Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, FlyLo, Thundercat, and Shabazz Palaces form a super (trippy) group; Janet Jackson heats things up with Missy; and the Game stands on sports cars.
WOKE ft. George Clinton: “The Lavishments of Light Looking”
WOKE is the underground rap fan wet dream collaboration of Flying Lotus, Shabazz Palaces, and Thundercat. As FlyLo explained recently, the project has been three years in the making, stemming from a film script about “dreams and stuff and astral experience.” It’s unclear if that movie will ever get made or where this musical offshoot will go, but this week we did receive something tangible –
“The Lavishments of Light Looking”, an early track featuring George Clinton (!). It was released via the Adult Swim Singles series, which has been on absolute tear recently.
AARON: This is amazing.
JOSE: This is some Polyphonic Spree rap, and I am not mad at all. The current space-funk revival is amazing, and I love that George Clinton (and indirectly, Stanley Clarke, Sun-Ra, and acid-Miles) are at the epicenter of influences for all of these cats. Sign me up for anything and everything they make – it might be hard to digest at first, but it’s so, so satisfying when it clicks.
Also, much like it’s always slightly surprising to see transgressive programming on a Fox-owned channel, who could have predicted that Cartoon Network would make Ted Turner the Cosimo de Medici of post hip-hop?
MARCUS: As someone who writes and creates within hip-hop/very much easily confused for “mainstream pop” culture, I’ll get really bored with how Yung Trap Gawd XYZ or White Actress ABC is savaging the culture, and I’ll ask myself, “Is there anything beyond hip-hop that can save me?” Until I heard Kendrick’s album, I didn’t really have a good answer. Now, since TPAB, it’s as if the floodgates have opened and this, this amazing track, is the best of these jazz/funk fusion records with deep spoken word vocals that’s answering my questions.
I don’t think that this is the music that makes the money, though. But it is the music for us who are aware that these are important times, and for our friends who have kids to play out after we play Kendrick to keep people “WOKE.”
Ideally, after hearing this, we’re having some amazing ass conversations about the future of blackness, black music and how the world mustn’t take these new sounds, and unlike hip-hop in the past, have the culture the music inspires being immediately bastardized be the end result of what happens when outsiders finally *really* take a listen.
AARON: I’m sure I’ve said it before but Thundercat ’bout to fuck around and make black people listen to jazz again.
Janet Jackson ft. Missy Elliott: “BURNITUP!”
On Friday, Janet Jackson releases her first album since 2008’s Discipline. It’s called Unbreakable and cover art features some serious ring game. The first single “No Sleeep” received a why-does-this-exist? J Cole remix, but second single “BURNITUP!” goes ahead and features the esteemed Missy Elliot on the proper track. Produciton is credited to Compton’s Dem Jointz, along with Jackson and longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The song marks the third time Elliot and Jackson have teamed up following 2001’s “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)” and “The 1”. “Working with Janet is unbelievable,” Elliot said in a recent statement. “Although we are great friends and have been for so long, I am still her biggest fan. Sometimes, I still have to pinch myself when I call her and she picks up the phone or texts me because she is still Janet Jackson!”
LEAH: Okay, I’ll say it first so we can get it out of the way: She sounds a little like Michael. This is not unusual. They are brother and sister. Yes, it feels a little weird. No, it’s not his reanimated corpse.
I don’t think this song is “FIYAH” but it’s got a driving beat and doesn’t sound like the same song either of these ladies would have made in 2001 – it’s modern, it’s dancy, and it’s ripe for some spectacular choreography, which, lesbereal, is what we all are waiting for where Missy and Janet are concerned. I’m real excited about the return of Missy, and while this track is a boon to her “who-she-associates-with” index (it’s tough to figure out who paid who here) this is not her real break, so I’ll keep waiting & wishing & hoping.
AARON: Neck jerk.
I’ll be damned if Janet Jackson doesn’t do the best Justin Timberlake impression.
This is just barely OK. I’m not sure how I feel about the slight autotune (synth double?) on Janet’s voice. At this point, autontune is strictly for people who can’t sing. The lasery robotic quality of the vocals gives me the creeps.
It is also a little awkward to have Missy stridently shouting out “Janet Jackson.” Like, just say Janet. I’m sure she just says “Missy.” Don’t be awkward. We know who you’re talking about.
Somebody tell Missy that after you “Burn It Up,” drink some water. Ol’ Dj Kool Let Me Clear My Throat sounding ass.
I felt like I wanted to listen to this song again. It it was a lie. I did not listen.
JOSE: They playing this at Soul Cycle yet?
MARCUS: 35 years later and this song proves that Minneapolis funk still sounds fresh as hell. Jimmy and Terry are effortless here on the production and it makes me want to crate dig for old Prince records…but more on that in a bit.
