Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Run the Jewels ascends to the rubble throne; Big Boi and Phantogram go gold digging; and Terrence Howards calls out your snitchin.
Run the Jewels: “Rubble Kings (Dynamite on the Street)”
The Adult Swim Singles program drew to a close earlier this week with a bang: “Rubble Kings (Dynamite on the Street)”, the latest track from Run the Jewels. We talk about pretty much every new Run the Jewels track over here at Rec-Room, but there’s one noticeable distinction with this one: El-P didn’t product it. Instead, that distinction belongs to New York’s Shalimar. It’s also not set to appear on the eagerly anticipated – and probably a long ways off – Run the Jewels 3. Instead, it’s set to appear on soundtrack to “Rubble Kings”, a documentary about Bronx gangs in the ’70s.
MARCUS: Can we just already name the “Adult Swim Singles” as the best underground rap album on the year? Like, this is just the coup de grace: the most mainstream-trending underground dudes bodyslamming this titanic boom-bap thing that Shalimar calls a “production.”
I shed a tear for Killer Mike and El-P’s double-time flows sliding just a hair off the snare, because fuck if that’s not what RTJ exists for these days. They’re so good at elocution (especially El-P. Just listen to the CONSONANT FLOW. Crazy?!?!). They’re so good at making salient points and giving zero fucks. And just when you think you’ve had enough, you also realize that goddamn if they’re not awesome at all of the technical shit, too.
This is so damn great. Unghhhhh!!!!
AARON: For real, I don’t think El-P used a single vowel in that first verse. I find that he’s one of those rappers that is so good that people can’t even acknowledge it.
I’m continually amazed that they are the biggest “underground” rap group on the planet. I have no faith in people, and I tend to doubt that they are actually hearing what they are listening to. RTJ is not just dope. They are not just bleeding edge marketing and stellar bookings. They are important. This kind of make-you-think-rap is so vital to hip-hop these days.
These men are on a mission.
If you had told me five years ago that that the current Dream Team of conscious art rap would take the form of a giant southern warrior, feature-killer and an impenetrable backpack flow king – both now 40+ years-old! – I would have laughed in your face.
It ain’t funny no more.
This is dope as it ever was.
CLYDE: I can’t believe it, but El-P is growing on me as an MC.
AARON: Adult Swim is the Underground Railroad of rap.
Big Grams: “Goldmine Junkie”
In non-breaking news, Big Boi and spacey synth-poppers Phantogram released an EP a few weeks ago. They’re calling themselves Big Grams, and lest anyone be confused, the seven-song effort is also named Big Grams, Big Boi (hilariously) said recently that he discovered the duo via a pop-up ad that he Shazamed, and their partnership first bore fruit in 2012, when Phantogram appeared on three Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors tracks (“CPU”, “Objectum Sexuality”, and “Lines”). Today, we’re going to talk about “Goldmine Junkie” because that was the last promotional single Epic Records released for the project. Like the majority of Big Grams, music and production comes courtesy of Phantogram.
PHELPS: It’ll be hard for me to ever hate on Phantogtram. It’s nice to see two upstate New York hip-hop junkies go from opening for the Pomegranates at DC9 with a Spencer’s Gifts Halloween strobe to getting that 5 razor stadium laser Gillette money over the last few years. Josh and Sara know their way around a bea,t and Big Boi knows how to have fun on one (“Banana dick on deck / She goes gorilla”).
It’s an unforced, easy collaboration to me. I fuck with it.
MARCUS: Man. More happy OG hipsters working with super-awesome rap people and making money. I’m really not mad at this. I think this should be a new genre, actually. I mean, this is nice and all, but if a major label wanted to make 10 trillion dollars, they’d put Juicy J and Matt and Kim in a studio together for a week. But I digress.
This is slow, sumptuous and allows Sara to do all of the “singing into a hairbrush practicing Aaliyah’s version of ‘At Your Best’ vocal runs” she wants. Big Boi’s on here like, “Welp, ‘Dre ain’t doin’ this album, so, you know, I’mma make this money right fast.” Everything about this is everything right with how open and free-flowing music is right now. Loving every second of it. Quality stuff. I want much much more.
