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

Today, Mac Miller plans procreation; Vince Staples sees a ghost; and 2 Chainz tells us everything he knows.

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

Mac Miller: “100 Grandkids”

Guess who’s back? Back again. Mac Miller’s back. Tell a friend: On September 18, Pittsburgh’s finest returns with GO:OD AM, his third LP and first with major label backing. In case you forgot, it was announced in October that Miller had left local indie Rostrum and inked a deal with Warner Brothers to the tune of $10 million. It’s his first record since 2013’s underrated Watching Movies with the Sound Off, but that’s not counting last year’s monstrous Faces mixtape. Unlike most of that mixtape, Miller did not handle production here; instead, that honor goes to Sha Money XL, the producer of many a golden era 50 Cent banger.

AARON: Hmmmm. I’m gonna call this a firm step back for young Mac Miller.

I think we are losing another one. Props on the deal, I guess, but can the universe gimme just one fucking young rapper that can handle his raps as well as his money and his liquor?

I think, pound for pound, Mac is way better than most rappers his age, and seemed firmly poised to get better. Flows tight, fucking with Flylo ,showing some range etc… I guess not. I’ll have to listen to more.

The first part of this beat is corny as hell. Sha Money XL is a pretty solid producer, but I I can actually hear Fiddy saying no to this beat. “Naw, not this one…I ain’t that broke.”

The vibe is all backwards.  The track starts off wack and ends tight. That hookish bullshit at the end “…the first time I made a hundred grand, thought I was the shit.” THAT’S THE BUSINESS, DUDE. EFF YOUR GRANDMA. Save the daycare shit for Macklemore. Let him raise the kids and deal with gram-gram and you get back to partying down on boom-bap beats, ok?

I definitely like the line about “Riding clean in a coat made of armadillo” Did he have Riff Raff ghost write a single line for this track or what?

PHELPS: I don’t see how you gonna brand Mac with the scarlet M because he mentioned grandkids in a hook surrounded by verses laden with druggies and hoes. I’m figuring the whole point is fuck the kids (maybe he read the article about how they make you unhappy) and he’ll stay putting the hero in heroin and the OD in God. It’s a far cry from some overly earnest Macklemore back-patting bullshit to me.

As for Sha Money, fuck it man – this shit is amazing to me from the jump to the switch up. I used to think all he did was remove vocals on early-aughts-era R&B tracks for 50 to run wild on, but this is a sheen I’ve never seen and it works.

There’s a few shouts to Bad Boy on here too from the “As we proceed” off of “Who Shot Ya?” to the “Bad Boy For Life” hook. Subtle 50 shade?

AARON: I feel you, Phelps. The Wacklemore thing was more unfocused Haterism than a direct comparison. You are probably right. I bet Mac still steals pills out the medicine cabinet while grandmas not looking.

The beat is still full of GMO Monsanto corn, OK? I put that on my grandma.

As with most rappers under the age of 100, I want better from him. I’m currently trying out a new school favorite white rapper, Lil Dicky. I’m not sure how that’s working out yet, but Mac is on probation for a minute.

MARCUS: Drug abuse and alcoholism early in Mac’s career fucked him ALL OF THE WAY UP. 2013’s Watching Movies With The Sound Off is one of my favorite albums of the past five years because it’s clear that he’s not necessarily super-focused, but he’s mentally open. Like, the one thing that people have to understand about Mac Miller is that while he’s friendly with Wiz Khalifa is that HE’S NOT WIZ KHALIFA. Thus, the first time Mac drops a tab of acid or eats magic mushrooms and starts writing… oh my.

To be completely frank, Mac’s honestly kinda lost in the sauce without the aid of substances. Like, he’s one of those rappers from the mixtape era that got gobbled up by the game before they really had their gimmick down pat. Five years later he’s this thankfully detoxed, yet really empty shell of a rapper, and everything about this feels so incredibly hollow.

I get the sense he’s always going to be uneven in that way. Killing the “BARS, SON” game one day, telling stories about impressing his grandmother the next. Not to invoke the name of race in this, but let’s. There’s this white rapper narrative that’s always going to include making your solid and well adjusted nuclear family proud of your industrious hard work that can never sound anything but corny as hell that you just don’t hear from black rappers raised in either single-family homes or surrounded by a bunch of terrible circumstances. Also, insofar as breaking out of the damn near Macklemore white rapper archetype, he’s not Eminem or the Beastie Boys, either. Thus, you’re going to end up with songs like these every so often that are just a total mess and all over the place. It is what it is.

Mac Miller should be consistently awesome. But in literally being everywhere at the same time because he never had the adequate time to figure out where he initially wanted to be, he’s kinda just…there. I don’t hate this song, but I certainly don’t love it, either.

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With You. ft. Vince Staples: “Ghost”

David James Andrew Taylor not only has four first names, he’s also the producer best known as Switch. Switch is most associated with his work with Beyonce, M.I.A., and M.I.A. Lite. aka Santigold. Additionally, he used to be one half of Major Lazer, until Diplo was like “THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE” and took over the project. Now Switch has unveiled a new project called With You., and I will pause here to note that the period is part of the name. With You. is a collective of producers featuring Rick Trainor, Jeff Penalva, Noah Schy, Daouda Leonard, and Mr. Switch. It’s first song is “Ghost”, and if you’re going to have a guest on your first song, Vince Staples is a pretty good way to go. Earlier this summer, Staples released Summertime ’06, an incredible record that not many people bought.

AARON: Shout out to Mr. Four-Names on this throwback house shit.

Shout to Mr. Staples on his Kanye impression.

I hate to say it, but this song could actually use a vocalist of some kind to break up the monotony – like a big, loud, R&B diva or some such.  It’s got some serious retro-ish authenticity going on but it’s a little boring. I might brag that I heard it already at a party or something, but I will most likely never listen to it again.

