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

Today, Mr. Lif lets it go; ScHoolboy Q is grimy as ever; and Drake watches the throne with Kanye West and JAY Z.

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

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Mr. Lif ft. Selina Carrera: “Let It Go”

Seven years have passed since Mr. Lif released his last full-length, I Heard Today (and add another seven since his classic Def Jux debut, the bonkers I Phantom). But next week the Boston emcee gets back on track with Don’t Look Down, his first effort for burgeoning Tucson hip-hop magnate Mello Music (who also brought us new tracks from Open Mike Eagle and Oddisee in recent weeks). A press release calls the album “the story of Lif’s renewed and heightened passion for the creative process.” In the months leading up to its release, we’ve heard the singles “Wisdom” (featuring Blacastan) and “World Renown” (ft. Del the Funky Homospaien), and now we get a third: “Let It Go”. It features singer Selina Carrera and was produced by Caliph-NOW. (aka Todd McConnell). It does not feature Princess Elsa.

MARCUS: KEEP BOUNCING.

This track got the jazz. I’m bugging out. #RIPPhifeDawg

Mr. Lif’s in the zone here. These particular Hammond organs and hi-hats would put anyone who’s really good at rhyming into a really good zone, but Mr. Lif’s in that one-percent of really really dope rappers, so this exceeds expectations.

This song is great. Selina Carerra on the hook is doing her best Jill Scott on Lupe’s “Daydreaming” as Aretha Franklin in 1972. That’s a very real vibe to tap into, and it’s smart that it’s being done here.

Mello Music Group is smartly amassing a lot of dope rappers making miles of great records that aren’t even remotely going to come anywhere near pop radio anytime soon. Like, there’s not a crossover record in the bunch. And that’s great. More songs like this, please.

AARON: Agreed.

I always love a 3/4 rap flow done well. I bet there’s still less than a hundred songs in the history of ever where emcees go in on that waltz shit. This is pretty tight.

It’s interesting to me over the years watching Mr. Lif stay comfortably where an underground rapper needs to be. All technique without the slightest distraction from the pop/fame machine. I imagine it was hard “back in the day” to stand out in a camp like Def Jux. He kind of shined here and there as The Nice Guy on a label that would eventually come to put out records for a lot of really mean, dark, grimy motherfuckers. Some of my favorite stuff, but let’s be honest: El-P alone is one of the most cynical and mean-spirited dudes with a microphone. (It’s like if Doug Stanhope was a  rapper or something.)  Aes Rock is just now getting into this PG-13 grown man version of himself. Can Ox is like H(ood) P. Lovecraft. CRayz, Cage,  Despot and a bunch of other disenfranchised weirdos with fucked up attitudes. Mr. Lif and Murs were pulling most of the nice guy weight.

Side note:”Live from the Plantation” is one of my favorite jams for hating work.

There’s some cringey-ness in the chorus of “Let It Go” but, hey, sometimes Merlot is real like real life, and that’s OK. It can be nice. The production is nice. This song is nice.

Mello Music is/has been killing it.

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ScHoolboy Q: “Groovy Tony”

It’s only been a week since we checked in with ScHoolboy Q (via A$AP Ferg’s “Let It Bang”), but the South Central rapper just released his first new single in over two years, so we’re going back to the well. It’s called “Groovy Tony” and it was produced by Tae Beast. While there’s no word on when the follow-up to 2014’s Oxymoron is coming, Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony Tiffith has hinted it’s possibly on the way this year. And since Tiffith makes it sound like he chooses release dates based on his Twitter mentions, maybe keep your eyes peeled.

AARON: Buh-ruhhhhhhhh. I caught a case just listening to this. Damn.

CLYDE: This man makes selling oxy seem like the most exciting thing you can do in your life.

MARCUS: Seattle’s just enough of a weird place to be from in order to make a song that sounds like what would happen if Eminem got into a studio with MF Doom. The first minute of this song is the best rap shit I’ve heard in 2016. The track is haunting and thick in the way that a lot of people are trying to make rap these days, but Q is a menacing pop supernova and owns that shit, as opposed to someone like a Joey Bada$$ who is just content to string bars together real nice. “No Face Killa?” JESUS.

This is the first pop rap song for people who believe that killing people and snorting coke laced with PCP is cool that I’ve heard in almost 20 years. I’ve been on a huge “let’s make D-12 into pop stars”-era Eminem listening kick recently, and I get the same vibes here that made listening to stuff like “Amityville” and “Purple Pills” so much fun. ScHoolboy Q is the best of Eminem and Bizarre, with some Kool G. Rap tossed in for good measure. I’m here for ALL OF THIS.

AARON: This one is a real neck breaker. No joke. I can’t write and listen to it at the time because of the head nod and all the snarling.

Q is that dude who’s records have more energy than wack rappers’ live shows.

A hater might say he’s kind of a one-trick rapper, but Jesus goddamn, it’s a good trick.

I wonder if he ever just punched a dude on accident (on purpose?) because he was getting so hype?

CLYDE: Q is basically what would happen if those dudes at the end of “Gimme the Loot” survived that gunfight. This might be the most cold-blooded shit since Biggie slit that the girl’s brother down the back and poured salt on the wound:

Clear everything out the safe

Crack the pig bank

Robbin’ your kids too

My heart an igloo

Although, I’m a bit disturbed that Q is discouraging savings and investment which is a valuable tool for wealth creation that youngsters should learn at an early age.

PHIL: I love nimbleness of the beat, and Q is reliably on-brand, but I was hoping for a slighter grander entrance after two years off the solo grid.

