Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Rae Sremmurd tries to look alive; DJ Shadow teams up with Run the Jewels; and RiFF RAFF goes looking for Carlos Slim.
Rae Sremmurd: “Look Alive”
Say what you will about Atlanta-via-Missippi duo Rae Sremmurd, but don’t knock the hustle. The brothers released breakthrough hit “No Flex Zone” in May of 2014. By the first week of 2015, they put out a debut LP, SremmLife. And now, sixteen months later, they are preparing to unleash its sequel, SremmLife 2, in June. Not too shabby! Like the first SremmLife, this one will feature the heavy involvement of Mike WiLL Made-It, both as an executive and contributing producer. In January, we talked about its first single – and current hit – “By Chance”. Today we get another Mike WiLL Made-It-produced tack, “Look Alive”.
CLYDE: Sadé is really taking her sound in a different direction!
AARON: Of course Mike Will Made It.
I don’t knock the hustle. I really don’t. I like seeing black people get rich legally, and if I were their parents, I would be totally proud, OK?
But, damn, they barely rhyme words the whole song. This is a new strain of drug-resistant wackness. They have some kind of weaponized ADD that needs to be quarantined.
I can’t do it.
JOSE: For a song titled “Look Alive” these guys sound like they just woke up from hibernating in the studio. The early Rae Sremmurd songs, and the album as a whole, had a zany, manic energy about them, as well as incredibly catchy hooks. It was infectious and bouncy and stupid, but really fun. Everything here is so slow and flat.
MARCUS: Mike WILL is chasing that lo-fi soul-trap trend that’s made Desiigner’s “Panda” work so well and allowed R & B to get a top-40 lifeline. Teeny bopper pop on these tracks, though? I don’t know if it works. To make a comparison that may only make sense to me, it’s like, I don’t think that Rae Sremmurd needed a Pet Sounds reinterpretation to stay fresh in the trap-as-British Invasion game. I get that Mike WILL’s a genius and that he’s probably dabbling in all sorts of uniqueness these days, but the quicker we get out of this ambient trap-soul thing, the better. I actually think that the Rae Sremmurd album really showcased that they could dependably make top-40 one-hit wonders out of a sub-section of a subgenre that most people only think of as responsible for the careers of D4L and Soulja Boy. Alas, I don’t hear that here and that’s very unfortunate.
PHELPS: “Kill this cup, not my vibe.”
Sounds like a few of y’all need to take heed.
These dudes are young, so it’s nice to see them flex some different muscles over a monstrous bottom end from Mike WiLL. They were a Ferrari-paced highlight of Governors Ball, even after Slim Jimmy’s leg fell off, so a track like this will let an old man like me catch a breather in the set.
DJ Shadow ft. Run the Jewels: “Nobody Speak”
In late June, Josh Davis, aka DJ Shadow, will release his first album in five years. The LP – which doubles as his Mass Appeal Records debut – is called The Mountain Will Fall. For the single “Nobody Will Speak” he has recruited new labelmates Run the Jewels. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Davis shared that he thought of the rap duo as soon as he had made the “boom-bappy, kind of hip-hop rap” instrumental: “I was just like, that’s it, they’re the only people I want on this track.” Davis and El-P have been friends and occasional collaborators for twenty years, but this marks time they’ve recorded in the same studio together.
AARON: It’s a little weird to hear the normally rowdy and grimy-as-fuck RTJ just chilling at medium volume on an excellent beat made by your grumpy, perfectionist, crate-digging uncle, but I’ll take it.
Shadows beats are so well executed/mixed/put together. It’s like watching those PBS woodworking shows, like, “Did he just make a fucking chair right in front of me? Just look at the quality!”
The beat is really good, but I feel like El and Mike just sat down for the first time in three years like, “Fuck it, this is comfortable. Let’s make another perfect rap song while we’re down here.”
PHELPS: Would be weird if this wasn’t dope as hell, right? I don’t have anything to add except we should RRT summit at the Mass Appeal concert just announced for July 25th in Central Park.
CLYDE: This song is like a LeBron James 27.7 PPG, 8.3 ASG, 9 RPG season that we take for granted by now, like “cool guys, we get it”
Though I definitely don’t take this for granted:
I’m the dumbest
Who’ll flamethrow your function to Funyuns,
Flame your crew quicker than Trump fucks his youngest,
Now face the flame, fuckers your fame and fate’s done with.
I… I can’t get over that line.
MARCUS: I’m eventually just going to turn it over to Cam’ron because this shit is so smooth and well constructed that it defies my words.