I’m not sure this guy is cut out to make rap beats, and I’m not sure I like Vince Staples rapping fast with any hint of happiness or positivity.

The best part of listening to Vince Staples is the darkness; that creepy feeling that something bad might happen. Most of his songs make me feel like I’m about to get carjacked by a werewolf.

I think every producer should follow this rule: If the beat is too weird, just put Pusha T on it.

This track does not have nearly enough cocaine in it.

PHELPS: I’m pretty sure Aaron just described what would put this song over the top: some icing on the track from the likes of an A Trak or similar and Pusha T pulling out crumpled Bugatti raps out of his pocket for a final verse. I’ll still bang this but it does build like an infinite staircase that leads nowhere. Perfect opportunity for Diplo and the current incarnation of Major Lazer to vaporize the track.

MARCUS: This is an industry rap dude doing his best “Imma be Pusha T on some industry EDM beats” impersonation. If anybody can do that really really well, it’s the only other honest man in the room who you think would still pull out a Beretta in the middle of a recording session like it ain’t no thang. Staples is great, and like hearing Kendrick making trap singles, you just want to find the check signer in the gray suit with his hand up Vince or Kendrick’s ass and hit him with a slapjack.

This is a bogus attempt at getting Vince Staples festival bookings with kids in neon doing blow and eating molly. Everyone should be ashamed of themselves.

Vince might need this to stay paid (just like Pusha does), but damn. This is like walking in the right lane wearing two left shoes. Doesn’t fit.

PHIL: Well, it’s a little hard to ride for a song after Marcus has buried it in the lonely grave of Paula Schultz. But, fuck it, I love “Ghost”, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Honestly, no shade to Pusha, but his out-of-the-box tracks – “Bugatti”, “Night Riders”, “Push It” – can feel a little too gimmicky. I’m not getting the same impression from this track. Staples sounds right at home on this sort of understated retro electro-house production. (Maybe that’s a product of ageism and our collectively still trying to figure out who Staples is; in contrast to Pusha, who has been on a straight line since day one.)

If you like Staples swallowed in darkness, I know an album with 18 tracks that will probably satisfy that itch. That Staples can body a song like this on his own somehow makes me more excited about his future.

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2 Chainz: “Everything I Know”

2 Chainz, America’s drunk uncle, released a new mixtape on Friday. It is called Trap-A-Velli Tre, and in case you aren’t a renaissance man fluent in Spanglish like Tity Boi, it is the third entry in his Trap-A-Velli series. But a lot has changed for 2 Chainz in the five years since Trap-A-Velli 2: (The Residue). (That is the real name.) Mainly, the former Playaz Circle rapper is now a pretty big deal and, I would imagine, rich. And with B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time, he gave the world a big budget, knucklehead, commercial-ish rap album . Nevertheless, much like last year’s Freebase, 2 Chainz still wants to talk the streets. They have taught him everything he knows. This is the message of “Everything I Know”, a Nard & B-produced song from the mixtape. It follows the quasi-single “Watch Out”.

JOSE: I don’t think I can recall hearing Chainz using auto-tune before. Is this a new addition to his repertoire? I was really excited during the opening bars of this song, but the singing is a letdown. Something is off-putting about hearing his warble… well, even more warbled. Sounds like Chainz is gargling or singing under a waterfall of purple drank. This is also a surprisingly tame track. I listen to your music for absurd proclamations and explosive choruses, Chainz. Where is all of that?

AARON: I BE ALL UP ON A BOOOOAAAATT.

I can fuck with this. 2 Chainz is all over the place. Some days I hate him, some days I don’t. He is one of my favorite rappers that can’t rap but can rap sometimes when he feels like it.

I wonder what is the deciding factor that dictates whether he is hit the booth and freestyle some goofball shit or actually come with some bars. Is it a dollar amount? Is it a certain outfit, like a lucky mink coat or something? Phase of the moon? Nobody knows.

This track bangs enough for me to not hate it.

MARCUS: Happy to see Tity Boi make an appearance. I mean, when he has to put on the bullshit and tomfoolery hat, Tauheed slips into his “2 Chainz” persona. But when he’s walking up into that hood strip spot that’s not Magic City that’s next to that joint with the banging ass ribs that’s around the corner from the trap where the D-Boys serve him rare hydroponic weed strains for free, you’re getting Tity Boi.

That’s the thing about 2 Chainz that I love the most. He’s the only rapper out of Atlanta that sees this as a job. Like, he’s employed to rap and perform, and his time spent neither rapping nor performing is spent either cultivating his image or chillin’ on the block. I get the sense that like, Future and Migos aren’t as deep in the trap still as 2 Chainz likely is on occasion. Music is a working class industry now, and you have to maintain that organic tie to your roots, or you’re lost.

I don’t mind this at all, and I’ll probably bang the whole mixtape because of it. If anything, 2 Chainz is consistently entertaining. That’s really all we should be asking for these days.

PHIL: “Everything I Know” is in the unenviable position of following “Watch Out”, which is just a great, weird 2 Chainz street single. In contrast, this is a solid thirty seconds worth of ideas stretched to almost four minutes.

Still, “Everything I Know” is as good a mission statement for Trap-A-Velli Tre as we’re going to get. In the summer of 2015, street rap is financially lucrative for the first time in over half a decade. Dreams Worth More than Money and DS2 are moving units. Fetty Wap is on stage with Tay Tay.

2 Chainz didn’t exactly go pop, but he has to be licking his chops. Or, to quote him here: “They fiending for the trappers and rappers! / And I am all of that! /  Shawty, what’s happening?”

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

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