AARON: This here is amazing.
I gotta say, I rolled my eyes pretty hard when I saw this on the Internet a couple weeks ago. I never paid attention to Phantogram so I was all like, ” How the fuck is that gonna work?”
Well, this is obviously how it works, and it works well.
Not only does this play into my theory that the evolution – maybe even the survival of hip-hop – is dependent on cross-genre collabs, but it also supports what everybody really knows already: Big Boi can work with anybody and rap on anything and make it dope.
He is firmly on that top 20 rapper type shit and will turn a track into solid gold like its nothing. He is still one of the only rappers that can rap about sex, emotion, and baby mama drama and not make me squirm.
It’s that Straight Wise Granddad pimp shit.
I’m gonna go listen to this whole album now.
CLYDE: I admit to being skeptical once I heard news about this collab, as I wasn’t a big fan of their work together on “Vicious Lies” but damn it if this doesn’t work. I guess I should have known better cause like Aaron said, General Patton is one of the most versatile rappers in the game. This album is pretty solid and sounds like a true collaboration. (I also dig the RTJ feature, “Born to Shine”.)
PHIL: A few years back on “Top Chef”, Tom Collichio ripped someone for committing a particular variation of culinary fuck-up. The contestant had combined something properly seasoned with something unseasoned in the hope that the two would balance each other out and make something delicious. The contestant was wrong. To paraphrase the soul-patched food judge: When you combine bland with seasoned, you get bland.
Now let us turn to “Goldmine Junkie”, where Big Boi has thrown me the alley-oop of actually shouting out Salt-N-Pepa. Here’s the thing: Big Boi could spit the hottest bars of his life, but when you combine it with Phantogram, you get bland. Phantogram is a black hole of interesting things. Fifteen years ago, this duo would have been happy making shitty modern rock and being the next, I don’t know, Sixpence None the Richer, but it’s the 2010s, so they make “atmospheric pop” with a few beats. Ok. Sure. It is still sous-vide tofu. A cheap plastic rose by any another name.
Big Boi’s solo career just bums me out. Because it wasn’t dead on arrival. Sir Lucious Left Foot was fire. But then he took the worst elements of that album (namely, the wack, sappy, “new rock” of “Follow Us”) and doubled down on it with Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, where it took up approximately half the real estate. And it was trash! Of course, with Big Grams, he’s again doubled down on the wackest part of his previous album. This is a disconcerting trend. I don’t care if it gets him the 5:00 p.m. slot at the Fun Fun Fun Fest.
Anyone on the verge of convincing his or herself that “Goldmine Junkie” is remotely interesting needs to spin Sir Lucious Left Foot immediately. “Back Up Plan”, “General Patton”, “Daddy Fat Sax”. That album body checks Big Grams into the abyss.
Terrence Howard & Petey Pablo: “Snitch Bitch”
We are living in a world where “Drip Drop” got actual radio play, so you probably knew this would happen eventually: It’s time for Rec-Room and “Empire” to collide. And it’s going to happen with “Snitch Bitch”. On episode two of this season, “Snitch Bitch” is the song that imprisoned rap mogul Luscious Lyon records in a jail while a random white dude somehow plays a keyboard and beat machine at the same time. After the episode, ‘Snitch Bitch” was available immediately on iTunes, where it was credited to star Terrence Howard, as well as Petey Pablo. On the show, Pablo plays Luscious’ fellow inmate Clyde, who lends a hand with “Snitch Bitch” hook. In real life, the North Carolina rapper wrote four songs for this season of “Empire”. According to Vulture, the involvement stems from an unpaid 2005 debt.
CLYDE: I have listened to this song ten times since I watched this episode because Luscious shouts out his prison homie Clyde. Narcissistic, I know, but no one ever shouts out Clydes anymore!