The idea that Michael’s vocal style begat Janet’s vocal style which begat JT’s vocal influences that Janet reclaims for 2300 Jackson Street here is, at best, the most entertaining part of the song.
Conversely, the worst part of the song, when not Missy Elliott dropping bars that we’d lampoon Diddy or will.i.am for spitting, is that everything about this track feels straight out of 1986 in a way where songs just aren’t made like this anymore. Thus, the whole track screams “this is real good for one listen,” but insofar as being a hit, all of the things that make this feel irrelevant ultimately allow it to fail against its at one time quite considerable merits.
From putting J. Cole on the excellent lead single to now dropping pristinely freeze-dried funk from yesteryear, so far Janet’s been really close, but still missing the retro-future-fusion sound that could give her a blowaway album.
AARON: She should have just done a track with Thundercat like everybody else. Duh.
The Game ft. Diddy: “Standing On Ferraris”
Somehow, it took The Game ten whole years to make a sequel to his 2005 debut The Documentary but next week he’ll deliver one. As with all albums from the Compton name dropper, The Documentary 2 is a features bonanza: Future, Drake, Ice Cube, Dej Loaf, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, will.i.am, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Q-Tip, and Ab-Soul are among those appearing on the 19-track record. (A disc two with 19 more tracks follows a week later.) (No, seriously.) On the heels of earlier singles “100” and “Dedicated” comes “Standing On Ferraris”, which boasts a Diddy cameo. The track was produced by Jahlil Beats, the Philadelphia beatmaker best known for “Hot N*gga” and his work with Meek Mill.
CLYDE: My least favorite rap practice is an artist trying to recapture the magic of their most popular album by making a “sequel” years later.
I wanna like Game. I really do, but I just cannot get passed the name-dropping, rap fanboy bullshit.
Did Game promise to let Diddy talk shit for 90 seconds on the outro if he let him get those “Kick in the Door” and “Things Done Changed” samples?
PHELPS: Everything is a loss leader for his reality or, ahem, “Game” shows. I’m preaching to the choir when I say that his best songs have guests: 50 on “Hate It or Love It”, or the shamelessly fun and garish Zombie Nation/Ms. Jackson piano ripping “Red” with Lil Wayne a couple years back. Shout out to Beavis with “knockers” in the chorus, though.
LEAH: Didn’t Biggie already put this sample to bed? This is terrible.
AARON: The title of this song made me laugh real hard.
I don’t know what it is about the Game. I just can’t like him. He keeps good company, does decent work, and gets features he barely deserves. He can even rap better than a lot of dudes. I just can’t do it.
The hook is quality, though I don’t care.
I think this beat is bananas for a repurposed throwback joint. It should have been passed of to Pusha T, Jadakiss, or maybe Joey Bad. Somebody hard enough to own it or young enough for it to seem like a really novel idea.
It gets kinda off kilter at the end because this whole time I’ve been under the impression that Game was standing on his own Ferrari. Not true. It think it was Diddy’s car. And, evidently, when you stand on Diddy’s car, he does not get mad for real, he just starts babbling uncontrollably about all manner of dumb shit.
Early onset dementia, take that, take that. Get off my car. Hype Williams. East Coast. West Coast. Happy Tuesday.
What the fuck is he doing?!? It sounds like his blood sugar went all crazy. I think Game should get him some juice or something. You know hip-hop is fucked up when Puffy can’t even handle an outro anymore without spiraling. That used to be his thing. His empire is basically built on a famous dead guy and talking shit at the end of records.
How you gonna fuck that up? You had one job.
MARCUS: OK. This is great. Here’s why.
Game is the rap game rap Stan fan who actually can crush a track into smithereens when he wants to. The other key to Game is that he’s an excellent flow mimic, so if you give him a Biggie-used Screaming Jay Hawkins sample, he’s going to do a Biggie impersonation that’s kinda spot on.
Also, I seriously think that Diddy loves this track because the last time he got that crazy at the end of something, it was Jay Elec’s “Ghost of Christopher Wallace.”
Game is a first-rate emcee always doing second-rate things impeccably well. It’s a weird lane, but he owns the FUCK out of it, lol.
PHIL: Leave Jahlil Beats alone. He got left off all copies of Dream Worth More Than Money not sold in a Best Buy. Let the man rebound with the Game. The Game treats him right. The Game listens to him. The Game lets him stand on his Ferrari.
I’m with Marcus. I don’t know some of you are getting heated about this. This is flawlessly executed albeit middle-of-the-road knucklehead rap. And not to be a crotchety old man or knock the 808 Mafia, but it’s nice to hear a banger that doesn’t sound like it was made in fifteen minutes by a 22 year old in Atlanta. Is that fucking bassoon?
The Game’s not entering anyone’s Top Five but he brings no shame to the dojo here.