Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, A$AP Ferg and Future ride the elevator; Mike WiLL Made-It takes a chance; and Kanye West gives us just the facts, ma’am.
A$AP Ferg ft. Future: “New Level”
A$AP Ferg’s 2013 debut Trap Lord was initially intended to be a mixtape, but it ended up being so good that Ferg had to give it a proper release. Or so the story goes. (It actually was a surprise critical and modest commercial success, buoyed by hit single “Shabba”.) Now, his sophomore effort Always Strive And Prosper – ASAP, get it? – is on the way, and a few weeks back, he released its first official single, “New Level”. (The Hit-Boy-produced “Tatted Angel” preceded it in early December, but it was a loosie.) The song finds Ferg dipping into Atlanta’s waters with a feature from Future and production by Honorable C.N.O.T.E, whose I.D. tag is bad. No word yet on when the album is dropping.
MARCUS: Trap’s getting so formulaic now. I mean, in saying this, it’s really not saying anything other than rap always reaches a point where some rappers get crazy rich and then write really sub-par bars about how wealthy they are because black people still don’t know how to handle new money.
That being said, Future here is outstanding at being Future. More than anything now, he’s great at being the Henry the VIII of hip-hop, this grossly opulent man surrounded by women and operating via his own (flawed) system of rules and regulations. “Dip and dab with some new designers?” Yeah, it’s not exactly Big L bars, but if we’re waiting for that from Future then we’re going to be waiting for a long time. But if you’re sipping promethazine at 2:00 a.m. at Magic City while getting a lap dance from a thick chick in sandals, “New Level” is dat anthem.
A$AP Ferg sounds like he needs a nap, while Future feels like he’s found a second wind. A new wave of newer money tends to do that. Maybe Ferg needs a “Creed” check. Hell. Maybe we all need a “Creed” check. And rap continues to stay *turnt* as hell.
*DAB* *Look at my dab* *Bitch dab* *Go Panthers?* *DS3 coming soon?*
CLYDE: Trap Lord season has begun with a very serviceable single here.
I’ve always appreciated how this little weirdo plays with his vocal delivery, so I love that growl Fergy makes when repeats the hook that makes it sound like he’s saying, “HHHHHHI’m on a new level.”
Future is currently in one of those zones where he can do no wrong by me. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this started sometime around when he dropped that silly-ass stutter flow.
I’m not sure how long this goodwill will last because if I hear the word Activis one more time I might check myself into rehab.
PHIL: Ferg has a good ear for these almost baroque bangers. (See also: “Murda Something”.) In the wake of At.Long.Last.A$AP and its “trippy” Danger Mouse production and toothache-inducing Joe Fox features, let’s just appreciate this is the direction Ferg is going. Generally speaking, I’m here for orchestral trap. I’m also here for non-pervy Ferg raps, because (as Clyde points out) he has a great voice when it’s not used to talk about group sex with A$AP Rocky.
In trumpeting Future’s prolific 2015, people have focused almost entirely on his individual output. You know, Beast Mode, 56 Nights, DS2, What a Time to Be Alive. Maybe you’ve head of them? One thing that has been glossed over, however, is that Future was damn near ubiquitous last year. Can you seriously think of a commercial release aimed for radio play that didn’t have a Future feature? (Please note that I have carved out Kendrick with the radio play bit.) Here’s the rub, though: It was the worst year for Future features in a while! With a few notable exceptions (“Jump Out the Face”, “Blase”), the sad mutter flow doesn’t really lend itself to compelling features. It’s insular. It doesn’t play well with others. And that’s a bigger problem when when Future is called in to carry a song.
So, from that perspective, “New Level” gets credit for having a Future feature that really works. The interplay makes it sound like these two were actually in the studio together (even if they weren’t). They’re meeting each other halfway. They’re also saying a whole lot of nothing but that’s beside the point.
Mike WiLL Made-It ft. Rae Sremmurd: “By Chance”
Mike WiLL didn’t make a lot of hits in 2015, but, then again, he wasn’t really trying. Compared to previous years, there weren’t a whole lot of singles released with the producer’s help. There was the weird Miley record, but none of that was intended for the radio. There was Big Sean’s squonking “Paradise”, but that was just an extended version of a 2014 track. There was Ludacris’ “Come and See Me”, but Leah said that sounded like “Cum and Semen”. However, if there was indeed a bright spot to Mike WiLL’s 2015, it came with Rae Sremmurd’s debut, SremmLife, a very successful record whose production he oversaw. So it makes sense that the beatmaker would begin the rollout for his forthcoming Ransom II mixtape with a song featuring the Mississippi youngsters. (They’re still not legal drinking age!) The track is called “No Chance”.