MARCUS: “Empire” is awesome because it’s not a TV show, it’s the music industry getting a loan from the TV industry that TV’s making interest on before the music industry will ever begin to pay it back. Like, real talk, the music industry is so broke right now that Petey Pablo’s residual checks aren’t coming to him anymore. Like, think about that for a second. Somewhere, there’s an accountant at some major label somewhere that got laid off and like, that “Raise Up” check didn’t show up in the mail and Petey made some calls. #salute to him for doing that because, lickety split, he’s getting paid AND getting some TV time out of the deal, too.
Terrence Howard is the best non-rapper who should be in rap, and I guarantee that he’s called someone in his life a “snitch bitch,” because he sounds way too comfortable here. This song is a hit, and I really want a Luscious Lyon album and tour to be scripted and directed by Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry already. Like, immediately.
AARON: I think it’s over y’all.
I think that not only hip-hop but perhaps all modern art and human progress just died with this song.
Trump is gonna be president because of this song and I’m pretty sure the pyramids are sinking.
On the real. I fucking hate Terrence Howard. Next to private prisons, dirty cops, and high fructose corn syrup, Howard is the worst thing happening to black people right now.
Dude is a scandalous, self-hating, abusive, rat fink poser with a creepy mustache.
I find it hilarious that he gets to play the character of Luscious on “Empire” (or “Hood Glee”, as I like to call it) because when “Hustle and Flow” came out, I swear I remember hearing his punk ass on NPR playing acoustic guitar, singing like Cat Stevens and bitching about how he doesn’t let his kids listen to hip0hop because it’s too mean and dirty… and now he’s that nigga?
Negative, Ghostrider. Straight coonery.
This song is ass, but shout out Petey Pablo for getting his money back, I guess.
I’m pretty sure “Empire” is COINTELPRO from the government designed to wear down what little community and knowledge of self that black folk have left.
How the fuck is Howard broke anyway?
MARCUS: Blame Napster. Blame Gucci Mane. Blame Glee for setting the model that Empire is following. Blame Rupert Murdoch and Fox for pillaging the community, too. Blame Fox correspondent Stacey Dash for joining Terrence Howard on the “black people bad for black people” list. This is so much deeper and realer than hip-hop.
Kanye was the producer who rapped better than the rappers. Terrence Howard may actually be the actor who raps better than the rappers and when that becomes the case, well, maybe it’s really time that we figure out what new thing rap can be doing. This is the evolution point.
AARON: Christ. I just listened to it again. Why do I hate myself so?
Fuck it, I’m snitching. Where do I go to tell on Terrence Howard? It’s 2015 and real G’s move in deafening outrage.
PHIL: Petey Pablo has a lifetime pass on account of “Get on Dis Motorcycle”. By association, “Snitch Bitch” gets a pass.
CLYDE: Please allow me to put on my TV critic hat for a second.
I really enjoy “Empire” even though it is the most ridiculous and profoundly silly show I’ve seen. This is largely because Taraji P. Henson’s performance as Cookie Lyon is flames, to the point that when she’s not on the screen, you’re just counting down the minutes until she returns.
Other than outrageous plotlines that cling to the notion of a music industry that hasn’t existed since “Get Rich or Die Tryin'”, the most fictitious thing about this show is that we are supposed to believe these people are making hits. And the only way we know these lame songs are supposed to be dope is because another character bops their head and says, “This song is dope.” (But I guess if you’re Timbaland and his collaborators maybe you aren’t giving your A material to this show?). We hear all the time how talented that little brat Hakeem is but seriously, when have the streets craved music from the spawn of some rich label CEO? Last time I looked, ain’t nobody checking for Diggy Simmons.
And this is where I have to push back on Marcus’s assertion that Terrance Howard is a good rapper. I’m not buying it. His flow sounds stilted and it’s like he’s on the verge of tears.
MARCUS: Clyde, points all taken here. Terrence Howard is great at rap for people who don’t like rap. And that being said, I think we all really need to look around at how many people who actively hate rap but love hip-hop culture there are surrounding us these days. This show is for them. And that’s like, beyond sad.