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

Today, Pusha T and Yogi have some questions for SIRI; Chance the Rapper is surrounded by angels; and Ty Dolla $ign gets to acoustic strumming with Babyface.

Our distinguished panel this morning consists of  Marcus DowlingPhil R, Jose Lopez-Sanchez of Dead Curious, Joshua Phelps, and Aaron Miller of Austin Mic Exchange.


Yogi ft. Pusha T & Elliphant: “SIRI”

Pusha T made a name for himself on tough, minimal beats – a trajectory that intensified with 2013’s My Name is My Name – but more and more, he’s become a go-to feature artist for electronic/house producers. In the past year or so,, RecRoom has discussed Tiga’s “Buggati” and Major Lazer’s “Night Riders”, which joins like-minded songs like iSHi’s “Push It” and Yogi’s “Burial”. That last track became a bit of a hit when Skrillex offered up his remix of it, so perhaps it’s not a surprise that the faceless Yogi has now teamed back up with Push. This time the song is called “SIRI” and it also features a Swedish singer named Elliphant.

MARCUS: Props to Pusha T for remembering his dope-dealing past and flipping his super-credible coke rhymes into sustainable EDM dollars. And props to Skrillex for finally becoming the pop star that he would’ve been in From First To Last before he blew out his voice. That’s kind of what makes the burgeoning relationship between these two so great: It’s like the perfect marriage of convenience.

Something tells me that these two don’t meet for organic vegan lunches when they’re both in LA. Rather, Skrill gets the beat, sends it to Push who hits the studio, drops the bars, and emails the track back. It’s almost too neat and clean to be true, but that’s what it is.

Too often now, you see rappers feeling like they have to be completely enveloped in the rave or festival culture in order to be super-legit in this lane. Not Pusha. He drops the heat, cashes the check, and keeps it moving. It’s like, he knows his dope is the best, so he’s selling it to a new group of dealers. Kinda crazy, yet kinda amazing, too.

PHIL: I don’t know how I feel about this girl telling me that her pockets are full of the bullets that missed her. Orlyowl.jpg? Is that how it’s going down in Stockholm? Then again, if M.I.A. has mostly gotten a pass for her past decade of music, it’s hard to draw that line in the sand now. Come to think of it, this whole song sounds like Kala blasting from the sound system at a Zion rave.

Is Push biting Jay in the second verse or is it just the roadster / culture flip forcing me in that direction? Also, why does say “introducing… SIRI”? We’ve had iOS 5 for four years, dog. Questions aside, “SIRI” peaks in its most “subtle” moments – namely, when the majority of the beat drops out and lets Push rap over “Blade Runner” synths. Otherwise, there’s a little too bleep-bloopy droppity-drop whiplash in here for me.

I look forward to hearing this song in its natural habitat: commercials for the X Games and Xbox and X-Treme Mountain Dew. X’s gonna give it to us.

AARON: I can’t handle the ADHD rave drop every 16 bars and, yeah, the SIRI thing is awkward and dated. Like, what is this? 2008 when your homie is tryna get you to check out Glitch Mob and this new thing called vaping?

The main beat is predictably hard as fuck but the overall vibe is too normcore dance party for me. I’ve never been a big fan of the commercial EDM bro-step whatever-whatever. The arc of my taste in “young shit I shouldn’t be listening to” tends to run more towards the Arca/Sophie/FKA Twigs side of things.

This kind of production bores me and gets lost in the landscape of amped up party music.

This is far from Pusha’s A-Game. He seems slightly out of place, like an uninvited old drug dealer showing off his car at a frat party. They probably just want him to leave but everyone is too scared to ask.

Money is money, though, and I will accept Push’s preternatural need to have all of it and his uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time.

I wish that KRS was 15 years younger. I’d like to know what he thinks about the strained BDP analogy towards the end. Scott La Rock of coke or whatever. Kind of icky.

JOSE: Is this a leftover Rustie track?

Did Yogi just go about building a beat from the discarded robot hearts of British drum ‘n’ bass, the undercarriage grease of Japanese drift cars, and Skrillex’s recycle bin?

