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

Today, R. Kelly, Lil Wayne, and Jeremih switch it up; Timbaland recruits Migos to discuss denim; and Freddie Gibbs makes it count.

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


R. Kelly ft. Lil Wayne & Jeremih: “Switch Up”

For his forthcoming record, The Buffet, R. Kelly claims he wrote 462 songs. “They’re not ideas, they are whole full songs,” he told EW recently. “I wanted to be sure that I really nailed it to the point that when I started breaking it down to the 14, 15, 16 songs that go on the album that I had more than enough to choose from, and they would all be great choices.” Unlike his last three efforts, the album will not adhere to any one theme; rather, it’ll be a smorgasbord of Kells. The first taste of this Buffet was weekend anthem “Backyard Party”. Now, we have second single “Switch Up”, which was produced by Cem T & J Holt and features a hornball verse from Lil Wayne. Jeremih is somewhere in the mix, too.

MARCUS: I mean, listen to the words of this song. I appreciate that in an era where we’re all about women’s equality and women believing themselves able to economically and socially fend for themselves that R. Kelly is outchea with Weezy F. Baby and Jurrrmuh making songs for the 10% of the female population that’s still going to the clurb and tryna get chose.

I don’t really go to the rap clubs anymore, so this isn’t in my wheelhouse, but I presume that the same shenanigans that were going on back then are still happening now, and this just makes me want to drink a bottle of Hypnotiq like my homie Rembert Browne did (R.I.P. Grantland) and listen to my G-Unit album while wearing my oversized Dr. J throwback New York Nets ABA jersey (that I still own).

I’m not really feeling this one at all… unless there’s Incredible Hulk consumption involved.

PHIL: R. Kelly has a well-established history of being a sexual predator – and, some would argue more plainly, a rapist – so it will always be stomach-churning on some level to hear him in full creep mode. Not helping matters: The first words out of his mouth on “Switch Up” are literally “If she ain’t fucking,” which doubles as the central premise of the entire song. Combine that with Wayne still talking about “beating up” vagina, and there’s an ickiness that hangs over this whole endeavor.

If someone can’t get past that, I understand.

But, goddammit, does anyone do what Kelly can vocally? The way he zips in and out of this track is perfection. There are, like, five flows on this thing. Who else in R&B even comes close to that? I’m all-in on the plucked orchestration motif, too. Ryan Hemsworth flirted with this alchemy on his mash-up of “Real Talk” and the “Amelie ” soundtrack, and “Switch Up” realizes that potential.

In a vacuum, I love this song. In the real world, I just don’t know.

Speaking of not knowing things: What exactly is Jeremih doing here? I feel like this is tenth song I’ve heard this year that features Jeremih and I have no idea what he added. He’s like a high-end mayonnaise that I’m unable to quite detect but I’ll take your word if you tell it’s making my sandwich better.

As for Weezy, no one is expecting him to consistently hit home runs anymore, but his verse is a bunt that he doesn’t even bother to run out.

MARCUS: As a vocalist, Kells is incredible. Like, untouchable. And he has been for almost twenty-five years. But the subject matter… yeah… I don’t know, either.

And Jeremih? I seriously think he gets credits on all of these tracks as a songwriter and guest to warrant him getting paid for being really great at his job (of writing basic-ass club songs for people who care about basic-ass club songs). No shame in the game, man.

LEAH: Yeah, I’m one of the people that can’t get past his predation of dozens of impoverished young women. Boycott R. Kelly.

AARON: Pass.

Fuck Kellz for going all Michael Jackson/Polanski/Woody Allen/rapist and thereby denying his fans the (relative) moral comfort of loving him and his basic-ass sex jams guilt-free. Talent or not, he’s a herb now.

Even my auto correct is uncomfortable with the subject. It went: Racist, Realist Rapid, RAPIST.

Did I hear him say he had a million dollars up in the club?

MARCUS: Yes. Yes, you did. R. Kelly is the “cryogenically frozen in 2005 R&B singer.”

