Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, YG throws up the the W; Young Thug needs a pacifier; and Black Eyed Peas look back on yesterday.
YG: “Twist My Fingaz”
YG’s My Krazy Life was heralded – elsewhere, if somewhat divisively here – as an album that “breathe[d] new energy into West Coast gangsta rap.” But the success of the Compton rapper’s debut was attributed just as often to its sonic architect, DJ Mustard, as it was the MC, which makes YG’s forthcoming follow-up, Still Krazy, an interesting proposition, because, well, those two aren’t exactly getting along these days. And, accordingly, Still Krazy‘s first single holds the Mustard and doubles down on the West Coast gangsta rap construct with G-funk production courtesy of Terrance Martin. (Martin, it should be noted, had a massive hand in shaping the sound of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.) Among other things, “Twist My Fingaz” makes reference to the rapper getting shot at the recording studio in June. There’s no word on a Still Krazy release at this point, but YG already released an a separate street single, “Cash Money”, with Krayzie Bone and K-Pop producer Brave Brothers.
AARON: I can’t say I’ve ever paid attention to or cared bout YG until right now. I’m still not convinced I care that he’s on the mic here, but the rap is solid.
Why the fuck is Kurupt not on this track? Terrence Martin, you have outdone yourself on this time machine beat. It doesn’t just sound like a 2015 dude made a throwback beat. This sounds like an actual 1996 beat from a Tupac album.
I give YG a strong 6 on this track, but we should never forget that Wikipedia told me he did that “Toot it and Boot It” joint. That track makes me nauseous, so I’m predisposed to hate this guy. Just not now.
You got lucky this time, YG.
JOSE: Whoa, this song totally caught me by surprise, in a very positive way. Really loving the G-funk production, and it’s a welcome stylistic shift from what felt like a dried up well. I got some real enjoyment out of My Krazy Life, and don’t mean to trash that album in hindsight, but as we’ve discussed multiple times in the past, Mustard’s production hasn’t aged gracefully. The style became so ubiquitous as to flatten and exhaust everything and everyone in its wake.
It seems that regional rap revival is in full force, and as we snap back from the “post-rap” era to bring new twists on early 90s styles (see: Big K.R.I.T. and David Banner’s track from a couple of weeks ago), I welcome more of these kinds of tracks. Just a shame that Nate Dogg ain’t around to sing the hooks.
JOSH: From now on, when people ask me why I’m always talking about spending more time in LA, I’m not going to respond about the weather. Truth is, I just wanna do my dance, cuff my pants, and twist my fingers with my hands at a BBQ bangin’ YG, Kendrick, Eastsidaz, Doggystyle, and The Chronic. This shit goes. More Terrance Martin. please.
Jose, if you smoke a blunt of California kush, Nate Dogg appears in the smoke like a bootleg ‘Pac hologram to serenade you with g funk classics. A friend told me…
MARCUS: This shit is beautiful. There’s something about YG just making Death Row b-sides into A-List jams in 2015 that has become wonderful. The secret of making these tracks click 20 years later is finding the pocket in the production and not trying to out-rap it or anything. A lot of emcees fail G-funk by getting too lyrical or letting the beat ride too much. But YG does his best to stay well within the 1995 expectation of what Terrance Martin laid down.
For as much as My Krazy Life felt derivative, maybe left coast gangsta rap is one of those things so iconic that when it’s done right, we shouldn’t get so let down that we’ve heard it done a hundred different times before. I mean, if a song is ultimately this great, then maybe we should just twist our fingaz and chill.
CLYDE: Put me in the camp of people who loved My Krazy Life. And that’s because YG and Mustard were simpatico. But mainly it was because I love Dijon as a beatmaker. I DON’T LIKE IT WHEN MOMMY AND DADDY FIGHT.
Am I the only one who thinks this is a standard mid-90s paint-by-numbers-and-khaki-suit beat? I guess the reason I’m not so hyped is because I’ve never been a big west coast guy. (I mean, I actually liked Snoop MORE when he was on No Limit Records.) Just putting my biases out there.
