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

Today, Baauer practices kung fu with Pusha T and Future; Mass Appeal resurrects the Cash Money Millionaires; and BJ the Chicago Kid looks for cupid with Kendrick Lamar.

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


Baauer ft. Pusha T & Future: “Kung Fu”

In a few weeks, four years after “Harlem Shake” entered the world, producer Baauer will release his first full-length record, Aa. (It’s pronounced “double A,” in case you feel like being an asshole to someone who says it otherwise.) There aren’t a ton of rap features on it, but Pusha T and Future both show up on advanced single “Kung Fu”.

AARON: Sorry, Push, this joint is almost wack.

Put the shooters on me, I don’t care. “Wild world of snort” ruined my day.

That line about “I got Adidas sellin’ bricks” just barely saved the whole track.

I’m not gonna trip on Future being dumb anymore. Y’all don’t hear me, though. He needs to stop. It’s one thing to ruin your own music, but goddamn, does he have to be on every other track these days?

I would also like to point out that this song mentions everything but kung fu. Cocaine, shoes, cars, Twitter ,ballerinas – all that shit. Kung fu? Not so much. I feel ripped off.

JOSE: This sounds like a Santigold joint, which is totally alright but kind of disappointing. After the body of work that both Future and Pusha have put out in the last year, I was hoping for something a lot more raw and with more “oomph,” I guess. This shit just ain’t bangin’. Everything about this track screams flower crowns and laser shows.

I did like that line about “buying Macklemore,” though. He really is the whitest thing alive right now.

MARCUS: Baauer’s in a funny place.

He’s recently disavowed any connection to “Harlem Shake,” so the Aa album is going to be this weird thing where Baauer’s making music that’s not meant for festival consumption, but here he’s got two Top 40 pop rappers (and yes, Pusha’s a Top 40 pop rapper now…) on this weirdo indie electro-meets-techno/trap joint. Pusha’s so much better when he’s hungry, angry and threatening to resort to illegal street hustles instead of rappity raps to make his living wage.

“Welcome to the wide world of blow?” Ugh.

“Buying Macklemore?” Awesome, but when couched by Future doing Future and Baauer probably just wanting to still be hanging out in Brooklyn bars playing alt-electro blawghawus and 2006’s finest rap, it’s a bad fit.

PHELPS: I’m obviously in the bag, so to speak, for Pusha, but I’m trying to be objective, and this didn’t put me off. I guess he really meant it when he’s only here for the electro feature money!

Future on the hook, a few stepped on Pusha T lines, it’s inoffensive. I had it on repeat and got a little work done. For forgettable mixtape fodder, you can do worse than this.

Phil: This beat feels a bit like a “Higher” redux, no? Pusha T and Future carry the load admirably, but I’m left wishing this felt a little less 2014. We’ve heard better electro-trap-whatever fusions from Baauer. Still, it is nice to hear Pusha on an electronic track where it doesn’t like he’s boxing a sharknado at Electric Daisy Carnival.


Mannie Fresh ft. Lil Wayne, Juvenile & Birdman: “Hate”

Over the past few months, Mass Appeal has spearheaded posthumous records from Pimp C and J Dilla, and now it’s moved onto a bigger feat of resurrection: Bringing back the Cash Money Millionaires. As you may recall, Birdman and Lil Wayne spent most of 2015 in a contract dispute that turned very ugly, but they’ve seemingly buried the ratchet, and despite its title, “Hate” is further proof of this. Big Tymers! Hot Boys! Most of them are here. The track is purported to appear on former Cash Money in-house producer Mannie Fresh’s forthcoming, as-yet-untitled project.

AARON: The hook sounds like me in the car during rush hour. HEEEYYYYOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

I am so sad right now. This should have been better. Like, a lot better.

The beat is typical Mannie dope-ass bounce, but that’s about as fresh as this song gets.

Who is in charge here? How do you just be Mannie Fresh, Lil Wayne, and fucking Juvenile and not get more hype than this? It should be impossible. They’ve got some legit legacy weight and skills to throw around and this is what we get? Rich dudes phoning in 20-year-old punchlines.

I don’t ever wanna hear about wi-fi in a rap hook. Shit is not hot. It’s just normal to be connected like wi-fi. They have that shit in the jungle now dawg, cmon.

Hot Boyz done cooled off.

JOSE: I met Mannie Fresh once, back in 2010 in Atlanta, when I was working as a busboy at the Ruth’s Chris’ Steakhouse in Centennial Park. It was late on a particularly sweltering summer night when the Big Tymer himself walked in, and sat in my section. Naturally, I was so excited to interact with him. This man is responsible for some of the biggest beats in Southern hip-hop history. I figured he’d be balling out at the restaurant to impress his disproportionately attractive lady friend.

I walked up to “Mr. Fresh,” did my whole spiel, and asked him if I could get him and his very attractive lady friend anything to start off their evening – some champagne, some drinks, maybe some of our sizzling stuffed mushrooms? I probably gave a creepy, knowing wink. Mannie took a moment, looked at his companion, and ordered sparkling water. Sparkling. Water.

That’s what this fucking song is. You see the names on the track and think Mannie Fresh and company are here to wild out, to get shit popping, but no. Instead, it’s a very sensible, responsible, and boring track. Everyone is sleep-rapping through it. This is wearing-a-cardigan-because-you-have-a-light-chill rap.