MARCUS: I recently saw the Motown Broadway show. If you really stop and think about it when you watch this show, there’s a moment where you hear a bunch of Smokey Robinson’s songs in a row and then you stop and say, “You know, Mike WILL’s entire career makes sense.” He’s a one man Funk Brothers in the studio, and the songs that are being written to his very catchy productions are built for hooks that – just like Smokey Robinson’s songs – are literally made for children of all ages. “By Chance” is really basic. Everything about it is direct and easy to visualize. The same simplicity that draws people to it is why people hate it, too.
At some point, of course, we get to a level with Motown where Norman Whitfield is writing politically motivated and lyrically complex songs like “Ball of Confusion” and the production has all of the bells, whistles, and four-on-the-floor Afro-Caribbean polyrhythms, too. Trap will likely get there at some point as somewhere between “Cha Cha” and Bieber’s “Sorry” is where that variant of rap in top-40 is headed. But for now, we’re stuck with the “My Girl” and “My Guy” era, and if you’re not loving every second of it, you’re probably ready to stab someone. As history proves, it is what it is.
Rae Sremmurd, aka trap music’s Little Stevie Wonder.
Now if we could only get a trap remix and the energy of this performance of “Fingertips Part II”, we’d be set.
Kanye West: “FACTS”
New Year’s Eve 2014: Kanye West releases “Only One”. New Year’s Eve 2015: Kanye does it again. Sorta. He released another song. But whereas “Only One” was a tender and serious ballad dedicated to his daughter and deceased mother, this new one – “FACTS” – is a little more… playful. It’s bascially Kanye’s version of a Skillz year-in-review rap. Or maybe it’ll actually be included on the fabled SWISH? Who knows. We do know that Atlanta producers Metro Boomin and Southside – each of whom had a fairly monstrous year – had their hands on the beat.
MARCUS: Man. I’d hate to be Kanye West in the studio right now. Here he is, this “brilliant” artist fresh off of likely having his mind blown by Paul McCartney a year ago, and probably in the studio like, “How can I top that?” And then, Drake releases like 25 songs of dope-ass material (creatively, there’s absolutely no question that Drake is pushing himself at ’07 Kanye levels right now) while Yeezus was dancing in Armenian pools and making cameos on E! Network shows. It’s probably the most frustrating feeling of all time. Like, “I’m getting surpassed as an artist/I’m in love/Drake is soooo much more doper than I am right now/AAAAAAGHHHHH.”
In the midst of Kanye West’s creative crisis we get “FACTS”, and as should be expected from a man in the midst of 100 first-world crises that .01% of the world can appreciate, it’s really fucking bad.
The dark ’70 soul sample is Metro Boomin and Southside paying homage to Kanye and nothing else, which is so many levels of ass-kissery that I don’t even know.
And Kanye on “Jumpman”-light aping Drake’s take on Gucci’s flow? Christ.
To stunt on people like the emperor in new clothes? Christ.
Kanye needs to just shut the whole thing down until 2018 when he needs to explain to the whole world via SWISH how he’s going to solve ISIS, global warming, racial disharmony, Y’allQaeda/#VanillaISIS and beat Cory Booker and Donald Trump at the same damn time.
This is garbage.
CLYDE: Just what I wanted from Kanye in 2016: a tossed-off, microwave-ready single about contract disputes! Yeezy’s really got his ear to the streets these days. I know you’re supposed “write what you know” but this is the most out-of-touch record he’s ever made. And that’s quite an accomplishment from a man whose favorite word is “Margiela.” I guess this is what happens when you encapsulate yourself in a bubble full of sycophants telling you what a misunderstood and unappreciated genius you are.
Bruh, don’t nobody care about a millionaire’s battle for respect in the fashion industry and his clash with a billion-dollar corporation!
And this is not coming from a place of Kanye-hate. My appreciation of Yeezy is well-documented in this here Rec-Room and, hell, I probably still listen to MBDTF at least once a week. I have plunked down actual money to buy all of his albums the day they came out. This hurts, man. I’m glad he found a wife and has two kids and all that but I damn sure wish he still cared about making music.
Also, nice Jimmy Fallon reference. Really going after that “My mom” demographic.
The irony is that in commissioning Metro Boomin to make a “Jumpman”-esque beat and then, um, borrowing the “Jumpman” flow, Kanye is attempting to suck the blood of the one man who has managed to out vampire him. Drake is rap game Anne Rice. He has reinvented the vampire. He will throw his arm around young talent, he will casually throw a “remix” of their still-budding regional hit on Soundcloud, and he will plunge his fangs into their necks.
Unsurprisingly, in attempt to extract life from the undead, Kanye has come back with something lifeless.
This is rich. This is a snake eating itself and the snake is made of cheesecake.