Anyway, I still think YG is a pretty charismatic dude in that lovable asshole way but he goes best with mustard… like MAYO. Oh, you didn’t think you were gonna get outta here without a sandwich spread joke did you??? ***AIRHORN***
PHIL: I just really like YG. I’ve beaten this drum for a year now, but here it goes again: What you sacrifice in dexterity, insight, and originality, you make up for in a lack of artifice. YG is one of the few commercial rappers today who I’ve never suspected of being full of shit. He used his debut to give a snapshot of his actual life, and the picture was unglamorous and certainly unflattering at times. Now, he’s famous – yes, famous, My Krazy Life sold 175,000 units, which is platinum in 2015 – and he’s still not changing. We heard this on “Wuzhanindoe”. We heard this on “Only Right”. And we’re hearing it on “Twist My Fingaz”: “I could have got a Ghost but I went and got a low low / Because copying off you rap n*ggas is a no-no.” That’s a great line!
I don’t mean to shortchange YG as a technician, though. He’s got presence. He can handle a hook. And he always throws a few little change-ups, which feel like witnessing a fat dude suddenly bust out the worm on the wedding dancefloor. (Here it’s slipping into double time for “I tried to pop first, got popped back / got hit in the hip / Couldn’t pop back.”) So, yeah, three cheers for DJ Mustard’s production on My Krazy Life, but we’ve heard enough Mustard production at this point to know that a good beat does not a good song make. Go listen to the YG album, then listen to 10 Summers, and tell me that the production is that different. We already know which record is ten times better.
The fact that Terrance Martin’s production works on “Twist My Fingaz” is a testament to both of these points. First, this sort of throwback works because YG himself is a throwback to the no-nonsense spirit of early 90s West Coast rap. Second, the song underscores YG’s ability to slide seamlessly into something that’s not a DJ Mustard creation, even if the bass line is somewhat of a carryover. And he gets bonus point for beating his chest with “I’m the only one who made it out the West without Dre” on production from a guy best known for working with Kendrick.
Also, I might be burying the lead here: YG says, “These n*ggas emo.” Emo! YG called his rivals emo! That is historic!
Young Thug: “Pacifier”
Young Thug just had what by most metrics would be considered a bad week. First, he was arrested on “terroristic” charges for threatening to shoot a mall cop. Then an Atlanta news station unearthed an indictment that namew him and Birdman as conspirators in the April shooting of Lil Wayne’s tour bus. And, finally, his Sandy Springs house was raided, turning up illegal weapons and drugs. That is an unequivocally rough fucking few days. Still, to the degree it was possible, Thugger did try to end the week on a high note with the release of “Pacifier”, the lead single from Hy!£UN35 (pronounced “Hitunes”), his full-fledged, proper studio debut. (Barter 6 was technically a for-sale mixtape, whatever that means.) Now, Young Thug is wildly prolific, releasing what feels like a song a week – usually with production from standby producers London on da Track or Metro Boomin – but “Pacifier” has a sheen and slick Mike WiLL Made-It production that suggests its something different. What all of his legal troubles means for the future of Hy!£UN35 remains to be seen.
MARCUS: Here’s the key to Young Thug. The less you regard his voice as a speaking tool and the more you regard it as a musical instrument, the better his appearances sound. Mike WILL crafted this amazing soul break and horn groove, and somehow Thugger sounds like a dissonant French horn playing unfettered in the negative space of the track. Not to get too artsy here, but this sounds like the best kind of free jazz. Of course, the track wasn’t meant to be free jazz, but at this point, Thug’s gotten so far being so unrestrained that we really can’t judge him as an artist as much as try to discover an appreciation for what he’s doing. On the level of “what in the hell” Young Thug tracks, this is probably the best I’ve heard to date.
JOSH: Whether intentional or not, this song is hilarious and I love it. I’m not generally a fan of YT’s jibberish but I’ll deal when it’s folded neatly between melodic nonsense, chemically induced patois Bob Molly choruses, and genuine bars. I’m left mush brained and maybe in need of a pacifier myself after a few listens. Also I’m paying top dollar for whoever gets me the isolated backing vocal track – it’s easily up there with David Lee Roth and Waka Flocka.
JOSE: After the success and crossover appeal of “Good Times”, Young Thug’s collaboration with Jamie xx, it’s cool to see how those Northern Soul influences are bleeding over in the opposite direction. Mike Will is obviously a talented producer and an industry leader, and part of his success has been in associating with very different artists, embracing a broad range of styles: Jeremih, Miley Cyrus, Juicy J, and now Young Thug.
