Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Despot blows your house down; Future spends a bag of cash; and Chief Keef eulogizes his cousin (and goes country in the process).
Despot: “House of Bricks”
“If you’re unfamiliar with Despot, here are the need-to-know details: He looks like a smaller version of Mitchell from “Modern Family’ and he’s always angry.” That’s how we queued up our discussion of pint-sized livewire Despot for Rec-Room’s Best Guest Rappers list last September and it still holds true. We also joked about he pretty much only shows up on other people’s tracks, but that trajectory perhaps started to shift this week with the release of “House of Bricks”. It’s a straight-up available-on-iTunes Despot single! Is it from an album? We can’t say. And we shouldn’t been so greedy. “House of Bricks” was produced by E*Vax, aka Evan Mast of Ratatat.
MARCUS: Man. This that ice cold 2009 hipster mixtape flow; that jacked by Yeezy in 2010 “Runaway” flow; that Pusha T been spitting bars like this flow… AND I’M NOT MAD AT IT.
Boastful rap songs made by people who still remember how to produce and rap on boastful rap songs. These are the people who should’ve had mainstream success back when making rap mixtapes, dropping them on blogs, and having SXSW showcases was a thing that major labels didn’t do for you, and, again, I’M NOT MAD AT IT.
Here’s to hoping that some rich Brooklyn startup dude (and maaan wouldn’t he have been the best dude for Damon Dash to have holed up at DD172 and releasing shit on BluRoc if those were things we still cared about) or a Silicon Valley type funds the Kickstarter or Patreon page he should totally have. I’ll take awesome dudes from five years ago crushing things over all of the trap warbling right now.
LEAH: It’s exciting to hear some actual real songs posted for the album because the wait has been so long, and on this Despot is true to every time I’ve heard him live in the past few years – he’s energetic, lyrical, and his imagery is on point. Looking forward to hearing the whole thing but I’m wary of getting my hopes up just yet. I’ll give him until 2027 though, if he keeps touring and dropping gems like this.
PHIL: I can’t say I get all that excited when I see “Ratatat production” in 2015, but this beat goes. As always, Despot succeeds in walking several lines – between dense and playful, between brainy and skull bashing. These aren’t easy dichotomies to pull off. There’s a reason Despot verses are rare: They’re finely chiseled things, tough as fuck like a diamond. Now, was this song finished three years ago and presumably stuck in label purgatory? Sure. But is someone going to be smart enough to throw some cash at Despot after El-P – who, let’s be honest, is not half the rapper Despot is – has blown up? Let’s hope so.
JOSE: Most of my exposure to Despot is from El-P’s Instagram account and our guest rappers piece from last year, so it’s nice to find out that the dude is a legit rapper. Dope song, and excellent, different beat by E*Vax. Watch out, rap – white dudes coming back with a vengeance.
Future: “Blow a Bag”
We checked in on longtime Rec-Room friend-or-foe Future last week with “Blasé”, a Ty Dolla $ign song that is essentially a Future song. But let’s give the man some proper attention, because today he releases Dirty Sprite 2, his out-of-nowhere third LP that was announced last Friday. A sequel of sorts to 2011 mixtape Dirty Sprite, DS2 is unquestionably a culmination for the Atlanta rapper / warbler / mumbler. To backtrack a little: Last spring, Future released Honest, a big budget, high-expectation record that found him embracing love songs (“I Won”, “I Be U”) and poppier material (“Benz Friendz”, “Blood, Sweat, Tears”). It also had brain-melting drug anthem “Move That Dope” and some hard-as-fuck bangers (“T-Shirt”, “Special”), but ultimately, it both underperformed commercially and alienated his street base. Then he cheated on Ciara and made a song called “Pussy Overrated”. Things were not good in the Future household! But Nayvadius went back to the lab, and between late October and mid-March, cranked out three mixtapes, each with a different Atlanta producer: Monster (with Metro Boomin), Beast Mode (with Zaytoven), and 56 Nights (with Southside). These mixtapes found Future equally druggy, introverted, and uninterested in radio hooks – a far cry from the dude on Honest. Strangely enough, this is the music that has brought him to a place where he is more popular than ever, at least – as some have argued – based on passing car stereo prevalence. And now we have DS2. A record, presumably, that will favor that approach. It’s first single is “Blow a Bag”, which was produced by the Atlanta tag team of Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital, and Southside.
MARCUS: I’m a big fan of what I call “approachable everyday lifestyle rap.” In fact, Skee-Lo’s “I Wish,” Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day” and pretty much anything from Nas’ Illmatic and Outkast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik count as some of my favorite songs of all time. If there’s anything to appreciate about Future, it’s that he’s excelling at this “lifestyle rap” thing…however, I don’t have to appreciate that he grates against everything I love about the “sub-genre.” Future’s “blowing a bag” which means that he’s spending money that he earned the night before from a nightclub promoter who pays in cash stored inside of a duffle bag on the night of the event. Oh, you thought he was talking about “blowing a bag” of money that he earned from illicit drug deals? Naaah, that’s not at all what he means.