For millenials who were teenagers in 2005, this makes him forever associated with their wanderlust of wanting to be a fly on the wall in the “Fiesta (Remix)” video.

For those of us who lived the “Fiesta (Remix)” video, that asshole popping a million dollars’ worth of Cristal in the clurb was an asshole because you knew all the college freshmen and high school senior girls he had up in VIP were way too young for him.

JOSE: I don’t sing along to R. Kelly songs in public. The man is a genius, but it’s very difficult to separate the “ick” factor at this point.

Also, what the fuck was that verse, Wayne? “I just cut on R. Kelly and I put it in her belly”? I’m nauseous.


Timbaland ft. Migos: “Them Jeans”

Recently, when he hasn’t been making bank on “Empire”, beatboxing in court, or mismanaging Tink’s career, Timbaland has been mounting a sorta half-assed comeback. As far back as summer 2014, he’s been hyping up his Opera Noir, a record he called his Purple Rain and also his The Chronic. He has said that record wouldn’t have any features, but that has not turned out to be true. In early September, we heard “UFO” with Tink and Future. Now we get “Them Jeans” with Atlanta chirpers Migos. Wikipedia tells me the record is due in December, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

MARCUS: This fool Timbaland made an electro version of Lil Jon’s decade-old production of “Blow The Whistle” that I’m almost certain is from when “Blow The Whistle” was running every club everywhere.

What’s crazy about Timbo is that he’s probably running the game right now on B-sides and table scraps of ideas he never finished from Shock Value II and every other thing that an artist passed over or a label couldn’t release. It’s really quite the impressive thing to consider.

Given its West Coast sound, I feel like this was one that didn’t make the heavily West Coast-influenced new Migos album. Man, this is actually great. Here’s a secret about Migos: When you put them on label tracks, they cut out all of the mixtape nonsense and are, like, very professional emcees who don’t reinvent any wheel that rap hasn’t already created. In their case, that’s a plus.

They’re actually not terrible at rapping, either. We’ve let Migos stick around long enough in this industry and have access to enough A-list people where, like, Quavo is actually one of the top five rappers in the game right now.

Yeah, I said it, and yeah, it’s true. I mean, when Drake straight up copies your flow, it’s pretty much a wrap.

Folks, we’ve let Migos stay around too long, and now they’re actually *gasp* improving.

PHIL: Wow, I have hate blue balls. I was so ready to crush this thing. Migos on a 2015 Timbaland track? I’m seeing red. Put me in, coach.

But I got ahead of myself. “Them Jeans” is not only not awful, it indeed actually great.

I don’t hold it against Migos that Yung Rich Nation flopped – that’s partly a combination of poor management and timing- but that record did bore me to tears. It was like they took the first minute – and half good idea – of one song and tried to stretch it for almost an hour. No, not stretch – more like relentlessly jackhammer it into smaller and smaller pieces to assemble a wack mosaic.

“Them Jeans” is a different story. It reminds me of the Bieber song Rec-Room discussed in June of last year. In both instances, Migos are rapping on top of a slinky club music, and so they’re not being asked to shoulder the entire melodic weight. And when Migos can just show up and rap – and don’t have to fill blank space like over caffeinated animaniacs – they’re surprisingly adept. They can even rap on beat!

And the best part: a Timbaland west coast production without Timbaland raps. Sometimes trend-chasing pays off.

PHELPS: I feel you, Phil. YRN was basically a rap Meshuggah album. Who thought Migos would be rapping hilariously – and capably – over an old school West Coast funk banger in 2015?

The tracks that did shine on YRN now seem like perfect precursors to this track, though. “Highway-85” allowed them to breathe a bit over Young Bleed/Master P’s classic “How Ya Do That”, and “Gangsta Rap” sampled obvious influence Bone Thugs’ “Thuggish Ruggish Bone”, which in turn sounds like a beat Timbo flipped for “Them Jeans.”

I’m here for this and especially for a video equally as dumb and fun.

AARON: Funny.

I got a similar impression as Marcus. This song sounds old already and not in a meta-vintage-ironic way either,just sounds like 2005.