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Pop-Style-compressed

Drake ft. The Throne: “Pop Style”

Drake’s fourth official record Views from the 6 has been long anticipated – in part because he announced the title almost two years ago for some dumb-ass reason – but now word on the street is that it’s coming in April. This week, he released two songs from the record, “Pop Style” and “One Dance”. Of course, we’re going to talk about the former because it features Kanye West and JAY Z, here billed as The Throne. It follows previous single “Summer Sixteen”, which peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. Stream “Pop Style” on Apple Music.

MARCUS: Drake mimicking the Young Thug flow is amazing. He’s becoming a black people-acceptable Pat Boone of southern rap, his enunciation allowing Thugger’s already pop-ready sound to truly be palatable to the mainstream.”Rrrrrrrock ya bawhday, Justin Timberlake and then hit the highwayugh” is going to be a “thing.” I know it. JT might even make a viral Instagram clip or something about it.

I also love the hook here because it’s uber-accessible. I don’t know if there’s a need for the clubs to have a turnt down peak-hour birthday anthem, but this certainly is one.

Kanye’s really perfunctory here, as is everyone actually. I don’t think drill beats have ever suited anyone not named Chief Keef, Katie Got Bandz, or, actually, Pusha T. Kanye’s, like, from Chicago but not, like, from Chicago enough to really get busy in here.

Drake covers everything in candy-flavored ambrosia so it ultimately doesn’t really matter what the beat is for him these days. That’s a big thing, too. Drake knows that the endorphin rush of pop fanatics for his music is huge enough where he doesn’t actually need to rap so hard to make his point that he’s the best. That’s kinda insane when you think about it.

And, of course, Jay literally shows up for 20 seconds to silence haters thinking that TIDAL was a failure like, “I STILL GOT HALF A BAR FOR Y’ALL MOTHERFUCKERS. AND I AIN’T AFRAID TO PUT YOU ON THE SUMMER JAM SCREEN. GET OFF MY LAWN.”

The execution here is pristine. Drake doesn’t make songs, he makes events. Calling anything this man does a “song” by any traditional definition is a misnomer.

PHIL: Technically, Jay literally shows up for six seconds. But was anyone clamoring for more?

A more important question: Why do each of these Drake Chaining Tatum singles have to be such… a… drag? Dude’s turning into rap game Jeb Bush. Where’s the energy? As I said with “Summer Sixteen”, if you’re going to rap this slow, this A-to-B, this plainspoken, you better have a hell of an interesting voice. Such a voice Drake Chaining Tatum does not possess. Snooze.

Good Kanye verse, though.

CLYDE: I mean, “Pound Cake” should have just been a sample of Jay saying “Cake, cake, cake, cake, cake,” because it’s the only thing I remember from a verse on one of my favorite songs from that album.

AARON: Drake really said “Chaining Tatum. ”

He said that.

Hands down, that’s the 9/11 of goofy-ass punchlines.

I can’t deal with Drakes undeniably supernatural ability to flip tropes that he doesn’t even live into a lifestyle or his constant aping of styles. How does he turn such weakness into a weapon strong enough to kill untold millions? It’s baffling. We went from “rap is not pop / if you call it that then stop” to “Pop Style”. He seems so soft it’s unreal, and yet still keeps talking all this side of the mouth gangster shit.

It makes no sense. Nobody gives a fuck at these meeting where they are urging checks and passing off briefcases full of 500 Euro notes? Nothing succeeds like success. I guess they stop checking bona fides at the door if you tip big enough.

I had to listen to this shit three times before I caught the Jay Z part. So dumb.

Strangely enough, I find Kanye’s verse to be literally and figuratively ridiculous. I enjoyed it OK. Maybe we are witnessing the event horizon of his don’t-give-a-shitness. Maybe he just has to get so dumb it comes back around fresh. Fuck if know. That line about karate in the garage killing me.

This is also yet another example of really rich famous bros complaining about phantom-ass problems that only rich famous bros know about. QUIT CRYING AND GO BUY SOMETHING. DAMN.

CLYDE: “Chaining Tatum” is definitely up there with “On a roll like Cottonelle / I was made for all this shit” for Wackest Drake Bars Ever.

Man, this song is a bummer and not very interesting which is a shame because it’s coming from three dudes I consider to be among the most fascinating pop stars over the last decade.

Slow flow Drake will never be my favorite (that would be “5AM in Toronto” Drake). But similar to Phil’s beef, if you’re gonna rap this slow your shit better be profound or relatable, not this sad rich guy partying shit that I couldn’t give fewer fucks about.

What am I missing here? Like, are the emperors wearing no Balmain or am I just stuck on some old idea of what these guys should be sounding like? I mean I’ve had hostile reactions to their output  before that I eventually came around on (“Hotline Bling”, GET OUT OF MY HEAD) but this has me more bummed than it has a right to.

Maybe I’m just coming down really hard from my morning coffee and need to go back to the kitchen, idk??

JOSE: For a guy as charismatic as Drake seems to be – SNL appearances, sporting event demeanor, self-parody in telecomm ads – he is a severely one-note rapper. It won’t be his undoing for a while, but eventually people have to see past the slick veneer, right? And mind you, I’ve listened to, and enjoyed, every Drake album and mixtape since Comeback Season.

True, he co-opts other people’s flows, but the majority of his output revolves around how difficult it is to be the most successful young rapper out there: Can’t trust anyone he didn’t come up with on the mean streets of Toronto. Every girl is the one that got away. This gilded cage is killing me.

While Drake is doing an impression of every successful rapper out there, it’s all the very same, very tired subject matter.

And it is so fucking boring. 

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