger Troutman for the New School R(ap) & B(ullshit) crowd, this song does nothing for me. Beat is dumb. Song is dumb. Juicy J is the wrong kind of stupid here. You know a song is wack when you expect more from Juicy J.

Here’s something that I learned about T-Pain along the way: When somebody gets that rich that fast, you will never pull them out of their lane.  When all you have to do is buy every thot in the galaxy a drank and two-step your way to the bank, life is good.

So much Mustard in the game right now. When will it stop?

MARCUS: Can’t we just get T-Pain a recurring role on the Major Lazer cartoon as like a talking, auto-tuned marijuana plant? Or, hell, we could totally get Juicy J his own Adult Swim show and have T-Pain play an auto-tuned talking bottle of promethazine, right?

Because this shit is tired. I mean, he’s legit doing 2005 flows over a 2015 track. The most intriguing thing about this production is how DJ Mustard’s literal one style of production is so flexible that it makes anybody rapping over it feel semi-relevant. That minor key piano chord totally adds the Mannie Fresh bounce to this one though, too. Fucking incredible. I think DJ Mustard is officially better than all of the rappers. We did this to ourselves.

CLYDE: Man, Teddy Pend Her Ass Down had me on board with the comeback tour until he dropped this boring ass drivel. I like a good strip club anthem as much as the next wasteful spender but they’ve been done way better.

JOSE: It’s kind of cool to see T-Pain back to the art form he popularized and perfected, even if this is pretty boring. The difference between this and his old hits we know and love lies in the fact that this song lacks heart. Honestly, you can hear how much fun T-Pain was having in all of his tracks from the early 2000s, and even his Tiny Desk performance had a soul-bearing quality to it. This is just kind of dumb, not very entertaining, and way too cluttered.

PHIL: Yes, the beat is dumb. Yes, the song is dumb. Whatever. No shoes, no shirt, no problem.

It’s summertime. What the world needs now is dumb, sweet dumb, And when the game’s leading letharios are scuzzbuckets like Ty Dolla $ign and the Weeknd, T-Pain’s cheeseball shenanigans are a welcome reprieve. (That’s one reason why Juicy J’s “If the bitch ain’t eating dick, she might as well starve” line falls flat. It strikes a shrill chord on an otherwise harmless song.)

When “Make That Shit Work” hits, I have a feeling most of this hand-wringing will dissipate. You can chin stroke. T-Pain is just trying to build a house on that ass.

Also, I have to give credit to DJ Mustard’s seasonal strategies. Dude played it real cool for the past six months. The weather was frigid and the market was saturated, so he held the Mustard. As 36 Internet years passed, we eulogized his career. Then, just as we’re entering summer, he unloads this and “Can’t Fade Us” and “Wuzhanidoe” and “Only Right” and “L.A.”. DJ Possum on the beat, ho.

Slum Village ft. De La Soul: “Right Back”

J Dilla may have passed almost a decade ago, but not only does his legacy live on, his discography continues to grow, too  These releases have come in a number of forms: Posthumous efforts in his own name, sampled and looped portions of old productions, and leftover beats repurposed wholesale by other rappers. (Last November, Rec-Room discussed Nas’ “The Season”, a song built around a sample of “Gobstopper”.) Appropriately, one of the most comprehensive attempts to make use of aged J DIlla beats comes from Slum Village, a trio that Dilla helped found in 1996 (and left in 2002). At this point, the Detroit act features the single living original member, T3, plus J Dilla’s brother Illa J and Young RJ. Next week, they will release YES!, a new record with twelve tracks – nine of which feature J Dilla production. A slew of guests join Slum Village as well, including Phife Dawg, Black Milk, BJ the Chicago Kid, and Bilal. And on “Right Back”, De La Soul drop by the studio. That seasoned trio recently proved its might by raising nearly six times its Kickstarter goal of $110,000 to make a new LP.

MARCUS: I love this developing trend of De La Soul not-so subtly dissing modern rap on everything they touch these days. The greatest thing an artist can know is their own worth, and De La know that they don’t need the industry’s time or money to feel like they are forever excellent.

This whole track is flawless though. Like, that piano just sounds so smooth and the bassline doesn’t encroach on blowing out your eardrums or a speaker or anything but is just tough as hell. All of these old ass men doing raps for other old ass men about how great they were and will always be is a trend that has a place in the genre. Thank god for Kickstarter and the digital age so that these guys don’t have to get butthurt as they watch a young man’s game pass them by.

AARON: Marcus beat me to the gist, but I would add that De La might be the only rap group that defies any delineation between old and new school.  Excluding the “Judgement Night” soundtrack, I challenge anyone to find me a wack De La song. I bet you that it’s still a strong 7.

I find it irritating these days that hip-hop production has become so diluted and so  real-time derivative, that even producers like Dilla get lumped in with “old school” or “boom bap.” Don’t get it twisted: This is what hip-hop is supposed to sound like. All that other shit y’all do is is just some other shit. Heads know. Even the kids know. You think it’s an accident that Earl sounds like Doom, or that Joey sounds like Buckshot, or that Action sounds like… you fucking get the idea. The kids know.

This track is a little sedate, but they do what they do so well, who’s gonna complain? Some other old rapper with no Twitter game? Some young rapper with too much Twitter game? Fuck that. De La Soul’s status, relevance, and general freshness seems to expand with the ages and this song is just more of the laid back excellence we have come to expect from them

And this has scratching on the hook, y’all. Sweet, sweet scratching, how I miss you.

They could make a record with almost anybody and elevate, but hearing them on another Dilla beat is exactly what rap needs at any given time. I can’t wait for the new Slum Village joint. Fire, I’m sure of it.

CLYDE: I’m on record as not being the biggest De La fan (sorry, Aaron!), but the flow on this is effortless, and the beat is flames. Even as a connoisseur of southern rap, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to hear modern production that doesn’t have a trap beat or snaps or people yelling “Hey!” in the background. Just a simple smooth piano loop, tight snares, and yes, scratching. I can dig it.

JOSE: This beat is simple and elegant. I really love the piano loop, and the verses are great. This is just what I needed today, and I’m glad I listened to this one last to wash out the other two tracks. I fuuuuucks with this.

LEAH: I don’t know how comfortable I am with the “old/real vs. new/fuccboi” rap paradigm, but this is a good track with artists who are comfortable with the technical aspects of the genre. This ain’t turnin’ up any clubs, and maybe for that reason, it doesn’t have a new feel; it’s roomy and lived-in. (And it works both channels. Pro-tip:Iif y’all can’t hear tinkly-glassy bells, put in your right earbud. I can relax into it, but there’s no breaking ground here, which is something I want to see in and OG other than Snoop, honestly.


Follow Rec-Room on Twitter, where we’re limited to 140 characters:  @marcuskdowling, @philrunco, @gitmomanners, @jrlopez, @dc_phelps, @Aaron_ish, and @CAMcGrady.