Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks. Today, we crash Beyoncé and Jay Z’s lovefest with Kanye, declare for aversion for scrubs with Nicki Minaj, and get low with A-Trak and Lex Luger. Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Aaron Miller of Austin’s North Door, Joshua Phelps, Jose Lopez-Sanchez of Dead Curious, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.
Beyoncé ft. Jay Z and Kanye West:
“Drunk in Love (Remix)”
There have been so many remixes of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s ode to domestic romance and lust “Drunk in Love” that this week Pitchfork compiled a ranked guide to all of them. And it’s actually pretty useful! Future, T.I,, Angel Haze, Diplo, The Weeknd: All have taken their shots at the hit. Detail – who had a hand in the initial production alongside the mysterious Boots and B herself – offered up the “official” remix. But it’s Kanye’s remix that has logically received the most attention, because Kanye doesn’t do this sort of thing much anymore. You have to go back to D’Banj’s “Scapegoat (Remix)” last April to find the last time he jumped on someone’s song like this. (And even then, Rihanna’s “Diamonds (Remix)” in October 2012 is a better comparison.) More than just a tacked on verse though, the remix also features tweaked production from Kanye and his frequent collaborator Mike Dean.
Jose: Is this even fair? This track features some serious weight, and is already working with an original that gobbles up all of space-time whenever it plays (which is damn near every 3.5 seconds, but still fun to listen to). Aside from the general awkwardness surrounding Kanye spitting some R. Kelly rhymes towards Mrs. Carter, I like the additional production tweaks. The couple of nods to Flashing Lights and I’m In It are pretty neat. I still think the original is better, leaner, and more intimate, as it feels like a conversation between husband and wife. The longer I think about it, Kanye’s interloping feels weird and creepy. The man needs to get his say on everything, even OPP?
Marcus: As a person oftentimes guilty of thinking audaciously, I completely understand Kanye’s desire to warp “Drunk in Love” into a Valentine’s Day ode to Kim Kardashian, and then make Beyoncé and Jay’s portion feel tacked on at the end. If I were engaged to be married to the woman that a significant percentage of the world views as the “ultimate” definition of the female form, I might be inclined to do the same thing. Kanye’s growing comfortable in such a great creative space right now. He’s distanced himself so far away from his competition that he’s not even competing anymore. He’s just out there pushing himself to explore what lies beyond rap, and ultimately that’s really admirable. Yes, Kanye over-shares about every slight and angst in his process, but, he’s OUT THERE, and that’s cool. I have a sense that in five years when Kanye, Tyler, the Creator, Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper and others have developed the next tier of what it means to be a rapper, we’ll look back on the incredible self-centered absurdity of this era and nod approvingly. #SURFBORT.
Phelps: This song is possibly as pervy as “I’m In It,” but it feels lot less creepy to me. Maybe it’s the sweet “Little Drummer Boy” reference. The original is dope, and I love the 808 uppercuts Detail throws – I’m feeling everything dude is putting down right now. That version is sweet like the “Billy Madison” valentine scene, while Kanye and Dean just show up and blow shit to pieces. One for Valentine’s Day, one grimy for #sidechicksaturday.
Aaron: Ugh. Go home, Kanye. You’re drunk.
I’m gonna just say this up front: I think the new Beyoncé album is a staggering work of heartfelt genius. It doesn’t need anything and this track definitely doesn’t need any help.
This shit sounds like Kanye came home from the club all fucked up and just skeeted all over the track. “Yo BeyJay, Im’a let y’all finish but my tasteless ,hyper-arrogant, Godzilla-stomp contribution to this track is the greatest of all time.”
I think the tuned 808 thing is approaching some kind of Trap game singularity. It’s played out and smothers this track
Phil: Well, to repeat the obvious, this is creepy. There’s TMI, and then there’s telling your fiance that you’re going to impregnate her mouth and pa rum pa pum pum on her stomach. I don’t think Terrius would even go there. And the fact that he pa rum pa pum pummed all over Beyoncé’s track adds an extra ick factor. In the immortal words of Detective Marty Hart: “You don’t mow another man’s lawn!”
Ye wants to declare his love/lust for Kim, fine. I respect that, even if I also think that his constantly pumping up Kim’s stock is self-serving and rooted in his own insecurity, because how could Kanye West not be dating the baddest and most talented and creative chick on the planet? Give her a goddamn Hollywood star already! But tacking it onto Jay and Beyoncé’s moment is half-assed. It’s like Ye knows not to pull this sort of shit on a track of his own.