I’m a little bummed. I’m pretty sure I’m on the record somewhere as hating Migos but I feel like I hate them less than others. They appear to rap OK and stuff.

I’m a little worried because the usual Timbo formula is 10% funny, 40% robotic bang-bang, and 50% hi-hat beat box. This is just equal parts boring and funny.

I feel like Timbalands beats get better commensurate to how famous the feature is. When it comes down to it, the man probably gave his finest work to Justin Timberlake. Maybe Migos doesn’t make the cut. Maybe they don’t have access to the secret stash with all the bongos and shit in it.

Is that a slide whistle in the background? The creepy chant at the end is tight.

JOSE: Does this not remind anyone else of “Lemme Smang it“? No? Just me?

Oh, ok.


Freddie Gibbs: “Fuckin’ Up the Count”

On November 20, Freddie Gibbs is primed to release for-sale “mixtape” Shadow of a Doubt. Released through his own ESGN Records, it’ll be his first full-length effort since last year’s beloved Piñata. (Rec-Room did discuss this year’s Pronto EP in March, though.) While Shadow of a Doubt will feature appearances from E-40, Gucci Mane, and Black Thought, today we give a listen to lead single “Fuckin’ Up the Count”, which is straight Gibbs. Production comes from the Canadian tandem of Boi-1da and Frank Dukes.

LEAH: First of all, the Wire sample is like a crazy time travel nostalgia trip.  Also, Freddie’s flow on this is incredible; he is arguable the only gangsta rapper around worth listening to.

MARCUS: In the same way that many people hate someone like Macklemore for being the most literal rapper of all time, we love Freddie Gibbs for the exact same reason.

The title of the song is all about counting drugs before making them available for sale. There’s not a metaphor or simile anywhere to be found. And that aids the song’s overall excellence.

I appreciate that all of the UGK and Scarface beats that Boi-1da and Frank Dukes produce for Drake (that he turns down) get homes with other deserving rappers who know exactly what to do with them. LAWD. Freddie Gibbs is the perfect example of a guy who found his lane, locked in, and thus gets paid to tell the world to kiss his whole entire ass.

What a hero.

PHELPS: I think about how hard it is, or how good you must be, to move from the midwest to the west coast and rap so hard that people have no choice but to believe in you. Rappers and fans can be geographically myopic and he’s out here with The Wire samples slangin crack tunes out of a west coast rancher. He’s transcended beyond giving fucks and I’m hanging on every brutal bar.

AARON: This track goes HOARD AS FUCK.

I approve. 8 out of 10 drugs sold here. Grimy cinematic street raps all day.

Freddie Gibbs is obviously the Hardest Man Alive. He appears to not breathe between bars at all… or maybe he does that circular breathing shit like a trumpet player… or maybe he’s still breathing air from ’88. I don’t know. He raps like this live. Clear as fuck, 64 bars at a time with a drink in his hand-extremely blunted. I could never count drugs in that condition. Props.

The beat is very nice. I appreciate that they let the loop ride for a while at the end.

PHELPS: I saw Gibbs wreck two crowds the same: a bunch of Tech N9ne loving juggaloes in DC and a room full of big-bearded dudes in Philly. Each demo wrapped was around his trigger finger the entire time. There were so many joints passed to the stage and smoked immediately.

MARCUS: “Tech N9ne loving juggaloes” keep the music industry afloat. Add to that “neck-tattoeed MGK fans,” “people who buy tickets for G-Unit concerts” in Nigeria, and “rich Dubai oil sheiks who book Red Cafe and Fabolous for concerts.” Of those very specific groups, my absolute favorite are “Tech N9ne loving juggaloes.” God bless those hatchet-swinging Faygo-loving freaks.

JOSE: Fucking hell. This is breathtaking. Gibbs has hit his stride as a storyteller, and has the technical prowess to execute on it perfectly. I love this, and can’t stop listening. Props to Boi 1da and Frank Dukes for the production, too. The keys float elegantly over the trap beat, with a melody that radiates sadness.

Freddie Gibbs________________________________

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