This is certainly high energy and propulsive, but it doesn’t quite do it for me. Maybe it’s because I can vaguely recognize obvious influences from a lot of different places, the sum of which did not produce anything transcendental. There’s a fresh way to do an electronic/rap track (see the aforementioned Rustie’s “Attak” featuring Danny Brown), and while I have a lot of goodwill for King Push, this is just bored.

Wait until next summer’s festival circuit and every damn EDM “DJ” will be playing it for street cred, with the occasional Pusha T live performance – cashing checks, breaking necks.


Chance the Rapper ft. Saba: “Angels”

In the wake of a somewhat quiet 2014, Chance the Rapper has had a busy year. He appeared throughout Surf, the debut album of Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, a Chicago troupe headed up by trumpeter Nico Segal. He made a mixtape with Lil B. He guested on a handful of tracks, notably Action Bronson’s “Baby Blue”, Towkio’s “Heaven Only Knowns”, Madonna’s “Iconic”, Snakehips’ “All My Friends”, and Nosaj Thing’s “Cold Stares”. He teamed with Noname Gypsy for “Israel (Sparring)”. He even released a version of Kanye West’s “Family Business” to promote his Family Matters tour. None of this, however, is properly following up Acid Rap, his beloved 2013 mixtape. But this week he possibly took a step towards such a release with “Angels”, his first proper single in a minute. The track – released for free on iTunes, like all of Surf – features Chicago rapper Saba and the Social Experiment. In a big look, Chance premiered it on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”.

MARCUS: Chance the Rapper is so far into the future of music that he’s lapped the past of the industry twice.

Chance doesn’t “release albums,” he “makes content” that he releases for free. Then, he tours colleges and venues, plus plays festivals, charging literally whatever he wants as a fee because he’s ubiquitous (remember, all of this is freely available) but because he eschews the label, radio and mainstream constructs, he’s actually quite rarely “seen.”

I love this single, though. Donnie Trumpet’s becoming Questlove 2.0, and that’s tight. Chance raps about his daughter here, and I love the fact that he and his girlfriend have a kid, and I have yet to see her twerk or wear a waist cincher on Instagram. Of course this single debuted on Colbert. Again, when Chance is “seen,” it’s of his own accord, which is the best way to do it. So many rappers these days talk big game about having “artistic freedom,” yet Chance makes them all appear to be blowhards by actually being oh so very free in everything he does.

Yeah, this is all really organic and just fantastic. Love love love.

PHIL: Is “Angels” good? Yes.

Does it make me want to move to Chicago and volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and plant trees in public parks and join an amateur breakdance squad and walk around communing with the birds like Cinderella? Obviously.
The mix of a squishy synthetic beat with warm analog instrumentation (organ, kettledrum, horns) is inspired. The production refuses to stay in one place for more than a few seconds, to dizzying effect. Obviously, Chance can flat rap, we’ve known that since day one, but you can hear here how he’s ironed out some of the divisive squeakiness in his voice. And his message, as usual, is one that’s both universal and peppered with granular details of his past and present, which is not an easy thing to pull off.

My only minor quibble is that “Angels” comes 98% of the way to being great. I need this hook to be a little better. It was the same story with Surf – great moments, great textures, not enough song. This is one instance where revisiting the book of College Dropout might pay dividends for Chance. Because he is making the jump in pretty much every other department.

AARON: For real. This kid has the world on a string right now. Having sidestepped literally every cliche pitfall that can hurt a young artist, Chance seems to deal only in the currency of dowhatchalike and he is filthy rich with it right now.

The production on this track is almost a genre unto itself. It’s like churched-up footwork with a live band and happy horns. No Conan horns here. No horror movie just got stabbed in the Trap horns here. These are some 5 Stairsteps, “Ooh Child” horns filtered through some quality LSD coursing through the mind of raps current Happiest Camper.

I am a card-carrying hater and usually can’t handle anything even remotely approaching jubilation. This track made me smile like watching a teenager help an old lady across the street.

It’s really wild to me that some of the best and worst rap in the world comes out of the same city.  “Lord of the Flies” in one corner and winged Indigo Children in another.

The hook could be stronger, most definitely, but this is a solid inspirational tune. Chance and crew are on to something pretty amazing. Props.