Basically, there’s Future, laying on a bed in a hotel suite with a half-eaten styrofoam box of chicken wings and three ratchet strippers sprawled around him, while his boy is rolling up a blunt while sitting at a table. Future dismisses the strippers without letting them take selfies in his room, because… well… he’s not trying to end up like Tyga and get blown up on the ‘gram. Future mentions trying not to die while blowing this bag of money, which is probably the song’s most important and semi-relatable point. For Future, this means that he’s carefully watching his mid-afternoon molly consumption, while also not responding to the texts from Ciara’s cousin half-removed who totally is ready to roll on him with a gang. So, he might be blowing that bag on security for the concert later that night. Or nah. Maybe he might break this dude off with a stack at Magic City on Monday. He’s going to think about that. Hell…maybe it could make for another hit song.
I could keep going, but if we’re going to have to listen to Future, we should at least understand what he’s doing and how he’s living.
And yes, I know, this is absolutely ridiculous.
PHIL: “Blow a Bag” is A1 new-old Future: a little underwhelming on the first few listens, but five days later, you’re walking around the apartment robo-singsonging the hook to yourself.
Future may be trading the immediacy of Honest – which, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but I will defend to my death – for a delivery that sounds like he’s rapping from a recliner which is itself reclining in a larger recliner, but when it’s this hypnotic, it works. It helps when you have three of Atlanta’s best making a beat this luxurious. I want to float through this production like Matthew McConaughey’s space library.
But Marcus, you’re focusing too much on this song as the literal manifestation of Future’s life – or, rather, what he’s choosing to project – and not on what it’s selling, which is the American Dream. To wit, here’s Future discussing “Fuck Up Some Commas” while eating food: “It’s just a motivational song. It makes you feel like you got a chance to do it. This song is gonna make you feel like if you don’t have commas, when you listen to this song, you gonna feel like you fucked up some commas… It’s about feeling. It’s the feeling it gives you, no matter if you’re rich or poor. When you hear this song, you gonna say, ‘Fuck up some commas.'”
To paraphrase Marco Rubio, who paints a similar picture, America is the land of those who blow a bag a day, and those who are soon to blow a bag a day.
Chief Keef: “Ain’t Missing You”
Chief Keef’s Bang 3 was supposed to see release on Christmas of 2013. That is a long time ago. But it was delayed and delayed and delayed, and then in October Interscope decided that it just didn’t want to release the follow-up to Finally Rich and dropped the Chicago rapper. Still, Keef has vowed to move forward with the project, and it’s tentatively scheduled for mid-August. More interestingly, Keef put out a new single e from the project last week and, in an unexpected twist, he’s gone country. Or, at least, he’s sampled John Waite’s classic ’80s country-pop song “Ain’t Missing You”. Produced by the Animaniacs, the song is dedicated to Big Glo, a cousin who was fatally shot last year.
PHELPS: John Waite was all pop. I remember this shit on the FM radio nonstop. Please let the next single be based on a Paul Young “Everytime You Go Away” loop.
This is interesting but far from good. I applaud anyone who’ll extract themselves from as dangerous a situation as any in Chiraq, take up painting and singing, and put up art shows in bohemian LA. Musically though, the grimiest, drilliest of ignorant drill shit plays better than this lame Puff Daddy impersonation. When “Missing You” would come on in the weight room after school, people would pull the plug out the stereo and talk for 20 minutes about how the Lox eulogy to BIG was that real, hard shit. Shoulda saved this one for the repast, Keef.
MARCUS: This is what happens when that one *creative* homie in your clique really isn’t actually all that *creative* and instead just wants to be Puff Daddy. I’m literally stunned. What made the Puff and Faith thing work is that Puffy was rapping about THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. so it’s like, no matter how incredibly corny the song is (and it’s INCREDIBLY corny), it’s the song that the guy who “discovered” BIG wrote about him so you have to give it all of the passes.
But this is deplorable.
PHIL: I question the prudence of analyzing a Chief Keef song in terms of calculation. For the past two years, the kid’s guide principle can loosely be summarized as IDGAF. He flew Andy Milonakis to Chicago to record with him. You think Chief Keef gives a fuck about strategy? He’s not even signed anymore. I chalk up anything that comes off remotely commercial as a happy accident.
And fuck it, I like this song. Keef’s delivery is a little goofy, and I have no idea what function the autotune is serving, but I find the tribute to be genuinely moving. You’ll hear no complaints from me if this song hits. Wouldn’t it be great if he stuck it to Interscope, too?