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

Today, Erykah Badu entices you to put the phone down; Future triumphs like Rocky; and Juicy J is fuckin wit Logic (but not you).

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


Erykah Badu: “Phone Down”

Around Thanksgiving time, Erykah Badu will release But You Caint Use My Phone, a mixtape reportedly centered around the telephone. The project was inspired by Drake’s smash “Hotline Bling”, which Badu covered – and stretched – last month. A few days ago, Badu shared the latest track  from the mixtape, “Phone Down,” which she dedicated to Drake. As you may recall, Mr. Graham sang-rapped about having late night tea with Badu on 2014’s “Days of the East”. “That’s my brother, he’s like a little brother to me,” she told Complex recently. “We’re very good friends and we had some great talks. He’s an inspiration to me. Sonically he’s in a place where I want to be.” In other news, Badu’s New Amerykah records are still incredible.

PHELPS: I’m really looking forward to the mixtape, which I’m sure this slots perfectly into somewhere. As a stand alone, “Phone Down” is good, and laaaaiiiid back with the minimal piano on the beat, but it runs just a little too long without any real emotion from Badu. Phone’s still on the table. This is ripe for some bars to be spit over, though.

AARON: While I’m not terribly moved by this song, it’s very nice. Grown and sexy and all that.  Badu is one of those personalities where if I heard she was dropping a record of her breathing or talking to herself while driving, I would at least give it a shot.

She occupies the same rarified air as people like Lauryn Hill. You don’t think of them as “superstars” but if you come within 1000 ft of them, you will know it.

People whispering. Birds flying real slow and shit.

That being said, I’m not sure we even need or can handle another hit song about the phone.

As much as I appreciate the sentiment in this lil jammy, I want to hear more songs about other things before I decide how ill this project is.

It is not 1997 and Tyrone does not even need to use your shit, because everyone has a supercomputer in their pocket. New rules.

It’s not 2005 either when everybody could brag about the 2-way or the Sidekick all the time. That shit was cool.

Nobody is putting the phone down for anything. Sorry.

Can we get Jay Elec on the remix rapping about ancient phones and astral traveling or what?

MARCUS: In not noticing that Erykah Badu’s literally mentoring Drake (and by proxy the entire mainstream rap industry) in one mixtape, I think people are missing the whole entire point of what Erykah’s doing here and what makes this whole mixtape brilliant.

In the past twelve months, Erykah’s mentioned that she’s been in the ear of both Kendrick and Drake. That’s nuts in the sense that you don’t hear anybody else stepping up and saying that they’ve grabbed BOTH of the kids dominating the game now and sat them down to give them some assistance. I feel like this mixtape isn’t necessarily being crafted to be great, it’s more Erykah just be-bopping around in the studio playing by the same rules and using the same styles as the artists she’s appreciative of right now.

Rap is in this awesome free jazz space right now where some songs are Miles’ “Bitches Brew,” and others are like, four minute scats or eight minute interpolations. Mama Badu ain’t trying to get played on the radio no more. She’s just having fun in the studio and really only cares if, in this case, Drake can hear her. 50 years ago this is what happened when like, Aretha Franklin covered Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or something. Yes, I just compared Drake and Paul Simon. Or like, when Jimi Hendrix was like, “Bob Dylan’s the shit.” Oops, just compared Drake to Dylan, too. Both are apt.

Let’s marinate on just how cool it is that DRAKE GOT ERYKAH BADU TO MAKE A MIXTAPE. The music is secondary. The real victory here is that Erykah Badu heard “Hotline Bling” and was like, “Oh alllright Drizzy, let mama show you how to do this right’chere.”

That’s crazy.

I just love the jazz. The JAZZ in all of this. So much fun.

JOSE: What is up with 2015 and songs about telephones? Drake (three tracks at least), Adele, and now Badu. I’d like to see some more transparency as to what’s driving this homage to Big Telephone, like a shout out to AT&T or T-Mobile (the side-piece of phone companies).

Beyond this, I’m always happy to hear new material from Queen Badu. She’s operating in this artistic space above everything, having fun with her role as object of desire, inspiration, and Earth Mother. This is some grown woman shit, and I love it.

Producer Zach Witness has nailed down his emulation of 40’s “blue phase” to the point that this sounds like one of the icy, distant tracks that Drake loves to be petty on. Overall, strong effort, even if it’s not as fun to bop to as her more soulful stuff.

CLYDE: 2015: Where showing true affection is ignoring a text when in the presence of bae. What a time to be alive indeed.

Not really feeling this song. Ms. Badu’s best phone themed track will always be the live version of “Tyrone”.

But it can’t be overstated how awesome it is that this woman has served as an inspiration for some of the biggest rap acts (Common, Andre 3000, Drake) in three distinct eras.


Future: “Last Breath”

We got Ludwig on the track. I’m talking about Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson, the man behind the moving score of “Fruitvale Station”, in addition to lighter TV fare like “Community” and “The New Girl”. Göransson is handling the orchestration for the forthcoming “Creed”, the latest entry in the “Rocky” series. Enter, of course, Future and his cohort-du-jour Metro Boomin, who have teamed up with Göransson for a soundtrack cut that samples “Theme from Rocky”. The song is called “Last Breath”. It should be noted that Göransson has done pop production in past, notably with HAIM and Childish Gambino. It should not be noted that Young Thug recently tweeted that Future was the Tito to his Michael, but I will do it anyway.

PHELPS: If you’re going to judge a soundtrack song, automatic points for not just gifting something out the dust bin or current album. In that context, this is great! Future as hard-working motivational speaker? This is as on theme as possible considering the source material, and it’s 1000% less punch drunk than the decaying nihilism of recent tracks, where sometimes the only reason it’s good to be alive is to get fucked up and do dirt.