Ty Dolla $ign ft. Babyface: “Solid”

Rejoice, RecRoom‘s favorite singer-rapper-creep Ty Dolla $ign releases his proper debut Free TC in three weeks. By the time we get there, at least five of the tracks – “Only Right”, “Blasé”, “When I See Ya”, “Saved”, and “Solid” – will have been released as singles. That’s a lot of singles. Anyway, the last two provide an interesting point of contrast. On one hand, “Saved” is the sort of clubby, icy DJ Mustard track that Ty Dolla $ign rose to relative fame on  (“Paranoid”, “Or Nah”). It also features E-40. One the other hand, “Solid” is nothing like that. It’s built around an acoustic guitar and features 90s R&B maven Babyface. Kenneth Edmond isn’t alone in repping old R&B on Free TC either – Jagged Edge, Brandy, and R Kelly show up in the album credits, too. Today, we focus on “Solid” because it has a video with Babyface and Ty Dolla $ign jamming on acoustic guitars like two guys outside their college dorm.

MARCUS: Ty Dolla $ign could be the worst of the “prefabricated for mainstream success” rap artists I’ve ever seen. Like, when you look into his story, he’s the ultimate son of a friend of a friend, and then when you hear the music, it’s like (mainstream trend a) x (guest artist b) = (exactly calculated earnings c). Somewhere along the way, when everything is that controlled, ALL of the artistry is sapped from the music, and it feels effortless, but in that depressing way where the most effort that was put in was to actually be as not creative as humanly possible. This is the acoustic guitar version of that Wiz Khalifa “See You Again” song from Fast And Furious. Babyface gets the call here because well, it’s a label single, and I’m 150% sure somebody called in a favor. This thing just feels bad. Like, just so very very bad. But, we are where we are and this is what it is.

AARON: This is fucking absurd.

Babyface’s bona fides and obvious age defying occult vampirism aside, this song is gonna do nothing but sexually turn off a bunch of 40-year-old black women when they click on it because of Babyface. This is the team up that nobody asked for: A a singing-ass rapper and a 100-year-old R&B overlord pulled from retirement/suspended animation.

This is iTunes chump change. It panders to the post-everything, choose-your-own-adventure style of collab that is so popular these days.

How is anyone safe when, at any given moment, the industry will pull two names out of a hat and, fuck it, this is what you get.

Kanye and Sir Paul? Fuck it, you got it.

A$AP Rocky and Rod Stewart? Nobody wants this, but fuck it.

Babyface and Ty Dolla $ign?  FUUUUCK IIIIT.

That being said, this is the finest song that Ty Dolla $ign has ever recorded.

PHELPS: The Babyface angle just baffles me because I doubt he plays guitar here and it definitely doesn’t look or sound like he chimes in on the song. I wonder if he sent this over proudly to Eric Clapton? I don’t get how a musician slash mogul who had the benefit of selling millions of records when CDs were 20 bucks – hell, a 45 SINGLE was $12.95 – would play sideman to a dude with more dollar signs in his name than bank account. It is a crime this time, Kenneth.

PHIL: For the love of God, stop putting fake vinyl crackle on songs. That has to be one of the single wackest trends going. No one is listening to “Solid” on their iPhone earbuds and thinking, “Ah, the warmth of a dusty record!”

I get a kick out of how virulent Rec-Room’s Ty Dolla $ign opposition is, in large part because it stands diametrically opposed to the prevailing critical reception. If he is an industry plant, then he’s taken root. Ty Dolla $ign thirst is at an all-time high.

I find myself somewhere in the middle. On one hand, this guy has taken the R&B format, removed most all sensuality and fun, and replaced it with steely misogyny and cookie cutter wealth boasts. And people want to treat him like some kind of sleazy auteur? Do Whiz Khalifa lyrics sound that much better when they’re sung?

On the other hand, the guy has a good ear for production and guest spots, and that can go a long way. Case in point: “Solid”. Low key, it’s a jam. I can’t hate. I’m all-in on the vibe and things just click at that 2:35 uplift. Ty Dolla $ign doesn’t really create songs so much as memes. This is a good meme. It’s solid.


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