His verse obviously benefits from the contrast with Jay’s, though. This was, is, and will be one of the worst things Jay has put to tape. The Tina Turner and Mike Tyson lines are jaw-droppingly tone def. Everything else is just bad. The first time I listened to this remix, I spent four and half minutes just hoping for a new Jay verse. But even if he had recorded one, hasn’t Jay always struggled in talking about Bey? This has been the case since “Crazy in Love”, where Bey describes the butterflies in her stomach and Jay responds with “I AM AWESOME!” What’s the first thing out of Jay’s mouth on “Drunk in Love”? A plug for his cognac. So, yeah, Kanye is gross, and his verse is clumsy, but there is nevertheless something endearing about it in the shadow of Jay’s robotic aloofness.
As for the production, is there any big name producer whose remixes are so consistently boring than Kanye? I mean, this is fine, but Ye takes zero chances when he remixes a track. It’s all window dressing. And what the fuck is he doing queuing up his perv-out with Nelson Mandela tribute poem?
Nicki Minaj: “Lookin Ass Nigga”
First, the facts: “Lookin Ass Nigga” was originally recorded for the Young Money compilation Young Money: Rise of an Empire, and it will still be included there, but it is also rumored to appear on Nicki Minaj’s forthcoming solo LP, The Pink Print. Detail produced the song. A video for it was directed by Nabil Elderkin, who has shot many visually arresting videos for Antony & the Johnsons, GOOD Music, and Frank Ocean, among many others. In the words of Wikipedia, the song’s lyrics “criticize stereotypical behaviors commonly associated with men.” “Lookin Ass Nigga” has drawn controversy for Minaj’s choice of words, and the accompanying artwork, which appropriated imagery of Malcolm X. It has also, however, been hailed as a “comeback” and a “return to rap” for Minaj. (Minaj has said she will “focus on rap” for The Pink Print.) Minaj addressed some of the controversy via her Instagram account last week:
What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass Niggaz? Well, I apologize. That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single. I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy. I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word ‘nigga’ causes so much debate in our community while the ‘nigga’ behavior gets praised and worship. Let’s not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you.
The Pink Print is expected at some point in 2014.
Marcus: Why are we getting all over-anxious and asshurt about Nicki Minaj’s new money/new lifestyle raps? She’s on some new shit when it comes to dudes and fellow business-minded females, and, like all rappers going through similar development these days, she’s talking ratchet about it. Hip-hop culture is defined by playing the dozens and living with a caste system mentality, so it stands to reason that if you reach a new level, dissing those on the old one makes complete sense. Standing with a shotgun at the window like Malcolm ready to shoot “lookin’ ass ni**as” on a different caste level just wanting to breathe rarefied air(likely because they still think they they’re “cool” with Nicki) is a bit much, but I get it. Ultimately, folks need to get over themselves. On the grand scale of offensive shit that rappers have done, getting lambasted for misappropriation of a photo is akin to getting fined one million dollars for jaywalking.
Phelps: I never got into the funny faces and voice distortions – they always felt so so cartoonish to me. When she came through with Lil Wayne a couple years back, the singing stood out above the rest, so, IDGAF about her “back to rapping” like she’s a savior. The video is the only thing creatively interesting here.
Jose: The production on this song is tight, with smart use of the sample and some hints of that trap/EDM shit that all the kids keep talking about. Nicki Rapping? She’s alright. She definitely paved the way for some of the other women in modern rap, and has used the dichotomy between her sexuality/image and the content of her lyrics quite intelligently. A better question is why does it seem the rap game hits reset on female rappers every couple of years? Do female rappers just “burn out” faster than their male counterparts? Ms. Minaj has been around for a few now, and while this verse is not as strong as her other raps mentioned in the intro, it’ll do to keep her in the conversation.
Aaron: Whoa. I forgot Miss Thang could rap. It’s frustrating. The first time I saw her was on youtube with the Dirty Money Freestyle. It actually blew my mind and for a hot second I thought there was some Ladies First, change the game type shit and then POOF….ass n’ titties forever and ever, Amen.
She was so close to being amazing and now she’s really close to just being the next chapter of the same old shit. Ok. You’ve proven you can be all things to all people. You’ve turned having a great ass into powerful personal brand. You can seamlessly transition from hood to bubble gum without sacrificing either audience. You can do the red carpet Diva thing. We fuckin get it.
I know you wanna claim your birthright as the Black Madonna or some shit, but I think it’s safe for you to rap again.
