Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Desiigner tries to shake the one-hit wonder jinx; YG’s “FDT” gets a suburban white rapper remix; and Big Sean foolishly steps back into the ring with Kendrick.
Desiigner: “Timmy Turner”
Earlier this year, Brooklyn rapper-singer-whatever Desiigner had a #1 song with “Panda”. A month ago, XXL released a 30-second freestyle of his as part of their Freshman Class rollout. It was wasn’t quite raping. It was more spiritual or funeral blues. It was dubbed, unofficially, “Timmy Turner”. It has garnered almost eight million views on Youtube. New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica called it one of ten best songs of 2016. Unsurprisingly, Desiigner is now back with an official version of the song. It’s produced by Kanye cohort Mike Dean. It does not appear on his New English mixtape, which received mixed reviews.
PHIL: This is a great example of a Mike Dean production that tries entirely too hard and ends up sounding like a confused, late ’90s industrial remix. Whether there’s a good song under here or not is irrelevant because it never has a chance. Thank Yeezus that Kanye was smart enough to take a machete to this shit on The Life of Pablo after “All Day” flopped.
LEAH: This track is a mess. The instrumental sounds like a throw-away from the Leprechaun in the Hood soundtrack. And Desiigner just, come on, just please make more sense, mumble man.
But instead Mike Dean tries his hand at post-trap EDM and just comes up short as hell.
I don’t know if working with Hudson Mohawke and Flosstradamus soured Kanye on the EDM crowd or if he’s just over the wave of festival-friendly rap. But I’m 150% certain that these festival/dance raps are the only way Desiigner continues to win. He lacks Future’s soulfulness, so the hollow auto-tune thing absolutely needs, like, really intense production around it.
CLYDE: I listened to that podcast where Caramanica and the guys at the Ringer gushed over the XXL freestyle version of this song, and I don’t get it. Yeah, the melody is tight but this isn’t a game-changer as if Bone Thugs never existed.
I know he’s a Future biter, but I think this dude has talent. When I actually read the lyrics to “Panda” I saw what he was doing with his rhyme schemes and was impressed… but Leah’s right: His delivery does him no favors.
Mike Dean is responsible for Travis Scott and therefore irredeemable in my book.
Still love you, Kanye.
YG ft. G-Eazy & Mackelmore: “FDT 2”
In March, YG released a song called “FDT”. That was short for “Fuck Donald Trump”. Rec-Room talked about it. It seemed like a one-off, but it ended up landing on his critically acclaimed Still Brazy. Or, actually, a modified version of it did: According to Wikipedia, much of the original lyrics in the single version were censored and replaced after the government contacted his label. Oops! They still performed the song on “The Nightly Show”! Now there’s a remix. Nipsey Hussle has been replaced with two white dudes: G-Eazy and Mackelmore. It’s called “FDT 2”.
MARCUS: This is the fucking worst.
This is a whole different song if it’s 1996, and it’s Clinton running vs. Dole, and it’s Eminem and, say, MC Serch.
But it’s 2016 and we have G-Eazy and Macklemore who are white guys who rap well enough to make saleable pop music. So, in that vein it’s two guys who have already sold rap ALL OF THE WAY OUT and are now trying to be “divisive and underground” and railing against Donald Trump. It’s like, naaah, you can’t really go home again, bruhs.
When I hear this, I just wanna yell out “same team” like you do in paintball when someone’s kinda blinded and sneaks up on you, gun loaded.
This is so fucking bad.
CLYDE: “Politics is the systemic organization of hatreds” as the saying goes. People often define themselves and their political identities by what they aren’t, as much as by what they are. An easy way to signal your rightness is to find the most villainous and recognizable face of your opposition and define yourself against it by attacking it. You can shout til you’re blue in the face about being an ally and then make “White Privilege, Pts. 3, 4 and 5” but going after the low-hanging fruit of Trump-bashing is a cheap way to say “I get it guys! This buffoon is super racist and I’m on your side.”
Look man, if Trump is the bar in which you measure racism, you’ve made it so high that an 8-foot Klansman can slide under it without even having to limbo.
But, yeah, this song is whack.
DJ Khaled ft. Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar & Betty Wright: “Holy Key”
We’ve already talked about two singles from the new DJ Khaled record (“For Free” and “I Got the Keys”), so, you know, fuck it, let’s talk about a third. It’s called “Holy Key”. Productio credits go to Edsclusive, Cool & Dre, and DJ Khaled. Appearing on the track are Betty Wright, Big Sean, and… wait… no, it’s Kendrick Lamar. Oh god. Big Sean, don’t do it! It’s a trap! Don’t let get Control’ed again!
MARCUS: Numerous times on Dark Sky Paradise, Sean aped Kendrick’s “Control” flow as his “I’m a serious rapper and am going to do some real ass rapping” flow.
Actually, I think that “Control” was the best thing that happened to Sean. It was the line in the sand for whether he was going to be Tyga or LL Cool J. He’s chosen the LL path, and is well along the way here.
I mean, I don’t believe him when he mentions committing acts of violence, but, I give him an “E” for effort because it isn’t quite “F”-level bad. He’s hit like, “C”-level a ton before (which for mainstream rap in 2016 is a HIGH HIGH BAR), and occasionally a solid B-B+, but this is NOT that.
On the other hand, Kendrick’s on his existentialist Black Power ministering tip here and LAWD is it transcendent. I like how he’s consistently locked into this now since TPAB, and it’s really given his dope rhyming sprees a higher purpose.
Khaled’s had a long history with Betty Wright as well. I’d imagine he came across her voice while being an actual DJ back in the day, as “Clean Up Woman” has been sampled a ton. The point here being, that every time you want to make fun of Khaled Mohamed Khaled for being a rap buffoon, he’s actually more hip-hop than ALL OF US combined, lol. Like, getting Betty Wright a check is like, CRAZY hip-hop as hell.
Overall, save Sean, this is really great.
CLYDE: Let me say a nice thing about Big Sean. I was impressed by these lines:
Everyday off to the races,
Can’t fuck with you if you racist,
Beat your ass til you’re purple,
They can’t even tell what your race is
Triple entendre word score! OK, I got that out of the way.
I think I’ve made this comparison before, but fuck it, it merits repeating. Kendrick is basically LeBron in the playoffs, rolling out of bed, posting a triple-double. Like, no matter how awed I am, I still can’t fully appreciate it. Intellectually, I know we are witnessing greatness and I still take it for granted.
I enjoy this song. The beat is nice but lets the rappers do the work, kinda like “What We Do.” Will put this in rotation.
PHIL: I’ll never understand putting Big Sean in the lead-off spot. Even when he doesn’t sour a song completely, it certainly starts things with a thud.
Does anyone else think he’s biting Drake here?