But maybe you wanna run down the street with 12 o’clock boys blaring Rocky horns on boomboxes! Best, cheesiest use of those type of horns btw since Method Man’s “Release Yo Delf” with Herb Alpert.

AARON: This is the finest beat Future has ever rap-warbled on.

Corny? Definitely. But people have been turning the fuck up to the “Rocky” theme song since 1976 and that won’t ever change.

I still don’t like Future and his ilk, but you can tell somebody with more money than him was in charge like, “Put the blunt and the lean down and act serious for a minute and get paid.”

MARCUS: Man. Like I said about Migos last week, and I’ll be extra honest about it this week: You put hustlin-ass black Southern folk in front of rich white people money and they just straighten up and act all proper-like, don’t they? Somebody played the role of Future’s mama, grabbed the metaphorical switch off the tree, and glared at him while he made this track. Also, I get the sense that Metro Boomin’ got sent the stems for this from Ludwig and was like, “FINALLY I GET TO MAKE SOME REAL-ASS MUSIC.”

Folks don’t get what’s happening in ATL right now. You’re taking beatmakers who live off of literal paper bags filled with hundreds to thousands of dollars of dope money to make tracks that sound like everything on the radio and have switched to labels now giving them actual paychecks to not change a thing that they’ve already been doing. That’s ridiculous. Now, Metro Boomin’ got the chance to fuck the whole game up even further by having A COMPOSER (A COMPOSER?!?!?!) send him stems. That’s like some wild and unbelievable shit right there.

Future may never be better than this track. Metro Boomin’ neither. And I’m, like, 150% certain they won’t see that much money UP FRONT to ever make a track again. Man. ATL won. From “Turn On The Lights” to this. Wow. What a time to be alive, indeed.

CLYDE: Even though I put Honest in my top 10 for 2014, this has really been the year when Future won me over. DS2, What a Time, and 56 Nights have all been getting heavy play from me.

A Rocky theme-sampled tack from the 27th installment in the franchise definitely serves as a heat check for Nayvadius, and he absolutely passes. I mostly like all the non-Rocky parts of this beat and that Future traded the lean for 1,000 daily sit-ups and sparring with a butchered cow in a meat locker somewhere in upstate New York.

PHIL: What the fuck is this? Future got the theme to “Rocky” and he sounds like he doesn’t want to wake up the neighbors. I keep listening to “Last Breath” and expecting Future to wake up and go Hulk on this beat. This is about as motivational as that Ben Carson rap. Can we get Aspiring Mogul on the remix?

I legitimately can’t imagine a less inspired “inspirational” song. Even if I concede that Future’s recent strategy of only turning up on other people’s songs (“I Ride”, “Tricken Every Car I Get”) has worked out pretty well for him, my man could at least come up with something remotely interesting melodically. Was this recorded in one take? Where are the ideas? Why is he just sleepy singing? And what is this nonsense coming out of this mouth? Rec-Room must be those angels he’s talking about.

Future got rewarded for sounding like he didn’t care, and I guess this lukewarm shit is the logical conclusion of that trajectory. There’s more going on in any 10 seconds of “Honest” than this entire song. Yeah, yeah? No.


Juicy J ft. Logic: “Ain’t Fuckin Wit Cha”

About fifteen months have passed since Rec-Room last discussed a proper Juicy J track. Back then, Columbia records was said to be fast-tracking Juicy J’s sophomore effort for a major label, Pure THC: The Hustle Continues, reportedly aiming for a fall 2014 release date. Well, that was a lie! But the Memphis rapper is still hard at work on the album, and this week he threw fans a bone with “Ain’t Fuckin Wit Cha”. The song was produced by Wondgurl and features Maryland’s Logic, who has his own record out Friday.

AARON: “Tryna get my pockets on Opraaahh.” Nice.

This song is OK.  Not a lot going on here. Maybe the most common trope in hip-hop over the years is “I don’t do this/that ” tracks. Based on sheer volume, one would have to assume that, by now, nobody is fucking with anybody or anything at all. Ever.

Juicy J is some kind of hood savant phenom. The grindiest dude alive makin raps about makin money and doing dirt for 75 years. Never really gets old.

I like Logic because he raps his rappin-ass off.

I hate Logic because he is boring. It’s like sub-Kendrick flow with all the personality and poetry drained out and replaced with crack raps.

MARCUS: There’s literally no way in hell that Juicy J didn’t cash this check without laughing and already knowing that the beat produced by the teenage girl and rapped on by sanitized Eminem wasn’t coming anywhere near his album. I mean, all of this is nice and all, but it’s one of those times I just want to slap a rapper’s manager, pour some cold water on their face, and tell them to calm their happy ass down. Yes, Juicy J makes hits. All of the hits to be exact. But this one just doesn’t work on a branding level. It’s just uncomfortable.

Like, Juicy J on Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” was uncomfortable in that “have you ever watched the film Mandingo” sense, but this just feels like somebody let Juicy do a Kidz Bop feature. And while it’s kinda humorous for all involved parties to think that they put this together, let’s make sure this never happens again.

Logic is an animal, though. I don’t know what it takes for him to break, but this is like, “Cloooose, but just a bit outside.”

PHIL: I like this song and now Marcus is making me question everything about my life. What’s wrong with me? Is it genetic that I enjoy hearing Juicy J on a sorta smooth beat and instead of doing his usual karaoke bouncy ball “flow” on top of a hard-as-fuck 808? Should my parents take fault when I’m just happy to not hear him say over three stomach-churningly sleazy things in a four minute span of time? Are my teachers to blame that I think this is most nimble I’ve heard him in a while? Why does just the suggestion of Juicy checking his Twitter timeline make me smile? Who has to go to jail for me not hating this Logic verse? What does it mean that I am fucking with this?


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