Young Thug careens off the edges of this song like a pinball, and this is the most high energy and free association I’ve heard him in a minute. This is excellent, and is occupying its own sonic space, where trap music meets fat, Madchester-style basslines. So funky.
CLYDE: Mark Ronson Made-it.
PHIL: You take that back, Clyde.
CLYDE: I love it even though Thugger has finally hopped to the top of my list of dudes who pick great beats that I wish literally anyone else was rapping on.
AARON: No. I cannot handle this. Young Thug is just not my jam. Is Thug Shaming a thing? Well, it should be.
He’s a spazz. I can’t handle that Bill Cosby shit on the hook. If he just rapped like he does on the second verse and stopped bugging out all the time we might be friends-but nah ,this fire-ish beat should have obviously been a Kanye track or maybe the best Jay Z song in 5 yrs or anybody really just not this.
Black Eyed Peas: “Yesterday”
Black Eyed Peas have a new single. It is called “Yesterday”. It is the hip-hoppin’ troupe’s first single since 2011. It is a homage to the Black Eyed Peas’ musical heroes. will.i.am. told Reuters in an interview in Madrid, because will.i.am gives interviews to Reuters in Madrid. In addition to will.i.am., it features apl.de.ap and Taboo, whose names I had to look up. It does not feature Fergie, because she’s busy with other shit. It has a video that interpolates the covers of rap classics. It has a video that Erykah Badu says ripped her video for 2009’s “Honey”. #FactsOnly
PHELPS: I know this is a rap column but I can see the importance in discussing the history of BPA. BPA stands for bisphenol, an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.
What? Ohhhh, B.E.P, not B.P.A. Well, B.E.P. music is plastic, sucks too, and listening to it may also harm the assholes of fetuses, infants, and children.
Special thanks to will.i.am for sharing his masturbatory practice session for an inevitably shitty Beats1 playlist.
MARCUS: There was a time in 1998 when The Black Eyed Peas were a rap trio that breakdanced onstage, wore Cazal shades and were ALL about throwback rap. Somewhere along the way, major label repackaging came along with a pop vocalist, mainstream hits and shazam, we get this song that just feels like “Noted tech junkie will.i.am and His Rapper Friends.”
For the 1998 Peas, this would be awesome. But instead it’s 17 years later and just sounds tired, like when you go to see your favorite old school rapper and they just talk about “old school” this and “keeping it real” that, which is code for, “we’re either too rich or too broke to care about pop relevance anymore.”
I hope Will getting checks for his homies works out well, but yeah. This is bogus.
JOSE: When I read the subject line of the email, I got the kind of chills that my body normally associates with things that make me really anxious: crowded South Florida malls in the late 1990s, photographs of abnormally large catfish, faded pop stars trying to reclaim their former glory in a very public forum. Oh, wait. This is probably the best song the Black Eyed Peas have put out in their entire career, mainly owing to its very nature as a collage of other timeless tracks.
Also, you know what blows my mind? Will.i.am cowrote “Ordinary People” with John Legend. I know it’s all been a calculated (and wildly successful) money-grab, but someone who can write a song with that emotional depth and impact shouldn’t have to resort to shilling this kind of bullshit. I’m sorry.
CLYDE: I mean there’s already an iconic “Yesterday”, but I get why they named it that. “A Song That Reminds You of All the Songs That are Better Than the One You Are Currently Listening To” is probably too long a title to be a pop hit.
Yes, we get it dude. You know a lot about rap and what better way to regain your cred than “creating” this masturbatory shoutout? Oh, what’s that? Perhaps making an innovative and forward-looking song would have been a better idea? But that would mistake will.i.am for someone who gives a damn and not the dude who makes cynical garbage like this.
AARON: Every rapper mentioned in this song right now:
Thirty years from now when they are playing rap songs in the elevators of government buildings, this is what it will sound like.
Phil, I’m sorry I missed contributing to Rec Room last week. You don’t have to punish me anymore.
PHIL: Black Eyed Peas making a song extolling the virtues of “real” hip-hop in 2015 is like Hitler dropping some verses about painting in 1944: We recognize you tried unsuccessfully to do that, but we can’t just ignore your subsequent crimes against humanity.
CLYDE: Phil, I find this incredibly offensive. BEP are nothing like Hitler. They’re more Stalin-esque. Not as spectacular as their contemporaries but far more brutally evil than they are given credit for.