PHELPS: I love the idea of this and Mass Appeal has been on a win streak but sometimes you resurrect careers and get Pulp Fiction and sometimes you fall short, nahmean?

MARCUS: Mannie Fresh getting in on Nas handing out old rap checks is tight. I mean, the music here is kinda secondary, as the whole MO of Mass Appeal Records just feels like “Hey bruh, I think you’re dope, and we never worked together, come get some of this free paper imma hand you.” Juvenile’s probably the only person on this track who did anything new as he’s fresh from being in and out of jail.

Weezy probably has hard drives and USB sticks full of acapellas, so throwing Mannie one so he can cash a Nas check probably isn’t too hard. And as far as the tracks themselves go, let’s be honest here: If you were handing your boy some material for his label project that he’s got some dudes with square haircuts and gray suits actually making it happen, you’re probably not sending him the same fire you’re hoping to send Kendrick if he ever gets around to asking for it.

For what it is, it’s fine. I’m just hoping for one release from Mass Appeal that validates this whole project as something more than the sometimes good but overall underwhelming thing it’s been so far.


BJ the Chicago Kid ft. Kendrick Lamar: “The New Cupid”

Chicago singer BJ the Chicago Kid and you-know-who-he-is rapper Kendrick Lamar have a well-established history together, from Kendrick’s first EP to “Kush & Corinthians (His Pain)” to “His Pain II”. Now the two have joined forces again for “The New Cupid”, a song from BJ’s recently released In My Mind. (The record also features Rec-Room favorite “Church”.)  The track samples a number of other songs, including  Raphael Saadiq’s “Oh Girl”, Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff”,  and the drums from Isaac Hayes’ “Walk On By”. According to BJ, Saadiq actually contributed some uncredited vocals to “The New Cupid”, too.

AARON: What up, slow jam?

This is kinda nice. I’ve been banging that Anderson ,Paak shit all week, so my bar for excellent-new-dudes-that-sound-like-old-dudes-doing-impressions-of-new-dudes is rather high right now. I give this a strong 6.

Honestly, that Isaac Hayes sample is perma-played out no matter who is on it. Except for Kendrick, I guess, because he can do anything.

I know that’s some snob shit, and I guess it doesn’t matter if you grew up with South Park Chef Isaac Hayes and not Black Moses. No harm no foul.

150-year-old cowboy name notwithstanding, BJ the Chicago Kid is pretty good at what he does, but this one drags a little until Kendrick starts spitting the quick shit. He’s excellent as usual.

You ever get so tired you can’t go to sleep?  Lamar is so good at rapping I somehow find myself rolling my eyes a little and thinking (in a snotty teenager voice) “…this motherfucker is soooooo talented. Ugh, changing the game every verse must be sssssoooooo gratifying can someone just give him The Nobel Rap Prize already?”

JOSE: These two have an excellent, easy rapport – though in all fairness, Kendrick’s continued excellence has binary results: either he dovetails nicely on a track, or shatters their world with verses so unreal so that barely anyone remembers it wasn’t a Kendrick track to begin with. (Hi, Big Sean!).

Don’t sleep on BJ the Chicago Kid, though. He’s got a fantastic voice, reminiscent of a contemporary Maxwell crossed with a preacher, and I’m feeling it.

This song has a really lovely, relaxed, and warm sound to it. It’s oddly mesmerizing, and I’ve been playing it on repeat for the last half hour without really noticing. I fuck with this.

MARCUS: This is what happens when artist curation and development is done correctly and there’s someone in the room who knows what they’re doing. Sheeeit.

Foremost, a related point: BJ vs. Anderson .Paak is going to be that P-Funk vs. Earth, Wind and Fire or Stax vs. Motown debate that old folks have. And, given that I’m looking at 40 in around two years, I’m ready to start talking like old folks do.

Maaan alive, this is great. BJ knows how to crawl all up in the funk on a track but stay as clean as a whistle in the process. Hell, man. Hell. That’s amazing. This dude talks about all of the dirt, but his voice has all of the deep colors in it that just makes the whole song resonate at a different frequency that’s like the cleanest one, too. Also, he’s an old, old, OLD-ass soul, so he knows what to do with Jean Knight samples and how to not freak out in the room with Raphael Saadiq.

Kendrick does his rap game Donny Hathaway here, which is my favorite Kendrick. He’s rapping that relatable blues, that upper middle class house that you have a leak in the sink, the electric garage door is broken and the lawn ain’t cut blues. That’s better than the “where’s my lean and hoes at blues” that we get so much of these days. I’ve been waiting for music folks to get out of putting the new weird alt-R&B kids in 70s era Motown clothes and instead letting them find their way all around the generation of soul that they’re all trying dig all around in and find those Donny and Roberta Flack, Luther Ingram and Mille Jackson records, too.

Goddammit. This is REALLY good.

PHELPS: This is great! I agree with Jose and Marcus here, he can carry the old school torch and not be in a Motown cover band. Dudes with voices who can carry that weight deserve to be allowed to explore creatively, and this is just outstanding. Kendrick lays in the cut enough to rap as ably as ever but not too amped to ruin the bedroom vibes of the track.



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