My shitty attitude notwithstanding, this track is the best I’ve heard from her in a long while. The beat is a neck breaker, for sure, and the “y’all niggas share a chain” is some genuinely funny shit. It’s tracks like this that will keep her from falling off. Although I wonder what Hot Stylz and Young Joc have to say about this.
Phil: I find the “return to rap” narrative a little silly, because Nicki destroyed some other people’s songs in the past year: French Montana’s “Freaks”, YG’s “My Niggas (Remix)”, and Big Sean’s “MILF”, for starters. “Lookin Ass Nigga” isn’t nearly as fun as those songs, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s some hard-as-nails, gauntlet-throwing-down shit. It’s the logical extension of her “”Boss Ass Bitch” remix. I wish the cover art and video (which is incredible) didn’t exist, because they’re distracting from what a tour de force this is. And if it’s a preview of what to expect with The Pink Project, we’re in for something special.
Low Pros ft. Travi$ Scott: “100 Bottles”
We discussed A-Trak’s step back into hip-hop production – his Federal Reserve EP with Cam’ron – a few weeks ago, but the Fool’s Gold labelhead isn’t stopping there. Low Pros is his collaboration with Lex Luger, and the two are putting something together for Fool’s Gold, naturally. Luger was hot shit a few years ago, when his hard-hitting, 808-heavy production defined records by Waka Flocka Flame, Rick Ross, Drake, and Juicy J. In 2011, he was tapped to work with Kanye, and from that came Watch The Throne’s most bananas track “H*A*M”. As is the case with most producers with singular sound though, things eventually cooled off for Luger, so pairing with A-Trak has to be a win of sorts for him. Appropriately, on “100 Bottles”, Low Pros team with Travi$ Scott, a rapper and producer perhaps best known for his contributions to Yeezus sound. (His Owl Pharaoh mixtape is a favorite amongst some Rec-Room staff though.)
Jose: THIS IS THAT AUTOTUNE SHIT I BEEN MISSING! I don’t know the first thing about this Low Pros collab between A-Trak and Lex, but this feels like it belongs on the main stage at Ultra Music Festival. It’s yet another step in the evolution of hip-hop and rap, in that it actually doesn’t feature anything that could be considered wholly part of the genre. But that’s ok – we’re just looking into the future here, guys. In five years time, all music is going to sound like it went through a digital blender before being fucked by an overzealous fire alarm.
The “Jack Tripper” single is much more to my liking. For the record.
Marcus: Jose’s right. In the future, every song will sound like this. However, there’s something nuanced about this track that’s closer to the slick pop of what RL Grime does as a EDM meets trap producer as opposed to the harder edge of what, say, Flosstradamus is doing when they’re getting all #plurnt up. Again, if you’re not paying attention to Fools Gold Records, they’re quietly becoming the Tommy Boy Records of this era. Steeped in dance and schooled in rap, they know the history of the space that these two genres have occupied together, and thus know the right moves to make and when to make them. Like, seriously. Take a look at what they’ve done in rap in the past year or so. Releases from Danny Brown and Run the Jewels, and now working with Lex Luger, Cam’ron and Dipset. A-Trak has also made allusions in the past to wanting to work with the Flatbush Zombies, too. Dance and rap were once synonymous as party music. This has happened again, and somehow only Fools Gold “really” gets it right and makes both mainstream and indie rap heads okay with dealing with “that EDM shit.” #salute to them as man, I *really* don’t like Travi$ Scott, but they make him more than palatable here. This one’s already in the gym rotation for sure.
Aaron: This is straight BroStep 3000. Is there any kind of verse/chorus/hook structure to this computer banger or what. Is Travi$ Scott a man or a MACHINE? It feels like a 3 1/2 minute drop with a groovy outro. Props to Marcus for reminding us of the symbiotic nature of hip-hop and dance music. It is a connection that has been lost and historically ignored, but this ain’t it.
Fools Gold trips me out. It’s like half the roster is the most talented apex predators in the game and the other half is just dumb shit for teenagers. Am I just old? Suck is still suck, right?
I’m not sure I’m ready to dance with the Devil quite yet. I know resistance is futile, but I don’t want to turn my music over to the Borg, ok? As soon as DARPA develops a trans-human droidbot that can pop bottles, we are fucked.
I believe that we are approaching the Trap game singularity. One day all music will be a seizure-inducing fusion of static ,sirens, drop-tuned guitar riffs and 808s. Skynet/Google will have outlawed dynamics in all genres and the waveforms will kill you if you look at them too long.