As well, I’ll also note that it’s the aural “Barbra Streisand” video of backbacker rappity rap. I say this because you have three of the hippest of hip-hop hipsters making Nas-signed six figure checks here, and that has to be the equivalent of hippest of indie dance hipsters A-Trak and Santigold giddily tap-dancing in Santi’s modest-yet-baller-ass Brooklyn apartment.
But yeah. Back to Killa Cam.
I get the boosters boosting, I get computers ‘puting
Y’all get shot at; call me, I do the shooting
I do the recruiting, I tutor the students
I nurture their brain, I’m moving the movement
Whether Buddhist or Buddha, that’s Judas or Judah
I got Luger to Ruger, hit from Roota to Toota
Chick from hooter to hooter, I put two in producers
I’m the real ball story, the loser of “Hoosiers”
I rock mostly dosey, I roll mostly dolie
I’ll leave you wholly-holey, you’ll say holy moly
Here come the coroner, get em, play Rollie Pollie
I’ll tell you true stories, how I coldly hold heat
When it’s repping time, I get on extra grind
Fried to fricassee, Pepperseed to Pepperdine
Jeff Hamilton, Genesis, leather time
Bitches say I’m the man, I tell em never mind
Get ’em Jewels.
RiFF-RAFF: “Carlos Slim”
Last June, human meme RiFF RAFF announced his intentions to follow-up his 2014 debut, Neon Icon, with a record called Peach Panther. Since then, we haven’t heard much from him aside from the alt-rock song he made with Travis Barker, “Spazz Out”. Now he’s back, though, and the track he’s returned with falls on the opposite side of the spectrum from “Spazz Out”. It’s called “Carlos Slim” and it was produced by 808 Mafia. Concurrent with the song’s release, RiFF RAFF announced the formation of Neon Nation Corporation, which claims will be a record label, movie investor, and talent agency.
I am dying.
I am also a hypocrite. I am fully aware that I just hated on Rae Sremmurd for rapping badly, but I do not hold the Peach Panther to those same standards because I believe he is genuinely “far out,” not just dumb.
I eagerly await the debut of Neon Nation Corporation. It sounds stupid as hell but I also believe RiFF RAFF is one of those rappers that could fuck around and make 200 million dollars while we aren’t looking.
JOSE: This is the first Riff Raff song that I haven’t outright hated. Even though it’s in the same BPM range as “Look Alive”, he’s bringing so much energy to his verses that I’m actually enjoying this. Dumb-ass rhymes by a caricature of a rapper, and it’s kind of decent when seeing it through that prism.
Also, I’m surprised nobody else has rapped about Carlos Slim before, to my knowledge. His name has such a great ring to it – just rolls off the tongue. Mexican Slim Charles, y’all.
CLYDE: These are the six stages I’ve experienced listening to every Jody Highroller song ever, “Carlos Slim” included:
- (nodding head) This beat is dope.
- Haha, that was a very funny line, let me rewind that.
- Butterscotch Boss/White Chris Rock/Gucci Mane with a Spraytan/Rap Game ___ is an interesting way to refer to yourself.
- What is the point of this?
- This is the silliest motherfucker I have ever heard
- (three spins later) There is no need for me to ever hear this song again
** “How To Be The Man (Remix)” still bangs
PHELPS: Stupid is as stupid does, and these are the dumbest smart raps north of the border. I’m still mucho enamorado with the Neon Icon: PEACH BEACH, EAST GREECE.
Come on, this shit is hilarious. I hope TMZ is there when he shows up for 50 racks to yell “Quincineara!” all over the greater Los Angeles area.
MARCUS: Clyde, agreed on “How To Be The Man (Remix),” which actually frames my whole point about this song perfectly.
Riff Raff is what happens when rap music literally becomes worthless, yet everything about Riff Raff screams “million dollar rapper from the Swishahouse era of dominance.” In that era, a track like “Carlos Slim” is thankfully trapped and lost in the sea of a 2005-released 22-track album that’s already bought, sold, shipped and sold platinum and has a MTV Cribs documentary, Nike sponsorship and FourLoko-funded 50-date nationwide arena tour attached. Now, it’s a throwaway that’s not trapped anywhere. Like all of his music, it’s floating around for free, with a pay-per stream pro wrestling appearance (oh yes, it’s as bizarre as it sounds), Monster Energy sponsorship and dates at places like Erie, PA’s Basement Transmissions Theater (it’s more basement than theater) attached to not promoting much of anything, really.
Something seems either very right or very wrong about all of this. This isn’t as much a song as it is a microcosm of a much larger thing.