Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Mac Miller embarks on the journey of love; Nas and Erykah Badu rue this bitter land; and Action Bronson stands in the rain with Dan Auerbach and Mark Ronson.
Mac Miller ft. Anderson .Paak: “Dang!”
Just a year after the release of GO:OD AM, Mac Miller is set to deliver a new album called The Divine Feminine on September 16. “It’s an album that’s all about the journey that is love,” Miller told Zane Lowe a few days ago. “Dang!” is the first single and it features Anderson .Paak. Production comes courtesy of POMO, who previously provided the beat for .Paak’s ScHoolboy Q collab “Am I Wrong”.
LEAH: This is such a bright and smooth summer song. I didn’t anticipate liking a Mac/.Paak collab so much, but the production on the track by Pomo is really what sends it over the top. I’ll be bumping this for months. Outstanding video too – vibrant and fun.
JOSE: Leah, you are totally on point: This is funky and fresh. It’s billed as a Mac Miller song, ft. Anderson Paak, but the production values and style place this firmly in Paak’s corner. I’ve not followed much of Mac Miller’s progression as a rapper after his first release, but the snippets I’ve heard casually have been overwrought and disappointing. This song is easygoing, enjoyable, and has a bouncing groove throughout. I like it.
PHELPS: It’s hard to craft a neo-soul type jam like this that doesn’t sound like it belongs in the 1:00 PM time slot on the first day of Essence Fest. Thankfully, this .Paak and POMO collaboration is refreshing, and I appreciate Mac Miller for taking the craft seriously even when rhyming playfully.
MARCUS: The best thing that happened to Mac Miller is that he almost lost it all while chasing crossover acclaim.Now, he really doesn’t care about the “getting there” part of the industry as much as he can concentrate on the “getting it done right” side of things. I like the fact that people also still feel that he’s noteworthy and worthwhile so he can have access to artists like Anderson .Paak who by some kind of #blacmusicmagic have re-discovered the golden mean between neo-soul and mainstream pop without having to be corny about it.
This will sound crazy, but I really want Mac and, like, Prince Paul to hang out in the studio. This song has early era De La Soul written all over it and, hell, even if not Paul, just anyone who was around the Native Tongues in like ’89-’90 can get into where Mac’s head has been for like, the past four years.
Good lawd this is great.
PHIL: We’re almost a year removed from the release of Dr. Dre’s Compton, and I think it’s safe that it’s most significant legacy is the introduction of Anderson .Paak to the masses. Or at least, to hip-hop executive producers. Even looking past Malibu, the number of star turns on other people’s songs in 2016 is stunning: Kaytranada’s “Glowed Up”, Snakehips’ “Money on Me”, Q’s “Blank Face”, and Domo Genesis’ “Dapper”, for starters.
And now there’s “Dang!”. I won’t knock the song on its merits, but there is some fatigue setting in. Anderson .Paak does his thing here, as he’s been doing all year. He’s great. He makes this shit seem effortless. But the idea of “Hey, let’s get Anderson .Paak to carry this lightly funky track” is starting to feel like a trope. I’ve heard it before. Same goes for the beat, which I would have sworn Kaytranada had a hand in. (It’s a little reminiscent of “Together”, no?)
As for Mac Miller, well, he’s snuggly in the pocket like he was for GO:OD AM. His growth as an emcee is hardly a surprise to anyone that’s been paying the slightest attention over the past three years.
Anyway, good song, but what happens when we get another version of this in five weeks? The horns are a nice touch, though.
Nas & Erykah Badu: “This Bitter Land”
“The Land” is an independent flick about skateboarding kids in Cleveland. Erykah Badu acts in the movie, and Nas is an executive producer, and now the two have paired for song on the soundtrack. It’s called “This Bitter Land” and it was produced by Nas and JB Bontemps.
LEAH: Erykah’s singing is haunting and beautiful, and in comparison Nas’s language sounds too cold and modern, but overall it’s a good, track, if a bit trite with the violin whinging away in the back.
MARCUS: Nas has officially made conscious rap heaters with Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu while also being the same guy to make the smartest DJ Khaled single ever. Bless this man.
As for this song, this feels like it should be the Outro for the 20th anniversary re-release of Illmatic. This is really fucking solid. It’s not like, super-amazing on any level, but showcasing that Nas is back on his Illmatic shit. Which in adding this to “Nas Album Done” from Khaled’s album has me very ready for fourth quarter 2016, early 2017 or whenever Nas puts out his completed project.
Action Bronson & Dan Auerbach ft. Mark Ronson: “Standing in the Rain”
Last month, we talked about a monstrosity called “Sucker for Pain”, which was the second single from the “Suicide Squad” soundtrack. Or, er, Suicide Squad: The Album. The movie is now out in the world, as is the soundtrack / album / whatever. Let’s give a listen to “Standing in the Rain”, a collaboration between rapper Action Bronson, singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach, and producer Mark Ronson. For you crate-diggers: The hook interpolates lyrics from Oran “Juice” Jones’ 1986 hit “The Rain”.
LEAH: Oh god, this is so overwrought. With the exception of Bronsolino’s verses, which are still more sentimental than I’m used to, this is teenager emo trash.
Part of me wants to love Action Bronson doing the 21st century equivalent of the Beastie Boys remix to “The Rain” that Rick Rubin would’ve died for and that Russell would’ve never let happen. However, part of me wants to punch dude from The Black Keys and Mark Ronson in the face for being savvy enough to know that they’d fall short in really doing it justice.
The Supreme Clientele Ghostface Killa drum fills and Bronson’s stream-of-consciousness Ghostface style-aping bars don’t do a lot for people who still hate Action Bronson, but when he says two things: “Fuck it, new titties for everybody” and the bars “Heard you fucked Ryan Philippe and 1 OAK / My man seen you both at the Sunoco /Kissing and touching, lied and said that this was your cousin,” you can’t help but laugh out loud at the streetcorner absurdity of it all.
“Dick, I give this one a solid 70. It’s got a groovy beat, but I just can’t bug out to it.”
Of course, if they found Oran Jones and had him recite his epic rap from the original on this remake, this song would be a 110/100, EASY. “You messin’ with the JUICE!”
Phil: I don’t consider this any more schlocky than most of Mr. Wonderful. If Action Bronson had his way (and the budget), he’d probably make entire records of Mark Ronson (over)productions with refurbished ’70s/’80s hooks.
“Standing in the Rain” is harmless, I guess. The ship on Action Bronson as anything more than a free-association, punchline rapper has already sailed, so I don’t expect much from him. Does he deliver a couple of great lines? Yes, of course, he says, “Eating well so my foot is swollen.”
There aren’t enough rapper making gout jokes these days.